Once an athlete decides to “hang them up” for the last time they often find themselves out of the main stream of media consciousness but still longing for the thrill of fame and fortune. In years past, athletes turned to Hollywood because they needed income as playing was not as lucrative as it is today.
Many of these athletes with varying degrees of success, have taken their talents to Hollywood for a second chance at the lime light. Some have even become more famous for their acting than athletics, while others are recognized only as former athletes who did a few films or television.
Here is a small, if not obscure, list of athletes who have tried both acting and athletics, although there are many more. Some you likely know, while other names on the list may come as a surprise.
Norris is most recently known for the long running television show Walker, Texas Ranger but has a slew of films to his credit such as The Delta Force, The Octagon, Firewalker, and the Missing in Action films. Many do not realize that Norris was a legitimate Karate Champion, and even owned a chain of Karate schools. He was awarded Fighter of the Year by Black Belt Magazine, and won the Professional Middleweight Karate Champion tile for six consecutive years from 1968 to 1973. In 1990, he was the first Westerner in history to be awarded the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master in the discipline of Tae Kwon Do. Walker really was that bad!
Before beating Sylvester Stallone to a pulp in the Rocky movies, Weathers had a short stint as a linebacker with the Oakland Raiders. He also played three seasons with the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League. Weathers has played in several small television roles and outside of Rocky made appearances in Predator and Happy Gilmore.
Ed has had a very successful Hollywood career, playing multiple roles starting with a bit appearance on the 70’s hit comedy Laverne and Shirley. Marinaro turned those early roles into bigger parts in the critically acclaimed series Hill Street Blues, and stared in the football comedy Blue Mountain State. What many Hollywood fans may not know is that Marinaro was a very successful athlete who set 16 NCAA records while playing at Cornell. He played for nine years for three different teams and appeared in two Super Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings.
Johnson is probably best known for his wrestling character “The Rock” from World Wrestling Entertainment. He has also played in multiple action adventure movies such as The Mummy Returns, Walking Tall, ,and G.I. Joe. Johnson has found much more success in the entertainment world than athletics, buthe was a member of the 1991 University of Miami Championship team, and played briefly for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.
Older fans and NFL historians likely remember Olsen as one of the members of the “Fearsome Foursome” whose other three members consisted of Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier, and Lamar Lundy. Middle aged fans may remember Olsen as a long time broadcaster providing color commentary for the Super Bowl and Rose Bowl. Younger sports fans may not know he also had a very successful career as a pitchman for FTD Floral and Palm Desert Bank of El Paseo. His most famous television role came as Jonathan Garvey in the long running series Little House on the Prairie. He also starred in the short lived series Father Murphy. Olsen also played a bit role as the gentle giant turned Confederate Soldier in the John Wayne movie The Undefeated.
There are many other athletes who have “gone Hollywood” and in today’s entertainment the crossover is becoming more common and many athletes are not waiting until their playing days are over to take to the booth or the tube and silver screen. There are many notable stars left off of this short list such as Howie Long, Bubba Smith, Bob Ueker, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to name a few. For local flavor, bad boy Charlie Sheen was a fair relief pitcher and was offered a scholarship by The University of Kansas. He also is apparently the inspiration of the religion Sheenism, that found its beginnings at KU. It is a small entertainment world to say the least!