He Could’ve Been a Football Star

Uncle John is very thankful for his one talent—bringing trivia to the masses—so he’s amazed by these people who were artistically talented enough to become renowned actors and musicians…and who also had enough football prowess to almost turn pro.

Dean Cain

It’s not all that surprising that one of the handful of actors to ever portray Superman was a man of steel in the world of sports, too. Dean Cain, best known for playing Clark Kent and Superman on the 1990s TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, attended Princeton on a football scholarship. As a safety, he racked up 12 interceptions in a season—an NCAA Division 1-AA record. Upon graduation, the Buffalo Bills signed him to a contract, but during training camp he hurt his knee so bad that his NFL dreams were dashed.

Mark Harmon

In 1940, University of Michigan tailback Tom Harmon won the Heisman Trophy and was the top pick in the 1941 NFL Draft. Here’s to the power of genetics: His son, future NCIS star Mark Harmon, was also pretty good on the gridiron. The younger Harmon played quarterback at tiny Pierce College in Oklahoma before transferring to UCLA in 1972, where he led the team to a 17-5 record over to seasons. Scouts from multiple NFL teams expressed interest, but Harmon ultimately wanted to focus on school and career, so he got his communications degree and went on to become an actor.

Dwayne Johnson

Everybody knows that the star of action blockbusters and the HBO sports comedy Ballers used to be a pro athlete—under the name “The Rock,” he was one of the most popular and successful WWE wrestlers of all time. But before grappling, he played football. As a college freshman in 1991, he joined the storied University of Miami Hurricanes as a defensive lineman. Amazingly, he was part of the starting lineup…but in his sophomore year he lost his job to future NFL superstar Warren Sapp. Johnson endured some injuries that cut into his playing time and dampened his abilities, but he was still good enough to sign with the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. He got as far as a backup linebacker on the practice squad, and was cut after two months.

Ed O’Neill

While he’s familiar to modern audiences as patriarch Jay Pritchett on Modern Family, Ed O’Neill will forever be Al Bundy, the world-weary shoe salesman from Married…with Children who loved to talk about his glory days as a high school football star. In real life, O’Neill was an even better football player than Al Bundy. In the ‘60s, his work on the field for Worthington High School in Ohio led to a football scholarship at Ohio University, then a transfer to Youngstown State. The defensive lineman left school early to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers…who cut him after two weeks of training camp. (And so he returned to college.)