In some of our professional actors, athletic ability is clear and present, while in others, like Jon Stewart and Uzo Aduba, you would never guess. Get ready to be impressed.
With the way her acting career has blown up in the past few years, you would think Jennifer Lawrence's parents were enforcing theater classes when she was a kid. It wasn't the case, but it was actually for sports. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence were super insistent on all of their kids attending some sort of after-school sports activity. The film star played softball, basketball, field hockey, and even did some cheerleading.
Ultimately, JLaw, even though she pretty much excelled in sports, admitted she did not love it. She chose to quit sports and choose Hollywood. Her films have earned the box office a total of $6 billion, so it looks like it was the right decision.
It's hard to say what exactly the Degrassi Next Generation and Vampire Diaries star, Nina Dobrev is better at. Being an all-star athlete or stealing our hearts from the silver screen. The actress has a pretty extensive background in the sport. As an enthusiast in basketball, soccer, volleyball, skiing, rock climbing, wakeboarding, and snowboarding, Dobrev has even become the official ambassador for the Reebok x Les Mills partnership.
In addition to that, The Flatliners actress has also spent many years as a gymnast before going full-force with acting. You can also find her appealing regularly at celeb sporting events such as the Celebrity Beach Bowl.
Long before the actor hit the screens in critically acclaimed performances like Ray, Collateral Damage, Django, and more, Jaimie Foxx had his eyes elsewhere, in fact, on two places, the basketball court and football field. As a kid, Foxx, a straight-A student, attended Terrell High School. There, he played both sports. His goal was to graduate high school and eventually try out for the Dallas Cowboys.
Fox was the first player in the history of the school to pass over 1,000 yards. This multi-talented guy was also in a band called Leather and Lace. While life panned out differently for Jaimie, his passion for sports has not faded. You can still catch the actor shooting hoops and cheering for his team, the Dallas Mavericks.
Setting out with one scholarship to play football and another for training as an operatic tenor, Forest Whitaker’s USC career led him to Berkeley, where he focused on acting and stage performance. As a star quarterback in high school, an injury playing college ball cut his football hopes short. His debut into career option No. 2 had him playing a high school football star in the classic teen flick, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Needless to say, he nailed the part. One role led to another, and by 2006 Whitaker’s performance in The Last King of Scotland playing dictator Idi Amin earned him the Oscar for Best Actor, making him the fourth black actor to win the prize.
Carl Weathers played pro football for the NFL Oakland Raiders, but not before rushing yard for the Aztecs at San Diego State University. In college, he majored in theater. He had one eye on the football and the other eye on Hollywood, as he has said. Acting won out.
He scored big with the Apollo Creed role on the epic Rocky film franchise. He always dreamed of being an actor while admiring Sidney Poitier's films as a youngster. His dream definitely came true. He starred in numerous television and film roles and in Rocky until Creed’s death in Rocky IV.
Before becoming Hollywood's go-to leading man, Tom Cruise was a fierce little soccer player back in the day. You can even catch glimpses of his skills while playing with Cameron Diaz on the set of Knight and Day. You might notice that Cameron Diaz is pretty good herself. Cruise also has quite the bromance with David Beckham.
In addition to his soccer playing, Cruise was also a wrestler but was sidelined due to an injury. Being out of the game, he turned his attention to acting and auditioned for his high school's production, Guys and Dolls .
Originally a minor league baseball star, Brett Convy went onto be quite the TV star. The athlete and TV personality famously hosted multiple "Tattletales," "Super Password," and "Win, Lose or Draw." Convy was the quintessential suave talkshow host of the 70s. He basically made the game.
He didn't really only stop there. Convy also went on to star in the pilot for "Murder, She Wrote."
Burt Reynolds’ true love was football. (Sorry, ladies). He first fell in love with the sport in high school, where the hunk’s performance earned him a scholarship to Florida State. Unfortunately, a knee injury compounded by further injuries due to a car accident crushed his dreams. His heart, however, stayed with the Florida State Seminoles, where he continued to hang out on the sidelines and donate large sums of cash.
At one point, he bought the entire Seminoles team new, snazzier uniforms, which they gratefully donned. The program adored their star athlete. But we know him best from blockbusters like Smokey and the Bandit, The Longest Yard, and Deliverance. Reynolds passed last year at 82. RIP.
Perhaps not as huge as Hulk Hogan, but Dave Bautista has certainly made a name for himself in and out of the ring. During his training, Bautista was repeatedly told that he was never going to succeed. Looking at him now, it's really baffling. In May 2002, the monster wrestler made his debut on the WWE SamackDown under the name Batista. He then changed it to the more fitting title, "The Animal."
The wrestler went on to become a six-time World Heavyweight champion. Feeling he had done just about everything he could in wrestling, Dave left in 2010 and began starring in films such as The Wrong Side of Town, House of the Rising Sun, The Man with the Iron Fists , and Riddick. In 2014 he even landed a role in the blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, playing Drax the Destroyer.
According to an interview with ESPN, it sounds like Steve Carrell halted a potentially decent career in ice hockey. In high school, the Office star was faced with going to a Division I college hockey program and fight for his position of goalie. The thought of going all out was turned him off, and Steve decided to continue with Division III throughout his Denison University days.
He got his shot later in life when he played a killer game in the episode "Michael's Birthday" on The Office .
Tom Selleck would rather not be known as the sex symbol of a generation, yet the sex symbol appeared on the cover of Playgirl magazine four times. Driving a red-hot Italian sports car as a private detective on Magnum P.I. created this appeal, but not before he won a scholarship to USC to play basketball. There, the show biz bug bit hard, and Selleck quit the Trojans to study acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
After some modeling, some small television parts, and a few commercials, he scored the lead role as Thomas Magnum. His film career surpassed his basketball career by a long shot, but he still loves athletics and is an imposing beach volleyball player. He’s also serious about ice hockey and baseball. At one point, he part-owned his favorite baseball team, the Detroit Tigers.
Queen of sarcasm and deadpan, Aubrey Plaza isn't as mopey as she is on TV. The Parks and Recreation actress is super into basketball and has been playing for an L.A based recreational women's team called the Pistol Shrimps for many seasons now. In fact, the team got so much attention (it's filled with entertainers and writers) that in 2016, it became the subject of a quirky little documentary.
The actress has been very vocal about how much she loves her team, getting quite excited over promoting it on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Way too cool for school, Jason Lee dropped out of high school to become a professional skateboarder. Now the Huntington Beach local is a boss in three coveted professions. After Mallrats and Chasing Amy, Lee’s a famous slacker actor who is known worldwide as Earl in My Name is Earl. His success in TV and film and shredding professionally apparently wasn’t enough. Lee took on photography as a passion and a profession—his book sold out, pre-production.
As Earl, he’s been nominated twice for Best Actor. And, he’s the co-founder of a skateboard company heavy in merch appeal. In his day, Lee’s street tricks, like kinked rails, varial kickflips, and 360-flipping over any available surface, were nothing short of phenomenal.
Jon Stuart Leibowitz (just call him “Leibo”) was a William & Mary men’s soccer walk-on. With high expectations for varsity placement as an all-state player straight out of high school in 1980, the coach promptly rerouted Jon Stewart to the JV team. Coveting the varsity team’s “NCAA Regional Champs” hoodies, Stewart added this reminiscence to his former coach’s book, “I wanted only one thing at that point in life: to earn one of those damned sweatshirts . . . and to lose my virginity . . . but I assume that is for the foreword of a very different book.”
He played hard and won a spot on the varsity team as a tenacious wing. “Leibo” became a team star for his feisty athleticism on the field and for his rousing locker room pep talks off the field. A year before Stewart’s Daily Show launched, the William & Mary soccer program commemorated his contribution by creating the annual “Leibo Award.”
Standing at 6 feet and 5 inches, it wasn't much of a stretch for the now rapper to entertain a life on the court. The rapper bagged himself a scholarship at the Alabama State Unversity and played basketball from 1996-1997. In fact, 2 Chainz (born Tauheed Epps) was actually a Division I basketball recruit in North Clayton High School in College Park, Georgia. The rapper also played one season at Alabama State University, where he played 24 out of 29 games.
The rapper's distinct voice is what really got him attention. Just as well. Before he knew it, he was being parodied on the number one comedy show in America, The Dave Chapelle Show. Countless rap hits later, 2 Chainz basketball stint is a distant memory.
Jane Lynch towers at 1.83m, so it should come as no surprise that the Glee star was a super basketball and softball player before she hit our screens. While she was really good, especially due to her height, she actually wasn't a big fan of basketball, but she did love softball.
She is a proud club fan these days, and by the looks of her character, Sue, from Glee, she's probably a monster on the court.
It's no accident that Gwen Stefani has one incredible body. While she may maintain it with a rigorous workout routine, the No Doubt solo-ist got her amazing stature and strength from being on the swim team at Loara High School.
These days, the 43-year-old religiously sticks to cardio exercises and jumping around on stage, admitting that the only way to maintain her body is "to eat healthily, work out, and torture yourself!" she told Harper's Bazaar ."
The Swedish beauty, who is now one of the top Victoria's Secret models in the world, was in quite a different arena before she was strutting her stuff on runways and fashion shows. Elsa Hosk was, in fact, a professional basketball player in her native land of Sweden. The 5.9 practically grew up shooting hoops right in her backyard.
After an injury at 14 years old, she got into modeling. The young Elsa immediately got attention from various agencies and ultimately went with her soaring modeling career. Ending up as a Victoria's Secrets model, she can pretty much call it a slam dunk.
In real life, Ed O’Neill’s football glory days were played on the college fields of Youngstown and Ohio University as a burly defensive lineman who got there on a scholarship. At his peak, the gifted athlete was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. When he was cut at training camp, O’Neill went for acting instead. On Married with Children, he was Al Bundy, the uproarious shoe salesman who, from his permanent position on the couch, bemoaned his glory days as a high school football star while his bimbo wife, Peg, never missed a chance to emasculate him with biting wit.
He bit back. O’Neill hit it big again as a different kind of dad with Modern Family, for which he has been nominated for three Emmys. As an athlete, he stays in shape, playing handball and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He earned his black belt in 2007.
As a seriously incredible athlete shining in both the NBA and MLB, Chuck Connors was a household name. Sure being in both sports may have been more acceptable in the 1940s, but that was still mightily impressive.
The old legend went from owning the sports field to conquering the screen with a successful career in mostly television Westerns. His most famous part was as the star in "The Rifleman," which ran for 168 episodes.
Channing Tatum made his way into the entertainment industry as a male stripper at an exotic dance club. But, how do you think he got that great body? The fact is, he’s an incredible athlete who played college football on a scholarship, excelled at all sports in high school, and trained in martial arts. Exotic dancing turned into a modeling career with Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, and Nautica all clamoring for his chiseled bod.
A fortuitous spot on Ricky Martin’s music video, “She Bangs,” earned him four hundred bucks and a big break into film acting. We all know him in 21 Jump Street, Coach Carter, Step Up, and She’s The Man. Just as his stint as an exotic dancer prepared him for Magic Mike, his martial arts and tough tackling skills cued him for action roles. By 2012, Channing became the “sexiest man alive,” according to People magazine.
Here’s another action movie star who keeps it real on the big screen. To this end, Gina Carano has pioneered women’s martial arts setting championship records. She competed in the male-dominated Strikeforce and EliteXC tournaments, becoming the third-best female fighter in the world. In 2009 she fought Cris Cyborg at Strikeforce, the first time two women headlined a major MMA event.
Carano received the first female Chuck Norris Award for Best Action Star in Haywire for bringing those moves to film. On Deadpool, she marveled at fans. She’s been named “Hottest Woman in the World” by several publications. She drives her car like an action hero too. Racing down the freeway at 126 m.p.h., the cop did not agree with her that it’s not reckless driving if you’re a really good driver who is in control of the vehicle.
At Princeton and Yale, David Duchovny honed his literary skills, procuring some acclaim as a poet until he left doctoral studies behind to act full-time. After two years of small parts, Duchovny landed the DEA role on Twin Peaks, which led to his immense popularity in the 1990s with The X-Files. (And, again, more recently as the extra-ordinary series was rediscovered by the younger gens).
Like Agent Mulder, he and Scully chase paranormal phenomena and crack conspiracy theories. But, honestly, if he didn’t make it as an actor, his next choice would have been professional basketball or baseball. At Princeton, he played shooting guard for the varsity basketball team, and he manned centerfield for the JV baseball team.
Truly a legend in every way, Bruce Lee transcended martial arts. The Hong Kong-born phenomenon began as a child actor in his hometown. At 18, already a master in martial arts, he moved to the U.S and began teaching it. Channeling his Chinese heritage, Bruce Lee became a major influence in what was later to be developed as MMA (mixed martial arts) and has been celebrated for bridging the gap between the east and the west.
His iconic roles in martial arts movies like the 1972 film Way of the Dragon and 1973’s Enter the Dragon have even been credited with changing the way Americans perceived Chinese people, which before was weak and cowardly.
As a kid, Sean Connery grew up strong in a rough district of Scotland slums. On the streets, they called him Tommy. He has made a formidable impression playing tag or soccer. Later he joined the Dunedin Weightlifting Club to impress the ladies. Mission accomplished! His weightlifting blokes were so impressed they nominated him for Mr. Universe. Connery traveled to London to compete. He scored a medal and was discovered by the producers of the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "South Pacific" musical.
Already pro grade at soccer, by age 23, he was set to become a professional footballer or an actor. Spoiler alert, he chose the latter. After a handful of minor roles on British TV and film, Connery scored his big break as James Bond. On Halloween 2020, the sports and acting legend passed away peacefully in his sleep.
To say that the pop queen was an accomplished athlete before her music career is quite the statement, as the singer hit it big at the tender age of 16. The Oops I Did It Again singer was playing high school basketball, and things looked pretty promising. Did we have a potential WNBA star on our hands? Britney still shoots hoops and even loves to share it on Twitter. In a post in 2017, you can see queen Britney dunk quite a few in a row.
Now that her music career has slowed down, we wonder if she is having second thoughts. Everyone needs their second shot in the spotlight, and while she's had a few, maybe this could be another one.
Like many of the more charismatic wrestlers to come out of the WWE, Hulk Hogan was one of those lucky ones who transitioned into film. His wrestling career is jaw-dropping. Hogan won his first WWF Heavyweight Championship belt in 1984 after defeating the Iron Sheik, holding his title for four years. He also won the Royal Rumble twice in a row in 1990 and 1991, becoming the first to win consecutive rumble matches.
Given the many theatrics that's involved in the world of wrestling, this transition was made pretty smoothly. Of course, it helped that during the peak of his wrestling career, his face was just about every product in supermarkets and toy stores. The wrestler made his debut appearance Rocky III in 1982 in the role of Thunderlips. He then continued doing many more TV and film roles such as Thunder in Paradise, Texas Ranger, Mr. Nanny. and more.
For a whole 45 minutes, Uzo Aduba almost quit acting and settled for the law profession. Next, she got the call back from Orange is the New Black. Needless to say, it was her lucky break. Her talent sparkled so brightly with the part-complicated, part-deranged role, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, that Aduba picked up two Emmys and two SAGs for the comedy/drama series.
All that may not have happened if she hadn’t earned a track scholarship to Boston University, where she studied theatre and opera while setting records on the track field. At BU, she still holds a sprinting record. She ran the 100- and 200-meter sprints.
The Rebel Without a Cause actor went too soon. The young talent's acting made him a cultural icon for teens in the 50s. However, before he was the poster teen for disillusioned teens and outcast youth, James Dean was known for something else. He was the multi-talented athlete called the "boy in glasses."
Dean played basketball, baseball and ran track, setting school records, winning medals in his senior year. Before the actor went on to shoot hoops in college, he was a basketball star on his high school team, The Fairmount High Quakers, in his hometown in Indiana. It was clear he had a zest for life.
Considered one of the greatest power forwards of all time, Garnett won both the Most Valuable Player and the Defensive Player of the Year awards. Aside from his incredible accomplishments on the court, the athlete has recently created waves on the screen, thanks to the Safdie brothers, the dynamite directing duo of "Uncut Gems."
His performance in that was surprisingly good and brought tons of intensity to an already cutting-edge film. It stars Adam Sandler too! So far, he has only had one role, but we can expect to see him popping up in the future.
At first glance, this adorable face donning cheeks that simply beg to be pinched by doting Italian grandmas does not betray its boxing moniker, “Dangerous” Tony Danza. To wit, he was a scrapper! Starting out fighting on the streets of Brooklyn, Danza got a hold of some gloves and went pro. Out of 15 fights, “Tough” Tony won 12, each by knockout. Never mind that he lost the remainder by knockout.
On the side, he graduated from the University of Dubuque in Iowa on a wrestling scholarship and then became an actor. Playing cab driver and boxer Tony Banta on the TV classic Taxi, Danza continued to dream of being a boxing world champ. Instead, his lovable persona on Who’s the Boss? earned him even more adoring “awws” from fans.
According to People Magazine, our golden girl Kate Hudson gave up on a soccer dream to pursue acting. In an in-depth interview with Vogue, the actress admitted that she was at one point very serious about pursuing soccer full time and was even about to play in college. The Almost Famous star began to realize that the competitive sport was taking time away from her dancing and had a change of heart.
Hudson then made the move to pursue facing, acting, and singing more seriously. Of course, we all know where that took her. The Bride Wars actress has expressed how much she missed the game and tries to play it with her kids.
We all know LeBron James for his accomplishments on the court, but in recent years, his career on screen has been on the serious incline. The star basketball player turned heads in the Amy Schumer comedy "Trainwreck."
Even the great comedians in the film expressed how impressive his comedy chops were. Since his debut, he has been consistently appearing in more and more films and is even starring in the "Space Jam" reboot.
Just call him “Dr. Dunk.” Jason Segel’s moves on the basketball court earned him that nickname, but he’s best known for his part on How I Met Your Mother. He’s also a screenwriter, author, and musician. His tall and gangly physique made him a formidable force playing on the back-to-back California state championship team at Harvard-Westlake high school. At six-foot-four, he led the team to the CIF state championships and won the school’s slam dunk contest.
But movies and acting were his thing. His tall stature and charming nature got him lined up with Judd Apatow’s high school drama Freaks and Geeks. At 18, he landed that first role as stoner Nick Andopolis. The quirky-hilarious part kicked off his acting career in movies like Slackers, and I love You, Man. Not only that, he voiced Vector in Despicable Me and co-wrote and produced The Muppets. He wrote a children’s book as well. Random fact: Segel is an ordained minister. The online application took about two minutes. He’s also half Jewish with a Bar Mitzvah under his belt.
It comes as no surprise that Kurt Russell, a well-known Hollywood fixture, was voted “Best Looking” at Thousand Oaks High School by the Class of 1969. And we know he’s a constant lover and companion to movie star knock-out Goldie Hawn. You also probably know that Russell has a knack for starring as the hero in cult-favorite films. But did you know this strapping gent played second base in Major League Baseball?
Russell was a switch-hitter on the Class A minor league team for the California Angels in 1971. He moved up to Class AA in 1973, but a torn rotator cuff caused by colliding with an incoming base runner rerouted his fate to acting.
While Shaquille O'Neal is basically synonymous with basketball, he has definitely succeeded in his pursuits outside the court. The athlete has rapped, appeared in a video game, and of course, is becoming increasingly more known in films and TV.
The former athlete has acted in several movies (though some of them bombed like "Kazaam” or “Steel."). He also made a great appearance in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as himself, which was, of course, memorable as ever.
Tommy Lee Jones
At Harvard, where Tommy Lee Jones roomed with Al Gore and graduated cum laude in 1969, he played varsity football as well. As an all-league offensive guard, he participated in the Harvard vs. Yale game known as “The Tie,” the most famous game in Ivy League history. That season, his Crimson team was undefeated.
He also appeared in undergrad theater productions. Students would find him in the sports locker room, suiting up in costume for rehearsal! Acting won out. Now we know him as the big screen’s baddest tough guy in films like MIB and The Fugitive.
Ronda Rousey was once the world's greatest female MMA fighter for some time; she then crossed over to WWE, in which she once again made her mark. Sports aside, however, Rousey has now been working on those acting skills.
As a tough lady, she's mostly landed some action roles that show off her formidable fighting abilities. Recently, however, she appeared in an episode of "Drunk History," the hilarious web series on the Funny or Die channel.
Is there something about female comics and tennis that seem to attract each other? It's not only Ellen who's an avid tennis player but 30 Rock star Tina Fey who also spent her younger years forging a career herself, racket in hand. Fey was a star tennis player at Upper Darby High in Pennsylvania and almost went pro. Simultaneously she was also the champion of the drama club.
Now at 49 years old, Tina Fey is busy on a new network show, Good News, and raising her two kids with her husband composer, Jeff Richmond. Tennis seems to be a distant memory.
First, we knew him as the bodybuilder, then we knew him as the Terminator, more recently, he became the "Governator." Arnold Schwarzenegger has seriously evolved over the years and taken on many forms. How did it all begin? He has made a name for himself as one of the best bodybuilders in the world. The muscle king won multiple competitions in the world of bodybuilding, one of them being a Mr. Universe title at just 20 years old.
His incredible physique just didn't get him bodybuilding wins; it also landed him in a bunch of beloved action films such as Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Predator, and Total Recall. As if that wasn't enough, the accomplished athlete and actor got into politics and served as the governor of California from 2003 to 2011
John Amos started out as a pretty decent ballplayer. He had the seeds of a promising career in college and also got in with some minor football leagues. Sadly, they have since fallen out of existence. Still, that familiar-looking face found its way into our TV sets.
Though the athletic career began to slow down, he, fortunately, found his calling in acting. The actor starred in the sitcom "Good Times." He even achieved stardom with his famous catchphrase, “Dy-no-mite! The actor also appeared in "Roots."
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
A WWF crowd favorite, The Rock, as he was known in the pro wrestling circuit, won over audiences worldwide. As a six-foot-five, 260-pound muscleman, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was courted by Hollywood until he broke onto the silver screen with The Mummy Returns. His brawn was also featured in the long-running, super-lucrative franchise, The Fast and the Furious, yet he’s more than just muscle—he’s got the moves.
Johnson almost hit an NFL career until injuries bumped him off the University of Miami’s starting lineup, but not before winning a national championship with the Hurricanes in 1991. Now, enjoying his second professional career in the show biz, he’s swimming in prosperity as the world’s top-earning movie star.
Hollywood humbled this NFL athlete. Terry Crews said he left pro football with a cocky attitude as if the industry owed him a movie career. Instead, he found his new competition running circles around him. Other actors had been taking drama classes for years while he was blocking plays and tackling dudes. From a full ride to play football at Western Michigan University to being drafted in 1991 by the Los Angeles Rams, Crews’ life was all about football. In 1996 he flipped it to film.
He hit it big with Everybody Hates Chris and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and, latest, Brooklyn Nine-Nine on television. He’s also celebrated for his advocacy toward women and against sexism. Staying athletic, Crews trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It gives him the physique to be the body of Old Spice, “The man your man could smell like.”
Lisa Kudrow? Really? The woman behind Smelly Cat was blazing up tennis courts before she landed on Friends. Once again, funny women and tennis courts. We're starting to wonder if there are some closet comedians in the women's tennis league right now.
During her time at Taft High School in Los Angeles (when she was a brunette), Kudrow was playing varsity level tennis. To this day, she sometimes hits the courts to whack around a few balls with friends and family.
Will Ferrell is a true sports fan. You would know that simply by watching every single one of his movies. From a professional ice-skater in Blades of Glory to a Nascar racer in Talladega Nights, a basketball player in Semi-Pro, and a dad soccer coach in Kicking and Screaming, it seems as if Will Ferrel may have been gunning for a different career all these years.
With that said, it's not surprising that Ferell was an avid soccer player throughout high school. The actor now even owns the soccer team, Los Angeles FC. He may not have become a professional athlete, but he certainly tried to be in his movies.
Before Jason Statham played the bad guy in a string of action flicks, he was one of the world’s top high divers competing in the British National Diving squad for 12 years. He did some male modeling to make ends meet. And then he ran into Guy Ritchie. Fortune struck. When Ritchie met Statham, he was inspired to write the role that launched the career of the strapping Brit to the stars—Bacon, in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Statham maintains his strength training in martial arts.
His athleticism allows him to perform many of his own stunts. One practically killed him. While filming Expendables 3, the brakes on the truck, he was driving failed. He plunged into the Black Sea and nearly drowned.
Here’s someone for whom fortune knocked twice. Chuck Norris, a martial arts champion, was a karate instructor for Steve McQueen before hitting the big screen. In fact, it was McQueen who talked him into a Hollywood career. Norris picked up karate in Korea while serving the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s. The point is, he does not only play a fighter on TV, but he is also an undefeated martial arts champion since 1968.
Check out this skill set: Norris holds a black belt in Tang Soo Do, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Judo. That makes three black belts. Plus, he developed his own fighting method called Chun Kuk Do. In the film, those self-defense moves have venerated the man into a mythological legend. Perhaps you’ve seen him in action in Good Guys Wear Black, Code of Silence, or The Delta Force?
John David Washington
It's not surprising that Denzel Washington's son is making it big in acting. What is surprising is that John David Washington was a successful football player before hitting Hollywood. While he may have some big shoes to fill, he looks as if he is filling them just fine!
After four seasons with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League, the young actor jumped into the critically acclaimed "BlacKkKlansman," alongside the incredibly talented Adam Driver. We're definitely waiting for Washington.
André the Giant
The famous pro-wrestler André René Roussimoff became massively popular between the 1970s and 1980s for his incredible height. Standing at 7’4,” he kind of looked like another species. His freakish stature earned him the nickname André, the Giant. Makes sense. After his wrestling career, his foreboding appearance landed him in many movies as a villain.
Naturally, he appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer, but it wasn't until he got to star in The Princess Bride that he became the most popular giant on screen ever. His character Fezzik was the one giant obstacle to cherished Westley. That performance garnered him worldwide fame.
Can you imagine Ellen DeGeneres in anything other than a white suit, sitting on a white couch? Even going back years to her sitcom and standup days, it's almost impossible to imagine Ellen doing anything that's not throwing little funny and endearing quips at her enthusiastic audience.
Once upon a time how the beloved comic was actually trying out for a tennis career, clearly her sport of choice as they tend to favor a white dress code. The comedienne even appeared in the odd celebrity tennis tournament, playing once against tennis star Naomi Osaka and basketball legend Michal B.Jordan.
He’s a martial arts champion with a master’s degree in chemical engineering. On top of that, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT. On the way to MIT, Dolph Lundgren was sidetracked into an acting career starring as arch-enemy Ivan Drago in the Rocky franchise. Lundgren was a Masters of the Universe and Universal Soldier action movie star too.
Fortune knocked quite a few times for this Swede. As an action film star, he performed his own stunts, obviously. Besides training in martial arts, he’s also a bodybuilder. Filming Rocky IV, when Sylvester Stallone told Lundgren to keep it real in the ring, Lundgren delivered a chest punch that laid Stallone up in the intensive care unit for four days with “all these nuns around,” according to the Rocky legend.
Mahershala Ali, short for Mahershalalhashbaz Ali Gilmore, played basketball before he played Remy. At St. Mary’s College, he was an imposing six-foot-three Division I basketball guard. Now he’s the first black actor and the first Muslim man to win two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor. He won the first for his role as Juan in Moonlight and his second as Don Shirley in Green Book. Quite a feat! Both of the films won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
In college, Ali found himself drawn more toward Shakespearean theatre than his basketball court performances. Born and raised a sports kid, Ali became disheartened with the culture of team life at the college level. His teammates were treated like cogs, he was threatened with being shipped to the University of Denver, and nothing mattered but wins and productivity. Added to that, Ali’s father died his junior year. The sad event routed him even more into a creative career.
John Matuszak had a great career as a defensive lineman who played a large part of his career with the Raiders. The athlete grabbed two Super Bowls while he was at it. When his sports career dried up, Matuszak answered many calls from Hollywood agents to play a giant in various films. Unsurprisingly, the guy is built like a house.
His most iconic role, however, was as the Sloth in “The Goonies.” That face is unforgettable. But what could have been a fruitful film career was tragically ended when the actor's life was ended at the young age of 38.
Phil Robertson is dead serious about duck hunting. He raked in a fortune-making duck call device he invented himself—the Duck Commander. He grew up a burly outdoorsman in the rugged backcountry of Louisiana, hunting and playing sports at school. He was a sharpshooter with a powerful arm. His quarterbacking skills earned him a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech University, where he played the first-string quarterback for the Bulldogs.
When the Redskins tried to draft him, he turned them down. He couldn’t rationalize getting pummeled by large, aggressive dudes all year for only $60,000 (and miss duck season on top of it). It wasn’t worth it. Professional hunting became far more lucrative, especially after starring in the popular Duck Dynasty television series.
At his hometown college, North Dakota’s Minot State University, Josh Duhamel played quarterback for the Beavers while dreaming of an NFL career. He loved playing football but settled for acting. The truth is, after realizing he wasn’t good enough for the pros, he considered dentistry, but luckily, as fate would have it, he landed a modeling career that led to his Hollywood breakout in TV and film.
Transformers just would not have been the same without drop-dead, gorgeous knockout Duhamel. He’s taken! Duhamel married the love of his life, Black Eyed Peas popstar Stacy Ferguson.
Former president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, was a champion in everything he did. Starting out as a college football star at Eureka College, Reagan got comfortable in the world of sports and decided to stay as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs. The gig involved a lot of traveling, and on his trips through California, the charismatic Reagan landed some screen tests, eventually leading him to sign a contract with a movie studio.
Soon, Reagan would have bigger fish to fry when entered politics. Eventually, he would become the 40th president of the United States. His football days stuck with him for many years, especially when he portrayed George “The Gipper” Gipp in Knute Rockne. The nickname followed him throughout his career and all the way to the White House.
If you're a WWE fan, then there's no doubt you know Kevin Nash. The famed wrestler not only revolutionized the game with nWo and even had a brief stint in basketball during his college days, but he's also a rising movie star.
He appeared in films including “Magic Mike” and “John Wick” and was also the Super Shredder in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II." Get ready to see Nash pop up in more and more films.
Hailey Baldwin, or as she is known as more recently, Hailey Bieber, has been getting increasingly famous. While she is the daughter of Stephen Baldwin, her current celeb status may have something to do with her recent marriage to the mega-star Justin Beiber.
Before she was splashed all over our gossip mag cover pages, she was a trained ballerina, performing for top ballet companies like the Miami City Ballet. She also trained at the prestigious American Ballet Theater.
John Goodman is a big guy and actually tried to take his talents in the direction of a football career. This was at a time where he was even dabbling in the world of theater, so you know it must have been a true passion. By the year 1970, Goodman had already achieved a sports scholarship at Southwest Missouri State University.
He was on his way, but unfortunately, a bad injury put things on hold. It was at that point where Goodman decides to perhaps reinvestigate that other thing that he was doing in high school...Acting. in 1975, the actor survived on odd jobs and commercial work in New York City. Finally, in 1988, he landed his iconic role in Roseanne.
Trust the unique and incomparable Geena Davis to be involved in one of the most unusual sports in the world. The actress who is truly in a league of her own was and still is an avid archer. According to HuffPost, Davis was ranked the 13th overall best archer in the U.S and in 1999 came in 24th in the Olympic Trials.
What's more, the Thelma and Louise star took up the game on a whim at the age of 41 and trained like crazy for 2 1/2 years. We would have loved to see her take home a gold medal.
From watching Mickey Rourke's career, it might look like he has been reincarnated multiple times since he shot to fame in the 80s. Starting off as a serious teen heartthrob, Mickey soon felt the pressures of fame and left Hollywood relatively early in his career and returned to the passion he had in his formative years- boxing. In 1991 Rourke won six out of eight games (including four knockouts to boot!)
After his few ring victories, the actor was ready for another knockout round, this time on camera. In the 2000s made his big come-back role in his Oscar-nominated performance in the 2008 film, The Wrestler. How fitting!
Friends icon, Matthew Perry, is a huge sports fan. His favorite teams are the Toronto Blue Jays, the Ottawa Senators, and the New England Patriots. As a kid in Ottawa, he grew up playing tennis, becoming a top-ranked national Canadian player. That all changed when he moved to California to live with his dad. Perry told Men’s Health magazine, “I moved to Los Angeles when I was 15, and everyone in L.A. just killed me. I was pretty great in Canada. Not so much in Los Angeles. I realized I wouldn’t be playing tennis for a living, so I went for acting.”
Like Chandler, he hit the Hollywood jackpot, earning one million dollars per episode! The insanely popular show ran for ten seasons. Perry starred in several other television shows and movies, but nothing compared with the massive success of Friends. In his spare time, he supports sober living by running the Perry House, a rehab he converted out of his former Malibu mansion. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Perry spent some time in rehab struggling with addiction.
The 16-time world WWE champion and has matched up with some pretty terrifying wrestlers and beat them (we're talking to you, Batista, and The Rock.) His time on WWE was also pretty glamorous. With a lot of charisma and a killer entrance song, John Cena could certainly work up a crowd. Known for being really loved or really despised, Cena would get simultaneous chants of “Let’s go Cena!” and “Cena sucks!”
In 2006, the wrestling star boldly took the plunge and landed his first leading role in the film The Marine. That was just the start. Soon John Cena dispersed his comedy chops in films like Trainwreck alongside Amy Schumer and Blockers. His latest action-packed film is Fast and Furious 9.
Forever endeared in our hearts as Hermione, it makes sense Emma Watson studied at Brown University, but did you know she made the field hockey team there as well? She’s got game! The young British actress who was born in France, having already landed the Harry Potter role at age nine, knew she would be an actress by age seven. Athletic, diligent with a fondness for literature, she excelled at hockey and rowing as a child in school.
When she auditioned for the first Harry Potter movie, she never imagined getting a lead role, let alone the worldwide fame and a ten-year commitment that would come with it, finding the 9-year-old through her teens and beginning her twenties. A charmed life, indeed.
No, as her 2002 hit song may have suggested it, Avril Lavigne was not in the skate-boarding world before she shot into pop-rock fame. The Canadian music artist was actually an up-and-coming ice hockey player before she was topping charts. The singer was on the ice soon after she learned to walk, and by age 10, she was playing in the boys' hockey league in her hometown in Ontario.
Lavigne could have embarked on a pretty successful hockey career, but by 17, she had a record deal and a hit album"Let Go," which sold 16 million copies. C'est la vie.
This guy is pretty hardcore. As a footballer for several teams in the English Football League, he won the 1988 Cup Final with Wimbledon, where he played six years and scored 14 goals as a feisty midfielder. His scrapping style of play was infamously captured when he was caught on camera grabbing the gonads of Newcastle United’s Paul Gascoigne.
After retiring from the sport, Jones dove into an acting career on Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels playing the gnarly mobster Big Chris. He played Bullet-Tooth Tony in Snatch, Sphinx in Gone in 60 Seconds, and a merciless henchman in Swordfish. Jones is barred from Virgin Airlines for instigating an inflight scuffle, so don’t mess with him.
He’s the Incredible Hulk, but where did he get that bulk? Pumping Iron, a documentary starring Lou Ferrigno, captured him at six-foot-five, 285 pounds, the biggest professional bodybuilder in the world. Ferrigno also held the Mr. Universe crown and was playing professional football for a Canadian team at the time. In that film, the producers of The Incredible Hulk TV show found their perfect lead.
Today, at 67, you can find him on Twitter. His tagline says, “I’m not just The Incredible Hulk or Mr. Universe. I’m also a husband, a father, and a pug lover.” We remember him best with ripping green muscles tearing through shirts.
Not only was Mark Harmon a star quarterback for the UCLA Bruins and, later, voted “Sexiest Man Alive,” but he graduated from the university cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in communications as a Second Team Academic All-American. Turning down an NFL career so he could use his brains instead of his brawn, his original career goals focused on advertising or law. But now we know him as Gibbs in NCIS and agent Simon Donovan in The West Wing.
His break-out role as Dr. Caldwell on St. Elsewhere led to People magazine’s assessment of his manliness. His love of sports also found him part-owner of the minor league baseball team, the San Bernardino Spirit. Harmon is also a carpenter by hobby and worked as one prior to his acting career success.
Denzel Washington’s one-on-one performance playing hoops in the 1998 film He Got Game is sheer talent, no acting necessary. Washington performs all his stunts. He trained with Terry Claybon for a year for his role as boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Today he’s paying it forward as the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club of America.
As a kid, it was on those same playgrounds where he learned to handle the basketball. Washington played guard on the Fordham University JV team in the Bronx for two seasons. And, according to Coach Carlesimo, he was a “legit” player. The team went 18-1 in 1974. Since then, he became the first black actor, after Sidney Poitier, to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (Training Day). He followed that up with another for Best Supporting Actor (Glory). He set a separate record by receiving the most Academy Award nominations of any black actor. Nine, to date.
The All-Pro player historically picked up two safeties in one game. Not only that, but the incredible football player interestingly almost nabbed one of the most iconic roles in sitcom history as Sam Malone in "Cheers."
While the role ultimately went to full-time actor Ted Danson, Dryer got his spotlight in the '80s cop drama "Hunter." We can totally see how he almost became Sam, though. In fact, a recasting might be in order. Oh well, too late now.
Caitlyn Jenner had a completely different identity before we saw her appearing on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. While the show got her some super celeb status as a key figure in Hollywood's most fascinating family, before this, she was a star athlete.
Beginning her career as a football player, she soon became one of America's most successful decathlon athletes in the world. The most significant moment in Jenner's career was the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. She set a world-record-setting victory a down the gold medal in the decathlon.
You can't exactly be known for playing Wolverine and not have some sort of athletic background. I mean, he is kind of an animal. Before Hugh Jackman was shredding things up, the now 50-year-old spent his youth on the rugby and soccer field.
As an avid rugby player, Jackman admitted that a lot of Wolverine's behavior came directly from all the rage he used to feel when playing rugby. He said, "I'd be somewhere in a ruck in rugby, get punched in the face, and I'd just go into a white rage."It definitely worked.
Making a name for himself as one of the top wrestlers in the WWE, Austin's super tough guy, no-nonsense attitude helped him launch a successful career on film and TV. But before he brought the wrestling world his signature movie, The Stone Cold Stunner, he was actually considering a career in football. Attending the University of North Texas on a football scholarship, the wrestler played for the Mean Green.
After his long run on TV, wrestling, Autin felt up to the challenge and starred alongside The Rock, as well as in films The Expendables and The Longest Yard. From 2014 - 2017, he hosted his own show, Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge, a supercharged reality game show in which competing athletes run through a "skull breaking" obstacle course.
In high school, Sheryl Crow was an all-state track athlete with medals in the 75-meter hurdles. At the University of Missouri, she dove into music with a degree in music composition and performance and played in a local band. Crow’s still an athlete. As a sports lover, her favorite is tennis. In the music industry, she’s a world champion winning nine Grammy Awards, 32 nominations, and selling 50 million albums worldwide.
She’s performed with everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Sting, from Luciano Pavarotti to B.B. King. In the 1990s, she dated Eric Clapton and was nearly married to cycling pro Lance Armstrong in 2005. Crow’s radio hits, “All I Wanna Do” and “If It Makes You Happy,” dominated the airwaves. She also composed the theme song for the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.
Another stud who kills it on the golf course. Justin Timberlake has been golfing since he was 12 years old and hasn't stopped since. Admitting that there aren't many places in the world he can go without being watched and the golf course for Justin is pretty much the only spot on which he can find some peace.
The singer and actor are actually really serious about it and, in August 2019, was awarded the OMEGA Celebrity Masters trophy for achieving the best individual score on the day. You can see him appearing in Golfers Digest, just as much as a Hollywood reporter.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes about being fat, lazy, and an incompetent dad. (He does kind of have that former-football-player physique.) Gaffigan also digs up some hysterical observations about his five kids and his wife. After a dare from a friend, he became a stand-up. As one of the only comedians to sell out Madison Square Garden, he scored big. On TV, he appeared on That ‘70s Show, Ed and Sex and the City. Plus, he was a cast member on The Ellen Show.
Now he has his own: The Jim Gaffigan Show. There was nothing funny about his Georgetown presence. As an offensive guard and tackle for the Hoyas football team, he clobbered plenty of opponents. He also walked onto the Big Ten Purdue team and played a year on the Boilermakers.
Being a former SNL cast member, Jason Sudeikis has taken on a lot of roles, so he's no stranger to switching it up. That probably explains why he started out as a basketball player before throughout high school before he became a sketch comedian and actor. Sudeikis told ESPN that he even once played against Tyrone Lue.
The actor loves sharing this little anecdote to ease the nerves before a big audition.
Joe Rogan is an MMA expert. At 15, he went competitive in taekwondo and kickboxing. At 19, he won his first U.S. Open grand championship. He dropped out of competition in 1989, concerned about head injuries. Stand-up seemed safer. Rogan kicked off his stand-up career after friends persuaded him to profit from his talent.
Soon after, he landed himself as host of Fear Factor. His stand-up took a hiatus until he dove back into headlining shows in the late 2000s. His podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, became such an outrageous sensation that Sirius Radio picked it up in 2011. Its open mic with guests featuring his unrestrained views.
The silver fox Geoge Clooney can just about ace anything. The accomplished actor turned director had his shot at being an athlete back in the day when he tried out for the Cincinnati Reds. We're talking way before E.R here. In 1977, a 16-year-old George dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Unfortunately for him, but certainly fortunately for us, Clooney didn't manage to score a contract with the team after a tryout.
Told that he couldn't quite make that curveball, Clooney looked elsewhere. However, things turned around for him when he auditioned for the role of Dr. Doug Ross on our favorite hospital drama. As a fictionalized doctor, he knocked out a lot of women in the 90s, and then in the 2000s, and then just, well, he's still got it.
If you've ever seen Amy Adams in Drop Dead Gorgeous, you would immediately recognize that she is a dancer through and through. Her kickflips and jumps as the nutty fame-hungry teen could only be from her background in athletics and dance. While Adams didn't end up going to college, she did almost get a track scholarship.
In the end, those plans were abandoned, and she pursued dancing. Guess she found a better route and proved to be a phenomenal actress.
You wouldn't think it today watching Ryan Seacrest interview thousands of stars and starlets on the red carpet, but before he became our celeb middleman, Ryan Seacrest was busting faces on the football field. In the early 90s, he was a defensive back for two years before graduating from Dunwoody High school. Dunwoody is known for winning the state AAAA championships in 1993. Was that thanks to Ryan?
in 2013, The TV personality made his way back into the sports world when he hosted NBC's coverage of the NFL game between Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos. Was he feeling nostalgic?
Football Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen needs little introduction. With history-making football skills, the player soon found out he had a fantastic TV presence and wound up as a broadcaster a successful actor. In fact, you might find more images of the man with a microphone in hand than a football.
With big roles in "Father Murphy" and the classic "Litle House on the Prairie," Olsen did not become just another forgotten retired football player, but rather a legendary athlete turned iconic actor.
Like his fellow athlete stars, Karras struck it pretty big for some time during the '70s and '80s. The young football player found his way into the spotlight with his odd sense of humor. It even landed him a role as Webster in the classic Mel Brooks comedy "Blazing Saddles."
The actor went on to appear in several other television series and films such as "M.A.S.H," "The Odd Couple," and more.
The Lost star was on the road to success with his football skills. Well, almost. What started out to be a passionate dream in sports ended up being a giant wake-up call, reaffirming that the actor should pursue a different path. Throughout his football "career," Fox lost 44 games during his college years.
He had a 2-38 record when plated for Columbia as a wide receiver. Thankfully Matt found his calling, and now the Emmy and Golden Globe actor can breathe easy. One good thing that came from Columbia was his now-wife, Margherita Ronchi.
Long before Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, America's football star was Jim Brown. The three-time MVP running back ruled the Cleveland Browns in the 50s and 60s. After nine seasons as the NFL's all-time leading rusher, he retired at only 29 in 1966. While that may have seemed a tad too young, it did give him ample time to transition into his next wildly successful career as a film actor.
The actor/athlete star starred in a string of tough-guy films in the late 60s and 70s, most notably, The Dirty Dozen (1967). His career spanned many years and consisted of films in a number of genres like the dystopian action film The Running Man with Arnold Shwazaeggger and the weird sci-fi Mars Attacks!
You wouldn't expect Mr. Cool himself to be a champ in one of the dorkiest sports in the world. We're sorry to say this, and yes, golf is a game of immense skill, and we appreciate those putters, but we thought Mat might be more into Nascar racing or even football.
The Dallas Buyers Club star was an avid golfer throughout high school and claimed once to received four aces in his lifetime. The actor has an 8.6 handicap and regularly appears at golfing events. More importantly, he makes golf shirts look great.
The Two and a Half Men star, Charlie Sheen, has not seen an easy time in his Hollywood career. Having just about all the fame, fortune, and parties he can handle, the actor is possibly thinking back on better days, pre-all the Hollywood madness. Perhaps even all the way back to high school, where he was a star pitcher on his baseball team.
Known then as Charlie Estevez, the star was throwing fastballs on the field and even had a shot at going pro. You can see his skills in the film Eight Men Out. That's real talent right there.
Joel McHale made the University of Washington football team after playing just one year of high school football. He walked on the Huskies in 1992 by exaggerating, well, lying to the coach about his high school experience. He spent all his time getting pummeled at practice and never seeing a second of game time. He quit after warming the bench for the Huskies for two seasons. As a player, McHale was most valuable for his locker room performances on “skit night.”
Now the Rome-born, stand-up comedian and actor with a master’s degree in acting entertain everyone hosting The Soup on E! and starring in the popular sitcom Community. He’s a huge Seahawks fan and was thrilled to host the stand-up’s dream gig, The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in 2014.
This southern boy did everything right. In the South, it's football, God, and country music, in that order. (Government is filed under God.) Sam Hunt starred as a quarterback phenom in high school and then played college ball, throwing the pigskin for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. But it was in his dorm room, strumming a guitar, where the Georgia-born country stud spent his free time.
On summer break, he picked up his buddy’s new instrument, plucked a few strings, and decided he had to have one of his own. The next thing he knew, he was writing songs. His friends suggested he play his tunes at local bars. He became a college-scene sensation with a hot debut album called Montevallo. The album broke chart records as well as outsold the legendary Clint Black.