Prior to the gruesome murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J. Simpson was known as a football star, pitchman, actor, and broadcaster.
In the years since, of course, his place in popular culture is as an accused murderer and convict (on account of another crime).
Indeed, half of the U.S. population is likely more familiar with O.J. Simpson the (accused) murderer than his previous incarnations. This isn’t to say it’s not as it should be; certainly the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman would say “Simpson the murderer” is the most significant facet of the man.
When he was accused of the murders, Simpson has been out of the NFL for 15 years and was primarily working as an actor and broadcaster, while playing plenty of golf on the side. Not surprisingly, Simpson was a legendary cheater on the course.
The Juice played 11 NFL seasons. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1969 out of USC, where he led the nation in rushing twice and won the Heisman trophy during his senior campaign. After rushing for 1,709 yards during his senior season, the Bills made Simpson the then-highest-paid player in NFL history as the first pick—$650,000 over five years.
In other words, O.J. was by far and away the best college prospect of his day and he entered the NFL with the expectation that he could be the best back in the league. The boy who was stricken with rickets, wore leg braces until he was five, and grew up in the projects, was poised to become one of the NFL’s top talents.
But The Juice didn’t live up to expectations during his first years in the league, averaging under 700 yards per season. Eventually though, the Bills tailored their offense more around the run, and in 1973, Simpson became the first running back to cross the 2,000-yard mark in a single season. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards each season between 1972 and 1976.
After two years in playing for his hometown San Francisco 49ers, Simpson retired in 1979 as the second-leading rusher all-time with 11,236 yards. He was a first ballot NFL Hall of Famer in 1985.
After football, Simpson appeared in no shortage of commercials and films. While he wasn’t exactly a good actor, he was a prolific one. O.J. starred in such films as The Klansman (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), The Cassandra Crossing (1976), Capricorn One (1978), and The Naked Gun (1988). As mentioned, he was a commentator for NBC and Monday Night Football.
Most bizarrely, years after the murder trial and prior to his arrest for a Las Vegas robbery, he starred in a Punk’d-like reality T.V. show called Juiced which, was, well…absurd.
After Simpson’s acquittal in the 1994 criminal trial for murder, he was found liable in a 1997 civil trial for the wrongful death of Ronald Goldman. He finally landed in jail after robbing a memorabilia dealer at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel in 2007. And while The Juice has been granted parole as of 2013, he remains in prison on other charges.
O.J. Simpson was the first overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft – how do this year’s projected top picks stack up against The Juice: