Recently, the NFL has been under a lot of justified pressure because of their spate of domestic violence arrests. The rash of incidents has led many to question the impact that football has on American society. However, the league is also home to hundreds of interesting players that had interesting routes to the NFL and lives off of the football field. These players’ unique accomplishments, stories, and charitable contributions have helped make the NFL the successful institution it is today.
The NFL fosters an environment where success is only possible through extensive preparation. The season places almost constant demands on a players’ time and requires that their behavior off the field be exemplary. All of the preparation is put to the test on game day, where careers are forged and broken. The individual players that make these games possible are often overlooked because of the spectacle that NFL football games have become. Even when announcers are scrambling to fill airtime, many do not focus on player anecdotes to entertain the audience of another Jacksonville Jaguars blowout.
So without further ado, here are 25 weird facts about some of your favorite NFL players.
24 Jeremy Maclin Adopted By Family Resembles the “Blindside”
Jeremy Maclin has had a successful NFL career, but the path he took to get to the NFL is reminiscent of the plot from the Blindside. After growing up without knowing his biological father, Maclin’s biological mother agreed to let him stay with the family of his little league coach, Jeff Parris. Jeff and Cindy Parris gave Jeremy a family environment away from the troubled St. Louis neighborhood where he grew up. Maclin went on to star at the University of Missouri and now is a main feature of the Philadelphia Eagles offense. He runs the Jeremy Maclin Foundation, which is dedicated to helping children and families in alternative living situations.
23 Reggie Bush and Alex Smith Were High School Teammates
It must have been a nightmare to play Helix Charter High School in the early 2000s. The Helix backfield featuring both quarterback Alex Smith and the playmaking abilities of Reggie Bush. As a starting quarterback for his junior and senior seasons, Smith led Helix to a 25-1 record. The team went on to win two San Diego CIF Section Championships. Both would go to separate universities, but were reunited when they were nominated as Heisman Trophy candidates. They are the only high school teammates to have been nominated for the honor.
22 Antonio Gates Never Played College Football
After over a decade of featuring as a red zone threat for the San Diego Chargers, it is hard to think of Antonio Gates as anything other than a football player. However, Gates never played a down of competitive football at any level until the NFL. Out of high school, Gates attended Michigan State with the intention of playing football under Nick Saban and basketball under Tom Izzo. After Saban required him to commit to football, Gates transferred to Eastern Michigan and eventually Kent State to play basketball. Following his senior basketball season, during which Kent State reached the Elite Eight, he was given a tryout with the Chargers. 11 years later he is arguably the second greatest tight end of all time.
21 Michael Vick was Drafted by the Colorado Rockies
Michael Vick’s baseball career ended in eighth grade. Despite this factor, the Colorado Rockies still drafted Michael Vick in the 30th round of the 2000 MLB Draft. Not playing the sport since he was 14, Vick was never actually a serious candidate to become a major leaguer, but he still had the athletic gifts necessary to blow away MLB draft scouts. Rockies scouts did not consider it a major investment at the time. Vick is included in the list of athletes drafted by both the NFL and MLB, which includes Tom Brady, Golden Tate, and Deion Sanders.
20 Derek Carr Knew the Entire Oakland Raiders Playbook Before Training Camp
Derek Carr impressed many coaches and league figures when he arrived to Oakland Raiders training camp. However, it wasn’t his arm strength or scrambling ability that impressed them, it was his mind. Carr entered the camp with the entire Raiders playbook memorized, an impressive feat for a veteran, let alone a rookie quarterback. Carr’s older brother David was the first ever draft pick in Houston Texans history and has been teaching him the intricacies of NFL offenses for years. Teammate James Jones even compared him to Aaron Rodgers.
19 Greg Robinson Evacuated from Home Due to Hurricane Katrina for 2 Years
Hurricane Katrina uprooted thousands of people from their lives when it made landfall in 2005. Greg Robinson’s family left their home in Houma, Louisiana when he was only 11-years-old. The family stayed in Houston and were unable to return to their home for nearly two years. Once Robinson returned, he attended Thibodoux High School before going to Auburn University. Now as a rookie offensive lineman with the St. Louis Rams, he is the highest drafted offensive lineman in the history of Auburn.
18 Tim Tebow was on MTV in High School
Tim Tebow was even a superstar in high school. The short-lived MTV reality program, Two-A-Days, featured an episode where the protagonist Hoover High faced Tebow’s Nease High School in the show’s premier episode. Tebow was impressive in the loss against Hoover, as he racked up nearly 400 passing yards and two touchdowns. Hoover would go on to win their fourth consecutive Arkansas Class 6A championship, and it was one of the few times that Tebow would lose on national television.
17 Odell Beckham Jr.’s Mom May be a Better Athlete than Him
Odell Beckham Jr. has two stellar athletes as parents. His father Odell Beckham Sr. played running back at Louisiana State University. While he was there he met Odell’s mother, Heather Van Norman, a standout athlete on the school’s track team. Van Norman is now the coach of Nichols State’s Track and Field program, but during her career she was a six-time NCAA All American. His mother frequently critiques his sprinting form, and in January, Odell challenged her to a race in the 40 yard dash.
16 Drew Brees is committed to his Birthmark
Drew Brees has openly embraced his birthmark, in an interview earlier this year, he said that he would never remove his birthmark, unless doctors believed it was a danger to his health. During his childhood, Brees was bullied because of his birthmark and mockingly called “Spot.” Once in an advertising campaign, Vicks photoshopped an addition birthmark on the left side of his face. Brees now uses it to encourage others to embrace who they are and has even seen fans create their own versions of the birthmark in his honor.
15 D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s Strange Name Inspired Key & Peele
D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s unique name is inspired by Father Ralph de Bricassart, a character in The Thorn Birds, an Australian novel and the second highest rated miniseries in American TV history. His name is also the inspiration for the hilarious Key & Peele sketch, the East/West College Bowl. In the sketch, Key and Peele portray a list of college football’s most ridiculously named superstars. Without D’Brickashaw we wouldn’t have classic names like Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace, Mergatroid Skittle, and Fudge.
14 Nick Foles’ Parents are Millionaires
Nick Foles came under fire this summer from Buzz Bissinger, who said he could never win a Super Bowl because of his background. Foles grew up in the upscale neighborhood surrounding Westlake High School in Texas. His parents are successful restaurateurs. Larry Foles and a business partner sold their shares in Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Wildfish Grilles for a total of $59 million. Westlake does have one notable alumni that refutes this argument, Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees.
13 Brandon Marshall Suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, Now a Mental Health Advocate
Since being involved in several controversial off field incidents, Brandon Marshall bravely revealed his borderline personality disorder to the public. He discussed his treatment and coping techniques in a press conference that came just three months after he was stabbed by his girlfriend. As part of his ongoing battle with the disorder, Marshall has become a public advocate in favor of mental health awareness. Last season, Marshall was fined $10,500 for wearing bright green cleats in honor of Mental Health Awareness week.
12 AJ Hawk Sacked his Brother-in-Law Brady Quinn
AJ Hawk faced off against his future brother-in-law Brady Quinn in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl when Ohio State met Notre Dame. Laura Quinn wore a customized half and half jersey to celebrate the occasion, which combined both Hawk and Quinn’s uniforms. Hawk got the better of Brady that day, sacking the Notre Dame quarterback twice and was named co-MVP in the Ohio State victory.
11 Robert Griffin III has a Sock Collection
Robert Griffin III first revealed his affinity for socks when he showed the world his Superman socks during the Heisman Trophy ceremony. He has since had his own sock released by Adidas, which included a knee-high burgundy and gold version that says “GO CATCH YOUR DREAMS.” Griffin has displayed his own sock collection which features Angry Birds, Cookie Monster, and SpongeBob SquarePants socks. Griffin took his sock swag onto the practice field this season when he wore a black sock, black cleat on one side and a white sock, white cleat combination on the other.
10 Larry Fitzgerald and his Dad Make Super Bowl History
When Larry Fitzgerald did everything in his power to bring the Arizona Cardinals within inches of winning the Super Bowl, he made history. However, it wasn’t his performance on the field that was historic, but rather his father covering him from the sidelines. Larry Fitzgerald Sr. is a reporter for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and was sent to cover his son in sport’s biggest spectacle. Larry Sr. then published his thoughts on being a proud father covering his son in the Super Bowl for the New York Times.
9 Joe Montana Pointed Out John Candy before Super Bowl XXIII Winning Drive
With his team down in the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XXIII, Joe Montana lived up to his nickname “Joe Cool.” Years after the game, Montana explained his version of the story where he pointed out famous actor John Candy on the sidelines moments before leading the 49ers on a game winning drive. After pointing out Candy to Harris Barton, Montana proceeded to go 8/9 passing taking his team from their own 8-yard line. He capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to John Taylor in one of the most memorable moments in Super Bowl history.
8 Danny Woodhead was a Division II Legend
Danny Woodhead was not recruited by big schools like Nebraska out of high school. Instead, he ended up at Division 2 Chadron State. While at Chadron State, Woodhead had one of the best careers in collegiate football history. Woodhead was a four-year candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy, D2’s version of the Heisman, and won the award in both 2006 and 2007. He ranks second on the NCAA all-time list for all-purpose yardage, first all-time in rushing yardage, and is only the second player to ever score over 100 touchdowns.
8. Calvin Johnson Played Alongside Roman Reigns at Georgia Tech
Before Calvin Johnson was known as Megatron, he was tearing up offenses with Georgia Tech. Also on that Yellowjackets roster was future WWE Superstar Roman Reigns. Reigns was known as Joe Anoa’i before his career as a wrestler and played as a three-year starter at defensive tackle. Reigns and Johnson were both named to the All-ACC Team in 2006. He also had a short stint in the NFL with the Vikings and Jaguars before turning to the family business of wrestling.
7 Troy Polamalu Doesn’t Lift Heavy Weights
Troy Polamalu has been frustrating opposing offenses for years with his spectacular playmaking abilities. Polamalu is an athlete with the unique physical gifts and almost preternatural ability to predict plays. In order to preserve these reflexes, he trains differently than other NFL players by never lifting heavy weights. Instead, Polamalu focuses on iso-kinetic movements, or making his muscles faster. Training with the famous Marv Marinovich helped Polamalu rebound from serious injuries in college to a long, successful NFL career.
6 Richard Sherman was 2nd in his High School Class
Richard Sherman shocked America with his postgame interview, where he called out Michael Crabtree in a rant that would have made Macho Man Randy Savage smile. Many quickly dismissed Sherman as unintelligent, but they could not be farther from correct. Sherman was the salutatorian of his high school class at Dominguez High School in Compton, CA. He then attended Stanford on an athletic scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications.
5 Wes Welker Owns a Race Horse Named Undrafted
Coming out of Texas Tech, many underestimated Wes Welker’s ability to succeed in the NFL because of his size. Welker was not selected in the NFL Draft, but has been able to have a successful NFL career including stints as the favorite target of both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Welker honored his circuitous route to the NFL by naming his four-year-old gelding racehorse Undrafted. The racehorse cost Welker $50,000, but has returned his investment with earnings of $165,000 over its career.
4 Rob Gronkowski has his own Cereal Brand
Although he spent much of last season injured, Rob Gronkowski will always have the breakfast cereal industry to fall back on. Using the same company that manufactured Flutie Flakes, Gronk Flakes gave New England Patriots fans an opportunity to make the Rob Gronkowski a part of their balanced breakfast. Committed Gronk fans can still purchase the cereal online. Gronk Flakes, when you need to start your day with a spike.
3 Tom Brady and Kevin Youkilis are Brothers-in-law
This fact is sure to send every Boston sports fan into fits of joy. At what must have been the most historic wedding in Boston Sports history, World Series champion Kevin Youkilis married Julie Brady, Tom’s sister. Youkilis was spotted in Brady’s suite at Super Bowl XLVI, while Brady tried to lead his team to victory. The brothers-in-law share three Super Bowl rings and two World Series titles between them. Julie and Kevin have a son together and Boston fans are expecting big things from the youngster.
2 Ndamukong Suh Heavily Fined, Most Charitable
Ndamukong Suh has developed a reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the league. He has also earned the reputation of being one of the most charitable. In 2010, Ndamukong and his sister Ngum established the Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation dedicated to education, health and wellness, and global outreach. In 2011, Suh donated $2.6 million to the University of Nebraska to establish an endowed Engineering scholarship and improve the athletics strength and conditioning program. According to the Giving Back Fund, Suh was the 6th most giving celebrity of 2011 and the most generous athlete.
1 Tony Romo’s Random Acts of Kindness
Tony Romo has developed a reputation during his time as Dallas Cowboys quarterback as being one of the nicest guys in the league. Hours after taking a helmet shot to the chin from Willie McGinest, Romo helped a couple change their tire after midnight while on his way home from the away game earlier in the day. There are also stories of Romo treating a homeless man named Doc to a movie, where they watched Role Models. While he may struggle at times to lead the hapless Dallas Cowboys, Romo is a model citizen and a true Good Guy Greg.