Steve Nash, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the 35 Smartest Athletes of All Time

Michael PerchickCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2011

Steve Nash, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the 35 Smartest Athletes of All Time

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    Athletes are typically stereotyped as "meatheads."  While the media loves to report on the countless academic violations from student athletes, there are still tons of very bright athletes in professional sports.  Here are some of the smartest (in no particular order).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Bill Walton

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    Walton is one of the best college players of all time, and an NBA Hall of Famer who saw his career slowed by injuries.  On top of that, Walton is one of the most well read athletes in sports, who could discuss music and literature as easily as basketball strategy.  

    The famed Grateful Dead fan also got his fair share of California education. He attended UCLA as an undergrad, and even went to Stanford Law School for two years, though he never graduated. 

Bill Bradley

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    Former Knick great Bill Bradley may be the most well known of the "brainiac athletes."  The Princeton-educated Rhodes Scholar and NBA Hall of Famer was a three-term U.S. senator, has authored six books, and attended Oxford for two years before deciding to play in the NBA.  

Dick Kazmaier

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    Kaz is not as well known as many of the athletes on this list, but this Princeton and Harvard-educated football player won the Heisman Trophy in 1951 at Princeton.  Drafted by the Bears in 1952, Kaz decided to attend Harvard Business School, and would end up joining the Navy. 

Myron Rolle

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    Rolle, the former FSU star safety, is known more for his brains than his braun.  Rolle was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, and studied Medical Anthropology.  

    ESPN ranked him as the top recruit in the country in the 2006 class, while ranked him the top prospect from New Jersey and the top athlete in the country in the class.  

    Rolle was drafted in the sixth round of last year's draft by the Tennessee Titans. 

Jeremy Lin

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    Lin became the latest Ivy League-educated player to make it in the NBA.  The California point guard had a stellar career at Harvard, leading them to upset after upset during his senior season under coach Tommy Amaker.  

    Lin is currently on the Golden State Warriors after going undrafted. 

Ross Ohlendorf

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    Ohlendorf's brilliance was best summed up in an article by Tim Kurkjian.  So instead of summing it up for you, I'll just link it here

Craig Breslow

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    The Oakland Athletics pitcher was recently named the smartest athlete in all sports by Sporting News. The Yale-educated Breslow got a 1420 on his SAT's, and a 34 on his MCAT's (the average score is a 28), and was accepted into NYU's Medical School.  

    Breslow graduated with a 3.5 GPA with a degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry.  On top of all that, he made a very funny video mocking Rex Ryan's foot fetish.  

Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    The Harvard-educated QB had a big year this season in Buffalo, and looks like he'll head into next season as the starter.  Fitzpatrick, who scored a 1580/1600 on his SAT, majored in Economics while in school.  

Shane Battier

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    Battier—the focus of Houston Rockets GM Darryl Morey's "moneyball"—is known as one of the good guys in the league, and is one of the brightest.  The Duke-educated Naismith winner studied Religion and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. 

Chris Nowinski

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    The Harvard-educated former WWE star has made huge strides in the battle against concussions and head injuries in the NFL.  Nowinski, who studied Sociology while in school, has become the face of the fight against concussions in contact sports, and routinely reaches out to athletes to secure their brains to be studied after their deaths.

    He is currently the president of The Sports Legacy Institute, which studies brain trauma suffered by athletes.  Nowinski's work has already paid off, as the NFL now covers Lou Gehrig's Disease under its health benefits for former players, and has been much more conscious about concussion guidelines and testing. 

Grant Hill

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    The seven-time NBA All-Star first starred at Duke, where he majored in History.  Hill is an avid reader and collector of art.

George Parros

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    Parros is known as a tough guy on the ice, but off it he's a Princeton-educated economics nerd.  While in juniors, Parros worked for the Chicago Board of Trade.

    And if that mustache doesn't say "smart," I don't know what does. 

Heath Shuler

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    Shuler is a former NFL quarterback, but has made a bigger name for himself in politics.  Now a congressman, Shuler is considered an up-and-coming star in the Democratic Party.  

    Though his NFL career did not go as planned, Shuler became very successful in real estate before jumping to politics. 

Jamal Mashburn

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    While Mashburn may not be the most eloquent NBA commentator, he is a very successful businessman.  After making over $75 million throughout his career, Mashburn has parlayed his NBA success into success in the restaurant world.  

    He's the owner of 34 Outback Steakhouses, 37 Papa John's, and also an owner of franchises of Dunkin' Donuts and car dealerships in Kentucky.  

Matt Birk

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    Birk is a veteran center for the Baltimore Ravens who thought his football career was initially only in place to delay his business career.  The Harvard-educated Economics major was offered a job on Wall Street out of college, and scored a 34 on his ACT.  

Chris Young

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    Young is the first athlete to ever be named All-Ivy League in baseball and basketball.  Not too shabby.  The Princeton-educated Economics major has seen his MLB career derailed by injuries, but recently signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the New York Mets.  

    Luckily for Young, if things don't work out with the Mets, Wall Street is now close by. 

Brad Ausmus

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    The Dodgers catcher is Dartmouth educated, and had plans to attend law school before baseball got in the way, for nearly 20 years.  Ausmus is considered a veteran leader for the Dodgers, after having a long stay in Houston.  

    Ausmus majored in Government while at Dartmouth, and while he doesn't remember his GPA, he did remember never receiving lower than a "B" in school. 

Alex Smith

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    I know a lot of 49ers fans have to question how a guy who can't read simple defenses is considered one of the smartest athletes in sports.  But he graduated with a degree in Economics from Utah with a 3.74 GPA in only two years.  

    Anybody who can graduate from a four-year university in two years with a GPA that high has got to be bright.  Smith planned on going to law school, but was not sure if he'd actually become a lawyer. 

Steve Nash

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    Nash, a future NBA Hall of Famer, is one of the brightest floor generals in the league, and also one of the most creative.  A Santa Clara grad, Nash directed the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Into the Wind about Canadian folk hero Terry Fox. 

Pau Gasol

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    The Fozzie Bear look-alike is an NBA All-Star, NBA champion, and could be your  Pau left University of Barcelona Medical School to pursue a career in the NBA.  

    Pau has an invitation from the dean to continue his studies any time at the school. 

Michael Doleac

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    The former NBA big man chose the NBA over dentistry, but now that his basketball career is over, he's back in school trying to become a doctor.  

Douglas Murray

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    Murray is one class away from graduating from Cornell's famed Hotel Management Program, and speaks three languages (English, Sweden and German) fluently.  He plans to finish his degree in the near future. 

Dhani Jones

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    Jones has made a bigger name for himself off the field than on it.  While he's enjoyed a solid career in the NFL, Dhani's travels and television exploits have gained him a following amongst nerds.  

    Jones is one of the most well read athletes in the league, and one of the best-traveled. 

Robert Smith

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    The former first-round pick is the all-time leading rusher in Vikings history, but retired after only eight seasons to go to medical school.  He is known as an avid fan of astronomy. 

Tim Green

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    Green, the former Falcons defensive end, was a finalist for the Rhodes scholarship, and has written 16 books, including a New York Times bestseller. 

Jerry Kramer

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    The famed Packers offensive lineman is also the co-author of Instant Replay, which may be the most famous book about football ever written.  Co-written with broadcasting legend Dick Schaap, the book goes into great detail about the behind-the-scenes lives of the Green Bay Packers.  

Jim Bouton

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    Bouton's famous Ball Four drew him a lot of backlash from players at first, but has since been accepted as one of the greatest books about baseball ever written.  

    Similar to Instant Replay, Bouton recapped the behind-the-scenes negotiation process, the partying, and clubhouse scenes from his playing days.  

Byron White

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    White, known by his nickname "Whizzer," was a running back who led the league in rushing in 1938 as a rookie.  But White made a bigger name for himself off the field, as a Rhodes scholar, an intelligence officer in the Navy, and eventually a graduate of Yale Law School (which he graduated magna cum laude).

    White would go on to become a Supreme Court Justice for 31 years.  

Alan Page

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    The famed "Purple People Eater" is an NFL Hall of Famer, but has certainly stayed busy since retiring.

    Page studied and graduated from University of Minnesota Law School, and was named the assistant attorney general in Minnesota, and nominated to serve on the state's Supreme Court, where he still resides.

Ken Dryden

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    Dryden is considered by some to be the greatest goaltender in NHL history despite his relatively short career.  Dryden earned a degree in history from Cornell, and a law degree from McGill University.  

    Dryden is a writer, commentator, and member of the Canadian Parliament.  But he will always live on in the memories of Canadiens fans as their famed goaltender. 

Sid Luckman

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    The Columbia-educated Luckman had no plans to pursue professional football until legendary Bears coach George Halas came to his house to convince him.  

    Luckman's excellence in the "T-formation" offense helped lead to great success for the Bears. 

Gary Fencik

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    Fencik starred at Yale as a wide receiver, but was switched to free safety when he entered the league. Good call. Fencik finished his 12-year career as the all-time leading tackler and interception leader in Bears history.  

    Fencik also earned his MBA from prestigious Northwestern University. 

Joe Nieuwendyk

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    Nieuwendyk is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, but before starring in the NHL, Nieuwendyk starred at Cornell.  He's currently the GM of the Dallas Stars, who are enjoying a bounce-back campaign under Nieuwendyk's guidance.

Pat Haden

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    The current athletic director at USC and a Trojan alum, Pat Haden won two national championships in the 1970s.  The one-time Pro Bowler was a Rhodes Scholar, and graduated from Loyola with a law degree. 

Jim O'Rourke

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    O'Rourke graduated from Yale Law School, and is responsible for hiring the first African-American minor league player when he became an executive.

    Early in his career, O'Rourke would practice law between his playing stints.  His nickname was "Orator Jim" (not especially creative, but hey, this was over a hundred years ago) because of his intellect.