Star Actors Who Are Also Star Athletes
American martial artist, actor, film producer, and screenwriter, Chuck Norris seems to have it all in showbiz and martial arts. He is known for the list of action movies he did back since the 70s, which started from minor roles until he was invited by his friend Bruce Lee to a villain role in the movie Way of the Dragon. Since then, the rest was history. But if you must know, Norris isn’t only practicing martial arts. He is a full-on guru and has earned a black belt in these disciplines. All in all, he’s collected: 9th-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, 8th-degree in taekwondo, 5th-degree in karate, 3rd in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a black belt in judo. Oh, did you know that he also invented the martial art Chun Kuk Do?
Famous American actor and comedian Terry Crews is best known for his titanium armor-looking body that could take down any man anytime, anywhere. Many people know that way before Crews started counting TV and movie credits, he was first running backs and quarterbacks at collegiate and pro level. In 1997 after retiring from NFL, he moved back to Los Angeles to pursue a longstanding dream in acting. With a great list of blockbuster movies such as The Expendables film series and quite the hit TV sitcoms like Everybody Hates Chris and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we know he didn’t just star college football and the NFL but even Hollywood.
Sean Connery is best known to be the first actor to portray James Bond, quite the original at that, and we know from the movie that James Bond likes his martinis shaken and not stirred. Quite the entertainment that movie is to the degree that each time fans look forward to when the next James Bond movie would be and who will be the next Bond. The young Connery, though swooned fans already before his Bond-like charm. Not many of the younger generation fans of Connery know that he used to compete in bodybuilding! With his impressive body, he competed in Mr. Universe, although he didn’t win, this information does shake us a bit with curiosity.
Although Phil Robertson did not become a household name in his early years, still, what’s meant to be will always fall into place. All thanks to the success of his A&E reality show, Duck Dynasty, his journey went full circle in the end. It is sometimes our life’s tough decision to know what to pursue that makes a great degree of difference in our life and our direction. For Phil, it was when he decided to risk a shift from his hunting as his means of helping their family. Being the lifelong Louisianan he is, he played quarterback for his high school, which eventually took him to a college scholarship, and since then, his life was never the same.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Many of you know about the phenomenal time Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) before he went turning almost all of his Hollywood stint to gold. It was an incredible, hyped-up eight full years of stardom and won matches in the world of wrestling for Johnson, but his days of being an athlete went further back. In 1991, he was a player for the iconic Miami Hurricanes as the National Championship team before his short stint in the CFL. Well, that was way back, and now he has the whole Hollywood to compete with. This man got it all, he can dominate a full movie’s credit with just his name!
It might be a surprise to some as Jim Gaffigan is, first and foremost, a stand-up comedian. However, his countless film cameos and television appearances aren’t just the experiences that make him to the cut as an actor. A long time ago, back when he was pursuing a degree in college, he too played college football in the Big Ten. Gaffigan first attended Purdue, but with his skils, he got qualified to a spot on the Boilermakers roster as a walk-on. Then, Gaffigan transferred to Georgetown a year later and finished his collegiate football career with the Hoyas. We’re not sure how Hot Pockets never signed him as their upside-down Wheaties spokesman, and that is truly a mystery.
Sheryl Crow is an accomplished musician with nine Grammy awards credits to her name. Her albums sold over 50 million copies around the world. Crow’s relationship with the disgruntled cyclist Lance Armstrong has given her another wave of fame, which she handled pretty well. But way before she became a famous musician and rocked out on stages across the globe, Crow was an outstanding member of her high school track team. She was an all-state track star of Kennett High School in Missouri, medaling in the 75-meter low hurdles. Crow also enjoyed and soaked up some sun and the glory of gold before all the glitters and heat of the spotlight.
Emma Watson won our hearts when she played Hermione Granger in the big-screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. A lot of us grew up seeing her year after year as a smartypants in the movie, but she wasn’t just all that on screen. She, too, busted her butt to earn her bachelor’s degree at the prestigious Ivy-League school, Brown University. It’s amazing how she pulled off earning her college degree in between movie roles, and not only that, but she also played collegiate field hockey! It’s hard to imagine how she was able to fit showbiz, college, and sports in a year, but truly, this girl is Emmazing!
Matthew Perry is one of the iconic stars in the hit T.V. sitcom of the 90s, Friends, and he graced the screens as Chandler Bing for a decade and probably will be called by that name forever. Okay, that’s too much, it’s not that he didn’t have other credit roles. He was also starred in the T.V. series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and has several great films with remarkable characters to his name like Fools Rush, The Whole Nine Yards, and 17 Again. He also does voice-over gigs for video games, which is so cool! But what’s way cooler about him is his younger self making a tennis mark competitively, he was nationally ranked! Perry ranked as high as No. 17 in junior singles and No. 3 in junior doubles, and that’s not bad for someone who’d put up to 10 hours of practice every day! Sadly though with tennis Perry never went the Whole Nine Yards.
As the mustachioed star of the hit T.V. series My Name is Earl, Jason Lee is also known to others for his role in the ’90s and ’00s cult classic films like Mallrats. Before this degree of fame for Lee, though, he first made a name for himself through shredding. Growing up, he was very passionate about skateboarding, as it is very understandable, coming from his roots in Huntington Beach of Sta. Ana, California. His passion led him to become a legit pro skater back in the ’80s through the early ’90s and owned some major moves. Since we all know, now about this part of him, his roles in Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse makes so much sense by relating it to his skater roots.
Knowing how Dolph Lundgren also has a rich history of being an athlete shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. With his larger-than-life character as the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, he has proven himself athletic at all fronts. Lundgren, who is also notably known to hold a master’s degree in chemical engineering, definitely has more brains and brawn than we can handle. But him being a third dan (Sandan) black belt in Kyokushin karate is also something worthy of giving him credit for. Not only that, but Lundgren had also raised the bar high in Kyokushin too back when he was at the peak in this sport for being a 2-time European champion (1980-81) and the Australian champion (1982).
Ed O’Neill is the ultimate king of the couch TV dad in his role in Modern Family. Yes, he is. Homer Simpson comes second. Prior to this stint, he was the lovable loser living in his high school football glory days in his credit role as Al Bundy on Married… with Children. What made O’Neill’s role as a bitter shoe salesman even more legit was him being nostalgic for his “peak” years as an All-State quarterback for Polk High. He was a stud back then. So much so that he got a football scholarship to Ohio University. But he transferred to Youngstown State, where he finished his college degree and played defensive lineman. In 1969, he had the opportunity to go pro but was cut off during training camp.
Haywire and Deadpool star Gina Carano, before her life in the screens, also had a knack for combat sports. She’s so passionate about the sport that it once became her profession. So the next time you see her doing hand-to-hand combat, know that it’s her thing and she enjoys doing that like crazy. If you must know, Carano is a holder of an incredible 12-1-1 kickboxing record and 7-1 MMA record. Such credit to her name made her qualified to compete as the gladiator “Crush” on the T.V. series, American Gladiators. Carano became a certified star, whether in the octagon or on the big screen with Ryan Reynolds, because of the talent she brings on the table.
Joel McHale is the host of the popular pop culture review show, The Soup, and he has long developed into a big-time celebrity since. His fans most note him for his remarkable credit role as Jeff Winger in the NBC hit comedy Community. In various scenes in his shows or movies, McHale has shown off some skin showing that he is pretty fit. If you dig further, his reasons go beyond just his gym membership to keep up with Hollywood but because he was once a rower recruited out of high school. However, McHale chose to pursue a degree at the University of Washington with his friends.
Steven Seagal is a known actor, producer, screenwriter, and musician, but he was once also a thriving artist in a different industry. For 15 years, Seagal stayed in Asia to study Eastern philosophy and choreograph martial arts scenes for his films or future films before he moved back to Hollywood. Upon returning to the United States, with much knowledge about martial arts and still passionate about it, Seagal opened his martial arts academy. The degree of interest Seagal has for martial arts went to the point that he became a bodyguard for Hollywood celebrities. Eventually, he developed his ability to mix martial arts and film production, so Seagal went to the film industry as an actor, landing him his first role in the 1988 film, Above The Law.
Tom Selleck is one of the actors with a very diverse acting career. Being a heartthrob, he widely acted in popular shows and movies like Magnum, P.I. to Friends to Three Men and a Baby. But did you know that with Selleck’s 6’4″ frame, he once served a basketball team as a player on the court? Selleck’s high school game credited him with opportunities to play college basketball at USC. However, it only took him two seasons to play with the Trojans. But even though he didn’t have much game, his college days hold an impressive feat of being able to balance his studies with basketball and being in a fraternity. Oh, he was a model at that time, too!
We know Joe Rogan is a stand-up comedian, and also, for the many years, we heard him as an animated commentator of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Some may simply just know Rogan as “the Fear Factor guy” or for his credit role as Joe Garelli from the hit ’90s sitcom, NewsRadio. Many might wonder how it is that he landed the role as commentator for UFC, but that comes with a good reason. That is because back in the ‘80s, he was a four-time Massachusetts state champion in Taekwondo. In 1987 he became the U.S. Open Champions at the age of 19. He also holds black belts in no-gi and gi jiu-jitsu as an adult, and he had a quick run as an amateur in kickboxing before he went straight up on the stage for some laughs.
In case you haven’t known yet how such an amazing actor David Duchovny is, well, you should just see him in action. He has starred in a streak of great films and television shows. But what made him stand out most was his performance credits in his role as Fox Mulder of the out-of-this-world smash hit The X-Files, Californication, and Twin Peaks, a 1990 cult classic. His performances from those film projects were also distinctly recognized by the Golden Globes. However, before he was established in Hollywood, he was the captain of his high school basketball team, where he also played for the J.V. team at Princeton.
Orange Is the New Black star, Uzo Aduba plays the role of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, and she plays her part a little too well. Seeing her in the series with effectiveness in her role makes it a bit hard to picture not being crazy. Before her career in the limelight, though, she was more into and focused on sports. Back to where she earned her Bachelor’s degree at Boston University, Aduba was actually a remarkable sprinter and one of the university’s top talents. She can run the 55, 100, and the 200-meter dash is a streak and in record time! This woman has good speed in her. Don’t scare her or she’ll run!
Tony Danza’s unassuming stature and quiet demeanor should not fool you. This Brooklyn-born actor, tap dancer, teacher, and the boxer is an American favorite and beloved star. When he did Taxi and Who’s the Boss? Danza just only broke out onto the acting front after he was discovered in a boxing gym, and if you must know, it is more than just an exercise for him, it was exactly his profession. Standing at 5’9″ this Hollywood’s Italian Stallion was a real deal in the ring, and before he took a turn to act, he was able to credit a 9-3 record as a pro with two of his wins coming in the first round!
In the 1998 Spike Lee’s film, He Got Game, Denzel Washington starred a supporting role of being the father of NBA’s sharpshooter and first-ballot Hall of Famer Ray Allen. If you have seen him score some hoops in the movie, you’ll notice how he knows his piece, and it wasn’t just because he practiced but because that he did have some legit skills on the basketball court himself. Back when he was attending Fordham University to earn his degree, Washington was part of the Rams’ junior varsity basketball team under then future Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo. We played from 1972 through 1974, which was two full seasons and boasted an 18-1 record in his sophomore season.
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones credits as a legend in the genre of action and western movies. He’s done it many times he’s had it enough for 10-15 lifetimes. But did you know that before he kicked aliens with Will Smith in Men in Black, or hunt down the Fugitive, he was running, kicking and taking down opponents as a player of the Harvard Crimson football team? Jones was an offensive guard from the year 1966 through 1969 and became the first team All-Ivy League for the 1968 outstanding season. Prior to that, Jones and the Crimson have been undefeated; that is why 1968 became really special. Jones was also in the famous Harvard comeback “victory” vs. Yale game back in 1968, which ended 28-28 tie.
Kevin James played the credit role as Doug Hefferman on the CBS sitcom, The King of Queens. Who would have thought that, before his career in acting, James had a long stint in wrestling? Way before he pursued acting and making it to various movies such as Hitch and starring as a teacher turned MMA fighter in Here Comes the Boom, he was actually a member of a high school wrestling team the same as pro wrestling star Mick Foley.
In an interview, it can be recounted how James would always take down Foley back in high school. It’s safe to say that if he didn’t go after acting, he probably be inside the ring bout to bout with Foley himself.
Mark Harmon has been a staple character in hit T.V. dramas since the early 70s. We see some of his recent credit roles in the T.V. series, such as in the West Wing, NCIS, and JAG. His successful primetime career in Hollywood stemmed from his college football game back in the day. He was at Pierce College in Los Angeles to finish his associate degree, but when he transferred to UCLA, he became the Bruin’s starting quarterback for two years. In 1971, Harmon took his team off a dismissal with a record of 2-7-1 that season and in the years after, he led Bruins to an 8-3 and 9-2 record.
Most people outside the U.K. may not know about Vinnie Jones being a tough guy once on the field, but he used to be one. Way before his bad-boy persona on the big screen. This Englishman’s signature character has somewhat typecasted him into villainous credit roles like Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand. However, for his legendary role as the crazy soccer hooligan in EuroTrip, Jone’s past experience proved fit for his role. There was a significant time in his past when he worked as a professional football player of a notoriously tough team, Wimbledon, Leeds United, Sheffield United, Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers, and Wales.
Carl Weathers, in the classic Rocky film series, was credited for the role of Apollo Creed and dazzled one of the biggest stages in boxing history. Weathers, who probably made up almost half of the manly handshakes out, also shares a rich history of being an athlete himself. To people his age, this may not come as news anymore, but to most millennials, this is quite informative. We could only imagine what must have been like for him to shoot the movie and relieve his fair share on athleticism. He was once a professional football player before he hit the big screen. He played Division I football for San Diego State Aztecs and also with Oakland Raiders for at least two seasons of NFL. Also, he experienced one season of the Canadian Football League.
If you happen not to know yet, you should know that Lou Ferrigno, because of his incredible built, landed the title role of The Incredible Hulk series by CBS in the 1970s. It doesn’t require a high degree of imagination to see how he perfectly fits to take on the Marvel superhero character. But just before he tears off his shirt, turning mean and green, know that he was a professional bodybuilder just before all that. That explains how the tearing and bulking is so natural with him. The biggest difference between bodybuilding and acting like the Hulk for Ferrigno is swapping tanning lotion with green body paint.
Jason Segel is famous for his comedic role as Marshall Eriksen in the hit T.V. sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. He was also noted for his Freaks and Geeks credit role as Judd Apatow, as well as his performance in Undeclared. Segel has just a long list of good performance, whether in acting, screenwriting, or producing T.V. to big-screen films. And here’s a fun fact. Back in high school, he was pulling heartstrings, too, by being a fan favorite on Harvard-Westlake School’s basketball team. He served as a backup center for the team, yet he still earned himself the title “Dr. Dunk” when he won a dunk contest. Segel’s team won back-to-back state championships at that time, and he was back up for the former NBA center, Jason Collins.
Mahershala Ali won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his breakthrough and credit roles on the silver screen as Juan in the film, Moonlight, and as Don Shirley in the 2018 comedy-drama film, Green Book. He definitely has a bright future in Hollywood, and it’s just iron how his career as an actor hasn’t always been part of his plan. When he finally took this shot, indeed, it was a slam dunk! Fresh from high school, Ali enrolled at Division I Saint Mary’s College, earned his degree in Mass Communication, band for awhile played college basketball before he completely ditched it for acting.
If you think that Channing Tatum just learned his moves on the set for Magic Mike, think twice. Or, if you think he just learned how to tackle while filming 21 Jump Street, think two times more. Tatum is more than just your average American guy. If you didn’t know, he spent all his formative years in Tampa and dominated his high school’s football team. In fact, he was voted to be the most athletic in their class. Besides pursuing a degree, he also went to Glenville State College in West Virginia to play college football. However, it didn’t seem to be how he thought football scholarship would be. So he dropped out and went home only to land in modeling jobs that turned to act roles.
Josh Duhamel is one of Hollywood’s good-looking leading men and has always been a stud with a cannon for an arm back when he was a quarterback for Minot State University. While playing college football, he also pursued a degree in Dentistry. However, he ended up a year and a half short of the program before he dropped out and shifted to another career. Duhamel faced the fact that despite his best efforts, he wouldn’t be able to make it to the NFL as hardly anyone does from Minot State anyway. Little did he know that his next career would be so much key for him to earn his ground in Hollywood, where he can play a wide range of roles this life can offer.
Many people may say that Jon Stewart may be too good looking for a comic actor, which may be true. But this guy really has it. We may always see him hosting, but he has also taken on movie credits to his name like in 2007 film, Big Daddy. He may be taking his time sitting behind a desk, especially in his longtime hosting gig in The Daily Show, you should know how back then he was part of the soccer team from high school to college. In fact, to some extent, he was able to finish college because of the financial assistance from his soccer involvement. His coach would refer to him as a good player and one with high energy. Stewart was even the one to score a winning goal against the NCAA powerhouse Connecticut Huskies that led his team to win the ECAC Championship.
Sam Lowry Hunt is a known singer and songwriter who was credited for songs he has written for various artists prior to his successful solo career. Before pursuing his current career in music, he was formerly a high school, college, and once also pursued professional football. Back in high school, he stood out as a quarterback that when he got to Division I Middle Tennessee State University in 2003, he played through to 2004 season. He then transferred to Alabama Birmingham (UAB), where he made an even more impact after leaving his previous university because of disappointment in their limit in playing time. Of course, later, it was also in UAB is where Hunt first picked up a guitar after his football practice. Little did he know it’ll change his life after not making it to the cut for professional football.
Forest Whitaker has been known for decades for his wise movie lines, especially in countless classics on the silver screen. In his second movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, he played the role of a high school football player. We believe that everything about the stunts in his football scenes was no sweat for him as it was a glimpse of his past life before showbiz. It was quite a subtle transition for him from the life of a once standout defensive tackle at Palisades Charter High School. His performance was that good that he actually earned a scholarship from nearby California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. And though his first degree was cut short, his next university led him to enlighten our screens.
Kurt Russell’s career in acting has blossomed into something more than just being a heartthrob but also an actor of substance in action and hero-based films. His portfolio will tell you how he has started in Hollywood at an early age of 12. His first gig was an uncredited role in Elvis Presley’s It Happened at the Word’s Fair. Besides being a child actor, though, his grade school and high school were filled with baseball games as inspired by his professional baseball player father. Just when people thought Russell would follow his father’s footsteps into professional baseball league, he may have taken a turn into going full time with his acting career. However, his sister’s son, Matt Franco, pursued pro baseball and carried on the family legacy.