Shawn Johnson, Kurt Warner Among 10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Iowa

Ricky FrechCorrespondent IOctober 10, 2011

Shawn Johnson, Kurt Warner Among 10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Iowa

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    The rural state of Iowa isn't a breeding ground for athletes like Florida or California; however, it boasts a solid top 10.

    It starts off a little weak, but the list quickly picks up its star power in the second half with recognizable, household names.

    Which superstar professional athletes call the state of Iowa home? Read on to find out. 

10) Cap Anson

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    Born: Marshalltown

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: First Baseman

    Notable Achievements: 3,481 career hits, 1939 Hall of Fame inductee.

    Cap Anson's career numbers have been argued throughout the years for many different reasons. But, as it stands, he is seventh on the list for most career hits.

    He also boasts a .333 career batting average and has over 2,000 RBIs. The only real knock on his batting is his lack of home runs (97 career), but he played in an age where homers were very rare.

    Anson isn't the most well-known Hall of Famer, and he was pretty racist, but that didn't keep him out of the Hall or off this list.

    His talent speaks for itself and, as the first man to ever break the 3,000 hit mark, he more than deserves a spot on this list.

9) Fred Clarke

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    Born: Winterset

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Outfielder

    Notable Achievements: 1909 World Series Champion, seventh most triples all-time, 1945 Hall of Fame inductee.

    Fred Clarke doesn't have quite as many hits as Cap Anson (2,672), but his World Series win puts him above Anson in my book. He also boasts a .312 career batting average and hit 1,015 RBIs, while hitting the seventh-most triples ever. 

    Like the man before him on this list, Clarke is a solid Hall of Famer and is more than worthy of this list.

    It's hard to decide which native son, Clarke or Anson, is better, but I'm going with the one who can claim a World Series win.

8) Shawn Johnson

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    Born: Des Moines

    Sport: Gymnastics

    Notable Achievements: Four Olympic medals: one gold, three silver.

    In addition to winning four Olympic medals in 2008, Shawn Johnson was able to capture seven total gold medals in 2007 over various major gymnastics competitions.

    She won three gold medals at 2007's World Championships and four at the Pan American games in that same year.

    Johnson has a chance to increase her already impressive resume if she can make it onto the United States' 2012 Olympic roster. She is currently an alternate on the World Championships team, but she's hoping to come back from a 2010 ACL tear and compete in the Olympics next summer.

    Even if she can't make the squad, her list of accomplishments is more than worthy of putting her on this list. 

7) Frank Wykoff

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    Born: Des Moines

    Sport: Running

    Notable Achievements: Three Olympic gold medals.

    Frank Wykoff was on three different gold medal-winning 4x100 meter relay teams.

    In 1928, he made his debut in the Amsterdam Olympics and helped lead his team to a world record-tying run and the gold medal.

    At the next Olympics in 1932, his team broke the world record while helping him win his second gold.

    Wykoff's next Olympics, in 1936, didn't see his team break a world record, but they did help him win his third and final gold medal.

    A three-time gold medal winner is someone that any state would be proud of. This native son did quite a bit for his country and his state during the early part of the 1900s, and that is what puts him on this list.

6) Roger Craig

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    Born: Davenport

    Sport: Football

    Position: Running Back

    Notable Achievements: Four-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, three-time Super Bowl champion.

    Roger Craig was the first running back to get 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a single year. He was the prototype back for the 49ers of the late '80s because he could run and catch equally well.

    Without him, we may have never seen guys like Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson do as well as they did in the NFL. No one before Craig was able to show that a running back could be just as effective catching passes as he could be running the ball.

    Craig isn't the most famous member of the San Francisco 49ers, but he did help revolutionize a position.

    He was the ultimate back for the West Coast offense and the ultimate back for this list. 

5) Elmer Layden

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    Born: Davenport

    Sport: Football

    Position: Fullback

    Notable Achievements: Member of the "Four Horsemen" backfield, NFL commissioner from 1941 to '46.

    Elmer Layden was more successful as a coach than as a player and only played for three seasons in the NFL.

    However, during his college days, he was a part of the legendary "Four Horsemen" backfield that led Notre Dame to multiple great seasons in the early 1920s. Some have called that backfield the greatest in college football history, a claim that doesn't sound too crazy when you look at how well they played.

    Layden enjoyed a very successful head coaching job after retiring from the NFL. He led his alma mater to a 47-13-3 record during his seven years there.

    After that, he was selected to be the NFL's commissioner; not a bad career for a guy from Davenport, Iowa. 

4) Nile Kinnick

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    Born: Adel

    Sport: Football

    Position: Quarterback

    Notable Achievements: 1939 Heisman Trophy winner, 1939 Maxwell winner.

    Nile Kinnick was taken from this world way too soon because of a flight accident in 1943. Because Kinnick died at age 24, we'll never really know how great he could've become in the professional ranks.

    He did have one remarkable year in his senior season at the University of Iowa. In 1939, he became the first and only Iowa player to win the Heisman Trophy. He also became the first football player to win the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

    Kinnick turned down many lucrative contracts to pursue a degree in law, and he later joined the Navy. Because of that, we'll never know how talented of a player he could've been.

    However, as the only Iowa Hawkeye to win the Heisman Trophy, he has to have a spot on this list.

3) Jay Berwanger

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    Born: Dubuque

    Sport: Football

    Position: Running Back

    Notable Achievements: First-ever winner of the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy (later re-named the Heisman Trophy) in 1935.

    Jay Berwanger never even played an NFL game due to a contract dispute with the Chicago Bears, but that doesn't mean he wasn't an excellent player.

    He was the first person to ever win the Heisman Trophy, and he was also the first No. 1 draft pick in the NFL draft.

    We'll never truly know how good of a professional Berwanger could have been.

    That said, his outstanding college career gets him a spot on this list, and his place in history as the first-ever Heisman winner puts him in the top three. 

2) Kurt Warner

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    Born: Burlington

    Sport: Football

    Position: Quarterback

    Notable Achievements: Four-time Pro Bowler, Two-time MVP, Two-time All-Pro, Super Bowl champion.

    By now, everyone knows the story of Kurt Warner's rise from grocery store employee to Super Bowl champion quarterback.

    The man led one of the greatest offenses in NFL history during the early 2000s and then went on to turn the Arizona Cardinals into a winning franchise. His ability as a quarterback dazzled the league, and his story of hard work is one of the most inspiring we've ever seen in the NFL.

    It would be impossible to leave Warner off this list.

    He was one of the best quarterbacks of the 2000s and, by far, the best quarterback to come out of Iowa.

    His career numbers and multiple Super Bowl appearances are more than enough for the No. 2 spot on this list. 

1) Bob Feller

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    Born: Van Meter

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Pitcher

    Notable Achievements: Eight-time All-Star, 1948 World Series champion.

    Bob Feller was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 largely due to an amazing fastball that almost no one of his era could hit consistently.

    Feller had 266 career wins and three no-hitters, but those numbers could have been even higher if he hadn't served four years in the military during World War II.

    "The Heater from Van Meter" is widely regarded as one of the best right-handed pitchers to ever live.

    Feller was absolutely dominant during his entire career. He was the first pitcher to earn 20 wins in a season before turning 21, and he led the league in wins five more times over his career.

    Given all of his amazing achievements, it was impossible to not put him at the top of the list. Bob Feller is simply the best player to ever come out of Iowa.  

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