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9 Celebs That Were Actually Decent Athletes

by: Howard Cosmell On  Thursday, February 24, 2011

Maybe you can pick up acting later in life, but it’s unlikely you’ll be picking up a new sport late in your career. That why this list is about celebrities that used to be athletes, rather than athletes that used to be celebrities. While none of these guys experienced tremendous success on the field (by pro standards anyway), that’s understandable. Cause if they did, they would have stuck with sports. That said, these guys are pretty successful by most athletic standards (except for maybe Carell, who is just really, really famous and known for playing hockey), and it’s nice to know that before they got cushy showbiz gigs, they were sweating it out. Literally.

Celebs who were famous athletes first are excluded from the list. Of course, The Rock was a great athlete; he was a professional wrestler. That’s how he got famous.

9. Steve Carell
If you’ve ever wonder why “The Office” always manages to find a way to shoehorn in scenes of Michael Scott ice skating or playing hockey, let’s put that mystery to rest for you right now. Carell didn’t find much success past high school, having been cut from his college team, but he still finds any opportunity he can to play, in charity games and, of course, on TV, whether or not the plot actually calls for it.
 
 
8. Burt Reynolds
There was a reason Smokey looked so natural on the gridiron in the original The Longest Yard. Burt was starting running back at Florida State with All-American and pro aspirations before an injury exacerbated by a car crash dashed his dreams and sent him down the acting path. Of course, he ended up in Boogie Nights, which is way cooler than leading your team to the Super Bowl, so I think things worked out okay for old Burt.
 
 
7. Master P
Born Percy Miller, before Mr. P was a No Limit Soldier makin’ ‘em say “Ughhhhhhhhh,” he was quite the baller. In fact, even after his rap career took off, he had NBA contracts (but no pro playing time) with Charlotte and Toronto. Even as recently as 2004, he was logging time in with the Las Vegas Rattlers in the ABA. I’m sure he wouldn’t have seen the same money or fame from basketball as he found from hip-hop, but it’s nonetheless nice to know that all those basketball courts at his houses on “Cribs” weren’t just for show.

6. Dean Cain
Superman went to Princeton, in case you were wondering, where he was not only captain of the volleyball team, but also a standout safety in football, where he set the school record with 12 interceptions. He even made the leap to the NFL, where he signed with the Bills, but a knee injury during training camp killed his pro dreams. It was then that he got injured. This trend should tell you something. If you want to be a famous actor, become a really good athlete then get horribly injured. Simple, right?
 
5. Jason Lee
Jason Lee was a fairly prominent pro skateboarder in the late-80’s and early-90’s, having founded Stereo skateboards during his heyday. He was also in good company with Mr. Tony Hawk as the only two boarders to get their own signature shoe with Airwalk. He caught the eye of another skateboarding enthusiast, Spike Jonze, and starred in a couple skate and music videos before getting scooped up by Kevin Smith for a lead in the film Mallrats. If you want to see Lee in action on film, he does some skating in the crappy film Mumford, and he looks like he still had it a few years after his retirement.

4. Vinnie Jones
Jones is probably the least recognizable name on this list, but he is a pretty recognizable heavy in many crime films such as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Gone in 60 Seconds, and of course, he was the Juggernaut, bitch in X-Men United. But before all that he was a tough-as-nails soccer player for Chelsea, Leeds United, and Sheffield United. Judging by his playing days, Jones’ tough-guy image is hardly an act. He has the record for getting ejected three seconds into a game and was infamously captured on film squeezing the testicles (and not in a loving way) of an opposing player.

3. Carl Weathers
Before he got his arm blown off in Predator, or was Action Jackson, or even was his cheapskate self on “Arrested Development,” Carl Weathers was a linebacker for San Diego State, then briefly (seven games) for the Oakland Raiders. He played under John Madden before retiring in 1974. However, he has had no formal golf training. His mesmerizing turn as Chubbs in Happy Gilmore? That all acting. Impressive, no?
 
 
2. Ed O’Neil
Al Bundy may have exaggerated his playing days, but the actor behind him, Ed O’Neil, never needed to. He played defensive line for Youngstown State and was picked up by the Steelers in 1969 (man, he’s old!) but didn’t make it through training camp without being cut. It was perhaps never meant to be, as he often feuded with his coach in college. He has found superstardom twice as an actor though, once as the aforementioned Al Bundy on “Married with Children” and also as Jay Pritchett on ABC’s hit “Modern Family.”

1. Mark Harmon
Before he was cracking cases for NCIS or even before he was teaching delinquents in <i>Summer School</i>, Harmon was starting quarterback for UCLA (way back when that was a big deal) in 1972 and 1973. He took UCLA to a 17-5 record during his time at the helm and upset the defending champs Nebraska in his first season as starter. Of course, he had the genes for it. His dad Tom was a Heisman trophy winner at Michigan. I’m not saying it was easy for Mark….but he had a leg up.</p>




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