There have been more than a few NFL greats who have made a seemingly effortless transition from gridiron greatness to silver screen notoriety. These athletes have been able to find success in multiple fields of entertainment which makes them truly gifted individuals who should be commended for their work and dedication. This list aims to highlight some notable NFL greats who successfully moved into the exalted thespian life.
#10. Terry Bradshaw
NFL fans of a certain age will remember Terry Bradshaw as the former quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Over the course of his 14 year career, Terry won four Super Bowl titles (1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979). After his retirement he went on to star in films like ‘The Cannonball Run’,’Hooper’, and ‘Failure to Launch’, he also started a television acting career that saw him with parts in series like ‘Hardcastle & McCormick’, and ‘Malcolm in the Middle’. Since 1994 he has been a sports analyst with Fox Sports as the co-host of Fox NFL Sunday. Terry has been a winner in both professions.
#9. Rosey Greer
Rosey Grier had a very successful 11 year career as a member of the New York Giants and a stalwart member of the legendary ‘Fearsome Foursome’ defense of the Los Angeles Rams. Grier made the jump to Hollywood after his NFL career as he hosted his own television show, followed by acting in a variety of network shows throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Grier appeared in some 70 shows and starred in season three/episode 14 of the wildly popular show, ‘The Love Boat’.
#8. Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor is widely considered the greatest defensive player in the history of the National Football League. He has Hall of Fame credentials to back that up as he played his entire career as a linebacker for the New York Giants (1981–1993), twice winning the Super Bowl. He made the transition to film and television with roles on HBO’s ‘1st & Ten: The Championship’, and films like ‘Any Given Sunday’ (1999), and ‘Shaft’ (2000). His personal demons aside L.T. remains a beloved public figure and N.Y. Giants legend.
#7. Alex Karras
Alex Karras, who went by the nickname “Mad Duck”, played 12 years in the NFL for the Detroit Lions as one of the best defensive tackles of his era. He then went on to become a fairly successful actor, starting with his role as ‘Mongo’ in Mel Brook’s classic comedy film ‘Blazing Saddles’. He then became a long time series regular on the popular ABC sitcom ‘Webster’ (1983–1989). Alex was undoubtedly a multi-talented individual.
#6. O.J. Simpson
The rise and fall of Orenthal James ‘O. J.’ Simpson, aka. “the Juice” is a tragic story of Shakespearian proportions. As a football star, O.J. Simpson was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. As a Hollywood actor and commercial spokesperson he was extremely popular, and affable. As a human being, the facts of the double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman point to a sinister person capable of unspeakable evil. Suffice it to say that the name O.J. Simpson is now far more infamous than it ever was famous. Nevertheless, he was an NFL star, a Hollywood star, a highly controversial alleged murderer and currently, a convicted felon.
#5. Howie Long
Howie Long is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2000) as one of the greatest defensive ends in history, who played for the Oakland Raiders. Post NFL, he has graced Hollywood with acting turns in films including John Woo’s ‘Broken Arrow’, as well as starring in ‘3000 Miles to Graceland’. Howie is currently a football analyst for Fox Sports Network, and their Sunday NFL programs.
#4. Fred Williamson
Throughout the decade of the 1960’s Fred Williamson, aka. ‘The Hammer’ was an exceptional professional defensive back, playing four seasons for the Oakland Raiders, and another 3 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, both of the AFL. His black belts in Kenpō, Shotokan and Taekwondo helped him with his stunts in 1970’s Hollywood action films such as ‘Three the Hard Way’, ‘Take a Hard Ride’, ‘One Down, Two To Go’, and 1996’s ‘Original Gangstas’. His rugged movie star looks and cool demeanor made Fred an easy fit in the tinseled halls of Hollywood.
#3. Merlin Olsen
Merlin Olsen is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as week as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He played his entire 15-year NFL career as the hard nosed defensive tackle of the Los Angeles Rams. His acting career was also prolific, as he played the character of small town farmer Jonathan Garvey on the iconic television show ‘Little House on the Prairie’. He then starred in the popular NBC drama, ‘Father Murphy’. Olsen was a gentle giant with a charisma and performance talent that is rare indeed.
#2. Bubba Smith
Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith was a unique individual insofar as it’s not everyday that you come across a 6’7 250 pound athlete who can dominate a professional football field and also provide laughter to millions of people acting in films. Bubba played for three teams over a nine year NFL career (Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers) playing in two Super Bowls, winning one. His post football career was also successful as an actor where he had a knack for successfully playing comedic characters in films and television programs. He is best known for his role of ‘Moses Hightower’ in the comedy classic ‘Police Academy’ film franchise. Bubba also appeared in memorable commercials for Miller Lite.
#1. Jim Brown
Jim Brown is widely considered to be the greatest single professional football player in history. His career was illustrious as he posted a record setting 9 year career as a running back for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns of the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Brown retired suddenly at the peak of his powers in July of 1966 as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. He chose the dazzling lights of Hollywood life instead. Jim went on to star in dozens of popular films including ‘The Dirty Dozen’, ‘Dark of the Sun’, ‘The Split McClain’, ‘Riot’, ‘100 Rifles’, ‘Slaughter’, ‘Black Gunn’, ‘Three the Hard Way’, and many more. Today Jim remains an active part of American political culture especially with regards to issues of social justice.