In the spring, his daughter, Meghan Plunkett, graduated with a business and marketing degree from Manhattan College in New York, which she attended on a volleyball scholarship. Her dad was afraid she'd stay in New York.
So when his friend Steve Ferrari of Woodside came up with the idea of creating a line of tailgate-party condiments that would bear Jim Plunkett's name, Mr. Plunkett agreed, acknowledging that his decision was something of a ploy to lure his daughter back to California with a position at the new company.
Back she came, and according to Mr. Plunkett, she's been remarkably successful.
"It is amazing to see my daughter up there giving presentations and doing such a great job," says the man who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl championships in his 15-year professional career. "Meghan basically runs the business; it is such a cool feeling."
Ms. Plunkett is in charge of distribution of the products, and according to Mr. Ferrari, Mr. Plunkett's business partner, she will soon be appointed vice president of the company, Ferrari Italia Food Products Inc.
"She began helping us negotiate the Raley's contract and 7-Eleven contract," says Mr. Ferrari. "She helped complete the mountain of necessary paper work to get into Raley's 130-plus stores."
Currently, she is working on a deal to distribute the products in Safeway stores.
Idea is born
Mr. Plunkett, who grew up in the Bay Area and raised his family in Atherton, won the Heisman Trophy at Stanford in 1970. That team went on to win the Rose Bowl in an upset of Ohio State that earned Mr. Plunkett MVP honors.
Ten years later he was named MVP of Super Bowl XV in 1981.
He got to know Mr. Ferrari, who owns construction and real estate companies, through the football star's annual Stanford charity golf tournament, which Mr. Ferrari participated in.
The two became friends, and one night, over the smell of hickory and steak, the idea for the business was born.
"Jim was the self-appointed chef who manned the BBQ," says Mr. Ferrari in an e-mail. "After tasting his special BBQ sauce, it sparked an idea in my brain that said, 'Why don't Jim and I create a line of food products that revolves around football tailgating.'"
Mr. Plunkett admits to being something of a tailgate-party professional. It began, he explains, when he was a student at Stanford. Some local parents started hosting tailgate parties at sporting events; over the years, the parties became a tradition and Mr. Plunkett took over the mantle as host.
According to both men, the first products were mustard and barbecue sauce, because, as Mr. Ferrari puts it, "many people think hot dogs, mustard and barbecues go together well with football."
Mr. Plunkett's involvement is not just a photo-op celebrity endorsement. "Jim had lots of experience in distribution because he owned a Coors beer distribution company for over 22 years," says Mr. Ferrari.
Although Mr. Plunkett says he didn't provide his special recipe for the barbecue sauce, he willingly submitted to numerous taste tests during the development of the product.
The line of condiments is being marketed as the "the ultimate tailgate products," and Mr. Ferrari says they have plans to expand it to include "ketchup, tortilla chips and a tailgate party kit that has all of our products sold together."
The line is available locally at Draeger's market, the Country Corner store, Woodside Deli and Woodside Bakery & Cafe. Fresh products such as the Plunkett tri-tip salad are sold at 7-Eleven stores and Raley's.
"Raiders fans love it," says Bob Wehab, owner, along with wife Nadia, of the Country Corner store on the Alameda de las Pulgas in unincorporated Menlo Park. "Even 49ers fans love it; everyone loves Jimmy [Plunkett]."
Lunch-time customers at the Country Corner concur, but few seem aware of the new line. Mr. Wehab insists they are popular products, especially during the holidays.
"Customers buy lots of it and ship it to Raiders fans as gifts for the holidays," he says.
Mr. Plunkett, who played for three NFL teams — the Patriots, the 49ers and the Raiders — ended his pro career in 1986. He has parlayed his football expertise into post-game analysis. Currently, he appeaars on "Silver and Black," a Raiders TV show that airs locally on KTVU Channel 2 at 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
"Plunkett's legacy continues on after his fame," muses Mr. Wehab. "People everywhere recognize him."