20 Celebs Who Were 'Star' Athletes

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2013

20 Celebs Who Were 'Star' Athletes

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    We all know the celebs who can drop serious coin on front row tickets or take a role in a movie to act as an athlete, but what about the ones who actually have game?

    Before these entertainers got famous for doing whatever the hell they're famous for, they had notions of playing sports for a living.

    Here are the celebs who were star athletes before we knew anything about them.

2 Chainz

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    2 Chainz (Tauheed Epps) may run with a crew that involves rhyming with Kanye West and Nicki Minaj, but before doing all that, he was busy crossing people up at North Clayton High in Georgia.

    Matter of fact, after Penny Hardaway darted from Memphis for the Association in 1993, the University of Memphis was recruiting Epps to replace him at guard.

Mark Harmon

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    He’s been an actor for awhile now, but before his main role on NCIS, Mark Harmon was the starting quarterback for UCLA.

    In his two seasons as a starter, he led the Bruins to a 17-5 record, which included an upset win in 1972 over defending national champion Nebraska.

    With a resume like that, we wonder why he gave up on tossing the pigskin?

Jon Stewart

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    Jon Stewart might be best known for delivering us the news on The Daily Show each night, but while still in college at William & Mary, he was probably pretty good at delivering through-balls instead.

    Stewart gave up the pitch for comedy, but playing soccer at a prestigious school like William & Mary is no joke.

Avril Lavigne

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    Hailing from Canada, the steamy Lavigne was even better on ice than she was at singing—and that's saying something!

    With a song titled "Sk8er Boi," it makes you wonder if she was talking about someone wearing hockey pads and a mask—and about not a dude rolling around on a skateboard.

Forest Whitaker

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    While in high school and college, Forest Whitaker proved that he was pretty darn talented.

    Earning a scholarship to play football, he transferred to Southern Cal but gave up the sport after receiving two music scholarships.

    Ironically enough, he snagged his first role was as a football player in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Phil Robertson

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    For anyone who likes to hunt, Phil Robertson is probably a household name.

    But if you're unfamiliar with the guy, he's one of the star of A&E's Duck Dynasty, and when he wasn't tracking down game on reality TV, he was looking for his receivers on the football field as the quarterback for Louisiana Tech.

    With a beard fit for ZZ Top, it's a good thing he didn't rock that thing during his football days—we're not sure his chinstrap would have fit.

Joel McHale

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    Joel McHale may not have necessarily been a star, but while at the University of Washington, the actor, comedian and TV host was good enough to walk on at tight end for the football team.

    Being described by a teammate as, "good enough not to be remembered for how bad he was," it's obvious McHale made the right choice crossing over into a different form of entertainment.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

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    With wrestling and acting careers that have stretched over the past couple decades, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson's story as a former Miami Hurricane football player is pretty well known by sports fans.

    "The Rock" may not have been a star, but he was good enough to play for a college football powerhouse, so that's definitely saying something.

Sheryl Crow

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    Sheryl Crow may be known for belting out some notes, but before she got on the mic, Crow was an All-State high school track athlete in her home state of Missouri.

    Medaling in the 75-meter low hurdles, it's no wonder Crow found interest in former athlete Lance Armstrong—for better or worse.

Matthew Fox

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    When a player loses 44 straight games during a college athletics career, it has to be tough.

    Matthew Fox, though, was able to persevere and realize his passion wasn't in football, but in acting instead. 

    After suffering through a record of 2-38 while playing wide receiver for Columbia, Fox can't be blamed for taking a different career path.

George Clooney

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    Most guys want to be Clooney because he's quite the charmer of the ladies, as well being a hell of an actor.

    Before going the Hollywood route, though, Clooney had his eyes set on the baseball diamond, actually trying out for the Cincinnati Reds.

Ed O'Neill

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    Ed O'Neill is a funny guy who is best known for his roles as Al Bundy on Married...with Children and wise ass Jay Pritchett on Modern Family—where he has the luck of being married to Sofía Vergara.

    Before he got it in on-screen, though, he was a star football player in Youngstown, Ohio, earning a college scholarship and later a training camp invitation from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, before being cut.

Jason Sudeikis

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    Sudeikis is a funny guy who got pretty lucky by landing mega-hottie Olivia Wilde to run around town with, but don't think that he's all comedy and no game.

    He proved that while playing hoops for his high school team in Kansas, matching up against future college and even pro stars.

    So, yes, he can make you laugh and then laugh at you while humiliating you in a game of one-on-one.

Emma Watson

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    First off, Emma Watson is definitely underrated in the looks department.

    Second, before she got so hot on screen, she was actually a field hockey player—and a pretty darn good one at that—while attending college at Brown University.

Tom Selleck

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    When being rocked, Selleck's mustache is still one of the most epic things on the planet. I trust that it'd intimidate anyone by just looking at it.

    When Selleck wasn't grooming his stache, he was stroking his J on the basketball court. In the '60s, he earned a scholarship to Southern Cal, where he also juggled acting and modeling.

Carl Weathers

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    It's no wonder Carl Weathers looked like a beast as Apollo Creed in Rocky. After all, he was a pro football player—well, for eight games at least.

    Weathers played linebacker at San Diego State, then played under legendary coach John Madden for the Oakland Raiders before retiring and focusing on acting instead.

    With his performance as Chubbs in Happy Gilmore, we'd say he made the right career choice.

Elsa Hosk

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    While we personally think Elsa Hosk looks best strutting around as a Victoria's Secret model, there was a time she used those long legs for basketball.

    Hosk was so good that she actually played pro ball in her native Sweden before gracing the pages of everyone's favorite lingerie catalog.

Jason Lee

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    Though most people think of Jason Lee as just an indie actor who probably doesn't have an athletic bone in his body, back in his heyday, the dude had it!

    Lee was actually a pro skateboarder in the late-'80s and early '90s, founding the skate company Stereo and joining skating god Tony Hawk as the only other dude to have a signature skating shoe produced by Airwalk.

Denzel Washington

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    Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors of our generation, winning multiple awards for his performances, including two Oscars.

    Don't be fooled, though: Before he starred on the big screen, Denzel was straight hooping it before focusing on acting full-time.

    So his role as Jake Shuttlesworth alongside Ray Allen in He Got Game may not have really been acting at all...

Burt Reynolds

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    When Burt Reynolds was a star running back for Florida State—where he actually roomed with ESPN's Lee Corso—he probably didn't envision one of his best football performances coming in a movie entitled The Longest Yard.

    But after an unfortunate car crash ended his playing career, he went the way of Tinseltown, starring in flicks like Cop and a Half and Boogie Nights.

    One of those movies is actually a favorite of ours—we'll let you guess which one.