15 Celebs Who Played Sports in College

Playing sports in college is quite different than joining a team in high school. You’ve got to display real talent, and may even have your sights set on a career in the pros. For most of these 15 celebrities, though, their love of sports didn’t carry on after school. After earning their bachelors degrees, they went on to careers in acting, politics and other fields.

  1. Tom Selleck: Whether you know him better as Thomas Magnum or Dr. Richard Burke, Tom Selleck was TV’s biggest beefcake in the 80s and 90s. But before that ‘stache made him so famous, Detroit-born Selleck was a golden boy growing up in Sherman Oaks, CA. After high school, he juggled modeling and USC, where he went on a basketball scholarship in the 1960s.
  2. Matthew Fox: From Party of Five to Lost, Matthew Fox has also had a long-lasting career in cult TV shows. Now, we wonder if he’s game for a cameo on Friday Night Lights. Fox — who grew up in Wyoming — moved to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts after graduating high school, and from there, went on to Columbia. He played football for the prestigious school, going 0-30 for a combined three seasons.
  3. Forest Whitaker: One of the most versatile actors working right now, Forest Whitaker has taken on thrillers (Phone Booth and Panic Room) and Academy-Award winning dramas (The Last King of Scotland). And beyond acting, Whitaker can sing opera, too. Whitaker was a music major in college at USC, but he first got into college on a football scholarship. When he transferred to USC, he won two music scholarships, and ultimately left for Berkeley to pursue acting, on another scholarship.
  4. Jim Caviezel: You have to be a pretty special guy to be chosen to play Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s Passion film. Caviezel actually had roles in lots of great movies and TV shows, before Passion, from The Wonder Years and Murder She Wrote to The Thin Red Line, Pay It Forward and G.I. Jane. Before he got into acting, Caviezel was a basketball star, even moving to Seattle to play for Catholic high schools. He also played in community college, although a foot injury dashed his hopes of making it to the NBA.
  5. Dwayne Johnson: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has reinvented himself and his career numerous times, but it all started when he helped his University of Miami football team take the national championship in 1991. After graduating, he played two seasons in the Canadian Football League, but then turned to professional wrestling after he was cut from the team.
  6. Ed Marinaro: Ed Marinaro’s football career started with playing football in New Jersey and actually helped him make it to TV. He was a record-setting football player at Cornell, and was even runner-up for the Heisman in 1971. He played six seasons in the NFL, and went to two Super Bowls. After football, Marinaro got into acting, appearing on shows like Laverne and Shirley, Hill Street Blues, and most recently, as a football coach in Blue Mountain State.
  7. Gabriel Byrne: Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has made a very lucrative career for himself in Hollywood, too, from Excalibur to The Usual Suspects to In Treatment — and a lot more in between. His quiet strength translates powerfully on screen, but we expect he was a bit rowdier on the field in his college days. Byrne played football (soccer) with the Stella Maris Football Club when he was at University College Dublin.
  8. William Baldwin: One of the more successful Baldwin brothers, Billy was a popular guy in high school and college, too. He was a member of the wrestling team at Binghamton University and was even inducted into the Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame.
  9. Merlin Olsen: Called “one of the greatest tackles in NFL history” in his NYT obituary, Olsen was also a beloved actor on Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy. He played football at Utah State University, making the All-American team as a senior, and winning the Outland Trophy.
  10. Fred Wiliamson: As one of the first black action stars in Hollywood, Fred Williamson brought movies like That Man Bolt and Mean Johnny Barrows into the mainstream. His films may not have won any Academy Awards, but Williamson was more critically successful on the football field, even making it to the Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1967. He played ball at Northwestern University in Illinois before heading to the pros.
  11. Fred Dryer: El Camino Junior College and San Diego State football player Fred Dryer made it to the NFL, in which he played for 13 years. After playing professionally, Dryer covered games and interviewed players, as he dressed in ridiculous costumes. He eventually made it to TV, on shows like Hunter and Land’s End.
  12. Prince William: Prince William has made headlines for planning a royal wedding, doing charity work in Africa, and graduating from the military academy, but once he was also a celebrated water polo player. As a student at St. Andrews University in Scotland, Prince William was chosen to play for the Scottish national universities water polo team in the annual Celtic Nations tournament.
  13. George W. Bush: It’s no secret former POTUS George W. Bush was head cheerleader at his Massachusetts boarding school, where he also played baseball. But when he went to Yale, W. left the pom-poms behind for something more Ivy — rugby.
  14. Kirk Douglas: As a student at Saint Lawrence University, Kirk Douglas was a talented member of the wrestling team, and has since been elected into the Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame, like Billy Baldwin. He pursued a scholarship opportunity with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, however, and after serving in the Navy after WWII got his start in films.
  15. Ronald Reagan: Another former president who was particularly sporty in college was Ronald Reagan, who was also involved in theater, politics and working towards his economics and sociology degrees. Reagan played football at Illinois’ Eureka College, and was also captain of the swim team.

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