Six Actors Who Started Out As Athletes

Model slash actor, rapper slash actor, athlete slash model, everyone’s got multiple careers these days. Those destined for the biggest stages often get there, just in a roundabout way and many people out there start out with big dreams of playing professional sports, although few make it that far. Celebrities are no different, and a lot of them actually started out as athletes but then fate stepped in and sent them toward the big screen instead. Here are a few extremely successful actors who actually started out with athletics in mind. Some may surprise you.

Ed O'Neil
It’s hard to imagine Ed O’Neil anywhere else than playing a disgruntled but loveable husband to hotties on TV, but the actor actually started out playing football at Youngstown State. He was signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 but was cut…which he took as a sign to move on to his other passion. Never one to let his athletics dreams die, O’Neil is actually an extremely accomplished badass who holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. There’s definitely a Sofia Vergara joke in there somewhere...

Kurt Russell
This acting legend played professional baseball in 1970’s, including a stint with the California Angels minor league team.

Jon Stewart
Long before Jon Stewart was The Daily Show host, he played soccer at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He had plans to go pro but sustained a knee injury that cut his athletic career short.

Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds played halfback on the Florida State’s football team and had a promising future until he got injured his freshman year. Obviously he ended up becoming a huge movie star and ultimately even had a role in the football film The Longest Yard. Talk about art imitating life.

Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson was a football player well before he made a name for himself in the WWE and in Hollywood. He played defensive tackle at the University of Miami and was roommates with Warren Sapp. Today he’s a massive movie star and even revisited his roots with his role on HBO’s Ballers as a former NFL superstar turned sports agent. It doesn’t get more meta than that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has gone through quite a few career transitions. While his transition from action hero to governor was interesting, but you can’t forget that he was also one of the most successful bodybuilders ever, winning seven Mr. Olympia titles. I’m sure there’s a witty movie line to throw in here but we’ll leave it up to you.