In order for any athlete to reach the pros, they will have to be in fantastic shape and be particularly driven. This means that most would be able to pick up and play a variety of sports better than those of us who spend more time on the couch than on the field of play, and in many cases a lot of professional athletes grew up juggling more than 1 sport. There inevitably comes a time where these athletes must pick their path, but you can sometimes see the influence that their other favourite pastime has on their game.
In rare occurrences a professional athlete will even make the jump and leave one sport for another, and this has resulted in mixed fortunes. Bo Jackson is the only athlete to be named an All-Star in two sports (football and baseball), whilst Michael Jordan hung up his boots to pursue a baseball career which was a spectacular strikeout.
There do seem to be some professional athletes out there that could excel at other sports, though. This could be because they grew up playing more than 1 sport and may have enjoyed success as far as college, it could be the style in which they play, a particular attribute that they have, their body shape or it could even be in their blood. These players that could play more than 1 sport are to be admired, but it also leaves a slightly sour taste as it is the aspirations of millions of people around the world to be good enough to play just 1 sport professionally.
Most athletes will be good at a number sports, but there are a few out there that could excel if they ever fancied a slightly different career path. Here are 15 athletes who could make the jump and excel in a completely different league.
15 Tim Duncan
Long before Timmy was banking shots off the glass and dominating down low, he excelled in the pool. Growing up, it was his dream to swim in the Olympics and he was on the path to making an appearance for the 1992 games, but 1989’s Hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic sized pool on St Croix, Virgin Islands. Duncan’s fear of sharks stopped him swimming in the ocean, and it is at this time where he would turn to basketball. He was in 9th grade when he first picked up a ball, and he clearly had the size but at first struggled to adapt. It did not take him long though, and soon he would become “The Big Fundamental” and one of the all-time great power forwards. Unlike most entries on this list, Duncan did not have a decision to make as his early dreams were destroyed by Hurricane Hugo.
14 Tony Romo
Tony Romo has had an impressive career with the Cowboys, but he could have excelled at a number of different sports. At high school, Romo played baseball, basketball, tennis and golf, with basketball still clearly being a huge passion for him. He is often seen at Duke’s games, and he and a few teammates have even taken part in a few practice sessions. Duke guard Quinn Cook got an idea of just how strong Romo’s game is, as the quarterback beat Cook in a game of horse and beat him in a game of one-on-one.
Despite this, it was thought that Romo was a jinx after his presence at multiple games resulted in upsets. The curse appears to have been lifted however, with Duke reaching the Final Four with Romo cheering on in the stands.
13 Michael Phelps
The greatest Olympic champion there is has a talent that extends out of the swimming pool, and onto the golf course. Phelps wanted a new challenge, so over the years he has worked tirelessly at his golf game and now he has signed a deal with Ping for his own clubs. Taking part in the Dunhill Links Championship in 2012, Phelps remarkably sank a 50 yard putt which took a full 17 seconds to drop. This won ‘Shot of the Day’ on Sky Sports and demonstrated that whether in water or on dry land, Phelps is a talented individual.
12 Usain Bolt
When you are the fastest person on the planet, it means that there are a number of different sports which you could excel at. Bolt’s blistering speed is mesmerising to watch, and the Jamaican has expressed his desire to use his speed in the Premier League. Bolt is an avid Manchester United fan and was a special guest at their 2011 Champions League final appearance, but he recently joked that he no longer wants to play for them due to the cold weather. Bolt has demonstrated some football skills, and his speed would certainly cause plenty of problems for opposing teams.
Bolt’s desire to play football has been made so clear, that the Metro played an April fools prank stating that he had been offered a short term contract.
11 Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most explosive athletes in the world. He has lighting pace, remarkable strength, an astonishing vertical leap and he possess the all important winning mentality. This could see him excel at a few different sports. His vertical jump is 7 cm higher than the average NBA player and he has a body fat ratio of 10% (less than most supermodels), this gives him a leopard like athleticism that could be used in a number of different trades, but either a sprinter or hurdler seems best suited. Despite his astonishing athleticism, it has always been football for Cristiano.
10 Nyjer Morgan
Most athletes may not excel at more than 1 sport, but they would certainly be able to pick it up and play most sports to a relatively decent standard. Not ice hockey however, which requires a completely different skill set. This is what makes Nyjer Morgan so impressive, as the outfielder currently in Korea was one of the best junior hockey players in the world. He played for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League after moving to Canada to pursue a career on the ice, but when presented with a crossroads he opted for baseball.
9 Michael Vick
He may be a controversial figure, but there is no denying Michael Vick’s talent as a quarterback. He could also excel at baseball, and was even selected by Colorado in the 2000 MLB draft (albeit in the 30th round). What is particularly impressive about this is the fact that Vick had not played baseball since 8th grade, but due to his remarkable athleticism and sharp arm, the Rockies still felt he would benefit the team. Vick did not give baseball much thought (seeing as he hadn’t played for years), but you can certainly see him excelling on the diamond.
8 Carl Crawford
Everyone has that one friend that seems to excel at everything they do, and Carl Crawford takes this to the next level. The Dodgers’ outfielder could have excelled at both football and basketball, but instead opted for a career in baseball (which has turned out to be a smart move). In high school he was being watched by scouts, but not just for baseball. Crawford was offered a scholarship to play point guard at UCLA, and he also could have attended a number of colleges to play as an option quarterback. Crawford had signed a letter of intent to play football at Nebraska, but he would instead be drafted by the Devil Rays in 1999.
7 Steve Nash
Steve Nash is an extraordinary athlete, and when watching him you will notice he moves unlike any other NBA player. He could probably excel at a few different sports, but he has never been shy about his love for soccer. He has shown his abilities with the ball at his feet on numerous occasions, and he even previously trained with Tottenham Hotspur (his favourite team) and held his own. Much like his position in basketball, you can easily imagine Nash dictating the flow of the game and setting up his teammates with clever plays as an attacking midfielder.
An excellent Nike commercial titled “Training Day” showcases Nash’s remarkable all around athleticism as he plays basketball, soccer, tennis and skateboards. This multi-sport ability clearly helped Nash to become the phenomenal player he was in the NBA.
6 Matt Holliday
Standing an imposing 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Matt Holliday could have easily landed up in the NFL instead of playing professional baseball. In high school he played both sports, and he began to excel as a quarterback and even received a letter from Kansas City Chiefs urging him to continue playing. In his penultimate game, Holliday brought his team back from a 42-21 deficit with three TDs in the final six minutes of the game. There was a lot of attention from the NFL, and he was also rated the third-best QB in the country upon graduating high school. Despite this, Holliday chose professional baseball and has had a stellar career.
5 LeBron James
When LeBron drives towards the basket with a head full of steam he is practically unstoppable, and you will also notice that he wraps the ball up much like a football player would. In his high school days, not only was he an excellent basketball player, but he was also a highly rated wide receiver. Many have spoken out and said LeBron has the size, strength and work ethic to make the jump, and he even tweeted during the lockout asking when the deadline was for a team to sign a free agent. Although LeBron has spoken of his love for football, he has also said that he does not want his sons playing the game due to the health risks.
4 Julius Peppers
Green Bay’s Julius Peppers is one of UNC’s great defensive linesmen, and he is ranked 2nd in all-time sacks with 30.5 and also won numerous awards. Peppers was also a walk-on for the basketball team, an impressive feat considering the pedigree of the university. Peppers was a reserve on the team that made it to the Final Four in his first year, and in the tournament the following season he put up an impressive 21 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to Penn State. Peppers has gone on to be hugely impressive in the NFL and is one of the better defensive players, but he has the height and the abilities to play on the hardwood too.
3 Joe Mauer
Mauer looks so at home at the plate that it makes it hard to imagine him playing any other sport, but he could have easily excelled at football (and possibly even basketball). The Minnesota Twins catcher/first baseman played all 3 sports at high school, where he averaged 20 PPG in basketball, was the 2001 Gatorade National Player of the Year and helped his team to a state championship in football, and of course was making a name for himself in baseball where he only struck out once.
He would turn down a football scholarship from Florida State and instead enter the MLB draft. He now has the most batting titles among catchers and is a 6x All-Star, but it is interesting to think what would have happened if he had attended Florida State.
2 Jeff Samardzija
White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija came very close to joining the NFL, and there is little doubt that he would have been an excellent player judging by his play in college. He received an athletic scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, and he would go on to set school records for receiving yardage and TD receptions, and he would become an All-American wide receiver as well as be 1 of 3 finalists for the Fred Biletnikoff Award (for the nations top wide receiver). Although his name was in for the NFL Draft, he opted out after he was drafted by the Cubs. I’m sure there are days where he questions this decision.
1 Antonio Gates
Growing up, it seemed that the San Diego tight end was always destined for the NBA. He excelled at both football and basketball from a young age, and was the runner up for Mr Basketball of Michigan after averaging 27 PPG and 12 RPG in his senior year.
Gates wanted to play both sports at Michigan State, but then-coach Nick Saban wanted him to give up basketball. This led Gates to transfer to Eastern Michigan University to pursue basketball, he played at 2 junior colleges and then on to Kent State University. Here Gates excelled, averaging 20.6, 7.7 RPG and 4.1 APG and helped 10th seed Kent State to the Elite Eight after knocking out higher ranked Oklahoma State, Alabama and Pittsburgh. Gates had his jersey retired, but was then told that he was too much of a “tweener” to go pro. Consequently, Gates arranged workouts with NFL scouts and ultimately signed with the Chargers despite never playing any college football.