Acting And Endorsements
The following year Simpson made his acting debut in the film, The Towering Inferno. It marked the beginning of what would become a fairly successful career for an athlete turned actor. Simpson, to his credit, would never take his movie career as seriously as some of his contemporaries. "I'm a realist," he said in a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service story. "Obviously, I'm not Dustin Hoffman. I have to play an athletic type, just as Woody Allen has to play a wimp type. No matter how many acting lessons I took, the public just wouldn't buy me as Othello." Nevertheless, Simpson continued to act throughout the years following his football career, most notably in The Naked Gun series.
Because of his natural charisma and an almost universal acceptance, Simpson continued to field endorsement
offers from numerous companies lured by his impeccable image. In 1975, Hertz Rent-A-Car made him the first African-American man hired for a major national corporate advertising campaign. The teaming would be wildly successful and continue long into his retirement from football. He would eventually endorse, among others, Royal Crown Cola, Schick, Foster Grant, Treesweet orange juice and Wilson Sporting Goods.
In 1978, Simpson was traded from the Buffalo Bills to the San Francisco 49ers. After an injury early in his first year there led to the discovering of a badly damaged knee, Simpson retired in 1979 the highest paid football player in the NFL with a salary of $806,688. He finished his career with 11,236 yards and six Pro Bowl appearances along with the numerous records and firsts.
It was also during the late seventies that Simpson's personal life began to change. In 1977, he moved to Brentwood, California with his wife and family. The struggling marriage, however, would officially end after the strain of their daughter's death in the family's swimming pool. Their divorce was finalized in 1979 and O.J. would soon move Nicole Brown, a young waitress he met in 1977, into his Brentwood estate. "She was 18," he said of Brown years later. "She was innocent. She was confident. She was, you know, a little kooky. But she was gorgeous. She was, I thought, the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. And she didn't know who I was, and I loved that." The two would eventually marry in 1985, the same year he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Simpson would continue a successful career in movies, product endorsements and as an analyst for "Monday Night Football." Unlike most athletes, Simpson was as recognizable after his playing days as he was during them. Unlike Jim Brown, who was considered a better actor and football player but had a rough and threatening public persona, Simpson's image had provided him with a relatively easy transition into retirement.