Pro Sports & Celebrity

No matter the sport, professional athletes tend to embody a larger than life character. While the life and career of a Hollywood actor may appear on the surface different than that of an all-star athlete, both top actors and athletes share many lifestyle similarities.

Sure, playing a season in the NFL may be different than being on set for a month or two, but the salaries of top professionals are comparable, and so are issues surrounding privacy and the paparazzi. And while an NFL player may only need to get gussied up for the annual NFL Draft or another official event, many players also take a more permanent step in front of the camera.

Since the 1950s, more and more athletes have crossed over from the field to the front stage. The impetus behind these career moves run the gambit from a personal interest in acting to a simple career move from a star athlete into simply a star. Below is a list of some of the most beloved and talented NFL players who evolved into actors.

Terry Crews

Terry Crews, before he accepted roles like Sergeant Terry Jeffords in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Julius Rock in Everybody Hates Chris, wore an LA Rams jersey playing as a defensive end. Unfortunately for the franchise and for Crews, their 1991 season saw the Rams go 3-13 and led to the team’s relocation to Saint Louis. And while the Rams’ odds in the NFC West have improved since Crews took the field in 1991, the other teams he played for haven’t fared much better.

Crews spotlighted for the San Diego Chargers (now based in LA along with the Rams), Washington Redskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Out of these four teams, only the Eagles have any hope at making it to a Super Bowl in the coming season.

Carl Weathers

Though younger generations may recognize his face more than his name, Carl Weathers seems to have cemented himself in the American psyche through his multiple iconic roles. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Weathers took on roles as the Apollo Creed in the first Rocky film, Al Dillon in Predator, and also appeared in multiple comedy films from the likes of Adam Sandler, such as Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky.

This fruitful career couldn’t have come at a better time for Weathers. While he played as a linebacker for San Diego State University, he went undrafted in the 1970 NFL Draft. Though he was picked up for a season by the Oakland Raiders, he was soon released and spent the next three years of his career playing for the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League. While the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas for their inaugural 2020 season and many Vegas-based fans are hopeful for a successful franchise, neither the Raiders nor the BC Lions have posted strong records recently.

Jim Brown

Much like Carl Weathers, Jim Brown has also become an iconic face in the American film industry. However, Brown also boasts the longest and most fruitful NFL career along with Terry Bradshaw. While his roles in films like The Running Man, Any Given Sunday, and, most notably, The Dirty Dozen, have cemented him as a talented actor with an incredible range, it’s his NFL career as a fullback that drops jaws.

In fact, to this day, Brown remains the only player in NFL history to have an average rushing yard count over 100 for each of his career games. Over the course of his run with the Cleveland Browns from 1957-1965, he took home a Super Bowl championship, nine Pro Bowls, was named NFL Rookie of the Year, named AP NFL MVP three times, and made the NFL’s first-team All-Pro league eight times.

While Brown struck great success on the big screen, he was also recruited for the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and again for their 75th and then 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams. The Cleveland Browns even retired his number (32), and, in 2020, Brown was named as the greatest college football player of all time (non-NFL affiliate).

Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw is a force on par with the likes of the aforementioned Jim Brown. His list of accomplishments with the NFL is just as long as Brown’s. Playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers for his 13-year stint in professional football, Bradshaw was known for having a strong arm and great vision as a quarterback. He helped the Steelers take four Super Bowl Championships, also earning himself the Super Bowl MVP title for two of those wins that helped catapult him into the Football Hall of Fame.

Along with a long list of accolades from Pro Bowls to All-Pro teams to a Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award, Bradshaw could have continued on with a fruitful post-play football career as a coach or manager. In fact, he serves today as co-host for Fox NFL Sunday.

However, this solid career is bolstered by a strong credit list in Hollywood. Bradshaw has appeared on a slew of popular TV shows, moonlighting as himself or as a character in shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, Malcolm in the Middle, Modern Family, and Better Late Than Never. He’s also appeared in a few different films, from Failure to Launch and The Cannonball Run.

Dwayne Johnson (NCAA)

Mentioning Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s credit reel in Hollywood would add pages to this list. His biggest films to date rang from feel-good Disney flicks like Moana to gritty action films in the Fast & The Furious franchise to family comedies like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Even the Rock’s stint as a WWE wrestler (of the same, iconic name) is well known, especially considering his family ties in the industry. And, given the mix of athleticism and theatrics present in the WWE, it should come as little surprise that Johnson was once a star college athlete.

Johnson attended the University of Miami on a full football scholarship, playing as a defensive tackle. Unfortunately, a series of injuries cut his collegiate career short, though he did go on to play in the CFL for one season as a backup linebacker for the Calgary Stampeders.