15 Best Athletes Who Became Actors

Adam ReiterCorrespondent IIISeptember 10, 2011

15 Best Athletes Who Became Actors

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    Being a great athlete is one thing. Being a great actor is another. Those who can make the transition from one to the other is a rarity that a select few have performed with ease.

    Many have tried and failed, some quite miserably, such as Dennis Rodman and Brian Bosworth.

    Thankfully, there have been a group of men who have made better transitions, saving both themselves and the billions of people around the world from embarrassment.

    This list will honor the 15 best men to do it,

    And here we...GO 

No. 15: Fred Dryer

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    Dryer played in the NFL for 13 seasons with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, racking up 104 sacks in 176 games.

    After Dryer's playing career, he ventured into acting. Dryer was strongly considered for the lead role of Sam Malone on Cheers, which eventually went to Ted Danson. Dryer was eventually tapped for the male lead on the 80's-90's crime drama "Hunter."

No. 14: Ray Allen

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    This is one that doesn't "EXACTLY" count, seeing as that Allen is still playing for the Boston Celtics, but when Roger Ebert calls you "a rarity: an athlete who can act" (in reference to Allen's performance in Spike Lee's critically-acclaimed 1998 film "He Got Game") it would be silly to not put him on here.

    As far as his performance on the court, many people know how great Allen is there too: first all-time in three-pointers made, fifth all-time for free-throw percentage, over 22,000 career points, etc.

No. 13: Bubba Smith

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    From No. 1 overall pick to Moses Hightower, Bubba Smith comes in at No. 13.

    Smith played for nine seasons in the NFL, winning Super Bowl V with the Baltimore Colts, and was named to two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro First Team.

    After his playing career was over, Smith started acting in roles here and there, before landing the role of Moses Hightower in "Police Academy" in 1984, a role he reprised in five of the six sequels.

No. 12: Ed Marinaro

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    Marinaro's football career highlights included a 1971 Heisman Trophy runner-up finish despite playing for Cornell University. What followed was a 58 game NFL career over six seasons, where Marinaro scored 13 touchdowns and amassed over 2,500 all-purpose yards.

    Marinaro's acting career took off in the early 1980's when he landed the roles of Sonny St. Jaques on Laverne and Shirley and Officer Joe Coffey on Hill Street Blues. Marinaro played the role of Mitch Margolis in the 1990's series Sisters, and was most recently in the role of Head Coach Marty Daniels on SpikeTV's Blue Mountain State.

No. 11: Bob Uecker

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    Bob Uecker might be the worst athlete on this list, but to not put Harry Doyle on this list would simply be silly.

    We can forget that Uecker was a career .200 hitter with a .581 OPS because of the magic he displays in the broadcaster's booth in the attached video.

No. 10: Mark Harmon

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    Harmon was the UCLA starting quarterback for two seasons in the early 1970's, going 17-5 in his 22 games there, his biggest win being an upset over two-time defending national champion Nebraska in 1972.

    Harmon worked here and there in Hollywood for several years after UCLA before he landed the role of Fielding Carlyle on Flammingo Road, a 1980's prime-time soap opera. Though the series was short-lived, Harmon next landed the role of Dr. Robert Caldwell on the Emmy-winning St. Elsewhere. After playing Dr. Jack McNeil on Chicago Hope in the late 1990's, Harmon landed perhaps his biggest role to date in 2003, as he became Special Agent Jethro Gibbs on the popular CBS drama NCIS.

No. 9: Carl Weathers

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    Weathers' pro football career is much less known compared to his acting career. Weathers was a linebacker at Long Beach City College and San Diego State University. He enjoyed a brief career in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders before going to the CFL, playing for the British Columbia Lions, before retiring in 1974.

    Creed didn't wait long for his big break, securing the role of Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed in the now-classic 1976 film Rocky, a role he reprised in Rocky II, Rocky III and Rocky IV. Outside of Rocky, Weathers is best known for playing Chubbs Peterson in Happy Gilmore in 1996.

No. 8: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Everybody knows what Abdul-Jabbar did during his career, so there's no need to detail that.

    As an actor, he is best known for playing himself (or was he acting as Roger Murdoch?) in the 1980 comedy classic Airplane. He also had roles in Diff'rent Strokes, 21 Jump Street and many appearances as himself in various movies and sitcoms.

No. 7: Jim Brown

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    Though the stats might not show it, Jim Brown may be the greatest running back in NFL history. In seven of his nine seasons in the league, playing a 14-game schedule, Brown rushed for over 1,200 yards. He finished his 118-game career with 12,312 yards and 126 touchdowns.

    After retiring, Brown landed a starring role in the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen. Brown's other prominent roles were in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka and Any Given Sunday.

No. 6: Merlin Olsen

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    Merlin Olsen's 15-year NFL career included 14 Pro Bowl selections, six All-Pro First teams, the 1960's and 1970's All-Decade teams, and the 75th Anniversary team.

    As an actor, Olsen had prominent roles on Little House on the Prairie, Father Murphy and Aaron's Way.

No. 5: Johnny Weismuller

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    Weismuller was a winner of five gold medals in swimming between the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics. He also added a bronze medal in polo at the 1928 Games.

    In 1932, he signed a seven-year contract with MGM. That year, he played the lead role in Tarzan: The Ape Man. The film became a success, and Weismuller played the role 11 more time until 1948, when he became Jungle Jim, an Asian-based hunter. Weismuller made 13 Jungle Jim films between 1948 and 1954.

No. 4: Bruce Jenner

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    Jenner won the 1976 Olympic Decathlon, and became a National hero as a result. In addition to his track and field prowess, he was selected in the 1977 NBA Draft, and finished second in the 1986 International Motor Sports Association season.

    Jenner comes in at No. 4 due to his time on Keeping up with the Kardashians, as he is the step-father to Kim, Kourtney and Khloe. Jenner gets high placing due to the fact that he has been able to survive 51 episodes of this E! network filth, surviving the reality TV family lifestyle that has torn apart the lives of numerous other families.

No. 3: Alex Karras

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    Karras' NFL career lasted 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, during which time he was named to four Pro Bowls and the 1960's NFL All-Decade team as a defensive tackle.

    Karras' most well-known acting roles include portraying himself in 1968's Paper Lion, Mongo in Blazing Saddles and George Papadapolis in Webster.

No. 2: Burt Reynolds

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    Reynolds was a Florida First Team All-State in high school, and attended prestigious Florida State on a scholarship. A knee injury ended his career before it really began, but it led to him becoming the actor everybody knows.

    Reynolds' list of roles is as long as just about anyone's in Hollywood. Here are some of the more well-known appearances:

    - Quint on the TV show Gunsmoke

    - Hawk on the TV series of the same name

    - Paul Crewe in the original The Longest Yard

    - The Bandit in the films Smokey and the Bandit, Smokey and the Bandit II and Smokey and the Bandit III

    - Billy Clyde Puckett in Semi-Tough

    - J.J. McClure in The Cannonball Run and The Cannonball Run II

    - Troy Garland on the TV series Out of This World

    - Congressman David Dilbeck in Striptease

    - Dick Horner in Boogie Nights

No. 1: Arnold Schwarzenegger

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    Schwarzenegger is a seven-time Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding world champion, but that is not why he is No. 1.

    Who has, at some point in their lives, out of nowhere, spurted out one of Arnold's classic movie lines from Kindergarten Cop, Predator, True Lies or The Terminator, in addition to many others? The answer: EVERYBODY.

    And why not? Just look at the attached video. (Warning: Some people may be slightly offended by the content of the video, but it is completely worth it.)