10 Current NFL Stars Who Were Also Taken in the MLB Draft
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (Tony Farlow/AP Images)
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The 2013 NFL draft begins on Thursday, and while the sports world will turn its attention away from the baseball diamond for the next three days, the NFL draft is not without its ties to MLB.
There have been a number of notable NFL players who have also been selected in the MLB draft and some who have even spent time playing professional baseball before their NFL careers took off.
With that, here is a look at the 10 current NFL stars who were also selected in the MLB draft at some point in their pro sports careers.
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Drafted: 2001, 12th Round, Los Angeles Dodgers
A stud running back at Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas on the gridiron, Cedric Benson was also the starting center fielder for the baseball team. He hit .361 with four home runs and 14 RBI in district play during his senior year.
The Dodgers took him in the 12th round, and he signed and reported to their Rookie League club. In nine games that season, he went 5-for-25 with an .892 OPS and two steals.
After that, he gave up baseball to focus on his football career, and he went on to run for 5,540 yards and 64 touchdowns as a four-year starter in the Texas backfield.
The Chicago Bears took him with the fourth pick in the 2005 NFL draft, and he has rushed for 6,017 yards and 32 TDs in eight big league seasons.
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Drafted: 2006, 40th Round, Los Angeles Angels; 2009, 10th Round, Los Angeles Angels
"If he committed himself to baseball, he could be a Hall of Famer," was what one anonymous scout told Baseball America (h/t Grading on the Curve).
"Scouts believe if he concentrated on baseball, he could be like a speedier Matt Holliday," read Baseball America's 2009 draft report on Jake Locker.
In the end, though, Locker was always a football player and never had any real interest in pursuing a baseball career.
He signed with the Angels after being taken in the 2009 draft, receiving a $250,000 signing bonus, but in the end he never took the field for them.
The Tennessee Titans took him with the No. 8 pick in the 2011 draft, and he took over as the starter midway through last season, eclipsing veteran Matt Hasselbeck on the depth chart.
He threw for 2,176 yards and 10 TDs in 11 starts but also threw 11 interceptions, and the 2013 season will be an important one for him locking down his status as a franchise quarterback. Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpartick was added in free agency as a backup option and to push Locker.
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Drafted: 2007, 42nd Round, Arizona Diamondbacks; 2010, 50th Round, San Francisco Giants
After a standout baseball and football career at Pope John Paul II High School in Tennessee, Golden Tate took his talents to Notre Dame, where he played both sports.
He caught just six passes his freshman year, but he had 58 receptions for 1,080 yards and 10 TDs as a sophomore and then 93 catches for 1,496 yards and 15 TDs as a junior before being taken in the second round of the 2010 draft.
Had he not opted to focus on football, he very well could have had a pro baseball career ahead of him. After going 11-for-42 in limited action as a freshman, he stepped into an everyday role as a sophomore and hit .329/.399/.414 with 13 steals over 222 at-bats.
That was his last season on the diamond, but rightfully so, as he enjoyed a breakout season for Seattle in 2012 with 45 catches for 688 yards and seven TDs.
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Drafted: 2002, Second Round, New York Yankees
An all-state football and baseball player in high school, Brandon Weeden was taken in the second round by the Yankees in the 2002 draft as a pitcher.
He was traded to the Dodgers prior to the 2004 season, along with Jeff Weaver and Yhency Brazoban, for Kevin Brown, but he never advanced beyond High-A.
All told, he went 19-26 with a 5.02 ERA and 8.3 K/9 in 108 appearances (65 starts) before hanging it up in 2007 and enrolling at Oklahoma State to play football.
He redshirted his first year and played in just four games over the next two years before taking over as the Cowboys starter in 2010. In his two years as the starter, he threw for a combined 9,004 yards and 71 TDs before being selected in the first round last year.
He's already 29, so his NFL career may not be a long one, but as of now, he's slated to be the starter for the upcoming season.
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Drafted: 2004, 36th Round, Oakland Athletics
Despite the fact that he spent his entire college career at USC backing up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, the New England Patriots drafted Matt Cassel in the seventh round on the strength of his pro day performance.
After spending his first three seasons on the bench, he got his chance in 2008 when Tom Brady went down with a season-ending injury in the first game of the season, and he went on to throw for 3,693 yards and 21 TDs.
He was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs the following season, where he spent the past three years, before being released this offseason and signing with the Minnesota Vikings.
His baseball career stretches all the way back to Little League, where he was the starting first baseman for the Northridge team that reached the 1994 Little League World Series finals.
He played baseball in high school but didn't play in college until his senior season. That year, he made eight appearances for the Trojans, going 0-1 with a 9.35 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 8.2 innings of work. On potential alone, the Oakland A's took him in the late rounds, and had he not been drafted in the NFL, it would have been interesting to see if he would have pursued baseball.
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Drafted: 2008, 39th Round, Milwaukee Brewers; 2009, 27th Round, Minnesota Twins
Denver Broncos receiver Eric Decker enjoyed a breakout season last year, thanks in part to the addition of Peyton Manning at quarterback, as he caught 85 passes for 1,064 yards and 13 TDs in his third pro season.
Prior to being taken in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft, he was a prolific pass catcher at the University of Minnesota, where he also played outfield for the baseball team in 2008 and 2009.
In 2008, he played in 54 games and hit .329/.439/.478 with three home runs, 28 RBI and nine steals. The following season, he played in 56 games and hit .319/.381/.465 with four home runs, 25 RBI and 11 steals.
He was drafted twice but never saw any minor league action, and now the 26-year-old is one of the premier receivers in the game today and only getting better.
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Drafted: 2007—41st Round, Baltimore Orioles; 2010—Fourth Round, Colorado Rockies
Russell Wilson slipped to the third round in last year's NFL draft largely because he was undersized, but he proved his doubters wrong, throwing for 3,118 yards and 26 TDs to help lead the Seahawks to the playoffs.
Before deciding to focus on football full time, he was a solid two-sport athlete at NC State where he played second base and was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Rockies.
In 2010, he hit .230/.336/.377 with two home runs in Low-A, and the following season he hit .228/.366/.342 with three home runs and 15 steals at the Single-A level before informing the Rockies he'd be focusing on his football career.
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Drafted: 2009—43rd Round, Chicago Cubs
Colin Kaepernick took over starting quarterback duties in San Francisco last season when Alex Smith was shelved with a concussion, and he wound up leading the team to the Super Bowl as one of the breakout stars of 2012.
As bright as his NFL future now appears, it was baseball that appeared to be his calling in high school when he was a two-time, all-state pitcher.
As a junior, the went 6-4 with a 1.54 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 63.2 innings. He was even better as a senior, going 9-2 with a 1.27 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 83 innings, using a 90-plus mile per hour fastball to throw a pair of no-hitters (h/t Max Preps).
He turned down a number of baseball scholarships to take a football scholarship at Nevada, the only one he received to continue his career on the gridiron, and he went on to be a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
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Drafted: 2000—30th Round, Colorado Rockies
Despite not playing baseball since eighth grade, the Rockies selected Michael Vick following his Heisman Trophy-winning season at Virginia Tech.
"When you can run like him, our feeling was he could cover some ground for us in the outfield. I didn't think it was a major investment at that point (30th pick). If it didn't work out, we could take a chance. Michael Jordan tried (baseball). Maybe he might want to make a run at it," said Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt (h/t CNNSI).
He obviously didn't sign and went on to be taken with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
His career his been a rocky one, as he spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons in prison on dog fighting charges, but he's become an impressive story of redemption in Philadelphia.
He's as dynamic a threat as the quarterback position has ever seen. In 10 NFL seasons, he's thrown for 20,274 yards and 123 TDs and rushed for 5,551 yards and 34 TDs.
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Drafted: 1995—18th Round, Montreal Expos
Prior to heading to the University of Michigan to play quarterback, Tom Brady was selected by the Montreal Expos out of high school as a catcher.
In his two varsity seasons, Brady hit .311 with eight home runs, 11 doubles and 44 RBI in 61 games, and as a senior he was named All-League catcher (h/t The Globe and Mail).
For all the potential he had on the baseball diamond, there is little question he made the right choice, as he'll go down as one of the greatest quarterback of all time.
He's a three-time Super Bowl champ, two-time AP MVP and has thrown for 44,806 yards and 334 touchdowns over his 13 seasons with the Patriots.