Athletes Who Looked Completely Different as Rookies

Amber LeeSports Lists Lead WriterSeptember 3, 2014

Athletes Who Looked Completely Different as Rookies

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    As the years pass, everyone (and everything) changeseven if it happens in varying degrees.

    Anyone who was conscious and alert through puberty understands this. And those of us on the wrong side of 30 get to relive the fun—except now, none of the changes are welcome.

    Despite the ravages of vodka martinis and the unrepentant arc of time, most people don't undergo some kind of radical metamorphosis.

    Rather, the battles are fought on the scale, our heads and the morning following a night without sleep. 

    So, picking the 19-year-old you from a photo spread of like-aged dudes might trigger a sense of regret, but rarely does it pose a serious challenge.

    For athletes who are at the pinnacle of their sports, these changes are documented for the world to see on team websites, season programs or any promotional material highlighting a roster.

    Without a doubt, athletes (like the rest of us) evolve over time—physically and in their personal style.

    But some clearly fall into the category of Whoa, that's him? when comparing their rookie-year looks with their present appearance.  

    These are athletes who looked completely different as rookies. 

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Ed Reed

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    MATT HOUSTON/Associated Press

    Photo Date: April 2002 

    Event: NFL draft

    After being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens out of the University of Miami, Ed Reed was rocking cornrows and a sweater vest when he was introduced to the Baltimore media. 

Grizzled Veteran: Ed Reed

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Photo Date: September 2013

    Event: Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens

    By the time his career was winding down with the Texans last season, Reed had a lot more hair and a lot more tattoos than he did a decade ago. And it’s really hard to imagine him in a sweater vest.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Mike Napoli

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Photo Date: February 2006

    Event: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo Day

    Mike Napoli was still sporting a little baby fat when he debuted for the Angels at age 24. He could pass for a teenager without the mild scruff, which we know has since blossomed. 

Grizzled Veteran: Mike Napoli

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Photo Date: March 2014

    Event: Boston Red Sox Photo Day 

    It’s been only eight years since the Red Sox catcher entered the league, but he’s barely recognizable with that epic beard. 

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Tim Duncan

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    LM OTERO/Associated Press

    Photo Date: June 1997

    Event: NBA draft 

    Tim Duncan looked like a little kid when he was drafted out of Vanderbilt by the San Antonio Spurs at age 21. 

Grizzled Veteran: Tim Duncan

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Photo Date: June 2014

    Event: NBA FinalsSan Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat

    Tim Duncan still has the moves in San Antonio, coming off the fifth championship of his career in June, although he’s lost his youthful glow. His hairline and trademark slump remain perfectly intact, though.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: CC Sabathia

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Photo Date: March 2002

    Event: Cleveland Indians Photo Day 

    A photo of then-Indians pitcher CC Sabathia in his rookie year was not available, but this one was taken just a few months later. He was just 22 at the time.

Grizzled Veteran: CC Sabathia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Photo Date: February 2014

    Event: New York Yankees Photo Day 

    Time has really altered the Yankees pitcher. Sabathia’s weight fluctuations over the years have also contributed to his drastic change in appearance.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Joe Namath

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    Associated Press

    Photo Date: June 1965

    Event: New York Jets Photo Day

    After three seasons at Alabama, Joe Namath was into both the AFL and NFL in 1965 at the age of 22. His boyish good looks and movie-star persona were a big hit in New York when he eventually signed with the Jets.

Grizzled Veteran: Joe Namath

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Photo Date: May 1977

    Event: Joe Namath at the St. Louis Rams Press Conference 

    A testament to the hazards of hard living, Broadway Joe squeezed decades of living into just 12 years, and at the end he looked predictably older.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Barry Bonds

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    Photo Date: May 1986

    Event: Pittsburgh Pirates Game

    A far cry from the man most people know today, back in 1986 Pirates rookie Barry Bonds was just a skinny 22-year-old kid trying to make a name for himself in MLB.

Grizzled Veteran: Barry Bonds

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Photo Date: September 2007

    Event: San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants 

    Bonds certainly did make that name for himself, with one of the most offensively productive careers in the history of baseball. But after 21 years, he was basically double the man he used to be—that includes his head and neck.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Tony Stewart

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    Associated Press

    Photo Date: May 1996

    Event: NASCAR Big Birthday Auto Racing

    NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1996. Believe it or not, he’s just 19 years old in that photo.

Grizzled Veteran: Tony Stewart

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Photo Date: July 2014

    Event: NASCARCrown Royal Brickyard 400-Practice 

    Maybe all that rage over the years has polluted Stewart from the inside out, because he looks much older than his 43 years.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Sammy Sosa

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    Associated Press

    Photo Date: March 1989

    Event: Texas Rangers Photo Day 

    Everyone knows former MLB slugger Sammy Sosa’s appearance has been dramatically altered over the years. The change is particularly noticeable compared to his rookie photo with the Rangers.

Grizzled Veteran: Sammy Sosa

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    Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

    Photo Date: November 2011

    Event: Latin Grammy Awards Arrival 

    This photo was taken four years after Sosa played his last game in 2007, but the skin-bleaching didn’t get out of control until after he retired. Drawing attention to a face on top of a head and neck that expanded weirdly due to possible steroid use is just not a good idea.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Brian Cardinal

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Photo Date: March 2000

    Event: Purdue vs. Oklahoma 

    Brian Cardinal was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft. Maybe it was the dramatic hairline, but he always kinda looked like an old man trapped in a young man’s body.

Grizzled Veteran: Brian Cardinal

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Photo Date: March 2012

    Event: Dallas Mavericks vs. Sacramento Kings 

    Although he looked a lot different by his final season with the Mavs in 2012, Cardinal definitely settled into the look that works best for him—that of a middle-aged man. That despite him only being 35 at the time.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Brian Wilson

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Photo Date: February 2007

    Event: San Francisco Giants Photo Day

    Pitcher Brian Wilson debuted for the Giants in 2006 at the tender age of 24. A photo from his rookie season was unavailable, but this one gets pretty close.

Grizzled Veteran: Brian Wilson

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Photo Date: February 2014

    Event: Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day 

    Obviously, facial hair can dramatically alter someone’s appearance, but no one in sports has been more transformed by his hair than Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson. Between that massive black beard and all the tattoos, it’s like this guy is in witness protection or something.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    NFL Photos/Getty Images /Getty Images

    Photo Date: July 2005

    Events: St. Louis Rams Photo Day 

    Undrafted out of Harvard, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was signed by the Rams as a free agent in 2005. He was 21 years old at the time, but he doesn’t look a day over 16 in that photo.

Grizzled Veteran: Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Photo Date: August 2014

    Event: NFL PreseasonAtlanta Falcons vs. Houston Texans

    Fitzpatrick has gone another direction entirely with his look over the last few years. He’s definitely got the grizzled part of the grizzled veteran thing down pat.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Mark McGwire

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Photo Date: February 1987

    Event: Oakland A's Photo Day

    Mark McGwire was 23 when he made his rookie debut for the A’s in 1997. Back then he looked like your typical All-American jock.

Grizzled Veteran: Mark McGwire

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    Associated Press

    Photo Date: August 2001

    Event: Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals 

    More than a decade later McGwire looked more like the guy who ate a few All-American jocks and absorbed all their powers. By the time he was chasing home records and closing in on age 40, McGwire’s appearance was jarring to anyone who had seen him play early in his career.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Dennis Rodman

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Photo Date: January 1986

    Event: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Detroit Pistons 

    Considering the ever-changing array of increasingly outlandish looks he became known for later, seeing Hall of Fame forward Dennis Rodman during his rookie season with the Pistons is a little jarring.

Grizzled Veteran: Dennis Rodman

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    Steve Grayson/Getty Images

    Photo Date: January 2004

    Event: ABA Men's BasketballLong Beach Jam vs. Fresno Heat Wave

    Rodman’s career in the NBA ended in 2000, but he actually played in the ABA and overseas for another six years. He was 43 when this photo was taken and, aside from the dyed hair and various face piercings, the years of hard living had already taken a toll.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Pete Rose

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    Associated Press

    Photo Date: February 1963

    Event: Pete Rose Debuts at Cincinnati Reds Training

    Blissfully unaware of the tremendous successes and scandals to come in his future, Reds great Pete Rose was just 22 years old when he debuted at Cincinnati’s spring training back in 1963.

Grizzled Veteran: Pete Rose

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Photo Date: September 1985

    Event: [No information available]

    Rose’s trademark bowl cut didn’t do him any favors in the twilight of his career. And the guy didn’t seem to age well. He was still playing in 1985 when this photo was taken—today there are managers who look to be in better shape to play.

Fresh-Faced Rookie: Allen Iverson

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    Ray Amati/Getty Images

    Photo Date: August 1996

    Event: Philadelphia 76ers Photo Day 

    Look at this adorable kid! Allen Iverson was just 19 when he debuted for the 76ers as a rookie after just one season playing college ball at Georgetown.

Grizzled Veteran: Allen Iverson

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Photo Date: January 2010

    Event: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Philadelphia 76ers 

    By the end of his career, Iverson was just a shell of the stunning, world-class talent he had once been. Yeah, he changed his hair and went the tattoo route, but the real difference is in his face. He looks well beyond his 35 years in that photo.