Greatest Celebrity Athletes of All Time
You know that person who brags about how great an athlete they once were? They're not alone. Some of the most famous people in the world — who aren't athletes — were once athletes. We're talking actors, actresses, models, musicians and politicians. Many of them played sports while growing up and even reached the college level.
Some participated in international competitions such as the Olympics or played professionally/semi-pro. Others were stars before they became famous like Jon Stewart. Some athletes-turned-celebrities are obvious like The Rock or Jean Claude Van-Damme, but can you tell us what sports Billy Crystal and Emma Watson played in college? How about what sport Bob Barker was competing in 30 years before hosting "The Price Is Right"?
These big names all had different levels of athletic skills while playing college ball. One thing they have in common is that they made the right career choice. Here are the greatest celebrity athletes of all time.
Bottom Line: John Wayne
Before he became "John Wayne," he was named Marion Morrison, and at 6-foot-4, he looked like an athlete. Morrison was an offensive tackle at USC where he lined up alongside future Pro Football Hall of Famer Red Badgro.
Morrison ended up breaking his collarbone while surfing in college, which ended his athletic career and caused him to lose his scholarship. As a result, Morrison left USC but tried his hand in the motion picture world where he would soon adopt the name of John Wayne.
Over 40 years after dropping out of school, USC awarded Wayne with an honorary doctorate and a bust in Heritage Hall.
Bottom Line: Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford was a two-way star on Michigan’s football team before becoming the 38th president of the United States. He played center and linebacker while helping the team to back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1932 and 1933.
He was then voted as the team’s MVP in 1934 and received offers from both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. But Ford turned those down to become an assistant coach for Yale’s football team, then later went to law school at Michigan.
Sixty years after his last game, Ford had his No. 48 jersey retired by Michigan in 1994. It was put back into circulation in 2012 as part of a legends program at the school, then re-retired in 2015.
College: Drury University (formerly Drury College)
Bottom Line: Bob Barker
The price is right, and the jump shot is wet. At least that is what Bob Barker would like us to believe.
The venerable host grew up in South Dakota and went to Drury College (now Drury University) in Missouri on a basketball scholarship. But after two seasons, the military called, and he enlisted in the Navy for World War II.
Barker continued playing basketball in the Navy while he served, and after the war ended, he returned to Drury to finish his education. He also was a pretty good boxer.
Bottom Line: Sean Connery
Sean Connery and Arnold Schwarzenegger have two things in common. One is that they’ve both won Golden Globes and the other is that they’ve both competed at Mr. Universe.
Schwarzenegger won the bodybuilding contest four times while Connery merely competed at the 1953 contest. He didn’t place among the top six but did receive some good advice when a fellow contestant recommended he audition for a role in the musical South Pacific.
His impressive physique built by years of training helped him land a larger role than what he auditioned for and years later his physique got him noticed by James Bond film producers. Connery then became the first James Bond in movies and appeared in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983.
College: Florida State
Bottom Line: Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds was a first-team All-State as a high school running back and had dreams of becoming an All-American at FSU. In his first year, he rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns while also catching four passes for 76 yards.
But bad luck hit him as a sophomore, and he suffered a knee injury in his first game and nearly died later in the season following a car accident. He lost his spleen and spent nearly two years on the sideline recovering.
When Reynolds returned to the field in 1957, he wasn’t the same and quit the sport midway through the season to pursue an acting career.
College: CEU San Pablo University
Bottom Line: Julio Iglesias
Julio Iglesias isn't just the best-selling Latin musician of all time. He also is a former goalkeeper for Real Madrid. He played for Real Madrid Castilla, which is the club’s reserve team, while studying law at San Pablo University.
Iglesias admits he was more effort and discipline than skill and ability when it came to the pitch. But after two years, his soccer career came to an end following a car crash that temporarily paralyzed him and required two years of therapy.
During his treatment following the crash, a nurse gave Iglesias a guitar, and the rest is history.
College: Los Angeles Valley College, USC
Bottom Line: Tom Selleck
After two years at a community college, Tom Selleck received a scholarship from USC and transferred there as a junior. Standing 6-foot-4, he played for USC’s hoops team for two years although his seven games didn’t really dent the stat sheet.
However, USC’s sports information team made him seem like an All-Star player as they described him as an "agile and quick performer" who had a "good jumper with fine mobility."
Selleck’s most notable teammate was John Block, who went on to a 10-year NBA career where he was a one-time All-Star.
College: Ohio, Youngstown State
Bottom Line: Ed O'Neill
As Al Bundy on "Married... with Children," O’Neill’s character plays a former high school football star who never made it big. There wasn't much acting with that role sincew O’Neill was a star defensive lineman in high school and earned the nickname "Ed O'Winner."
The Youngstown, Ohio, native then attended Ohio University where he feuded with his coach and transferred back home to Youngstown State. He never received the same acclaim in college that he had in high school, but he did impress enough to earn a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969.
Playing on the same defensive line with fellow rookie "Mean" Joe Greene, O'Neill couldn't quite compete and was cut in training camp.
Bottom Line: Billy Crystal
Billy Crystal played both baseball and basketball in high school and, unsurprisingly, the 5-foot-7 actor was better on the diamond. He received a baseball scholarship to Marshall University, which followed in the footsteps of his father, who played baseball at St. John’s in New York.
But Marshall suspended its baseball program during Crystal’s freshman year due to financial programs, and he elected to not return to the school as a sophomore.
In 2008 Crystal received an invitation to take part in a Yankees spring training game to celebrate his 60th birthday. He received an official spring training at-bat, and while he did manage to foul off a pitch, he struck out on six pitches.
College: Louisiana Tech
Bottom Line: Phil Robertson
Phil Robertson wasn't just the quarterback at Louisiana Tech. He was also the guy who kept future Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw on the bench for two years.
Perhaps that's a decision the team's coach would later regret as Robertson threw 12 touchdowns compared to 34 interceptions during his career. Bradshaw recalled Robertson being more interested in hunting than playing football, and he would often come to practice with "squirrel tails hanging out of his pockets and duck feathers on his clothes."
Despite his lack of success in college, the "Duck Dynasty" star had an offer to try out for the Washington Football Team (formerly the Redskins), but he declined because it interfered with his hunting.
Tommy Lee Jones
Bottom Line: Tommy Lee Jones
Despite weighing 200 pounds, Tommy Lee Jones was in the trenches for Harvard football and played offensive guard. A teammate described him as having quick feet and great endurance while mixing it up with much bigger players.
Jones was first-team All-Ivy League in 1968 and also played in the memorable tie game vs. Yale. The Bulldogs entered on a 16-game win streak and were up by 16 points with 42 seconds remaining. But Jones' Crimson stormed back to tie the game at 29-29, and that’s how the game ended.
The great comeback inspired Harvard’s newspaper to come up with the headline "Harvard Beats Yale, 29–29," and it remains the last tie game in the Harvard-Yale rivalry.
College: Long Beach City College, San Diego State
Bottom Line: Carl Weathers
The future Apollo Creed not only played football in college, but he also spent two years in the NFL with the Raiders. From 1970 to 1971, Weathers played alongside nine future Hall of Famers in Oakland and played under coach John Madden.
During his offseasons, he attended San Francisco State University where he graduated in 1974 with a degree in drama. He immediately put that into use by first working as an extra before appearing in television episodes of "Good Times" and "Kung Fu."
Just one year after getting his degree, Weathers beat out fellow athlete-turned-actor Ken Norton for the role of Apollo Creed in "Rocky."
College: University of Tulsa
Bottom Line: Dr. Phil
Dr. Phil's college football career was unmemorable except for one notable game against Houston. The Cougars had the No. 1 offense in the country, and Tulsa rolled into Texas down 15 starters due to a flu that affected the team.
The undermanned Golden Hurricanes kept the score close in the first quarter and only trailed 14-0. Then the floodgates opened, and Houston scored another 86 points in the game. Houston won 100-6 in what remains the last 100-point game in Division I.
David Letterman later interviewed Dr. Phil about the game and his defensive effort to which Dr. Phil responded, "Boy, I shut 'em down, I tell ya. Nobody breaks a hundred on me."
College: Prairie View A&M
Bottom Line: Mr. T
Born Lawrence Tureaud in Chicago, Mr. T was a two-time city champion in wrestling while in high school. However, the sport he played at the next level was football, and Mr. T went to Prairie View A&M in Texas. He teamed with longtime Patriots lineman Sam Adams, but Mr. T lasted just one year in school before being expelled.
Over a dozen years later, Mr. T got back into wrestling courtesy of WWF. He wrestled a handful of matches, including at the first WrestleMania, when he teamed with Hulk Hogan to defeat Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.
College: Pierce College, UCLA
Bottom Line: Mark Harmon
After attending a Los Angeles community college for two years, Mark Harmon had football scholarship offers from many programs, including Oklahoma and UCLA. He chose the Bruins, where he was a quarterback in the wishbone offense and rushed for more yards than he threw for.
His most notable game was his first game against No. 1 Nebraska, who was the defending champion. UCLA upset the Cornhuskers 20-17 as Harmon passed for 65 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 71 yards.
Harmon was named an Academic All-American as a senior but never made it to the NFL, unlike his father, Tom Harmon, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick after winning the Heisman in 1940.
College: Missouri State University (formerly Southwest Missouri State)
Bottom Line: John Goodman
Golden Globe-winning actor John Goodman is a noted LSU football fan, portrayed an LSU player in "Everybody’s All-American" and has since narrated hype videos for the program.
But while Goodman played college football, he did so some 500 miles away from Tiger Stadium at Missouri State University. Then known as Southwest Missouri State, Goodman was an offensive lineman walk-on who "couldn’t block anyone" in his own words.
Multiple injuries piled up for him there, and he ended up quitting the football team and focusing on theater afterward.
Years: 1971-73, 1977
Bottom Line: Kurt Russell
Kurt Russell was quite busy in the early 1970s. In addition to small acting roles and serving in California’s Air Force, he also played minor league baseball for the Angels' minor league affiliates and some independent teams.
Russell was a decent hitter, batting .292, but showed little other tools. He didn’t have any power, wasn’t a speedster and struggled defensively. He was a second baseman, and when turning a double play one game, an incoming runner took him out and tore his rotator cuff.
That was essentially the end of Russell’s baseball career although he would return for one at-bat in 1977 after he had gotten some acclaim as an actor.
Bottom Line: Denzel Washington
After competing on New York playgrounds against future two-time NBA All-Star Gus Williams, Denzel Washington then played under future three-time NBA champion coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Washington only made it to Fordham’s JV basketball team, but Carlesimo described him as a "decent player" who was “better than average." One of his teammates said Washington wasn’t the best shooter but had tenacity and "would just get in your jock and he wouldn’t let you go."
Roughly 25 years after his Fordham basketball days, Washington took the court again in the movie "He Got Game." Then a few years later, Washington portrayed a football coach in "Remember the Titans," and he modeled his character after his old basketball coach Carlesimo.
Bottom Line: Dolph Lundgren
Anyone who saw Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago in "Rocky IV" could have guessed that he was an athlete, but the Swede’s favorite combat sport was karate instead of boxing. He achieved a black belt in 1978 and then captained the Swedish national team a year later.
He won back-to-back European Karate championships in 1980 and 1981, all while attending graduate school at the same time. Lundgren’s professional karate career came to an end a year later after he won a tournament in Australia and obtained his master’s degree in chemical engineering.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Sport: Karate, kickboxing, bodybuilding
Bottom Line: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Bottom line: In his late teens and early 20s, Van Damme did just about everything as he was a three-sport professional athlete. His first love was karate where he posted a 44-4 record in semi-contact and light-contact competition. Around the same time, he also got into kickboxing which was full-contact and he won two middleweight championships in his hometown of Brussels, Belgium. The third sport was taken up by JCVD almost on a whim but he excelled at it as well. In 1978 as an 18-year-old, Van Damme won a bodybuilding contest to become “Mr. Belgium” and his physique would later inspire the nickname of Muscles from Brussels.
Bottom Line: Jason Statham
Jason Statham was a multisport athlete growing up in England, involved in soccer, martial arts and diving. He excelled at the latter and participated in the sport from his pre-teen years to his early 20s.
He was a part of Britain’s national swimming team and competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand. Statham competed in the 1 meter, 3 meter and 10 meter springboard events but finished no higher than eighth place in any event.
That was essentially the end of his diving career, though athletics did help him get noticed by a sports modeling agency, which began his career in front of the camera.
College: Cal Poly Pomona
Bottom Line: Forest Whitatker
Growing up in Los Angeles, Forest Whitaker first played football at Palisades Charter High School where he was a classmate of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
He then received a football scholarship to nearby Cal Poly Pomona but spent just one year on the team due to a back injury. Whitaker says he wore a back brace while playing but upon waking up one day and being unable to move, he knew he had to give up the sport.
He eventually transferred to USC where he graduated with a degree in acting in 1982 before appearing in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" later that year.
Michael Clarke Duncan
College: Kankakee Community College, Alcorn State
Bottom Line: Michael Clarke Duncan
At one point during his film career, the 6-foot-5 Michael Clarke Duncan weighed 330 pounds. You would assume that he played football growing up but he was actually much slimmer and a basketball player in college. His former coach at Alcorn State even described Duncan as "undersized" but still very strong.
"He didn't play a lot of minutes, but when he played, he contributed," Davey Whitney said. "He could play, but he had some family problems and had to quit."
Duncan averaged 1.9 points per game in 16 minutes of action before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles. A Chicago native, Duncan was also at the White Sox’ Disco Demolition Night in 1979 where he ran onto the field and slid into third base. He died in 2012 of complications from a heart attack at the age of 54.
College: Louisiana Tech
Bottom Line: Trace Adkins
At 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds in his younger days, the future country singer walked onto the football team at Louisiana Tech. He was an offensive lineman and lined up next to tight end/long snapper Trey Junkin who spent 20 years in the NFL but is only known for one play.
Adkins spent just one year on the team and hurt his knee, so he never suited up for a game. With his football career over, Adkins then worked on an oil rig in northwest Louisiana while also playing in a band on the weekends.
After about a dozen years as a part-time musician, Adkins signed his first record deal in 1994 and released his first album two years later.
Tiny Lister Jr.
College: Long Beach City College, Cal State Los Angeles
Sport: Track and field
Bottom Line: Tiny Lister Jr.
Despite being born blind in his left eye, Tiny Lister Jr. was an elite college athlete and excelled at the shot put. He started at Long Beach College where his success in athletics led to him earning a scholarship to Cal State Los Angeles.
As a senior, Lister won the NCAA Division II national championship in shot put with a mark of 61 feet, 8 inches. After college, he then spent a few years competing with a local pro track club before giving football a shot.
He never played the sport while growing up, but at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, he looked the part. Lister tried out for the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL and was cut after two exhibition games.
College: William & Mary
Bottom Line: Jon Stewart
In a 1994 interview with New York Magazine, Jon Stewart described his William & Mary experience as this, "My college career was waking up late, memorizing someone else's notes, doing bong hits, and going to soccer practice."
The comedian played on the school’s JV team as a freshman before being promoted to varsity as a sophomore. In three years, the midfielder scored 10 goals, including the game-winner in the 1983 ECAC Championship.
That enabled the team to make the NCAA tournament where William & Mary lost in the second round to end Stewart’s soccer career.
College: Trinity College
Sport: Track and field
Bottom Line: Malcolm Gladwell
When growing up in Ontario, Malcolm Gladwell was among the fastest teenagers in Canada and won a high school championship at 1500 meters. One of his main rivals was David Reid, who ran a sub-four-minute mile and set several Canadian running records.
Gladwell then attended Trinity College, which is part of the University of Toronto and spent a short time running for their track program before focusing on journalism.
He still runs to this day and recently finished fifth among men aged 50-54 in the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York.
College: El Camino College, UNLV
Bottom Line: Suge Knight
The controversial hip-hop mogul reportedly was an exemplary player for two years at a community college before transferring to UNLV. He played defensive end, and although he went undrafted, he did latch on with the Los Angeles Rams.
Knight even played in two NFL games although that comes with an asterisk since he was a replacement player during the 1987 player’s strike. After that, Knight went into the music industry, and ironically, it was back in Las Vegas where Knight’s most infamous moment happened.
He was driving the car in which rapper Tupac Shakur was shot and killed following a Mike Tyson fight in 1996.
Bottom Line: Dean Cain
Dean Cain was a multisport star at Santa Monica High School and even played on the same baseball team as Charlie Sheen. But football was his sport in college, and he was a ball-hawking free safety who picked off 12 interceptions as a senior.
That senior year, he was also teammates with quarterback Jason Garrett of Dallas Cowboys fame. After an impressive college career, Cain went undrafted but signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent.
However, a knee injury during training camp ended his NFL aspirations, and he put his Princeton history degree to use in the film and TV industry.
College: Purdue, Georgetown
Bottom Line: Jim Gaffigan
The actor and comedian walked onto Purdue’s football team as a freshman in 1984 where he had some pretty famous teammates. One was future Hall of Famer Rod Woodson and another was future Pro Bowl quarterback Jim Everett.
Gaffigan then walked away from Purdue football because he said he "didn’t like getting his head bashed in" by future NFL linemen. But the football itch never left him, and Gaffigan transferred to Georgetown and played on their team alongside his brother Joe.
Georgetown competes in the FCS, formerly known as Division I-AA, and Gaffigan didn’t team with any future NFL players there as they haven’t sent a player to the league since the early 1950s.
Bottom Line: Vinnie Jones
Before portraying Juggernaut in "X-Men: The Last Stand," Vinnie Jones was a European soccer player. He played in the English Premier League for six seasons, including one season with Chelsea FC.
He was a midfielder who scored 38 goals over his club career, which spanned seven teams in five different leagues. Jones was born in England but qualified for Wales’ national team through a grandparent, and he suited up nine times for the Welsh national team.
Jones was known as a rough and tough player during his career and holds the record of quickest booking as he received a yellow card just three seconds into a game in 1992.
Bottom Line: Matthew Fox
Matthew Fox played receiver at Columbia and caught passes from future Dallas Cowboy Jason Garrett before Garrett transferred to Princeton. Fox admits that he didn’t have great speed, but he made up for it with heart and good hands.
Fox didn’t win a game in his first three seasons as Columbia built up a 44-game winning streak, but they finally ended it against Princeton in 1988.
For his career, Fox’s teams had a 2-38 record, and he also played three years against Dean Cain who attended Princeton.
College: Bellevue Community College
Bottom Line: Jim Caviezel
While growing up in northern Washington, Jim Caviezel had two interests: sports and religion. He got his sports fix on the hardwood where he envisioned himself as the next John Stockton, who also grew up in Washington.
After attending three different high schools, Caviezel attended a local community college and played basketball for two years before a foot injury ended his career. He then transferred to the University of Washington and focused on acting.
As for his other childhood interest of religion, Caviezel fulfilled that by portraying Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ."
College: Western Michigan
Bottom Line: Terry Crews
Terry Crews didn’t just play at Western Michigan. He spent a couple of years in the NFL.
He was a linebacker and played for the Rams, Chargers and Redskins although he suited up for just 32 games over his career. He says he supplemented his NFL income with commissions received from creating portraits for teammates.
In the late 1990s, he got his first acting role in "Battle Dome," which was similar to "American Gladiators," and roles in commercials and music videos followed that. He is best known for being one of the stars in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and for hosting "America’s Got Talent."
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
College: University of Miami
Bottom Line: Dwayne "Rock" Johnson
Most are aware that Dwayne Johnson became "The Rock" during an electrifying pro wrestling career. But the reason why he got into wrestling was because he, in his words, failed at football.
The Rock was a highly touted prospect out of Pennsylvania, and he landed at the University of Miami and played defensive tackle. He endured multiple injuries and surgeries while a Hurricane and eventually fell in the depth chart but still shared the field with players such as Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis.
The Rock was part of the Hurricanes' 1991 national championship team, but that was the highlight of his football career, which came to an end after getting cut from a CFL practice squad.
College: University of Washington
Bottom Line: Joel McHale
Originally recruited to Washington’s rowing team, Joel McHale had a bad hazing experience with some teammates and left rowing to walk onto the football team. He hadn’t played since his freshman year of high school, but at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and with a 4.6 40-yard dash, he passed the eye test.
McHale was a tight end who was on the scout team and was redshirted during his two years, so he never saw the field. But he did play with lots of guys who did, including future Pro Bowlers Mark Brunell and Lincoln Kennedy.
College: Minot State University
Bottom Line: Josh Duhamel
Born in Minot, North Dakota, Josh Duhamel stayed home for college and went to Division II Minot State. He was a quarterback for four years but never saw any action during his first two years before becoming the starter in his third season.
During the 1993 season, Duhamel threw nine touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions and completed under 50 percent of his passes. That led to him being demoted the following year in what was essentially the end of his football career.
In 2016, the actor returned to Minot and was inducted into the Minot State University Hall of Fame.
College: St. Mary’s College
Bottom Line: Mahershala Ali
The Academy Award-winning actor from "Moonlight" did more than just moonlight during his tenure at St. Mary’s. Playing under the name of Hershal Gilmore — his actual surname — Ali played four years with his best season coming as a senior.
He averaged 7.0 points per game, which ranked fourth on the team, but soon realized that the NBA wasn’t in his future. He says he fell in love with acting while an undergrad and then went to NYU for grad school where he joined their performing arts program.
College: Albany State
Bottom Line: Rick Ross
After playing at Miami Carol City Senior High School, the same high school as NFL players like Santana Moss and Allen Hurns, Rick Ross earned a scholarship to HBCU Albany State. But his stay at the school was nearly as short as one of his songs, and Ross didn’t even last a year on the team.
He began writing verses at the time, but once he left school, he didn’t immediately go into music full-time. Ross worked as a correctional officer for 18 months and had some other jobs afterward before arriving as a rapper in 2000 when he made a guest appearance on Erick Sermon’s album.
College: Alabama State University
Bottom Line: 2 Chainz
Born Tauheed Epps in Atlanta, Georgia, 2 Chainz was 6-foot-5 as a high school senior and received interest from several Division I schools, including Memphis. The Tigers were looking for their next Penny Hardaway, but 2 Chainz decided to go to Alabama State where he played two seasons.
He averaged just 3.0 points and 2.2 rebounds per game before getting into some trouble, which led to his departure from the school. He transferred to Virginia State University and didn’t play basketball, but he did graduate from VSU.
College: Glenville State College
Bottom Line: Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum played multiple sports growing up, including football, soccer, baseball, track and martial arts. But football piqued his interest the most, and it led to a scholarship offer from Wake Forest.
However, it was later revealed that Tatum didn’t have the appropriate test scores, so instead of heading to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he went to Glenville State College in West Virginia.
Tatum lasted just one year there before giving up both football and school. But as one door closed, another one opened, and shortly thereafter, Tatum was hired at a modeling agency.
Sport: Archery (Summer Olympics)
Bottom Line: Geena Davis
Even though she’s 6 feet tall, Geena Davis did not play sports growing up and first got into archery in 1997. Just two years later, she was invited to try out for the U.S. Olympic archery team ahead of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
She finished 29th out of 300 women at the national championships and that advanced her to the semifinals. But the increased scrutiny and attention of an Academy Award-winning actress trying out for the Olympics got the best of her during trials.
She admitted that she was nervous and placed 24th, which didn’t advance her to the next qualifying round, and her Olympic dream came to an end.
College: Boston University
Sport: Track and field
Bottom Line: Uzo Aduba
The Emmy-award winning actress from "Orange Is the New Black" didn’t wear either orange or black in college. She wore the scarlet and white of Boston University and competed in a number of athletics events. She ran the 55-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and took part in the long jump.
Her best finish was second place in the 400-meter dash as a senior with a time of 57.52. Aduba isn’t the only athlete in her family. Her older brother played hockey at UMass although he doesn’t have an Emmy to his name.
College: Middle Tennessee, UAB
Bottom Line: Sam Hunt
An all-state high school quarterback in the Atlanta area, Sam Hunt didn’t have the same success at the next level. He redshirted his freshman year at Middle Tennessee before throwing one single pass in his second year.
With a lack of opportunity, Hunt transferred to UAB and sat out his third year due to transfer rules. He saw limited action in his fourth year and finally got his opportunity to start as a fifth-year senior. Playing for a 2-10 team, Hunt threw 10 touchdowns and 14 touchdowns while completing under 50 percent of his passes.
It was during college where Hunt taught himself to play the acoustic guitar after practice as he sensed that he didn’t have much of a future in football. However, he did receive a tryout in 2008 with the Chiefs but never received an offer. Soon after, he moved to Nashville, and in 2015, he won an American Music Award for Best New Artist.
College: Robert Morris, Virginia State
Bottom Line: Wale
Born and raised in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia), Wale received a football scholarship to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. He had aspirations of becoming just the fourth player from RMU to make it to the NFL, but he lasted just a semester at the school before transferring closer to home with Virginia State.
While Wale is still a football fan — especially of the Washington Football Team — he doesn’t like the way the NCAA treats student-athletes. He doesn't like that universities make millions of dollars, but the student-athletes see none of it, and he told ESPN that "the players are getting hustled."
College: Florida State, Belmont
Bottom Line: Brian Kelley
Not to be confused with Brian Kelly who is Notre Dame’s football coach, this Brian Kelley is one half of the country duo Florida Georgia Line.
He would be the Florida part of the group since he grew up in Daytona Beach before joining Florida State’s baseball team. After riding the bench, he then transferred to Belmont in Nashville where he was a two-year starting pitcher.
His 6.08 ERA didn’t attract many scouts, but while at Belmont, he befriended Tyler Hubbard who was a singer from Georgia, and the rest is history.
Bottom Line: Elsa Hosk
Before she was a 5-foot-10 Victoria’s Secret model, Elsa Hosk was a 5-foot-10 Swedish pro basketball player. She played in the Damligan, which is the top women’s league in her native country, although Hosk says it’s nowhere near the level of competition in the WNBA.
She was doing some part-time modeling at the time and said she would sometimes come from a modeling shoot to practice where her teammates were drenched in sweat after hours of drills.
She then decided to just commit to one profession, and it ended up being modeling. She moved to New York and started doing campaigns for Guess shortly thereafter.
Bottom Line: Romeo Miller
You know how social media has influencers? Well, Romeo Miller — the son of rapper Master P — was a "recruiting influencer" for USC.
He was childhood friends with DeMar DeRozan, who was the No. 5 player in the country. DeRozan was unsure of where to go to school, but USC made him an offer he couldn't refuse. They would give both him, and his BFF Miller scholarships to suit up for the Trojans. Miller wasn’t much of a player.
He scored five points in his entire USC career, but his value was helping the program land DeRozan, who was an All-Pac-12 player in his lone season with the Trojans.
Sport: Field hockey
Bottom Line: Emma Watson
Most celebrities on this list were athletes before becoming famous, but Emma Watson achieved worldwide fame well before joining Brown’s field hockey team.
She had already starred in five Harry Potter films prior to enrolling at Brown and took a gap year after high school to film "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which was released when she was in school.
While at Brown, Watson played on the club field hockey team for a year and would often be seen at Brown sporting events supporting the Bears.
Sport: Skiing (Winter Olympics)
Bottom Line: Vanessa-Mae
Vanessa-Mae is a British violinist with several platinum albums on her resume, but her athletic claim to fame came on the slopes as an alpine skier.
With the name of Vanessa Vanakorn, she qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics for Thailand under dubious circumstances that later were called into question. She qualified and took part in the Games and finished dead last of the 67 alpine skiers who finished their race. She was 50.10 seconds behind the gold medal winner, and afterward, there was an investigation into how she qualified.
It was determined that Thailand manipulated her qualifying races in order to get a celebrity into the Games, and she was originally given a four-year ban. That was then overturned, and Mae attempted to qualify again for the 2018 Winter Olympics but was unsuccessful.