20 Facts About Athletes You Literally Will Not Believe

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2014

20 Facts About Athletes You Literally Will Not Believe

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    So you think you know your favorite athlete better than anyone else, huh?

    While I don't doubt your knowledge, there are always new things that someone can learn—and not just the amount of money most of these people make.

    They say you learn something new every day, and I've got some nuggets of info that you just might not believe.

Rob Bironas

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Fact: He holds the NFL record for most field goals made in a game at eight.

    NFL kickers are usually an afterthought, so I figured I'd buck the trend by giving some love to recently released Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas.

    While Bironas may be without a club right now, I doubt he'll be searching for a gig for too long, given the fact that he has had a successful career up to this point.

    His best day in the NFL came on October 21, 2007, when Bironas made eight field goals, including the game winner against the Houston Texans.

    If he was on your fantasy team that year, I doubt he ever rode the bench again.

Kurt Warner

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Fact: When dining out, he anonymously pays for another table's dinner.

    Talk about a nice guy.

    The former NFL quarterback and current analyst may not be dishing out touchdown passes any longer, but he doesn't mind tossing his credit card around for a table of strangers each time he goes out to eat with his family.

    That's right, Warner's such a good dude that he will tell the waiter or waitress to put another customer's bill on his tab.

Kevin Garnett

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Fact: He didn't celebrate Christmas or Halloween until he turned 19.

    Although Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett seems intense and super focused all the time, ditching out on Christmas and Halloween until he was 19 years old wasn't because he just didn't care.

    It was actually because his mom was a Jehovah’s Witness, and for that reason, "KG" had to wait until after he was already in the NBA before celebrating Christmas for the first time ever.

    Perhaps being kept from the days when kids get spoiled the most helped fuel his fire.

Jim Abbott

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    Fact: He threw a no-hitter—even though he only had one hand.

    I remember this one pretty vividly, being a Cleveland Indians fan in the third grade and watching this game on TV.

    It was 1993, and then New York Yankees pitcher Jim Abbott—who managed to play 10 seasons in the big leagues despite his impairment—didn't just toss a gem against my Indians, but he no-hit them to accomplish one of the most incredible feats ever seen.

    A no-no is hard enough without having to put your glove on between the pitch and the swing. Every time.

Matt Hasselbeck

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Fact: He has been struck by lightning—twice.

    The odds of being struck by a bolt of lightning aren't too great—although still better than your chances of winning Warren Buffett's billion dollars for this year's March Madness.

    Still, that hasn't prevented longtime NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck from being hit by lightning not once, but twice.

    Talk about some good luck. If only he had won that Super Bowl.

Pau Gasol

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Fact: He went to med school before playing in the NBA.

    L.A. Lakers forward Pau Gasol may be getting older, but he's enjoyed a fine career that has seen him go to four All-Star Games and win two NBA titles.

    But it might have never been, as his precision passing and shooting could have been applied to a career as a doctor, as Pau actually dropped out of med school before coming to the States to pursue his hardwood dreams.

Green Bay Packers

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Fact: The 'G' on the team's helmet stands for greatness, not Green Bay.

    This one is indirectly related to some of your favorite athletes—and I actually found it pretty cool—so I just had to add it.

    While most probably believe that the 'G' on the side of the Green Bay Packers' helmets stands for the city in which they play, it was intended by former equipment manager George Braisher to stand for greatness when first created in 1961.

    As the most successful team in league history, maybe it's not a G at all.

    Contrary to popular belief, the 'C' on the division rival Chicago Bears' helmets does not stand for choke—though some may think that.

Baseball in the 1980s

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    Associated Press

    Fact: Some players slid head first into bases, for totally different reasons than they do now. 

    All this talk about steroids in sports is good and all, but what about players using cocaine during games?

    That's what seven-time MLB All-Star and three-time World Series champ Tim Raines allegedly admitted doing from time to time, opting to slide into bases head first to avoid breaking coke vials.

    Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

Manon Rheaume

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Fact: She became the first and only woman to play in an NHL game.

    It may have just been an exhibition game, but back in 1992, former goaltender Manon Rheaume became the first and only woman to suit up for an NHL team, doing so for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the St. Louis Blues.

    Playing just one period, she saved seven of nine shots, and left with the score tied at two.

    She later won a silver medal with her home country, Canada, minding the net during the '98 Winter Olympics.

LeBron James

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Fact: His football career ended because of a broken wrist.

    While most of us know that four-time NBA MVP LeBron James has always loved the sport of football—and was an All-Ohio receiver in high school—many don't actually know why he quit putting on the pads and helmet.

    Was it to avoid injury? Did he just love basketball too much? Was it too tough playing both sports?

    Nope, it was actually because he broke his non-shooting wrist during a summer league hoops game, preventing him from playing football his senior season at St. Vincent-St. Mary's.

Eli Manning

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    Frank Micelotta/Associated Press

    Fact: His birth name is actually Elisha.

    A two-time Super Bowl champion and game MVP, there won't be too many sports fans who confuse New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning to be a girl.

    Still, that doesn't mean the name on his birth certificate doesn't resemble that of a lady, as the name reads 'Elisha," meaning he shares a first name with model/actress Elisha Cuthbert.

    It's probably a good thing that he shortened it to Eli.

Jason Varitek

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Fact: He's the only person to play in the Little League World Series, the College World Series, MLB's World Series, the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.

    One of the best leaders in Boston Red Sox history, former catcher Jason Varitek proved that he was also a winner—as he left the game with two World Series rings.

    But even before that, he showed that he was quite the player. He's the only guy to appear in a slew of baseball tournaments including the Little League World Series, the College World Series, the MLB World Series, the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.

Adrian Peterson

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Fact: He only played two years of high school football.

    Adrian Peterson might be the best running back on the planet, but don't think that he perfected the gift he has with years of playing.

    In fact, while "AD" had always been a freak athlete and showed interest in playing on the gridiron, he only played high school football in his junior and senior years—as he was ineligible his sophomore year.

    I'd say he has more than made up for lost time, though, becoming the best at what he does.

Peyton Manning

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Fact: He isn't the only Peyton Manning in Denver.

    While most of us know everything about Peyton Manning—including the fact that he initially backed up former Colorado Rockies All-Star Todd Helton in college at Tennessee—I'm guessing there aren't too many fans who know that he isn't the only person in Denver with the name Peyton Manning.

    That's right, just three days before the Broncos quarterback started his first career NFL game, a kid was born in Denver who was named the exact same thing.

    In fact, because of the name-sharing, the younger Peyton couldn't get a Facebook account.

Yasiel Puig

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Fact: He was signed before even being scouted during an actual game.

    For all the talk about how difficult of a "science" pro teams have when scouting and evaluating a player, it seems the L.A. Dodgers don't put much weight on it, instead going with their gut.

    At least that's what the team proved when they inked star outfielder Yasiel Puig, needing just the pop off of his bat in batting practice to convince them he was worth signing to a deal, never actually seeing him in a live game.

    Puig is a bit malcontent, but he's also quite the talent, so the risk has paid off so far.

Paul Pierce

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Fact: He was stabbed 11 times in the neck, face and back and didn't miss a single game during the 2000-01 NBA season.

    If there's one thing no one should ever do when talking about current Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, it's to question his toughness.

    That's because, following an altercation at a nightclub back in September of 2000, Pierce overcame multiple stabbings just a month before the season began. He didn't miss a game the entire season and actually averaged over 25 points per game.

Deion Sanders

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Fact: He's the only person to ever play in a World Series and a Super Bowl.

    We all know that NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders was one hell of an athlete, earning All-American honors twice while in college at Florida State and becoming a pro football and baseball player.

    But "Neon Deion" was actually the only person to ever play in both a Super Bowl and World Series, making it to the Fall Classic with the Atlanta Braves in 1992 and then a few Super Bowls with both the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.

    If that's not enough, Deion is also the only athlete to have hit a homer and score a NFL touchdown in the same week—proving he was quite the rare specimen.

Pete Maravich

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    Fact: He predicted his future.

    Every once in awhile, I'll say something that I don't think too much about, but somehow, it actually ends up coming true.

    For NBA Hall of Famer Pete Maravich, he did the same thing—though he probably would have preferred to be wrong.

    That's because he was quoted as saying early in his career that he didn't, "want to play 10 years in the NBA and die of a heart attack at 40.”

    It's really ironic—and scary—because that's exactly what happened to "Pistol Pete."

Aaron Rodgers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Fact: He almost quit football after high school.

    Go ahead and count your lucky blessings, Green Bay Packers fans.

    That's because your former league MVP and Super Bowl winning quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, nearly walked away from the game of football following high school.

    After receiving just one D-I scholarship—from the University of Illinois, which he turned down—Rodgers had a tough time thinking football was the right path for him, thinking he'd go to college and become a lawyer.

    Luckily he stuck with it, going to Butte Community College for a year before ending up at Cal, where he eventually became a first-round pick.

Muhammad Ali

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    Fact: He saved a man's life.

    Muhammad Ali might have been one of the baddest men to ever step into a boxing ring, but he has left quite the impact on millions of people around the world for his work outside of it.

    And back in 1981, Ali's impact was felt by a man who was planning on committing suicide, eventually being talked down from the ninth floor of an L.A. building by the former heavyweight champ after a tense 15 minutes.

    Maybe Ali missed his calling.