From the Mat to the Gridiron: NFL Stars Who Got Their Starts in Wrestling

Jerry MilaniContributor ISeptember 5, 2013

Curley Culp
Curley CulpKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A full slate of NFL games may make this Sunday the most anticipated day for many U.S. sports fans. But it's an even more important one for the millions of followers of wrestling—not the brand in which superstars John Cena and CM Punk ply their trade, though.

The global future of amateur wrestling is at stake. The International Olympic Committee will vote on the one sport among wrestling, baseball/softball and squash to return to the 2020 Olympics.

On the same day that football rooters are watching NFL stars battle it out in stadiums across America, the eyes of the wrestling community will be focused on Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the three sports will make their final pleas to the full committee prior to the vote.

But the Sunday coincidence isn't the only connection between wrestling and football.

In recognition of both events, USA Wrestling has named its All-Time NFL Honor Roll of former wrestlers who went on to football stardom. The organization has, in many ways, spearheaded the global effort to save the sport's spot (the IOC is also expected to decide Sunday on which city will host the 2020 Games).

It's a worthy list, which includes at least 12 Pro Football Hall of Famers. Curley Culp, a former Arizona State NCAA wrestling champion and Kansas City Chiefs DB, and Henry Jordan, a Green Bay Packer standout DT and former NCAA runner-up, headline the list. They starred at the highest levels of both sports.

Others, like the legendary Jim Thorpe, Mike Webster and Larry Csonka, wrestled in their youth but not on the collegiate level.

In all, USA Wrestling identified more than 50 All-Pro gridders and numerous other prominent stars with a background in the sport.

While a lot is made of collegiate wrestlers moving on to mixed martial arts after their careers, this list shows that football has also been a viable avenue.