20 Athletes Turned Professional Actors

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A career is a job or a profession that someone does for a long duration of their life. But some of the profession won’t do for a lifetime though someone wishes to continue. Because of physical strength and many other symptoms. Especially it’s happening with professional athletes. Now a question comes in your mind, what happens when a professional athlete has to retire and do something else for a living? They may do various jobs for their living. But I am going to describe to you some of 20 athletes professional turned actors who Played Sports in real life. Hopefully, you will be enjoyed.

Here Are 20 Athletes Turned Professional Actors

1. Alex Karras, Blazing Saddles

Alex Karras, Blazing Saddles athletes in movies

Alexander George Karras was an American footballer, professional fighter, sportscaster, and actor. He was born on July 15 in 1936 and raised in Gari in Indiana. He was famous among football fans for being one of the most dominant, intimidating defensive tackles in the NFL. He was a four-time Pro Bowl player with the Detroit Lions of NFL (the National Football League), where he played from 1958 to 1970. As an actor, he is remarked for his role as Mongo in the 1974 comedy movie Blazing Saddles. He was so much praised for his role in Blazing Saddles.

2. Bubba Smith, Police Academy I & II

Bubba Smith, Police Academy I & II athletes in movies

Bubba Smith was born on February 28 in 1945, in Orange in Texas and raised in nearby Beaumont. After retiring from professional football, Smith started acting in a small movie and television roles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is maybe best known for his role as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movie series I and II. However the athlete turned actor and spent 9 seasons in the NFL as a protecting end and played in the Super Bowl twice in his first 5 seasons. His final game was at Michigan State where the team of him was a 10 vs 10 tie with Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium on November 19 in 1966.

3. Carl Weathers, Friday Foster

Carl Weathers, Rocky I through Rocky IV athletes in movies

Carl Weathers played American football as a linebacker in university and professionally for one season on the Raiders. He began working as an extra while still playing football. He had his first significant roles in two blaxploitation (an ethnic subgenre of the exploitation film) movies directed by his longtime friend Arthur Marks. They are Bucktown in 1975 and Friday Foster in 1975. He is better memorialized for his role as Apollo Creed in the Rocky films. And it would not be much of extravagance if we said that he was apparently the second-most-famous Apollo in history behind the Greek god.

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4. Dolph Lundgren, Rocky IV

Dolph Lundgren, Rocky IV athletes in movies

Dolph Lundgren is one of the most multitalented boxers you could ever meet. He has actually done pretty much everything in his life. He worked as a bouncer and also fought as a professional karateka in international tournaments and winning the European championships in 1980 and 1981. And also won a world heavyweight title in Australia in 1982. However, it is almost most of us remember him as an actor, he was praised and remembered in the film industry for the film ‘Rocky IV’.

5. Gina Carano, Haywire

Gina Carano, Haywire athletes in movies

Gina Carano is a retired kickboxer and MMA fighter. She was ranked 16 on Maxim’s Hot 100 list In 2009 and she became the first winner of the Chuck Norris, the Best Female Action Star, Award in 2012. The impressive athlete turned actor and proved that she could be a good actress as well in her performance as a former marine in Haywire, where she made a very sensitive duo with Channing Tatum.

6. Hulk Hogan, Rocky III

Hulk Hogan, Rocky III athletes in movies

Hulk Hogan is a professional wrestler for decades and he is the most popular wrestler who ever lived. He became a world champion for an entirety of twelve seasons, including his six reigns as the WWE world heavyweight champion and his six WCW world heavyweight titles. During the 1980s he was so popular and prosperous. Like anything, he touched converted to gold. After retired from his wrestling career, he acted in the film as Thunderlips in Rocky III where he literally kicks ass.

7. Jack Dempsey, Requiem for a Heavyweight

Jack Dempsey, Requiem for a Heavyweight athletes turned actors

Jack Dempsey is a great heavyweight boxer always in the top 10 along with the names of Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, and, more. Dempsey kept the world heavyweight title from 1919 — 1926. He became the first acknowledged boxing star and the first professional athlete to make over a million dollars. Even he showed really great acting ability in an iconic boxing-themed film. The name of the film is ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight‘.

8. Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl

Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl athletes turned actors

Jason Lee was one of the most skilled and outstanding professional skaters in the world. Actually, he was the one who simplified one of the stylish and most common moves of the sport. He was also famous for his movie ‘My Name Is Earl’. He was praised to the film globally for his talented acting.

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9. Jet Li, Hero

Jet Li, Hero athletes turned actors

Jet Li is a professional martial artist and acrobats in Chinese. He started working at an early age and won the Chinese national championship in the acrobatic martial art of wushu. After some years later, he was spotted by local Chinese film producers. He has starred in a number of blockbusters and now he is one of the highest-paid action stars. His role as the nameless warrior in ‘Hero’ came with incredible fame for him.

10. Jim Brown, The Dirty Dozen

Jim Brown, The Dirty Dozen athletes turned actors

Jim Brown was the prominent American football player of all time. After he cracked multiple NFL records, he converted into a very flourishing actor with roles that would make him a favorite even if he was not already popular on the football field. He starred in such famous movies as The Running Man, The Dirty Dozen, 100 Rifles and Any Given Sunday. Among them, he was highly praised for his The Dirty Dozen movie.

11. John Matuszak, The Goonies

John Matuszak, The Goonies athletes turned actors

John Matuszak was the greatest American football players in history. He performed for five different teams and helped the Oakland Raiders win two Super Bowls before he retired in 1982. He is also a good actor besides the athlete turned actor. In his acting career, he charmingly amazed everybody with his amazing acting talents in The Goonies.

12. Johnny Weissmuller, All His Tarzan Films

Johnny Weissmuller, All His Tarzan Films athletes turned actors

Johnny Weissmuller is best known globally for his role as Tarzan in the original film series. But before coming into the film industry, Johnny Weissmuller was a professional swimmer and water polo player. He was a success winning five gold and a bronze in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics games, which earned him the title of the famous Olympian.

13. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane!

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! athletes turned actors

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest NBA players ever. And he still holds rare records after all these years as he retired. After resigned from the sports career of him, he acted in a movie named ‘Airplane’, the hilariously entertaining 1980s comedy, as the copilot.

14. O. J. Simpson, The Naked Gun Films

O. J. Simpson, The Naked Gun Films athletes turned actors

O. J. Simpson became famous worldwide for his criminal acts. He was known as one of the biggest running backs in the NFL. He broke numerous records and got many awards and trophies. After he retired from football, he became a flourishing broadcaster and actor. His entertaining roles in all three Naked Gun films are by considerably the best in his career.

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15. Randy Couture, The Expendables

Randy Couture, The Expendables athletes turned actors

Randy Couture is one of the greatest and most popular fighters in the history of the fastest-growing sport in the world, MMA. He holds two UFC championship titles in two different divisions and won the UFC title a total six times, he found a physically less-taxing way to make money and became an actor. He makes no mistake to join in an acting career. In the Expendables, he is the only non-professional actor in the main cast where he amazed everybody by his acting talent. However, he gets an honorable mention for the movie.

16. Ray Nitschke, The Longest Yard

Ray Nitschke, The Longest Yard Actors Who Played Professional Sports

Ray Nitschke is near the top of every poll and ranking of the ten greatest American football players in history. He is also a good actor besides his athlete’s life. In his acting career, he charmingly surprised everybody with his amazing acting skills the athlete turned actor in The Longest Yard.

17. Terry Bradshaw, Cannonball Run

Terry Bradshaw, Cannonball Run Actors Who Played Professional Sports

Terry Bradshaw is an American footballer who tried his hand in the film industry shortly after he resigned from the sport. He played for fourteen summers with the Pittsburgh Steelers and obtained four Super Bowl titles in a six-year time. However, his charismatic character and dazzling smile helped him launch a broadcasting career. Once he was done on the field and landed him various minor roles in three Burt Reynolds movies, Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit II, and Cannonball Run. Among them, he is best remembered for the Cannonball Run.

18. The Rock, The Mummy Returns

The Rock, The Mummy Returns Actors Who Played Professional Sports

If you are a fan of WWE, you, of course, have heard the name ‘The Rock‘ He began his acting career after winning the WWE heavyweight title a collection of points and becoming one of the most admired professional wrestlers. The man is the success both of acting and sports field. He never disappoints to entertain in his performances, especially as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.

19. Tommy Morrison, Rocky V

Tommy Morrison, Rocky V Actors Who Played Professional Sports

Tommy Morrison is a professional heavyweight boxer at the time. Morrison became the WBO heavyweight champion of the world by defeating George Foreman. The successful athlete acted in the film ‘Rocky V’ in which he was praised by his talented acting.

20. Wilt Chamberlain, Conan the Destroyer

Wilt Chamberlain, Conan the Destroyer Actors Who Played Professional Sports

Do you watch the movie Conan the Destroyer? If you watch it, you will be of course known Wilt Chamberlain. In real life, the man was a successful basketball player.   He is considered as the greatest basketball player of all time by many fans and experts, even ahead of Michael Jordan. And Chamberlain is further the only athlete in history to score 100 in a single NBA game.

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I worked in Los Angeles and New York in movie sets, studios, production offices and more. I also studied film and narrative at Princeton University with minors in Visual Arts and Creative Writing. Taking advantage of all this experience, I have talked about the film industry in The Huffington Post, in Tedx Talk, conferences and on my YouTube channel. But above all I can not stop watching superhero movies and annoy my friends and family with my comments of analysis and discussion.

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