Barbecue man

It's noon at his restaurant, and All-Pro Andy Nelson greets the lunch blitz in full uniform: white apron, disposable gloves and a T-shirt that reads, Hogs Smell Better Barbecued.

Behind the take-out counter, Nelson serves up sandwiches of pulled pork and beef to a hurried clientele. At 71, he still moves easily in the busy kitchen of the barbecue joint that he opened in Cockeysville in 1981.

"Hey, Mr. Nelson!" a customer shouts. "How are the ribs today?"

"Tender as a mother's love," the owner drawls.

Nelson does not have to sling 'cue. His two sons run much of the business that bears his name. But 6 a.m. still finds the one-time defensive back in the kitchen, stripping meat off pork shoulders that have been cooking all night.

"Getting up early feels good," says Nelson, who played for the Colts from 1957 through 1963. "I'm like an old milkhorse. Hard to stop when you've been doing it so long."

Nelson, raised on the family's cotton farm in Alabama, signed with the Colts out of Memphis State for $6,200. That's him, third row, sixth from the right in the '58 team photo nailed to the restaurant wall. He played every down on defense that year.

"If I'd known that [sudden-death] championship game would be so famous, I'd have asked for a $5,000 raise," he says. Instead, the bump he got was $1,500.

Nelson, who worked every off-season "to make ends meet," shrugged it off. Even now, he rejects any talk of retiring.

"I'm old school," he says. "Keep moving and the joints stay loose."

He stops, wipes his greasy hands and signs a football for a fan.

"Plus, it's nice to be remembered."

For Nelson, pulling pork - like picking off passes - may be just a matter of being driven.

`Passion to be good'

"The same qualities that made them good athletes have kept them moving," says Karlene Sugarman, a sports psychology consultant in San Mateo, Calif. "It's a passion to be good at something and a never-give-up attitude.

"Those feelings sustained them as players and as businessmen - and they don't want to give that up."

Raymond Berry, 71, helps train salesmen for a California insurance firm.

"Pass receiver, salesman - it's all about preparation and attention to detail," says Berry, who parlayed those traits into a 13-year Hall of Fame career with the Colts. "I've enjoyed putting into words a lot of things that were instinctive for me."

At 80, Art Donovan still putters around Valley Country Club in Towson, which he opened in 1957. He mows the grass, cleans the pool and helps in the kitchen, frying crab balls between sips of Schlitz.