Former Athletes Turned Serious Actors

by quartertwain | created - 03 Aug 2012 | updated - 29 Jan 2013 | Public

In order to appear on the list, the athlete must have a majority of their appearances in non-cameo roles.

1. 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.

2. 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 ...

3. Jim Brown

Actor | Mars Attacks!

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 (1964), followed by a strong supporting role as convict commando "Jefferson" in the terrific WW2 action film ...

Meanest looking dude to never commit a murder.

4. Bubba Smith

Actor | Police Academy

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 ...

His cherubic grin notwithstanding, I once saw this guy eat a live bird.

5. O.J. Simpson

Actor | The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear

O.J. Simpson was born on July 9, 1947 in San Francisco, California, USA as Orenthal James Simpson. He is an actor and producer, known for The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) and The Towering Inferno (1974). He was previously ...

Who can forget his convincing performance in the O.J. Simpson trial.

6. André the Giant

Actor | The Princess Bride

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 ...

His fluid command of the English language reminded many of a young Laurence Olivier.

7. Dwayne Johnson

Actor | Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

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 ...

The Rock is currently tied with Charlie Chaplin for most on screen eyebrow raises.

8. Howie Long

Actor | Broken Arrow

Howie Long was born on January 6, 1960 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA as Howard Michael Long. He is an actor, known for Broken Arrow (1996), 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001) and Firestorm (1998). He has been married to Diane Addonizio since June 27, 1982. They have three children.

9. Bob Uecker

Actor | Major League

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 ...

Although you can't see it in this picture, Bob now has a mechanical chin.

10. Fred Williamson

Actor | MASH

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 ...

........... Little Miss Fu Fu

11. Terry Bradshaw

Actor | The Cannonball Run

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 ...

I would count his NFL work against the criteria for this list, were he not acting like an idiot the entire time.

12. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Actor | Terminator 2: Judgment Day

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...

World Champion liar, cheater and steroid taker, Schwarzenegger even found time to act a little.

13. Lou Ferrigno

Actor | The Incredible Hulk

An internationally famous and well respected bodybuilder / actor, Lou Ferrigno first appeared on TV screens in 1977 as the musclebound The Incredible Hulk (1978), 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 ...

Also a great amateur bar fighter, Lou has only one known weakness. Repeated axe kicks to the groin.

14. Esther Williams

Actress | Take Me Out to the Ball Game

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 ...

Once defeated Carl Weathers in a slap fight.

15. 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 ...

Was once defeated by Esther Williams in a slap fight.

16. Jason Lee

Actor | Almost Famous

Born in Orange, California in 1970, Jason Lee is an American film photographer, actor, producer, and director. Well known for having been a professional skateboarder during skateboarding's very pivotal late 80s and early 90s, Lee would go on to pursue acting in 1993, working in film, television, ...

Likes to talk about slapping it.

17. Alex Karras

Actor | Blazing Saddles

Alex Karras was born on July 15, 1935 in Gary, Indiana, USA as Alexander George Karras. He was an actor and producer, known for Blazing Saddles (1974), Victor Victoria (1982) and Porky's (1981). He was married to Susan Clark and Ivalyn Joan Jurgensen. He died on October 10, 2012 in Los Angeles, ...

Better known by his rap moniker AK-47.

18. Merlin Olsen

Actor | Mitchell

Merlin Olsen was born on September 15, 1940 in Logan, Utah, USA. He was an actor, known for Mitchell (1975), Fathers and Sons (1986) and Little House on the Prairie (1974). He was married to Susan Wakely. He died on March 11, 2010 in Duarte, California, USA.

Pretending to be a priest to HELP children, now that is creativity.

19. Roosevelt Grier

Soundtrack | Half Nelson

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. (1964), The Wild Wild West (1965) and I Dream of Jeannie (1965).

Grier received positive reviews for his ...

His ability to change himself into an aged, white doctor was awe inspiring.

20. Ed Marinaro

Actor | Hill Street Blues

Ed Marinaro was born on March 31, 1950 in New York City, New York, USA as Edward Francis Marinaro. He is an actor, known for Hill Street Blues (1981), Dynasty (1981) and Amy Fisher: My Story (1992). He has been married to Tracy York since December 31, 2001. They have one child.

21. Jim Thorpe

Writer | Jim Thorpe -- All-American

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 ...

22. Hulk Hogan

Actor | No Holds Barred

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 ...

23. Dennis Rodman

Actor | Double Team

Dennis Rodman was born on May 13, 1961 in Trenton, New Jersey, USA as Dennis Keith Rodman. He is an actor, known for Double Team (1997), Simon Sez (1999) and Eddie (1996). He was previously married to Michelle Moyer, Carmen Electra and Annie Bakes.

24. Sonny Bono

Soundtrack | The Sonny and Cher Show

Sonny Bono was born on February 16, 1935 in Detroit, Michigan, USA as Salvatore Philip Bono. He was married to Mary Bono, Susie Coelho, Cher and Donna Rankin. He died on January 5, 1998 in South Lake Tahoe, California, USA.

25. Johnny Weissmuller

Actor | Tarzan the Ape Man

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 ...

26. Chuck Connors

Actor | Soylent Green

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 ...

27. 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...

28. 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 ...

29. Jason Statham

Actor | Crank

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 ...

30. Terry Crews

Actor | Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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 ...

31. Steve Garvey

Actor | Ice Cream Man

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 ...

32. Joe Namath

Actor | C.C. & Company

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. ...

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.

33. Buster Crabbe

Actor | Flash Gordon

Buster Crabbe graduated from the University of Southern California. In 1931, while working on That's My Boy (1932) for Columbia Pictures, he was tested by MGM for Tarzan and rejected. Paramount Pictures put him in King of the Jungle (1933) as Kaspa, the Lion Man (after a book of that title but ...

34. Caitlyn Jenner

Actress | Can't Stop the Music

Caitlyn Jenner was born on October 28, 1949 in Mount Kisco, New York, USA as William Bruce Jenner. She is an actress and producer, known for Can't Stop the Music (1980), Jack and Jill (2011) and The Hungover Games (2014). She was previously married to Kris Jenner, Linda Thompson and Chrystie Jenner.

If only he had stayed a terrible actor, the world would be a better place.

35. Sonja Henie

Actress | The Countess of Monte Cristo

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...

36. Tony Danza

Actor | Don Jon

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....

37. Randall 'Tex' Cobb

Actor | Raising Arizona

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...