Looking through a thicket of pines, Otis Sistrunk stares admiringly at Mount Rainier, stark and massive on a pristine afternoon. The former All-Pro Oakland Raiders defensive lineman, rather stark and massive himself, doffs his baseball cap, rubs his famously bald cranium and takes a deep, contented breath. "I have a great life here," he says, standing on the football field at Fort Lewis, an Army base just south of Tacoma, Wash., where he has been a facilities manager for the last eight years.
Sistrunk's calm is a far cry from his often ragged emotional state during his playing days, when his reckless rushing style and freakish appearance embodied the motley, swashbuckling Raiders teams of the 1970s. He achieved instant fame in 1974 when Alex Karras joked on Monday Night Football that Sistrunk, who never played college football, had attended "the University of Mars." But when his career ended, in 1978, Sistrunk returned to his parents' home in Columbus, Ga., where he remained, hermitlike, for two years. A phone call from former teammate Art Shell in September 1980 "saved me," Sistrunk says. "He invited me to a charity function in Tahoe, told me all the guys would be there. I started crying. I didn't know anybody loved me."
Sistrunk soon reentered the spotlight, starring in a series of Miller Lite commercials that played off his "Martian" reputation. He also took a facilities-management job at Fort Benning, in Georgia, before transferring to Fort Lewis. When not coordinating Special Olympics events or intramural sports, he is a personal trainer for dozens of young soldiers, many of whom know of his playing days. "I love it, man," he says of his new life. "How could I not?"