DECEMBER 13, 1965
Lance Alworth had already gone bankrupt. By 1972 his 11-year pro football career (and primary source of income) was ending, a series of investments had failed, and he needed to do something quickly. "I was in Dallas, and I drove past a building with a lot of doors," Alworth says. The building was a self-storage facility (a new idea at the time), and Alworth returned home to San Diego intent on building his own. When he couldn't obtain a loan—one bank officer asked, "How in the world are you going to rent 1,005 little-bitty closets?"—Glenn Gregory, a friend Alworth had made while playing with the San Diego Chargers for nine seasons, lent him the money to break ground.
After years of living "hand to mouth," Alworth opened his first facility in '76. "I didn't even know what an escrow was," he says. "Glenn is the reason I'm where I am." Today Alworth, 60, is owner of All Aboard Mini Storage, which has 26 locations in California. "In our eyes," says Josie Miller, Alworth's partner for 24 years, "he's as big a star here as he was in the NFL."
Known for his boyish looks, blistering speed and graceful stride, Alworth had 542 receptions for 10,266 yards (an 18.9 average) and 85 touchdowns and caught at least one pass in each of the AFL games he played, a then record 96 regular-season-game streak that was broken in his first game following the AFL-NFL merger. He punctuated his two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys by scoring the first touchdown of Super Bowl VI, a 24-3 conquest of the Miami Dolphins. Alworth became the first AFL player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in 1978, the same year he began dating Laura Churchill, who would become his third wife, in '97 He has two children from his first marriage: Lance Jr., 39, a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Kelly, 36, an attorney and a mother of two. His daughter from his second marriage, Rian, 25, has a one-year-old son.
In addition to his storage business Alworth holds a patent on Tuna Tubes, a device fishermen use to keep tuna alive for up to 10 days, and has sold about 200 Tuna Tubes this year at $1,000 a pair. Alworth, whose primary residence is in Del Mar, Calif., owns a 33-foot blackfin boat (he sold a 54-footer he sailed through the Panama Canal), and two years ago he won a fishing tournament in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with a 456-pound black marlin. "It's not necessarily the best fisherman who wins," Alworth says. "It's the luckiest fisherman."