There are lots of former NFL players who have gone on to great post-playing careers.
But few are as tasty as Dustin Lyman’s.
Lyman, who played 55 games over five seasons for the Chicago Bears, has been CEO of Famous Brands International for the last nine months. If you’ve never heard of Famous Brands, you’ve almost certainly heard of two of its subsidiaries: Mrs. Fields cookies and TCBY frozen yogurt.
The 40-year old’s rise to one of the country’s sweetest jobs is chronicled by Dan Pompei on The Athletic.
A third-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2000, Lyman was a linebacker in college. But at 6-foot-4 and with 4.70 speed in the 40, then-Bears personnel director Mark Hatley thought Lyman might be better suited as a tight end.
Over the next five years, Lyman lined up at tight end, starting 21 games, including 10 of 16 in 2004. Early in training camp in 2005, he suffered a sprained ankle that prevented him from getting on the field to show that he still deserved the job, and Lyman was cut by Chicago.
Though other teams showed interest and Lyman worked out with Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Detroit, he never got a job offer. Lyman wound up being OK with that, filing his retirement papers the following year.
“I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to on the field, but I proved to myself I could play at that level, and that was important to me,” Lyman said. “Looking back, I feel proud of my career. I have no regrets. I didn’t want to hang onto sports beyond a reasonable time period. Maybe I was worried about making a successful transition and because of that I prepared myself mentally knowing that day would come, and I would not look back.”
He also knew what could happen if he kept playing, in terms of diminished mental and physical health and the impact it could have on his life.
Lyman’s post-NFL career began as an annuities salesman, and included two years of night classes to earn his MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. In 2013, he joined Famous Brands as director of finance.
He quickly climbed the ladder, named CEO last September and put in charge of a company that does $200 million a year in revenue and has almost 500 franchises in the United States and another 100 around the world.
Pompei’s full profile of Lyman is extensive, and worth your time; he also touches on those in football who influenced him and his thoughts on concussions.