Sports stars often move into the entertainment industry when they retire.
It’s a short career, so whether it’s Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson becoming a movie star, or Alexei Lalas fronting a rock and roll band, many see the arts as a lucrative move.
But what about those whose sports careers were short-lived?
Here we countdown 25 celebrities who were athletes in a former life!
Mark is the son of former NFL star Tom Harmon. He initially followed in his father’s footsteps, starring as quarterback for UCLA for 2 seasons. But alas, the NCIS star did not feel that he could cut it at professional level, so he moved into acting. We think he made the right choice!
Sam Hunt is a country singer, best known as the winner of American Music Awards’ 2015 New Artist of the Year. But prior to music, Hunt played college football as a quarterback for both Middle Tennessee State and The University of Alabama. It was after college that Hunt moved to Nashville and began his recording career.
The British actor is known for playing hardmen in films like The Transporter. However, before he turned to acting, Jason was a promising diver. In fact, Statham was so skilled a diver that he represented England at the Commonwealth Games in 1990!
Reynolds was a promising half-back whose sporting career was cut short by injury. The Boogie Nights star played for Florida State in the 1950s. In just four games, he carried the ball 19 times for 146 yards, scored two touchdowns and caught six passes for 76 yards, including a 33-yard reception against Georgia State. After injury hampered his professional chances, Burt turned to acting.
Ed O’Neill might be best known for starring in sitcoms such as Married…With Children and Modern Family. However, before he entered the world of comedy, O’Neill was a promising footballer. He played college football for University of Ohio and Youngstown state, and, in 1969, got a trial with Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
The former Daily Show frontman was once a promising soccer player. Stewart, whose real name is Jonathan Leibowitz, was a star of College of William and Mary’s soccer team in the mid 1980s. The college still hands out the annual “Leibo Award” to the player with the most positive attitude.
Although she is known around the world as Hermione Granger, Emma Watson is also an adept hockey player. Watson was on various school teams, before moving on to Brown, where she was a star of the Bear’s female hockey team. We assume that Brown didn’t have a Quidditch team!
Russell’s father was a former baseball player and team owner. He followed his father’s footsteps, winning a Double-A level in the Minor Leagues. But, unfortunately, injury ended his career. “I had geared up to play pro ball from the time I was 13 or 14,” Russell said. “The acting was something that just came along. But I made good money acting, so it wasn’t something that I was just going to put aside and pretend it didn’t exist.”
The Being Mary Jane star was also a college footballer. He played as defensive back for University of Georgia during the 1995 season. “I was at UGA playing with Champ Bailey and Hines Ward — both guys who will probably touch the Hall of Fame one day,” Hardwick said. “And they were rooting me on. All of these guys were like ‘There’s another thing to you, not just ball. You got this artist thing and you need to pursue that.’”
The outspoken Duck Dynasty star was, in a previous incarnation, a quarterback for Louisiana Tech. In an interesting piece of trivia, Robertson kept future Fox NFL host Terry Bradshaw out of the team. Despite this, both were honoured by their alma mater back in 2013.
McHale was initially recruited by the University of Washington to compete for the rowing team. However, he soon switched to football, where he starred as a tight end. “For me, it was like going from riding a bike to riding a motorcycle,” McHale wrote in 2011. “I had to make a thousand adjustments just to hold on. In practice, I was always on scout offense, which ran the opposing team’s plays against our defense. I made the defense look terrific.”
The former Lost star was also a college football player, starring as a wide receiver for Columbia University. He was on the team in 1988, when Columbia’s 44-game losing streak came to an end. They beat Ivy League rivals Princeton 16-13.
It seems a long time since the former Adventures of Superman star was last on our screens. Well, it’s even longer since he was a big hitter on the college football team. In 1987, Cain was captain of Princeton’s football team. The defensive back picked off 12 passes — at the time a Division I-AA record — and earned I-AA All-American honours as a senior. After college, Cain signed pro with the Buffalo Bills, but injury ended his career early.
Tommy Lee Jones
Like many on our list, the award winning veteran actor started his career in college football. Jones, who was roommate with none other than Al Gore, played offensive guard at Harvard in the late 1960s. “I went into the indoor athletic building, where the coaches’ offices were at the time, and I asked to see Henry Lamar, the freshman football coach in those days,” Jones recalled in 2013. “And I said, ‘Coach, I love football, and I’m interested in acting, and I’ve been offered a part (in a play). Do you think I’ve got any chance of starting on this football team? And he said, ‘Well, I don’t know … but I can tell you that you can act for the rest of your life, but you’ve only got four more years to play football. You make up your mind.’ So I did, and my interest in theater was outside the football season.”
The Magnum, PI star started his sporting career at Los Angeles Valley Community College. He later moved to USC, where he featured for the college basketball team. His impact was unremarkable, however, and he made just two career field goals.
Weathers is best known as playing boxer Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies. However, Weathers’ sport was actually football. Back in the 1960s, he spent two seasons as a linebacker for San Diego State. Weathers even spent two years at the Oakland Raiders, but his heart was not in it. “I’ll give you a completely honest answer: I wasn’t present,” Weathers said back in 2007. “I was a guy who had a tremendous amount of ability, but my head was always in the world of wanting to be an actor. I majored in theater at San Diego State. My one eye was on football, and my other eye was on Hollywood.”
It’s no real surprise that Terry Crews’ background is a sporting one! Crews played defensive end for Western Michigan in the 1980s, before taking pro contracts at the Rams, the Chargers, and the Redskins. After retiring, Crews moved into acting. “The good thing about football is that you develop a work ethic if you work at it, if you try,” the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star said earlier this year. “And you start to learn that anything can be learned.”
Before breaking into Hollywood, Wayne, whose real name was Marion Morrison, was offensive tackler at USC. Wayne was on the roster in the 1920s, but ultimately lost his scholarship after breaking his collarbone whilst surfing – an activity that was against the university’s terms!
The Victoria Secret model, and Stockholm native, was once a professional baseball player, even representing her national team at the highest level. However, there came a point where Hosk had to choose between baseball and modelling. “It became hard to balance everything,” Hosk said. “I had to choose basketball or modelling because I was doing both on top of school, and it was hard coming back from jobs and having my teammates already practising new [skills]. I couldn’t keep up.”
At a towering 6 ft 5, 2 Chainz – real name Tauheed Eps – started life as a forward for Alabama State in the 1990s. “I think if he had concentrated on basketball, and dedicated himself, he could be a pretty good player with his ball skills,” his former coach Rob Spivery once said. “He was very skillful and he could shoot the ball pretty decently.”
Another footballer, Goodman played for Southwest Missouri State in the 1970s. Again, his sporting career was curtailed by injuries. However, football’s loss was our gain. As Missouri State President Clif Smart said when presenting Goodman with an honorary doctorate, “[The injury] was the bad news. The good news for all of us was that he changed his major to drama.”
Believe it or not, self help guru Phillip ‘Dr Phil’ McGraw was once a middle linebacker at Tulsa. Dr Phil played for the Golden Hurricane in the late 1960s, but was forced to quit due to a head injury that caused temporary blindness.
James Caan is best known for starring in movies such as The Godfather and Misery. However, he was also an adept footballer, representing Michigan State in a number of positions in the 1950s. Nevertheless, Caan played down his achievements, telling the alumni magazine in 1998 that his position was “tackling dummy!”
Before forming the country duo Florida Georgia Line, Kelley played baseball for both Florida State and Belmont University. Although his baseball career did not flourish, Kelley had a back up. His father said, “Brian had planned his whole life primarily to pitch in the major leagues. When he didn’t get drafted, he obviously was upset. But he had another plan — his love of music and his ability to write.”
Hollywood superstar, and Oscar winner, Denzel Washington once thought that his future lay in basketball. In the 1970s, Washington was on the JV team at Fordham University. There, he was coached by none other than P.J. Carlesimo, who described the film star as “a decent player!”