Athletes That Surpisingly Made Their Way To Hollywood


Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson went from having seven bucks in his pocket to being the highest paid actor in the world. The athlete is best known for his time in the WWE, which is when he gained his first major role as The Scorpion King in the 2001 film “The Mummy Returns”. While his acting career is hot, he still manages to make appearances in the WWE.


2) Chuck Norris


Martial artist Chuck Norris broke out in the acting field with his appearance in the 1972 Bruce Lee film “Way of the Dragon”. After a plethora of action films, Norris landed his most memorable role of Cordell Walker in the hit show “Walker, Texas Ranger”, which lasted eight seasons on CBS.


3) Bubba Smith


During his time in the NFL, Bubba Smith received a Super Bowl ring and made it to the Pro Bowl twice. The Texan turned to acting after retiring from football, which led to appearances on “Escape from DS-3” and “Stroker Ace”. The biggest role of his career was Moses Hightower in the first six “Police Academy” films. Smith passed away on August 3, 2011 from acute drug intoxication and heart disease.


4) Howie Long


In 1993, Oakland Raiders alumni Howie Long dove into an acting career after retiring from professional football. The Milford, Massachusetts native landed roles in “Broken Arrow” and “3000 Miles to Graceland” and he even had a starring role in the 1998 action film “Firestorm”, which only made $8 million in the box office with a $19 million budget.


5) Bob Uecker


Hall of Fame baseball player Bob Uecker got his first big role as sportswriter George Owens on the sitcom “Mr. Belvedere”. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native is probably best known for the role of Cleveland Indians announcer Harry Doyle in the “Major League” film trilogy. In 2002, he portrayed himself in an episode of “Futurama”.


6) Fred Williamson


Retired football player Fred Williamson kicked off his acting career with appearances in the films “M*A*S*H”, “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon”, and “Hammer”.  Aside from acting, the Gary, Indiana native also directs, writes, and produces films such as “Mean Johnny Barrows” and “Three Days to a Kill”. Recently, he’s appeared in the TV series “Pushing Daisies” and “Knight Rider”.


7) Terry Bradshaw


Four-time Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw took some acting gigs while he was still on the field. In the ’90s, he made appearances on “Blossom” and “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.”. While he’s mostly known for his commentary on “Fox NFL Sunday”, Bradshaw still takes acting gigs today. His next film is the 2017 comedy “Bastards”.


8) Terry Crews

"Everybody Hates DJs" -- Julius (Terry Crews) must overcome his fear of rabbits when he takes Drew to a magic show in The CW series EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS. Photo credit: Michael Desmond/The CW Network ©2006 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

After retiring from the NFL in 1997, Terry Crews decided to pack things up and head to Los Angeles to start an acting career. The Flint, Michigan native has been pretty lucky with his new career; he’s landed noticeable roles as Julius Rock in “Everybody Hates Chris”, Nick Kingston-Persons in “Are We There Yet?” and Terry Jeffords in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”.


9) Lou Ferrigno


In a time when CGI is commonplace in film and television, it’s safe to say that Lou Ferrigno is the only person to actually play The Incredible Hulk on camera. The bodybuilder got the role and instantly became a part of Marvel history. He also made cameo appearances in the 2003 film “Hulk” and the 2008 “The Incredible Hulk” film.


10) Arnold Schwarzenegger


Former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger became a massive star with his iconic portrayals of The Terminator and Conan the Barbarian. Aside from the action roles, the Austrian also made people laugh with his work in “Twins”, “Kindergarten Cop” and “Jingle All the Way”.  After his time as governor of California, he returned to the movie screens in “The Expendables”.


11) Jason Lee


Most people wouldn’t peg actor Jason Lee as an athlete, but the Santa Ana, California native was a well known skateboarder in the area in the early ’90s, and some of his skating material still makes it onto videos today.  After being discovered by director Kevin Smith, who would place him in the movie “Mallrats”, Lee would find himself gaining roles in the films “Almost Famous” and “Chasing Amy” and getting the title role in the NBC sitcom “My Name Is Earl”.


10) Chuck Connors


Chuck Connors dove into the worlds of baseball and basketball before sinking his teeth into acting. The New York City native was best known for his role of Lucas McCain in the series “The Rifleman”.  On November 10, 1992, he would pass away at the age of 71 from lung cancer and pneumonia. Before his death he would reprise his role of Lucas McCain for the 1991 television film “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw”.


9) John Cena


With a hot career in the WWE, John Cena made his starring role debut in the 2006 film “The Marine”.  The West Newbury, Massachusetts native continued his acting career with roles in “12 Rounds”, “Legendary” and “Trainwreck”. In 2016, he produced and hosted the hit Fox reality series “American Grit”.


8) Jim Brown


Towards the end of his NFL career, Jim Brown started to dive into an acting career with a part in the 1964 film “Rio Conchos”. He would go on to get the lead role of several movies, including “Three the Hard Way”, “I Escaped from Devil’s Island” and “Dark of the Sun”.  He recently made appearances in “Draft Day” and “Dream Street”.


7) Carl Weathers


After retiring from the NFL in 1974, Carl Weathers would gain acting fame with the roles of Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” films, Agent George Dillon in “Predator” and Jericho “Action” Jackson in “Action Jackson”.  He recently received the role of State’s Attorney Mark Jefferies in the upcoming NBC series “Chicago Justice”.


6) Gina Carano


Former MMA fighter Gina Carano has found herself as one of the hottest talents in the acting scene. In 2011, she made her acting debut in the action film “Haywire”, which earned her a nomination for Best Actress in an Action Movie at the 2013 Critics’ Choice Awards. In 2016, she landed her biggest role to date as Angel Dust in the film “Deadpool”, which is the highest grossing R rated film of all time.


5) Alex Karras


Alex Karras is best known in the sports world as being a four-time Pro Bowler with the Detroit Lions. Television fans know him as George Papadapolis in the hit TV series “Webster”, which ran from 1983 to 1989. On October 10, 2012, he died at the age of 77 from kidney failure.


4) Merlin Olsen


Merlin Olsen, who was selected to 14 straight Pro Bowls with the Los Angeles Rams, was best known for portraying Jonathan Garvey in “Little House on the Prairie” and John Michael Murphy in “Father Murphy”. On March 11, 2010, Olsen unfortunately died from peritoneal mesothelioma at the age of 69.


3) Shaquille O’Neal


During his NBA career, Shaquille O’Neal appeared in several films, including starring roles in “Kazaam” and “Steel”, which is based off the DC Comics superhero of the same name. Recently, the Newark, New Jersey native has appeared on the shows “Fresh Off the Boat”, “Pickle and Peanut” and “Southland”.


2) Michael Jordan


In the ’90’s, Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and became one of the biggest athletes in the world. In 1996, he starred in the film “Space Jam”, which would go on to become the highest grossing basketball film of all time with a gross of $230 million worldwide.


1) Jason Statham


Before getting into action films, Jason Statham swam as a member of Britain’s National Diving Squad for 12 years and competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Since 2002, the English actor has been a part of the popular action franchises “The Transporter”, “The Expendables” and “The Fast and the Furious”.