Top 10: Athletes Turned Actors

From first downs to first markers and high-intense action sports to hearing “Action” on set, numerous athletes throughout history have wet their feet in Hollywood after retiring from the sport they loved. While many have tried, only some have succeeded as legitimate actors in Hollywood, and right now no athlete is more successful of an actor than Dwayne Johnson, or more commonly known as ‘The Rock.’ Over the past decade, Johnson has combined his macho man looks with his rather humble personality and has delivered a handful of family films (The Game Plan, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) and action films (Fast and Furious 5) that have done extremely well at the box office. Though his latest Snitch may have not made a dent this weekend with only $13 million, the film still entertained and opened a lot higher than recent actioner duds that have plagued the box office. In honor of Snitch, as well as Johnson’s upcoming G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Pain and Gain, and Fast 6, we decided it would be a good idea to list ten athletes who also found success off the playing field and in the studio:

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Name: Andre the Giant
Sport: Professional Wrestler
After spending time in the professional wrestling scene, André the Giant branched out into acting in the 70s and 80s, making his famous USA debut as a Sasquatch in the television series The Six Million Dollar Man. From there, André appeared in a number of other television shows. Toward the end of his career, he appeared in many films, most notably as Fezzik in the 1987 film The Princess Bride.
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Name: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Sport: Weight Training
Schwarzenegger started weight training at the age of 15 and became one of the most successful bodybuilders, winning Mr. Universe at the pro level three years in a row. He wanted to move from bodybuilding to acting for several years and got his chance when he was chosen to play the part of Hercules in 1970’s Hercules in New York. From there, his acting career skyrocketed, starring in films such as Conan the Barbarian, Predator, and, most notably, The Terminator series, becoming one of the most influential action stars of all time.
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Name: Bob Uecker
Sport: Baseball
Referred to as Mr. Baseball, Uecker played catcher for the Braves for his entire 6-year career, with the highlight being his almost perfect fielding percentage. After retirement, Uecker returned to baseball through sports broadcasting, which, ironically enough, influenced his only major role in film as Harry Doyle, the sportscaster for the Cleveland Indians in the very successful Major League and its sequel.
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Name: Carl Weathers
Sport: Football
Weather’s played linebacker throughout his entire football career and eventually landed himself on the Oakland Raiders for a total of 8 games. After a brief career in the NFL, he retired and became an actor, landing his first jobs in Blaxploitation films. From there, his career sparked, landing notable parts like Apollo Creed in the Rocky series, Dillon in Predator, and the character of Chubbs in Adam Sandler’s comedies Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky. While he had a successful film career, many would say his best performance was his hilarious send up of himself on the great Arrested Development, where he’ll be returning when the new season starts on Netflix in May.
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Name: Dwayne Johnson
Sport: Professional Wrestling
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson started his professional wrestling career in 1996 after being cut from the CFL. After eight years, he had held the WWE championship belt 17 times and was arguably considered one of the best professional wrestlers of all time. Since then, Johnson has become a wildly successful film star, from his first starring role in The Scorpion King to films like Walking Tall, The Other Guys, and Fast Five.
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Name: Ed Marinaro
Sport: Football
Marinaro, after an amazing college football career at Cornell University (where he was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1971), went on to play 6 seasons as running back for various teams. After leaving football, Marinaro went on to become an actor and found his success in television. He was cast on a number of television series, including Laverne & Shirley and Sisters, and had a gig appearing in the 2006 film, Circus Island.
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Name: Fred Williamson
Sport: Football
After playing defensive back for Northwestern, Williamson was signed as an undrafted free agent to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was given the nickname “The Hammer” for playing with too much aggression. After a couple of trades, Williamson quit football and pursued an acting career, appearing mostly in Blaxploitation films like Black Cesear and Boss Nigger. On top of this, Williamson spent much time behind the camera as well; he has directed 20 films to date.
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Name: Lou Ferrigno
Sport: Bodybuilding
Ferrigno started his weight training at the age of 13 and began competing right after high school, winning his first major titles, IFBB Mr. America and IFBB Mr. Universe, four years later. After a successful career as a bodybuilder, Ferrigno left bodybuilding in order to pursue acting. Although he is mostly known for playing the titular role in The Incredible Hulk television series, he also starred in action films like Hercules, Cage, and Liberty & Bash. More recently, Ferrigno was seen sending up his own Hulk-image in a cameo role in the Judd Apatow produced I Love You, Man.
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Name: Jason Lee
Sport: Skateboarding
Lee was a prominent professional skateboarder in the early 1900s and co-founded his own skating company, Stereo Skateboards, in 1992. After taking some minor acting roles, he decided to leave skateboarding to follow acting full-time. Lee’s first major role was in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, and from there he diversified his portfolio, staring in films ranging from Vanilla Sky to Alvin and the Chipmunks, as well as starring in the very popular television show My Name Is Earl.
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Name: Merlin Olsen
Sport: Football
Easily the most prosperous sports career out of all, Merlin Olson spent 14 years as defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, where he accumulated 14 Pro Bowl selections and a career 94 sacks. Olsen went into broadcasting after retiring from football and years later tried his hand at acting. Olsen played Jonathan Garvey for several years on the very successful program Little House on the Prairie and as the eponymous Father Murphy.
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So those are some of our most notable athletes turned actors. Can you think of any others? And are you going to see Snitch?

Article by Nick Franco

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