Great Athletes Who Became Great Actors

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Stay in your lane is a popular refrain offered when people speak out or enter into areas where others are not accustomed to seeing them. Actors or athletes crossing into the political arena can often spark someone to utter this phrase.

What about athletes turning into actors? People don’t seem to be as offended by that change of direction. Plenty of athletes dabble as thespians. Sometimes, it’s as simple as portraying themselves. Babe Ruth did this in Pride Of The Yankees, just as Brett Favre was himself in There’s Something About Mary.

Occasionally, they lampoon themselves, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar chose to do in his guise as co-pilot in the spoof Airplane!

Then there are those who almost seamlessly make the transition from starring roles on the playing field to starring roles in film or television.

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These are the best athletes turned actors.

Jim Brown

Brown walked away from the NFL at the age of 29 as arguably the greatest running back in league history. His transition into a solid character actor on screen appeared seamless.

Brown made his film debut in Rio Conchos and was also stellar in the Dirty Dozen. He played opposite Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch in 100 Rifles, Arnold Swarzenegger in Running Man and Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks.

Bernie Casey

A Pro Bowl receiver who played with the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in the NFL from 1961-68, Casey turned to acting shortly after leaving football.

He made his film debut in the 1969 western Guns Of The Magnificent Seven. Casey played opposite Burt Reynolds in Sharky’s Machine and Rent A Cop. He was in the Bond film Never Say Never Again, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the Revenge Of The Nerds movies.

Randal “Tex” Cobb

A talented enough boxer to earn a world heavyweight title fight against Larry Holmes, Cobb was known for his granite chin. He turned to the silver screen when he stepped out of the ring.

Cobb’s film credits included roles in Fletch Lives, Raising Arizona, and the Naked Gun and Police Academy movies.

Terry Crews

Great Athletes Who Became Great Actors

Until the current occupant of the White House moved in, President Camacho, the character portrayed by Crews in Idiocracy, was hands down the worst occupant of the Oval Office. He’s currently seen on the television show Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

On the gridiron, defensive end Crews played in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers.

Fred Dryer

Dryer played 13 NFL seasons. He recorded 104 career quarterback sacks and is the only player in league history to record two safeties in the same game. He played for the Rams in Super Bowl XIV.

Drye’s star would shine in the TV police drama Hunter during the 1980s, a character known for the catchphrase, “Works for me.”

Vinnie Jones

On the soccer pitch as a star defender in the English Premier League, Jones earned a reputation as a hard man. He captained the Welsh national team and won an F.A. Cup with Wimbledon.

Director Guy Ritchie cast Jones as a leg breaker type in his British gangster films Snatched and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. His turn as a Manchester United soccer hooligan in the film EuroTrip was an absolute scene-stealer.

Alex Karras

An all-star NFL lineman, the first taste of Hollywood for Karras was playing himself in Paper Lion, the movie about writer George Plimpton’s tryout with the Detroit Lions.

His longest recurring role was as George Papadopolis in the TV series Webster. But Karras is best remembered as Mongo, the guy who punched a horse in Blazing Saddles.

Ed Marinaro

Before he was officer Joe Coffey on the acclaimed TV series Hill Street Blues, Marinaro was a Heisman Trophy runner up as a running back at Cornell. He led the nation in rushing in 1971.

Marinaro played in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks. He appeared in two Super Bowls with the Vikings.

Merlin Olsen

A teammate of Dryer’s along the Los Angeles Rams defensive line, Olsen is both a College and Pro Football Hall of Famer who was selected to a record 14 consecutive Pro Bowls.

Olsen landed a supporting role on Little House On the Prairie. He was later given his own series, Father Murphy.

The Rock

Better known to mom and dad as Dwayne Johnson, before he gained fame as a pro wrestler, Johnson was a college football national champion at Miami who got a pro tryout with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders.

Today, he’s among the most recognizable action stars in Hollywood, though The Rock has displayed the acting chops to branch out into other roles.

Jason Statham

The British version of The Rock, Statham is an action star staple.

His athletic pursuits were in diving. He represented Britain at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

Carl Weathers

Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies and Chubbs Peterson in Happy Gilmore, Weathers first gained notoriety on the gridiron.

He played for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and the CFL’s B.C. Lions.

Johnny Weismuller

A five-time Olympic medalist in swimming for the USA, to the world he is the true Tarzan.

Weismuller appeared in a dozen Tarzan films between 1932-48.

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Eric Trigg
Eric Trigg
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