The stereotype of the dumb jock continues to be prevalent in today’s society. Athletes are unquestionably amazing physical specimens. They put in a lot of hard work and train themselves into the ground, but their physicality and ability to sculpt their bodies into essentially well oiled machines is still nothing short of miraculous. However, if you were to assume that all professional athletes spent their time solely in the gym and shunning the library, you’d be wrong.
There are many athletes who, whether consciously or unconsciously, strive to break the stereotype of the dumb jock. There are several measurable statistics that indicate an athlete who is as sharp during a test as he is during a game, and many of the brainiacs on this list achieved either high SAT scores or high GPAs during their time as student athletes – or, in most cases, both. While they certainly study game tape and have a thorough knowledge of their respective sports, many of the athletes on this list also have diverse interests from aeronautics to agriculture.
Every athlete has developed his actual muscles through years of training, but the athletes on this list spent a significant amount of time developing their mental muscles as well. If you were to get into a conversation with the men on this list, you may be a bit surprised at these double threat brainiac athletes. They’re capable of schooling you in more ways than one.
15 Alex Smith – QB, Kansas City Chiefs
While Smith has been referred to as a “smart” quarterback throughout the entirety of his career, this designation doesn’t apply solely to his sports smarts. After his graduation, Smith was impressively drafted first overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the 49ers, but perhaps equally impressive was his bachelor’s degree stats. He managed to earn his degree in Economics from the University of Utah in a quick two years while maintaining a 3.74 GPA. He even began work on a master’s degree before the 49ers selected him. The self confessed bookworm has stated that his team mates would all name his voracious appetite for books as his nerdiest quality.
14 Grant Hill – SF, retired
The recently retired former member of the Los Angeles Clippers sharpened his basketball smarts and book smarts at Duke University. He studied history and graduated with a 3.8 GPA, and the former history buff still shows interest in his degree subject as he’s stated that reading historical books and biographies are some of his biggest off-court interests. Another bookworm, he cited one of the (likely) many books he read last year was The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market’s Perfect Storm. When he’s not busy thumbing through dense texts, he also likes buying and collecting art.
13 Greg McElroy – QB, retired
If you don’t know who McElroy is, it may be because he didn’t spend very long in the NFL. Though he was drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, he retired within two years and opted to instead become a college football analyst for ESPN. The former Alabama star received a 1320 on his SAT, graduated with a 3.86 GPA in marketing, (in three years, nonetheless) and was even a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship in his senior year. He also has a masters degree in sports marketing. And lest you think the former quarterback only read entertainment and sports magazines in preparation for his new career in broadcasting, know that he’s named SportsBusiness Journal and Forbes as two of the publications that cross his coffee table.
12 Jody Gerut – CF, retired
Gerut has played with several Major League Baseball teams such as the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers. He nurtured his brain at Stanford University, where he graduated with a 3.1 GPA and a degree in history. History, politics, finance, and military industrial conflicts are some of his named off-field interests, and a passion for languages seems not far behind – though only fluent in English and Spanish, he’s stated that he knows bits of five or six other languages. One of the books he read last year was the intimidatingly titled The 16% Solution: How to Get High Interest Rates in a Low-Interest World with Tax Lien Certificates. Oh, and if you take a peek inside his carry-on suitcase, you’ll find it filled with what he ambiguously refers to as “fast knowledge” – little bits of information that he takes with him. Who knew.
11 Jeremy Lin – PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Yet another Harvard Economics graduate, Lin snagged a 3.1 GPA and improved immensely during his time at Harvard. Lin’s intellectual style of play has served him well, and he brings his talent to Los Angeles this year. While still a young player, Lin-sanity showed many aspiring professional athletes that you could be both smart and skilled.
10 Steve Nash – PG, Los Angeles Lakers
This South African born and Canadian raised basketball superstar earned a sociology degree at the University of Santa Clara. Though he may seem small in comparison to his giant teammates, one thing that definitely isn’t diminutive is his brain. He has an incredibly high basketball IQ which has led him to be honored with many athletic distinctions, but he also has a passion for politics, filmmaking, and sustainability. Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006, Nash is dedicated to the Steve Nash Foundation, which seeks to help disadvantaged youth, and has worked on several commercials, short films, and the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Into The Wind.
9 Matt Bonner – PF/C, San Antonio Spurs
The two time NBA champion has many athletic achievements to be proud of, but he can be equally proud of his academic achievements. He graduated from the University of Florida with a 3.96 GPA – that’s one smart Gator – and was named the Verizon Academic All-American of the Year for two consecjutive years. The business graduate scored a 1350 on his SAT and spends his off-court time reading, writing, and playing Scrabble and math games. He’s stated that, if the NBA hadn’t have worked out for him, he’d liked to have been a college professor. Bonner is also a self professed cribbage and corduroy enthusiast, and names The X-Files as his favorite television show.
8 Shane Battier – F/SG, retired
Another brainy Blue Devil finds his way onto the list. Battier graduated with a degree in religion and a 3.5 GPA from Duke University before going on to play with the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, and Miami Heat. The bilingual basketball star speaks both English and German and has an affinity for numbers as he lists finance and sabermetrics as two of his off-court interests. Wondering whether he’s worthy of the nerd qualification? The fact that he has a subscription to Laptop magazine may tip the scales.
7 Pau Gasol – PF/C, Chicago Bulls
A few more years and Gasol may have been the one treating injuries on the sidelines as a team doctor rather than playing in the game – Gasol was in a pre-med program at the University of Barcelona before he opted to leave and pursue a career in basketball instead. He speaks English, Spanish, and Catalan. Who knows – once he retires, perhaps he’ll return to his native Spain and become Dr. Gasol.
6 Matt Birk – C, retired
The six-time Pro Bowl selection is undoubtedly skilled at football, but he’s no slouch in academia either. Birk was a Harvard man who graduated with a degree in economics and scored a 34 on his ACT. Also, it turns out football wasn’t his only career option – with a degree in economics from Harvard to his name, he was offered a job on Wall Street after graduation. He decided to go the NFL route and see how things developed, but he could easily have been getting ready for the office in a suit rather than a helmet.
5 Ross Ohlendorf – SP, Washington Nationals
He can sling a ball across the plate pretty well, but he also knew how to hit the books. After scoring a 1520 on the SATs, a near perfect score, Ohlendorf managed to snag a spot at Princeton. Not content to slack off, he managed to graduate with a 3.8 GPA and a degree in Operations Research and Financial Engineering. In his spare time, when he’s not being a professional baseball player, he has volunteered as an intern at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No big deal. The finance whiz and off-season ranch hand also spent some time working on a cost-benefit analysis of a program which attempts to trace disease in livestock and analyse its effect on farmers.
4 Chris Young – SP, Seattle Mariners
Young is another Princeton man and self confessed bookworm who gained a spot after scoring a 1300 on the SAT. He studied politics and managed to combine his two passions seamlessly. Not only did he pen his thesis at the same time that he was playing in the minor leagues, he incorporated the sport of baseball into his project, entitled The Impact of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball on Racial Stereotypes in America: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Stories about Race in The New York Times. Quite a mouthful.
3 Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB, Houston Texans
Fitzpatrick scored a near perfect 1580 on his SAT and honed his football skills at Harvard University. While he only received a 3.2 GPA for his economics degree, he’s more known for scoring a near record breaking 48 on the NFL’s Wonderlic test. Fitzpatrick has many intellectual interests off the field and has expressed a love for Apple technology and Scrabble. He will be the new starting quarterback for the Houston Texans.
2 Craig Breslow – RP, Boston Red Sox
Breslow has been nicknamed “the smartest man in baseball,” and it’s not without reason. He attended Yale University after scoring a 1410 on the SATs and elected to study Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. After his graduation (with a 3.5 GPA), he was accepted to NYU medical school with a 34 MCAT score, but Breslow opted to pursue sports instead of medicine. He still keeps ties to his medical dreams by running the Strike 3 Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that raises awareness and support for pediatric cancer research. And what was he doing during spring training one year? Submitting the IRS Form 1023 for tax deductibility for a non-profit organization. Why not farm it out to an accountant? Breslow has stated that, having had difficulty finding someone with the time to undertake the comprehensive document during tax season, he figured he’d just do it himself.
1 Myron Rolle – S, retired
Though Rolle’s SAT score of 1340 may be lower than some other athletes on this list, he’s been very impressive academically for the past few years. Having decided to attend Florida State University for his bachelor’s degree, he powered through and obtained his degree in exercise science in a mere two and a half years. In this time, he made sure to complete any pre-med requirements in case football didn’t pan out – something that showed a lot of foresight, given his recent decision. After graduating, he postponed entering the draft in order to obtain his M.A., as he won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University. Rolle earned an M.S. in medical anthropology and finally entered the NFL. After a very short time, he decided that book smarts trumped sports smarts in his life, and retired from the NFL in order to enter medical school. Rolle is currently enrolled at Florida State University College of Medicine with a projected graduation date of 2017.
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