Celebs Who Were Amazing Athletes

Sep 16, 2021James Montalvo

They're some of today's biggest names in the entertainment industry, but before they were famous actors or entertainers, they were top-class athletes. Yes, this time we're talking about stars you know and love today that were once great athletes in their past lives. Read on to be surprised by the sheer athletic talent these great celebs have!

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FOREST WHITAKER

Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his role in "The Last King of Scotland." Apart from that, he's also famous for playing the only Star Wars characters from the animated series to make into the films. He's been part of blockbusters like "Black Panther," "Vantage Point," and "Bird." But his life could've turned out much differently. 

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FROM BALLER TO SHOTCALLER

From high school all the way to college, Forest Whitaker played football. He was so good that he even earned himself an athletic scholarship to California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Unfortunately, or fortunately for Whitaker, a back injury pushed him to transfer over to the University of Southern California on a music scholarship. The rest is history.

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DWAYNE 'THE ROCK' JOHNSON

'The Rock' is definitely a far cry from the level of celebrity he was in back when he was part of the WWE. The towering Dwayne Johnson hasn't just turned into a great actor; he has twice become the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. That shouldn't surprise us given the countless blockbuster films his in every year. He's also twice lived the life of an athlete.

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HE'S THE ROCK FOR A REASON

With his 6'5 and extremely wide and muscular build, it's obvious that DJ was a football player. As a matter of fact, he was a defensive lineman for the University of Miami, which meant he used his size and power to intimidate his opponents. An injury took the football away, but it introduced him to a path to the WWE as a professional wrestler, one of the greatest of all time.

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CHUCK NORRIS

For all the silly and outlandish jokes or memes about the great Chuck Norris, there is some truth to why they say he's such a badass. The man is a true action film and television legend. From fighting Bruce Lee in "The Way of the Dragon," to freeing POWs in "Missing In Action," to campy action jokes in the "Expendables 2", there's just no limit to his legend. Here's how it got started.

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FIGHTING WHILE SERVING

It all started when he was serving in the military overseas in Korea. There Chuck learned Tang Soo Do, earned a blackbelt, and competed. After his service ended, he started his own school and performed in exhibitions to attract students. This eventually led to the martial arts + filmmaking career that he is best known for. Got any Chuck Norris jokes?

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TERRY CREWS

One can say that there are only a few actors as charismatic, funny, loved by fans, and immensely buff as Terry Crews. The Brooklyn Nine-Nine funny man burst into the limelight after a couple of scene-stealing supporting role performances in "White Chicks" and "The Longest Yard." If you think he was once a struggling actor, think again. He was already living large before he hit the screens.

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HE WAS AT THE TOP LEVEL

While a majority of the celebs on this list make it here because they were athletes back in college or earlier, Crews is much different. He actually made it into the NFL and played for several teams. He was drafted into the league by the LA Rams and stayed in the league from 1991 to 1996. Then by the 2000s, he decided to pursue his dreams of acting. Thank goodness he did!

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WYATT RUSSEL

Now I know what you're thinking, who's this guy? You should be on the lookout for this talented young actor. Wyatt Russel is actually set to join the Marvel Cinematic Univers with a role as 'the US Agent' in the upcoming "Falcon and the Winter Soldier" Disney+ series. He's also been in "22 Jump Street", "Overlord," "Black Mirror," and AMC's "Lodge 49". Here's why Wyatt makes the list.

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DANGEROUS ON THE ICE

Before turning to act as his main profession, Wyatt Russel played hockey for several amateur and professional hockey teams. From 2003 all the way up until 2010, Russel played in leagues around the US, Canada, and even the Netherlands as a goalie. Despite showing a lot of promise, constant injuries took him off his path, but that's okay; his acting chops are making up for it.

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JON BERNTHAL

You either liked or hated him in "The Walking Dead" and you definitely loved him in Netflix's "The Punisher," Jon Bernthal has become one of the biggest names in both film and television today. The action star has had an interesting journey to fame and a unique one at that. Unlike most of the stars in Hollywood, he was trained in the Russian Theater, which is also where he made a side-living as a ballplayer.

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FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

While in Russia to hone his acting skills, Bernthal also delighted in the opportunity to live out a childhood dream. He grew up playing various sports, and while in Moscow, ended up playing in a semi-professional baseball team. He was in Russia for about two years, which is more time than most people in the world can say they played semi-pro. Good for him.

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BURT REYNOLDS 

The late great Burt Reynolds was famous for a ton of movies. From gunslinger westerns to high-octane racing movies, the star with a stash - mustache that is - was a beloved figure in Hollywood. The Oscar-nominated actor was famous for such films as "Smokey and the Bandit," "The Cannonball Run," "Boogie Nights," and the two "Longest Yard" films, which holds much significance for the late actor.

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HALF BACK AT FSU

Reynolds starred in "The Longest Yard" twice. He was in the original and the remake with Adam Sandler. The film is about inmates who play a game of football against their prison guards. As it turns out, Reynolds was a member of the Florida State University football team during his younger years. Unfortunately, a bunch of injuries sidelined him in his final two years of college. Good thing he fell in love with acting.

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VINNIE JONES

You'll recognize him as the Juggernaut from "X-Men: The Last Stand," or from his many tough-guy roles like in "Snatch," "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," and "Gone in 60 Seconds." Vinnie Jones is a staple of action flicks and British entertainment. Though before he was on our screens, he was on the football or soccer pitches first.

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PREMIER LEAGUE LEGEND

Jones wasn't just a soccer enthusiast; from 1984 to 1999, he played in the top flight of the British football league. The former defensive midfielder was a squad member of prestigious football clubs like Leeds United, Queen Park Rangers, Sheffield United, Chelsea FC, and AFC Wimbledon. He even won the FA Cup, one of British Football's most prestigious tournaments with Wimbledon. He even represented his country, Wales, in the national team on several occasions. 

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JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON

 Another name that you're probably not as familiar with is John David Washington's. He's actually the son of the Denzel Washington. Just like his father, he's beginning to carve out a solid career as an actor in Hollywood. He recently starred in Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman," and has a regular role on HBO's "Ballers." He's also set to star in Christopher Nolan's upcoming movie, "Tenent." Just like his dad, though, he also has a background in sports.

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MAKING IT TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL

With the success of a blockbuster movie actor career on the horizon, one would be surprised to find out that John David Washington made it into the NFL for a bit, and played football professionally. While playing at division II college, he flew under the radar. He went undrafted in 2006, played overseas in 2007, and then played for the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the UFL without boasting of his parents' lineage. Well, now he's got his won fame. Only time will tell how high his star rises.

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JASON SEGEL

His lovable, bubbly, and usually slightly dorky roles will definitely make you think anything other than the fact that Jason Segel was an athlete, but the truth is that he was. The "How I Met Your Mother" star has made a career for himself as a comedian and an actor. These days he's also plying his trade as a screenwriter, producer, and director on top of being a Hollywood actor.

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IT WAS THE HEIGHT ADVANTAGE FOR SURE

Standing at a towering 6-foot-4, which let's be honest, is super tall to the rest of us regular folk, is Segel. He was once a member of the Harvard-West Gate basketball team. He even earned the nickname of "Dr. Dunk" during his playing years. Not only that, but he also played alongside and as back-up to former NBA veteran Jason Collins. 

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BOBAN MARJANOVIC

Okay, this one is a little bit of entry. Unless you're a Detroit Pistons, LA Clippers, or Dallas Mavericks fan, you probably don't know the big Boban Marjanovic. He's still currently in the NBA, serving as a rotation player and backup center. He also recently ventured into the world of cinema with a brief role in "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" as one of the many assassins hunting Wick down.

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ONE OF THE TALLEST IN THE LEAGUE

Joining the list of basketball stars to get into acting like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Shaq, Kareem Abdul Jabar, and Ray Allen is Boban Majanovic. Still plying his trade for the Mavs, the 7'4 center is one of the tallest players in the league today. With the NBA restart in full-swing, you can definitely continue catching Boban shooting hoops and blocking some shots.

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Which of these stars' former athletic careers catch you by surprise? Do you know of any more former athletes that are currently tearing up Hollywood like a storm? Let us know in the comment section. For more great content like this, go check out Amomedia!

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