Former Athletes Turned Serious Actors

In order to appear on the list, the athlete must have a majority of their appearances in non-cameo roles.
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Fred Dryer
Actor, Hunter
Former College Football standout at San Diego State University where he played Defensive End. Was a first round Draft Pick of the New York Giants in 1969 where he played for 3 seasons before finishing his 13 year career with the Los Angeles Rams.
Roddy Piper
Actor, They Live
Roddy Piper was born Roderick George Toombs on April 17, 1954 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He was a pro wrestler from 1973-1987 in the NWA, Pacific Northwest, California. He was a longtime mainstay in the WWF, and was one of the biggest "bad guys" in the WWF during the early '80s, before becoming a fan favorite in the late '80s...
Jim Brown
Often mentioned as the greatest player in NFL history, this ruggedly handsome African American fullback for the Cleveland Browns first appeared on movie screens in the western Rio Conchos, followed by a strong supporting role as convict commando "Jefferson" in the terrific WW2 action film The Dirty Dozen...
“ Meanest looking dude to never commit a murder. ” - quartertwain
Bubba Smith
The athletically gifted 6' 7" Charles Aaron "Bubba" Smith played defensive end / defensive tackle for the National Football League's Baltimore Colts (1967-1971), Oakland Raiders (1973-1974), and Houston Oilers (1975-1976). After the conclusion of his football career, Smith moved into a TV & film career...
“ His cherubic grin notwithstanding, I once saw this guy eat a live bird. ” - quartertwain
“ Who can forget his convincing performance in the O.J. Simpson trial. ” - quartertwain
André the Giant
André René Roussimoff was born in a small farming community in Grenoble, France to Boris and Marian Rouismoff. His parents and four siblings were all of normal size, but André suffered from acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that results when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone. As the Giant grew up (very quickly...
“ His fluid command of the English language reminded many of a young Laurence Olivier. ” - quartertwain
Dwayne Johnson
Actor, WWE Raw
Dwayne Douglas Johnson, also known as The Rock, was born on May 2, 1972 in Hayward, California, to Ata Johnson (born Feagaimaleata Fitisemanu Maivia) and Canadian-born professional wrestler Rocky Johnson (born Wayde Douglas Bowles). His father is black (of Black Nova Scotian descent), and his mother is of Samoan background (her own father was Peter Fanene Maivia...
“ The Rock is currently tied with Charlie Chaplin for most on screen eyebrow raises. ” - quartertwain
Bob Uecker
Bob Uecker's first career was professional baseball. He played six seasons in the majors (1962-1967), playing catcher for three different National League teams: Braves (Milwaukee, WI, and Atlanta, GA), Cardinals (St. Louis, MO), and Phillies (Philadelphia, PA). His batting, never stellar, declined steadily over his career: he finished with a .200 lifetime average...
“ Although you can't see it in this picture, Bob now has a mechanical chin. ” - quartertwain
Fred Williamson
Former Oakland Raiders/Kansas City Chiefs football star who rose to prominence as one of the first African-American male action stars of the "blaxploitation" genre of the early 1970s, who has since gone on to a long and illustrious career as an actor, director, writer, and producer! Burly, yet handsome 6' 3" Williamson first came to attention in the TV series Julia playing love interest...
“ ........... Little Miss Fu Fu ” - quartertwain
Terry Bradshaw
Tall, charismatic ex-star quarterback for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers football team. During the 1970s, Bradshaw led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins over six seasons, and was noted Super Bowl MVP on two occasions. After retiring in 1983, he became a key media commentator on NFL football, and has worked for both the CBS and FOX networks...
“ I would count his NFL work against the criteria for this list, were he not acting like an idiot the entire time. ” - quartertwain
Arnold Schwarzenegger
With an almost unpronounceable surname and a thick Austrian accent, who would have ever believed that a brash, quick talking bodybuilder from a small European village would become one of Hollywood's biggest stars, marry into the prestigious Kennedy family, amass a fortune via shrewd investments and one day be the Governor of California!...
“ World Champion liar, cheater and steroid taker, Schwarzenegger even found time to act a little. ” - quartertwain
Lou Ferrigno
An internationally famous and well respected bodybuilder / actor, Lou Ferrigno first appeared on TV screens in 1977 as the musclebound The Incredible Hulk, the alter ego of meek scientist Bruce Banner. Ferrigno was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951 and as a child suffered from an ear infection that resulted in permanent partial hearing loss...
“ Also a great amateur bar fighter, Lou has only one known weakness. Repeated axe kicks to the groin. ” - quartertwain
Esther Williams
Esther Jane Williams was born on August 8, 1921 in Inglewood, California. Her youth was spent as a teenage swimming champion and she won three United States National championships. She eventually was spotted by a MGM talent scout while working in a Los Angeles department store. She made her film debut with MGM in an "Andy Hardy" picture called Andy Hardy's Double Life...
“ Once defeated Carl Weathers in a slap fight. ” - quartertwain
Carl Weathers
Actor, Predator
Carl Weathers was born on January 14, 1948, in New Orleans, Louisiana. A famous and successful football star at San Diego State, he played with the Oakland Raiders and retired from the sport in 1974, in order to give full attention to his goal: to be a real actor. Weathers first played small parts in two blaxploitation flicks...
“ Was once defeated by Esther Williams in a slap fight. ” - quartertwain
Jason Lee
With a flourishing career that includes an Independent Spirit Award for his performance in writer-director Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy and memorable roles in multiple features for such directors as Smith, Cameron Crowe and Lawrence Kasdan, Jason Lee has solidly established himself among critics, directors and peers...
“ Likes to talk about slapping it. ” - quartertwain
“ Better known by his rap moniker AK-47. ” - quartertwain
“ Pretending to be a priest to HELP children, now that is creativity. ” - quartertwain
Roosevelt Grier
Former star player with the Los Angeles Rams during the 1960s, this impressively built African-American athlete broke into acting via appearances in TV shows including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West and I Dream of Jeannie. Grier received positive reviews for his role in the TV movie The Desperate Mission...
“ His ability to change himself into an aged, white doctor was awe inspiring. ” - quartertwain
Jim Thorpe
Renowned Native American athlete who excelled in the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm but was later stripped of his Olympic medals for having previously received monetary compensation for engaging in professional sport. He later showed up on movie screens as a bit player in westerns. He was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the film Jim Thorpe -- All-American.
Hulk Hogan
Actor, Rocky III
One of the greatest, most popular, most hated and charismatic wrestlers of all time, Hulk Hogan is one of the men who helped parlay the circus-like world of professional wrestling from cult following into the forefront of American entertainment. What many people who know about Hogan don't know is he was in the "sport" for several years in virtual obscurity before hitting the big time...
Johnny Weissmuller
Johnny Weissmuller was born as Peter Johann Weißmüller in Freidorf, today a district of the city of Timisoara in Romania, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Weissmuller would later claim to have been born in Windber, Pennsylvania, probably to ensure his eligibility to compete as part of the US Olympic team...
Chuck Connors
Chuck Connors was born Kevin Joseph Connors in Brooklyn, New York, to Marcella (Londrigan) and Alban Francis "Allan" Connors. His parents were immigrants from the Dominion of Newfoundland (now part of Canada), and were of Irish descent. Chuck and his two-years-younger sister, Gloria, grew up in a working-class section of the west side of Brooklyn...
Eric Cantona
Actor, Elizabeth
Eric Cantona is most known for his skill on the soccer field. Starring at Old Trafford, Manchester United's homeground, Cantona got the nickname "The King". The controversial striker has been praised as the one who brought back the trophies to one of the world's most famous soccer clubs. Cantona is well-known for being banned from playing soccer for 8 months after kicking a fan during a match...
Vinnie Jones
Actor, Snatch
Vincent Peter Jones was born on January 5, 1965 in Watford, England. He first came to public notice as a professional footballer, playing in the English Football League. Noted as one of soccer's hard men, he leaped to fame when a photographer, at a match, snapped him "marking" Newcastle United's Paul Gascoigne...
Jason Statham
Jason Statham was born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, to Eileen (Yates), a dancer, and Barry Statham, a street merchant and lounge singer. Statham has done quite a lot in a short time. He has been a Diver on the British National Diving Team and finished 12th in the World Championships in 1992. He has also been a fashion model...
Terry Crews
Terry Crews was born in Flint, Michigan, to Patricia and Terry Crews, Sr. He earned an Art Excellence Scholarship to attend Western Michigan University and also earned a full-ride athletic scholarship to play football. Crews was an All-Conference defensive end, and was a major contributor on the 1988 MAC champion WMU Broncos...
Steve Garvey
Self, Hey Coach
One of the most dependable Major League baseball players in the 70s & 80s, Garvey was also a pretty good football player in his college days at Michigan State. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and began playing for them in 1969, but had to wait more than four years before becoming a regular player...
Joe Namath
Self, Namath
The son of a steel worker from Beaver Falls, Pa., Joseph William Namath (Joe Willie) came from the rich football tradition that is in Pennsylvania. After starring for Paul 'Bear' Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide teams in the 1960s, Namath was drafted by both the National Football League's (NFL) St. Louis Cardinals and the rival American Football League's (AFL) New York Jets in 1965...
“ His portrayal of a drunken idiot on Monday Night Football was nothing short of breathtaking. I gained a lot of respect for Joe on that night. ” - quartertwain
Buster Crabbe
Buster Crabbe graduated from the University of Southern California. In 1931, while working on That's My Boy for Columbia Pictures, he was tested by MGM for Tarzan and rejected. Paramount Pictures put him in King of the Jungle as Kaspa, the Lion Man (after a book of that title but clearly a copy of the Tarzan stories)...
“ If only he had stayed a terrible actor, the world would be a better place. ” - quartertwain
Sonja Henie
The daughter of a fur wholesaler in Norway, Sonja Henie received her first pair of ice skates when she was six. At 14 she was the Norwegian Skating Champion. At 15 she would win the Olympic gold medal in Skating, a feat she would repeat in 1932 and 1936. In 1936 she would turn professional and tour with her own ice show...
Tony Danza
Tony Danza is an American actor, perhaps best known for starring on some of television's most beloved and long-running series, including Taxi (1978-1983) and Who's the Boss (1984-1992). Danza was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, to Anne (Cammisa), a bookkeeper, and Matty Iadanza, a garbageman...
Randall 'Tex' Cobb
Actor, Liar Liar
Former Heavyweight boxing contender Randall "Tex" Cobb has had 3 highly colorful careers; kickboxer, pro boxer, and movie actor. Born in Bridge City, Texas on May 7, 1950, the 6 feet 3 inch, 225 pound Cobb excelled in high school football and martial arts. Enjoying "extreme" sports to the max, Cobb launched a professional kickboxing career and racked up 9 straight knockout victories...