Alzado Now Learning the Ropes as an Actor

Associated Press

In comparing acting and football, ex-All Pro defensive end Lyle Alzado quickly cites one area where performing beats pass-rushing.

"I can get to the bathroom on Monday morning without crawling," said the 6-foot-3 Alzado, who was described by one sportswriter as "a belligerent, bearded Hells Angels in cleats" when he retired in 1986.

Three seasons removed from football, that's no longer true. Alzado is an actor -- portraying a bearded, belligerent professional wrestler known as "The Masked Maniac" in the syndicated television series "Learning the Ropes."

Actually, that's only half of it. Alzado's character, Robert Randall, is also a single parent raising two kids, working days as a high-school teacher and nights as a challenger against The Road Warriors and Ric Flair.

"The only problem is when people hear Lyle Alzado is going to play a high school principal, they get a little leery," said Alzado, whose show is in its first season. "You know, the old cliches -- a football player is this, a football player is that.

"But this role gives me a greater range to develop my acting ability -- develop more depth, foundation and strength."

Alzado, in a phone interview from the set of his show, displayed the wit and humor which made him a football media favorite. He laughed easily and displayed a self-deprecating style which belied his commitment to acting (he's currently taking lessons.)

The Brooklyn native, who dropped 42 pounds from his 260-pound playing weight for the Randall role, recalled that breaking into the acting game was a little harder than beating offensive linemen black and blue.

"I used to go to interviews like 50 times a week, and I got said no to 50 times," he said. "But I kept going, going into readings, getting the dialogue down ... If you're going to be in this business, you've got to leave your ego behind."

The defensive end actually made his acting debut while still in the National Football League, appearing with George Kennedy and Ernest Borgnine in the 1977 film "The Double McGuffin."

"It's one of the major big ones. That and 'Gone With the Wind," laughed Alzado, who has appeared in an assortment of commercials and on the TV shows "The Fall Guy," "Riptide" and "Amazing Stories."

Alzado, 39, was a fourth-round draft choice out of tiny Yankton College in North Dakota, selected by the Denver Broncos in 1971. He played 11 years in Denver and Cleveland before finding a home with the bad boys of football, the Los Angeles Raiders.

"We're all camping out on the edge of reality. It's a relationship made in hell," Alzado once said of his teammates in silver and black, cementing his image as the outrageous epitome of owner Al Davis' "Just win, baby" philosophy.

Alzado had no trouble leaving the game after the 1985 season: "I realized I wasn't capable physically of doing it anymore. I wanted to leave before other people realized it and I started getting blocked and knocked down."

But he looks back fondly on his years in the NFL, when he made the head slap an art and each snap an adventure.

"I had such a great time playing football. I played against Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, O.J. Simpson, Floyd Little," said Alzado, reciting a litany of NFL greats. "I played with and against these guys. It was a thrill."

Taking a look at the current Raiders -- a team which missed the playoffs last year and is currently 6-6 -- Alzado thinks what's missing is that outlaw mentality which propelled the old Raiders.

"Maybe they're missing a guy who can walk up to a guy on the other team, punch him in the face and change the game," said Alzado. "I don't have any of the answers. Maybe they should call me out of retirement to terrorize somebody."

Alzado's life has the makings of a good story -- Brooklyn street kid to football superstar to aspiring actor -- but don't expect to find him joining the ranks of athletes-turned-authors like Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth or ex-St. Louis Cardinal Conrad Dobler.

"How can a guy write a book when he's 35? Who are they kidding? These guys are writing books when they're 19: how to bite the leg, how to bite the ear," complained Alzado. "Everybody and their mother is writing a book, but I'm not buying 'em.

"Besides," he wondered, "what would my book have? I go to work, go to the bathroom, and eat. Who's going to buy that?"

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