‘Married… With Children’ Star Ed O’Neill Almost Joined the Mob
Ed O’Neill almost had a very different life. In a recent interview, he opened up about his life before he found acting and how he had some friends in organized crime. For the longest time, O’Neill thought that he was going to live his life as an NFL player. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 and was on a great path. However, things took a turn when he was cut from the team and realized that football was likely not going to be his career.
At the time, he said, “The only thing that I had that I could have done, and thank god that I didn’t, was organized crime. I had friends in organized crime I had friends whose fathers were in organized crime. Most of them, actually, were not mafia-made guys. There weren’t that many made guys in Youngstown. But it was a lot of gangsters in Youngstown. All associated with these made guys. A lot of these guys were called associates.”
Then O’Neill went into a story about how he was basically asked to join but confirmed that he denied the offer after something his dad told him. When he was 23 years old and fresh from leaving the Steelers, his friend Jim called him up and asked him to go for a ride. They had known each other since grade school and he opened up to Jim about how he had no money and wasn’t sure what he was going to do next.
They ended up going to a fancy restaurant where Jim started talking to the bartender. He said that Jim started asking the bartender if he knew someone and even bribed him with $20 and asked the bartender to give him a call if he ever saw the man. O’Neill continued, “We left and he said, ‘You can do this kind of stuff for me, you know, I’ll protect you, I’ll give you easy stuff. Just you collect here. You do that. You run, you drop something off here and there. You know, you may have to lean on a guy. You’re good at that. You can make some good money.’ I said, ‘Let me think about it, Jim. ‘Cause I’m – I don’t know. I might be leaving town to pursue this acting thing.’ I went home, and I was thinking about it. What else am I going to do?”
O’Neill admitted that this is when his father approached him, having seen him hang out with Jim. He asked his son if he could ever “do time,” meaning spend time in jail or prison for organized crime. He realized that he couldn’t and called up Jim to decline the offer. So, he pursued acting and got his big break in 1987 after being cast in the sitcom Married… With Children. Later on, he became famous again for his role as Jay Pritchett in Modern Family.