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.
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.
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.