Make way for the first super-sized hit of the new TV season.
In Thursday night's scheduled NFL season opener, the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers will play, Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Packers Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers will star, and lots, and lots, and lots of people will watch.
No wonder so many gridiron guys turn into prime-time players off the field, too:
1. Jerry Rice: The long and lean Hall of Fame receiver was the first NFLer to suit up for "Dancing With the Stars," and, thanks to his surprising second-place finish in season two, he was not the last. Rice made the ballroom a leading destination for players looking to show off their moves, minus the pads.
2. Joe Namath: "Broadway Joe" was bigger than the New York Jets. He was bigger than a guest appearance on "The Brady Bunch." He was bigger than his network sitcom, "The Waverly Wonders," which only lasted four episodes. Did O.J. Simspon make more and better movies? Had Jim Brown paved the road in Hollywood? Sure, but in the 1970s, Namath was a small-screen giant.
3. Peyton Manning: Currently working to recover from a neck injury, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback presumably isn't taking network meetings, but if he were he'd likely be in demand. His comic reel from countless commercials and a "Saturday Night Live" hosting stint is as solid as it gets.
4. Frey Dryer: Alex ("Webster") Karras. Merlin ("Father Murphy") Olsen. Ed ("Hill Street Blues") Marinaro. The 1980s marked the heyday of the football player-turned-TV star: But if you could only pick one to exemplify the decade, then you'd have to pick the Los Angeles Rams vet who, on "Hunter," nearly out-squinted Clint Eastwood.
5. Jesse Palmer: Even as far as "Bachelor" material goes, the one-time New York Giants quarterback was disappointingly noncommittal. But his 2004 stint was a game-changer for reality TV, which proved it could bag people with great jobs, and for jocks, who proved they could be romantic leading men (even if they weren't all that romantic).