Athletes Who Are Stronger Than They Look

Matt Haupert@@matthaupFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2014

Athletes Who Are Stronger Than They Look

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    Richard Rowe/Getty Images

    Here's to the little guys.

    The ones who stand a full two feet shorter than their teammates. The ones who are too scrawny to bench even the minimum weight at the NBA combine. The ones who are laughed at more often than they're feared.

    Sports leagues are full of giants—superhuman men and women who seem to pack in hundreds of pounds of muscle and stand several miles tall, therefore able to destroy any opponents that stand in their way.

    However, sports leagues are also full of little guys—normal sized humans with abnormal abilities, tiny people that may look too weak to ever be a threat but could easily knock you out in a single blow.

    It's high time we bring some recognition to those athletes that are a whole lot stronger than anyone gives them credit for.

    This list is dedicated to the players who hit harder, fight harder and can lift more than their small frames suggest.

    After all, as the old proverb says, it's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters.

    It's the size of the fight in the dog.


Pat McAfee

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    Don't let anybody tell you that kickers can't hit.

    Often considered the weaklings of the NFL—even the "non-athletes" of the league—nobody ever really expects kickers to get down and dirty or do anything particularly physical.

    Colts kicker Pat McAfee did his best to change this perception last fall in a game against the Denver Broncos when he laid a monster hit on Denver return man Trindon Holliday to save a potential touchdown.

    The crowd went wild, and McAfee enjoyed a little bit of sudden fame—as well as a little bit of suspicion.

    The day after the hit, McAfee was selected for a random drug test—but he didn't seem to think it was quite so "random":

    Guys... Make one random tackle... And end up on a "Random" steroid test.. Must be my bod #UpperBodyOfAnAdolescent

    — Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 21, 2013

    In case you were wondering, McAfee passed, much to the terror of everyone else in the NFL.

Brett Kern

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    Joe Howell/Associated Press

    Another special teams player who doesn't get the respect he might deserve, Titans punter Brett Kern had his strength put to the test when quarterback Charlie Whitehurst joined the team this past March.

    Whitehurst had spent his entire career wearing No. 6, which was already occupied by Kern in Tennessee. Naturally, Whitehurst made an attempt to win the number for himself in a way that was impossible to lose—challenging Kern to an arm wrestling match.

    I mean, come on. Nobody loses an arm wrestling match to a punter, right?

    Nobody, that is, except Charlie Whitehurst, who has really mastered the art of failure in his first few years in the NFL.

    Kern won the match, proving once and for all that strong-armed quarterbacks are no match for strong-willed punters.

    Update: About a week later, it was revealed that the arm wrestling story was, in fact, a hoax. We'll take this as an even greater testament to Kern's strength.

    Whitehurst didn't lose to the punter—rather, he chickened out before even taking a chance.

Om Yun-Chol

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    North Korean weight lifter Om Yun-Chol doesn't look much different than your average gym rat.

    Scratch that—Om Yun-Chol actually looks a lot smaller than your average gym rat.

    The 22-year old stands at 5'0" and weights only 123 pounds. He's a tiny little man whose muscles are defined enough to impress you but are nowhere near big enough to intimidate you.

    And then you see what he does in the video above and learn that at the 2012 London Olympics, he took home the gold by breaking a world record and lifting three times his body weight in the clean jerk.

    And just like that, his very face is suddenly enough to make you want to run into a corner and hide. 

Kazuto Ioka

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    Japanese boxer Kazuto Ioka sort of looks like that scrawny kid from your high school who was too small to try out for the football team and desperately needed a few protein shakes.

    Watch him box, and your perception will change entirely.

    Even when going up against fighters in his own weight class, Ioka always looks like an underdog. His arms are lean and his torso just looks grossly underfed.

    What Ioka lacks in physical build, however, he makes up for in quickness, agility, intensity and an enormous hidden supply of strength. Say what you will about his small frame, but there's a good reason this man became a world champ in two divisions before his 25th birthday.

    To those who write him off: Beware.

Tuukka Rask

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    Standing at 6'2" but weighing only 185 pounds, Bostin Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is the lightest goalie in the entire NHL.

    Rask does not, however, let the fact that he is undersized prevent him from being one of the most aggressive—albeit temperamental—players in the league.

    In fact, there are few things more fun to watch in the NHL than Tuukka "Tantrum" Rask get really, really mad.

    He's punched guys in the net.

    He's tried to break his stick in anger—and failed gloriously.

    In an attempt to demonstrate a more successful bout of strength by the slender goalie, the video above shows him destroying none other than his water bottle.

    Sure, water bottles aren't necessarily that difficult to break, but he really makes himself the boss of that thing!

    Maybe not as impressive as if he had successfully snapped his stick in half, but we'll show him a little love nevertheless.

Muggsy Bogues

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    This slide takes a little detour from the norm.

    I have no reason to tell you that former NBA point guard Muggsy Bogues is technically any stronger than he looks. But he's certainly a more impressive athlete than you could ever possibly imagine looking at his miniscule frame.

    No 5'3" man has any business playing in the NBA, let alone actually making an impact on a team. When Bogues entered the league in 1987 at that very height, he was the shortest player in NBA history.

    He never let that stop him.

    Bogues managed to block 39 shots throughout his lengthy career, with a high of seven in the 1988-1989 season.

    Standing out above them all, Bogues once blocked a shot by future Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, who stands at 7'0", nearly two feet taller than old Muggsy.

    Never doubt a little man with a big heart.

Andrew McCutchen

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    Andrew McCutchen does not look like a big guy.

    Though he is generously listed at a pretty normal 188 pounds, McCutchen has the build of a string bean—long, slender and much closer to "scrawny" than "jacked."

    Looking at him, it's easy to picture a speedy outfielder who can scrap together base hits and steal a ton of bases. Never in a million years would you guess the guy has any power.

    And yet, McCutchen has plenty of power—in fact, he's got tons of it.

    After smashing at least 20 home runs in each of the past three seasons, it turns out McCutchen is a skinny monster, just as capable of hitting it out of the park as he is of running between the bases.

Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira

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    Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira fits in this list for a completely different reason than the aforementioned skinny guys.

    Beast is huge—hence the nickname—and there is no question at all that he is obscenely strong.

    And yet, when you watch what he does in the video above, your jaw drops and you think, "Okay, I didn't realize anyone on earth was that strong."

    Beast twice reaches his arms into the air to catch a flailing teammate above his head and slowly bring him back down to safety. The whole feat looks simply unreasonable for a mortal human being to accomplish, and yet Beast does it with a casual ease—twice.

    Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira looks strong, alright.

    Somehow, though, he is even stronger that he looks.

Adrian Peterson

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    Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson falls nicely into the Tendai Mtawarira category of athletes who look ridiculously strong and prove that they're even stronger.

    Take this touchdown run against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, for example.

    Peterson gets down to about the 4-yard line when the barrage of defenders comes piling in.

    The first one somehow bounces right off and falls dramatically to the ground, like a wimpy villain from a cartoon movie. Then, three more defenders come to make the stop. All pile onto him, and Peterson seems to disappear...

    ...Only to emerge in the end zone a few seconds later.

    Look, I already knew AP was strong.

    I did not, however, realize that he was able to do that.

Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant has a chip on his shoulder.

    When he was at the NBA combine in 2007, he was the only player unable to bench even the minimum weight of 185 pounds.

    A laughingstock! A joke! A surefire NBA bust!

    Nobody took the skinny fellow seriously, and many doubted that he'd ever be able to translate his impressive skill set to the pros.

    Obviously, Durant has proved any basketball doubters wrong, especially after being awarded the NBA MVP this past season.

    As far as the muscle goes, Durant doesn't really look like he's bulked up a whole lot.

    In the video above, however, he proves to the world that he's put in some work since that fateful combine so many years ago.

    Once unable to bench 185, Durant cleanly lifts 315.

    Between the MVP award and the 130-pound increase on the bench press, it's safe to say that KD got the last laugh.


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