Pro Athletes Who Became Actors



Alex Karras

alex karras_ google.jpg

Professional Football Player

Professional Wrestler 

—Blazing Saddles

Alex Karras is most famous for his role in Mel Brooks’ notorious Western parody, Blazing Saddles. He played one of the most memorable characters from the film, the simple minded but lovable brute, Mongo. Before his acting career Karras was an All American linebacker for Iowa. He helped them win the Rose Bowl over Oregon State in 1956. He was the runner up pick for the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college football. Before Karras went to the NFL he signed a contract to be a professional wrestler earning $25,000 in the six month offseason. He was the 10th round pick and got drafted to the Detroit Lions, where he became one of the best defensive tackles in the league for 12 seasons from 1958-1970. He was suspended for one season in 1963 for getting caught betting on NFL games. While he was banned from playing football he went back to professional wrestling as one of his humorous characters Dick the Bruiser. When he returned to the NFL, he was one of the players in the coin toss in his first game back and when the referee asked if he wanted heads or tails he muttered the famous line; “I’m sorry sir, I’m not permitted to gamble.” Karras first got into acting when he played himself in the film The Paper Lion. The movie was based on a nonfiction book a sportswriter wrote where he actually tried out for the Detroit Lions. Remember that Jackass stunt where Johnny Knoxville tries to return a punt against the Texas college football team? It was a lot like that. Karras was such a funny story teller in the locker room they put him in the movie. After his football career he went back to Hollywood to act in tv and films. 


Vinnie Jones

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Professional Soccer Player

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

—Gone in 60 Seconds

X-Men: The Last Stand

Vinnie Jones is best known for his roles in the hit films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Gone in 60 Seconds and X-Men: The Last Stand. Before Vinnie’s debut on the big screen he was a professional soccer player from 1984-1999. He played as a midfielder for the football clubs; Wimbleton, Leeds, United, Sheffield United, Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers and Wales. He had the reputation of being a “hard man” due to his aggressive playing style and disciplinary trouble he would get into. After his athletic career his image translated well into films. He is typecast as portraying a tough bad guy, usually playing a criminal, henchman or a gun for hire. He also appeared on the reality tv show Celebrity Big Brother in 2010, he placed 3rd in the house. 


Jason Lee

Jason Lee in the middle.

Jason Lee in the middle.

Professional Skateboarder

My Name Is Earl

—Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

—The Incredibles

Jason Lee has acted in many Hollywood movies. He’s appeared in a lot of classic cult Kevin Smith films like Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks II. He’s acted in comedy blockbusters like Stealing Harvard, Almost Famous and Cop Out. He has also voice acted in Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Incredibles. He is best known for starring in the hit tv show My Name Is Earl as Earl Hickey, which he got nominated for a Golden Globe. Prior to his acting Jason Lee had already made a name for himself as a professional skateboarder in the late 80’s - early 90’s. In 1992, he co-founded his skateboard company Stereo Skateboards with fellow pro skater Chris “Dune Pastras.” From 1992-1994 Lee appeared in some music videos, like the Sonic Youth’s song 100% and played a small role in the 1993 drama film Mi Vida Loca. He liked acting so much he quit skating to do it full time. His first big role was in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats which became a cult hit. He would go on to collaborate with Smith on many of his films which opened the Hollywood door to him to get other acting jobs leading to a very successful career. 


Terry Crews 

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Professional Football player

—The Expendables

—Everybody Hates Chris

—Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Terry Crews is an actor, comedian and artist known for his roles in Friday After Next, The Longest Yard, The Expendables series and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He currently hosts America’s Got Talent and also America’s Got Talent: The Champions. Before Crews became a celebrity he played college football at Western Michigan University, to which he had a prestigious athletic and art scholarship. Crew is very talented at drawing and painting as well as football. After college he got drafted to the NFL where he played for the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles. He also played in Europe for the Rhein Fire. He retired from football in 1997 and moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. His first gig was a character in the game show Battle Dome as one of the “Warriors” that would compete against the contestants. His breakout film role was in the film Friday After Next, starring Ice Cube. Ice Cube and Crews knew each other from before because Crews worked as on set security for him. His second big role was in the comedy White Chicks, starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans. Adam Sandler saw Crews’ performance and asked him to be in The Longest Yard. Crews then acted in the hit sit-com Everybody Hates Chris, which got him national recognition. Crews is used in a lot of comedies for his funny sense of humor. He also known for starring in many popular Old Spice Commercials.  


Carl Weathers

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Professional Football player



—Happy Gilmore

Carl Weathers is best known for playing the heavyweight world champion Apollo Creed in the Rocky series. Before becoming one of films most greatest adversaries Weathers was a professional football player. He first started playing for Long Beach City College then he transferred to San Diego State University. After college he didn’t get drafted but he signed as a free agent to the Oakland Raiders in 1970. He played 8 games as a linebacker for 2 seasons before he was released. Then Weathers went and played for the BC Lions in the Canadian football League. During his offseason he attended San Francisco State University and got a degree in drama. He also worked as an extra on movies. In 1974 he retired from football and pursued an acting career. His first big roles were in Blaxploitation sims before he got the job playing Apollo Creed in a little production called Rocky, which would later become an American classic. Weathers got the role for Apollo because he wasn’t scared to criticize Sylvester Stallone’s acting if he thought it wasn’t good enough. Rocky became a blockbuster mega-hit and launched Weathers’ career. He went on to star in the classic sci-fi horror film Predator alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. His other famous roles were in Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky with Adam Sandler. He also played a fictionalized version of himself in Arrested Development.


Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson 3.jpg

Professional Wrestler

The Fast and the Furious franchise

—The Scorpion King


Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock”, is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars right now. His films have grossed over $3.5 billion in North America and over 10.5 billion worldwide. His biggest box-office draw role is Luke Hobbs in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Before the world knew him as Dwayne Johnson they knew him as his wrestling name “The Rock.” After a football career didn’t pan out, Johnson trained as a professional wrestler because both his dad and grandpa were pro wrestlers. The WWF, which is now the WWE, signed Johnson and he became one of their top most popular acts. The Rock’s persona helped the WWE go into their “Attitude Era” which was when it had the highest ratings. In 2004, Dwayne took a hiatus from wrestling to go to Hollywood to act. He started off in small tv roles like That 70’s Show and Star Trek: Voyager. His film debut was in The Mummy Returns, which led him to starring in a spinoff movie, The Scorpion King. Then he starred in other films like Walking Tall, The Run Down, and Gridiron Gang. Johnson became known worldwide when he first appeared in The Fast and the Furious series as Luke Hobbs. His presence helped make that franchise one of the most popular and profitable in recent history. In 2019, he officially retired from wrestling for good and continues to be in big Hollywood productions. 


Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Professional Bodybuilder

—The Terminator series


—Total Recall

Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of film’s greatest action heroes of all time. He has played many iconic roles throughout his career. But before he was one of Hollywood’s greatest action heroes, he was one of the world’s greatest bodybuilders. Arnold started lifting weights when he was 15 and five years later he won Mr. Universe. He would go on to win Mr. Olympia seven times. He was the top contender in the sport for years and wrote many books about it. Arnold started his film career when he was chosen to play Hercules in the 1969 movie, Hercules in New York. His accent was so thick they had to dub his voice in post production. His acting career struggled in the beginning. Casting agents told him his accent was too thick, his body shape was too weird and his name was too long. But Arnold kept at it and his breakthrough role was as Conan the Barbarian in 1982. The sword and fantasy epic was a box office hit and Arnold was back on Hollywood’s radar. His next role, starring in The Terminator would solidify his acting career forever. It was a mega-hit and became an instant sci-fi classic. Arnold went on to star in several more Hollywood blockbusters like Commando, Predator, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop and True Lies. Arnold was even elected as the 38th Governor of California. When he retired from office in 2011, he went back to acting. Arnold will be appearing in the latest Terminator franchise movie, Terminator; Dark Fate which comes out November 1st 2019.