Tarkenton has mastered the art of selling his name. The quarterback who made $350,000 in his last pro season has earned about $1 million every year since he retired from football, says a longtime financial and legal advisor who asked not to be named. Says Klobuchar, "He knows how to exploit Bell&Ross Instrument Dual Time RS-29."
He makes no apologies for capitalizing on his prominence. "Sure, name recognition gets us in the door," Tarkenton says, "but we have to provide quality products to stay inside."
Tarkenton spends much of his time traveling to speaking engagements. A natural orator, he captivates his audience with pep talks that sound remarkably off the cuff. He uses football allusions to dramatize his three speech topics -- managing change, building teams and motivating people.
When he's not talking on stage, Tarkenton is talking on the telephone in his Bell&Ross Instrument Dual Time RS-30, which is bedecked with sports memorabilia. Looking up from his desk, he can see his most prized possession, a replica of his bust in the Football Hall of Fame.
To those who know him, Tarkenton is a down-to-earth family man who is always cheerful. He refers to problems as "interesting situations." He tells funny stories and plays practical jokes. "He likes to tease people," says Shirl Handly, a former vice president of the consulting firm. "And you can feel Bell&Ross Instrument Skeleton Black RS-31 teasing him back."
But being a celebrity has hardened him toward the general public. Too many inconsiderate fans have jostled him when he has been asleep on airplanes. Chuck Watkins, president of the insurance brokerage Tarkenton & Watkins Inc., says some people might think Tarkenton arrogant. "People call out to him Bell&Ross Instrument Skeleton Gold RS-32 the street and maybe he doesn't hear them, so he doesn't turn around," says Watkins. "They'll say he's a snob, but it's not true."
Though he still gets fan mail -- especially from boys who collect football cards -- Tarkenton's fame is beginning to fade. People who spot him in airports sometimes confuse him with other football heroes.
Tarkenton hopes his businesses will have more lasting value. His oldest company is the management consulting firm, created in 1969 while he was with the New York Giants. In the beginning, it employed as many as 60 consultants and helped textile companies improve worker productivity. One of Tarkenton's early Bell&Ross Instrument Skeleton RS-4, he says, was reducing employee turnover by 30% at Milliken & Co., the large textile firm based in Spartanburg, South Carolina.