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David Epstein
December 15, 2006
While most FACES don't go on to become pro athletes, many still stand out in the crowd. Seven success stories
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December 15, 2006

High Achievers

While most FACES don't go on to become pro athletes, many still stand out in the crowd. Seven success stories

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Jesse Jackson Jr.

Warming up before a St. Albans football game during his senior season, in 1984, Jackson noticed men in trench coats along the sidelines. Then Jesse Jackson Sr. arrived. "That's when I realized what my father was really doing," Jackson Jr. recalls.

As Jackson fils was blasting through defenses in Washington, D.C., Jackson père was making the first competitive bid for the presidency by an African-American (hence the Secret Service detachment). Although Jackson Jr.'s rushing career ended at North Carolina A&T, he hasn't stopped running: Last month he was elected to his seventh term as a Democratic congressman from Illinois. While campaigning for his first term, Jackson Jr. traded on the Bulls—who had recently dealt B.J. Armstrong—to gain an edge over state senator Emil Jones. "B.J. should have never been traded, MJ should have stayed in basketball, EJ should stay in Springfield and JJ should be sent to Congress," Jackson said in a debate. The line caught on around Chicago, and JJ was off to D.C.

Jackson Jr., 41, still gets out on the field for the congressional flag football team, and FACES still holds a place in his heart. "When you are the namesake of a prominent person and you receive an acknowledgement for your own accomplishment," he says, "it gives you a profound sense of self-worth."

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Feb. 13, 1984

Jesse Jackson Jr.
CHICAGO > Football
Jesse, a senior running back at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., rushed for 889 yards and scored 15 touchdowns this season for the 6--3 Bulldogs, despite losing three games because of injury and illness. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry.

Kris Kristofferson

Perched on the arm of a sofa in a Nashville dressing room, Kristofferson examines the clean-cut version of himself staring back from the pages of SI. "I was still playing by the rules of what I thought was expected of me," says the 70-year-old country music legend. "My father was a general in the Air Force, you know?"

Yet even as he fulfilled his duties—to his ROTC battalion, to his teachers—Kristofferson found time to play sports and write music. The latter sustained him once he cast off his parents' expectations and became the only three-sport college athlete and Rhodes scholar to work as a janitor in a Nashville studio. "It was like I had the freedom of nothin' left to lose," he says, echoing the lyrics of his most famous song, Me and Bobby McGee. A few years after hanging up his mop, Kristofferson heard his tunes recorded by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Ray Price, even as he made his own albums. Director Sam Peckinpah made him a movie star in 1973, casting him as William H. Bonney in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

After 29 albums (including This Old Road, released last March) and more than 50 films (including Fast Food Nation, in theaters now), Kristofferson says of his janitorial days, "I never felt like I was failing—although I was—because I loved songwriting and music as much as I loved sports."

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