Few stories in sports make bigger headlines each year than the sudden emergence of a bona fide superstar—a man or woman who storms onto the scene and makes us wonder if it’s the start of something special or simply a flash in the pan.
These are the grizzled pros, like former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, who did their time in goofy-named leagues with team uniforms that look like they were defined by Jamz; or an outside-the-mold underdog who gave little reason to believe they’re capable of a historic, game-changing performance.
Every draft pick, every recruit, every prospect, every athlete—no matter how talented—is a risk, especially when it comes to meeting expectations in live competition. The sports graveyard is littered with the tombstones of promising careers that died before they ever truly begun.
If JaMarcus Russell played like Peyton Manning, it would not have been a shocker—he has all the ability in the world. Now, if JaMarcus Russell defies reality and returns to the field in the near future and makes the Pro Bowl, that would make jaws drop.
Fans love a success story even more than they love a tragic parable. These are the 25 athletes who came out of nowhere in 2012.