You don’t need to go to drama school to become a successful actor. All you need is some talent, determination, and a bit of good luck, to make your way to becoming a Hollywood superstar. In fact, a great number of our favourite actors have started their careers in completely different fields before turning their attention to stage and screen. Mathematicians, businessmen, linguists, psychologists, scientists, engineers – all of them turned thespians, have been featured in popular films and we never even knew it!
Another sector that has yielded a significant number of actors is sports. Here are 16 celebs who before trying their hand at acting were athletes. This list was compiled by Providr.
1. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
Johnson first became famous as a WWE wrestler. Also known by his ring name ‘The Rock’ and nicknamed the ‘People’s Champion’, Johnson was in fact one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. But this is not where his athletic career began. Before that, he was an American football player, playing defensive for the Miami Hurricanes before going professional. He played for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger rose to fame as one of the greatest professional bodybuilders. He won the Mr. Universe bodybuilding championship when he was only 20-years-old. Since then he has won seven Mr. Olympia titles and many other bodybuilding accolades.
3. Burt Reynolds
If Burt Reynolds’s portrayal of an NFL player in the box office hit The Longest Yard was very believable, it is because the actor used to play American football himself. He played running back for Florida State University, but an injury resulting of a car accident ended his hopes of pursuing a football career.
4. Jason Statham
Jason Statham’s name nowadays has become synonymous with an action movie hero. However, some years ago, back in 1990, the English actor was a member of Britain’s National Diving Squad and he even took part in the Commonwealth Games.
5. Joel McHale
We all know Joel McHale as the funny host of The Soup, as well as for portraying Jeff Winger on the sitcom Community. But back in college he was recruited on the rowing team, before joining the University of Washington football team. He got a Rose Bowl ring, but he never actually made it into a game.
6. Terry Crews
Crews has starred in movies like Friday After Next, The Expendables and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The actor, who was in the group of people named as TIME Person of the Year for 2017, was also an American football player. In the NFL, he played for the Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles.
7. Vinnie Jones
Vinnie Jones seems to always play tough guys: just remember his characters in movies like Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Mean Machine. And there is a very good reason for that: the English actor was previously a soccer player renowned as one of the most brash and physical players ever. He played midfielder for Chelsea, Leeds United and Wimbledon.
8. Ed O’Neill
O’Neill has become a successful comedy actor with roles in sitcoms like Modern Family and Married…With Children, but before taking up acting, he played American football in college. He was a defensive lineman, and he almost made it into the professional league with the the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969. In the end he didn’t make the cut.
9. Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States. Before wading into the waters of politics, he was an actor. And before that, he was a football player for Eureka College. He also served as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs. This is what actually led him to become an actor in the first place. Reagan was in California with the Cubs when he decided to audition for a film which got him a contract with a major movie studio.
10. Jason Segel
We all know and love Jason Segel as Marshall in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, but did you know that when he was in high school, the funnyman played basketball for Harvard-Westlake alongside future NBA stars Jaron and Jason Collins?
11. John Goodman
John Goodman has starred in iconic films like The Big Lebowski, Revenge of the Nerds and Rosanne. However, the actor once had a football scholarship with Missouri State University. Unfortunately, he got injured and had to give up his dreams about pursuing a career in football. He ended up studying acting alongside Kathleen Turner, and having a successful career in acting.
12. Tommy Lee Jones
Men In Black star Tommy Lee Jones played for Harvard University’s Crimson football team. While at college, the actor was roommates with Al Gore, and he was part of Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 game, “the most famous football game in Ivy League history”.
13. Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart is most famous for hosting The Daily Show. But before going on to become a TV presenter, Stewart played on the William & Mary’s men’s soccer team. He led the team to the NCAA tournament and was so well loved and his positive attitude was so inspiring that they named an award after him. For the better part of the last two decades, the Leibo Award has been given to ‘the men’s soccer player with the most positive influence on the team’s attitude.’
14. Matthew Fox
Fox rose to fame with his roles on Lost and Party of Five. However, prior to that he played wide receiver for Columbia University Lions. Once he played against another future actor, Dean Cain.
15. Forest Whitaker
Whitaker is an Academy Award winning actor who got his Oscar for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. In high school, he played quarterback, and went on to earn a football scholarship and attending California State Polytechnic University. But after sustaining an injury his football career was over, and he decided to pursue acting.
16. Mark Harmon
Harmon is best known for his role as special agent Gibbs in NCIS. The actor was previously an American football player. He was the quarterback for the UCLA Bruins for two years.