The 10 NFL Players Most Likely to Succeed at Other Sports
Baseball might be America’s pastime, but football is by far the most popular sport in the country today. Due to this popularity, people usually look at world-class athletes from other sports and wonder whether or not they could make it in the NFL.
For instance, some think LeBron James could be a dominant tight end in the league because of his size and athleticism. At the very least, it would be interesting to see LeBron go through the combine and other pre-draft workouts to see how he stacks up against the NFL’s elite.
Unfortunately, the lockout has forced some NFL players to pursue other athletic endeavors. Much has been made of Chad Ochocinco’s ventures into the world of soccer and bull riding. Surrounded by less of a publicity circus are Tom Zbikowski’s very successful boxing matches.
So what other NFL players could have a successful career in other sports if the labor unrest was never settled? The following is a list of 10 players that could make it in popular and obscure sports alike, or at least be seriously entertaining making the effort.
If you have any examples of NFL players that would either be good at another sport, add them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@JakeBRB). Feel free to have a little fun with it as well, as you will find that I did.
Julius Peppers: Basketball
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
When people think of basketball players in the NFL, San Diego Charger Antonio Gates is almost always brought up. The All-Pro tight end is closely associated with basketball because he played only on the hardwood at Kent State University, which is why no one saw his professional football success coming.
Peppers, however, chose North Carolina because, as opposed to rival suitor Duke, the Tar Heels would allow him to play both football and basketball. Peppers served as a reserve for the basketball team, but a productive one for a team that made it to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
Peppers eventually quit basketball in favor of football, but it is not silly to think that if he had concentrated on basketball from the beginning, he would have eventually made it to the NBA. For proof, all you need to do is watch the athleticism of the 6’7” defensive end as he terrorizes quarterbacks.
Andre Johnson: Mixed Martial Arts
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Johnson has been the antithesis of the diva wide receiver that is so prevalent in the NFL today. Despite freakish athletic skills that make him almost prototypical for the position, he has remained humble throughout his career and matched a professional work ethic to his talent.
Johnson showed last season, however, that he is not without emotion, as he seemed to be for the first seven years of his career. In the Week 12 contest against the rival Tennessee Titans, Johnson decided he had had enough of cornerback Cortland Finnegan’s taunting and rough play and proceeded to pummel the Titan defender.
Johnson didn’t show the type of fighting proficiency that would make him successful, but he did show the aggression when he ripped off the defensive back’s helmet and landed a haymaker. Any MMA league would probably make him fight guys in his weight class, though, so a rematch would be unlikely.
Drew Brees: Baseball
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
There are many football players who played baseball growing up. The seasons are in different parts of the year, and there are many skills that are transferable, especially for quarterbacks.
While you would expect an NFL QB to show his baseball skills on the mound, Brees flashes his in another way.
In the annual charity softball game with New Orleans Saints players, Brees put on a show at the plate while hitting a couple of home runs. What’s even more impressive, though, is that the right-handed Brees did it while batting left-handed.
Brees certainly has a major-league arm, but with switch-hitting offensive ability he could be a dynamite player on the diamond. Where would Brees likely play? I’m guessing shortstop, otherwise known as the quarterback of the infield.
Plaxico Burress: Biathlon
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
You know biathlon, right? It’s that perplexing yet entertaining Olympic sport where contestants ski between stations carrying a rifle, and when they arrive at those stations they must use the rifle to shoot targets.
It is a difficult sport because the cross-country skiing elevates the athletes’ heart rates, which makes shooting accurately extremely difficult.
Burress has already showed some of the skills necessary. Despite rigorous dancing in a club, he was able to successfully hit his own leg with a pistol, a much less accurate weapon than a rifle. Maybe training for the Olympic sport was why Burress was wearing sweatpants.
Chris Johnson: Track
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Usain Bolt captivated the world’s attention during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He was named the world’s fastest man after he set the world record for the 100-yard dash. That didn’t stop Johnson from challenging Bolt to a race though.
Johnson is the NFL’s unofficial fastest man because he holds the scouting combine record for the 40-yard dash at 4.24 seconds. If you break down Bolt’s record-setting run, he ran his first 40 yards in about 4.39 seconds.
Johnson couldn’t take Bolt in a 100-yard dash, and maybe not in a 40 either, as Bolt would likely run differently for a shorter race, but just the close times show how competitive Johnson could be at an international level as a sprinter.
Brandon Marshall: Fencing
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Marshall might want to learn how to parry first. Too soon?
Tony Romo: Golf
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Athletes are usually notoriously bad at golf. The most obvious example of this is Charles Barkley and his abortion of a golf swing, which has claimed the life of many a club. Tony Romo is certainly the exception to the rule.
Romo is not only a scratch golfer, but he also came extremely close to qualifying for the U.S. Open. The only thing that likely kept him from doing so was the media attention that surmised that Romo’s golf pursuits were a distraction from his football ones.
Romo might be the best example of an NFL player who could actually compete at the highest level in another sport. If Romo never played another down of football, he could still likely play golf professionally for the next decade or two.
Casey Hampton: Competitive Eater
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Is competitive eating a sport? They show it on ESPN, but I’m not so sure that a tiny Japanese guy stuffing his face with hot dogs and water is a world-class athlete. For the purposes of this article, though, let’s say it is a sport.
Casey Hampton could dominate. If there isn’t a prop bet for what weight Hampton will show up to training camp at, there should be. It has always amazed me how Hampton can gain so much weight in the short time between the end of the season and training camp.
I know that competitive eaters do more than just stuff their face; rather, they have a strategy for fitting so much food into their stomachs. If there is one thing I could see Hampton committing to though, it’s this.
Vernon Davis: Curling
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Yes, curling—the winter Olympic sport that looks like shuffleboard on ice. Davis was the honorary captain of the United States curling team at the last Winter Olympics. It’s random, but true nonetheless.
Davis apparently became enthralled with the obscure sport that involves sweeping ice with a broom on a challenge to see how difficult the sport was.
Considering Davis’ incredible measureables he showed at the Combine with a 4.38 40-yard dash and a 42” vertical jump despite weighing over 250 pounds, I’d say it would be safe to consider Davis the most athletic curler in the world should he take up the sport permanently.
Jason Babin: World Wrestling Entertainment
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Wrestlers in the WWE are amazing athletes who spend a lot of time making sure they look the part with muscular physiques, but in the end they are entertainers who aren’t actually producing results. They often have flashy personas with slick, greasy hair and tribal tattoos that don’t really mean anything.
Babin had a Pro Bowl year in 2010, but it is by far the only season that could even be considered above average since coming into the league. It only took him four teams before he found defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who made countless D-linemen into superstars while in Tennessee who did not enjoy success elsewhere.
Babin thought he was vindicated as he rocked a bodybuilding pose in the victory formation in the Titans' second meeting last year against the Houston Texans, the team that drafted him in the first round yet was only rewarded with 13 sacks in three seasons for its investment.
Jim Washburn is gone from Tennessee, Jason, have fun showing off your muscles and being overrated. On the bright side, I’m sure the WWE would take you once everyone figures out that’s what you do best.