Lance Alworth had already gone bankrupt. By 1972 his 11-year pro
football career (and primary source of income) was ending, a
series of investments had failed, and he needed to do something
quickly. "I was in Dallas, and I drove past a building with a lot
of doors," Alworth says. The building was a self-storage facility
(a new idea at the time), and Alworth returned home to San Diego
intent on building his own. When he couldn't obtain a loan--one
bank officer asked, "How in the world are you going to rent 1,005
little-bitty closets?"--Glenn Gregory, a friend Alworth had made
while playing with the San Diego Chargers for nine seasons, lent
him the money to break ground.
After years of living "hand to mouth," Alworth opened his first
facility in '76. "I didn't even know what an escrow was," he
says. "Glenn is the reason I'm where I am." Today Alworth, 60,
is owner of All Aboard Mini Storage, which has 26 locations in
California. "In our eyes," says Josie Miller, Alworth's partner
for 24 years, "he's as big a star here as he was in the NFL."
Known for his boyish looks, blistering speed and graceful stride,
Alworth had 542 receptions for 10,266 yards (an 18.9 average) and
85 touchdowns and caught at least one pass in each of the AFL
games he played, a then record 96 regular-season-game streak that
was broken in his first game following the AFL-NFL merger. He
punctuated his two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys by scoring the
first touchdown of Super Bowl VI, a 24-3 conquest of the Miami
Dolphins. Alworth became the first AFL player elected to the Pro
Football Hall of Fame, in 1978, the same year he began dating
Laura Churchill, who would become his third wife, in '97. He has
two children from his first marriage: Lance Jr., 39, a lawyer for
the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Kelly, 36, an
attorney and a mother of two. His daughter from his second
marriage, Rian, 25, has a one-year-old son.
In addition to his storage business Alworth holds a patent on
Tuna Tubes, a device fishermen use to keep tuna alive for up to
10 days, and has sold about 200 Tuna Tubes this year at $1,000 a
pair. Alworth, whose primary residence is in Del Mar, Calif.,
owns a 33-foot blackfin boat (he sold a 54-footer he sailed
through the Panama Canal), and two years ago he won a fishing
tournament in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with a 456-pound black
marlin. "It's not necessarily the best fisherman who wins,"
Alworth says. "It's the luckiest fisherman."
--Kelvin C. Bias