Seeing as the lifespan of your average football player’s career is roughly equivalent to a fruit fly with a heroin problem, it’s not unusual to see these guys start seeking out alternative lines of work almost immediately. From the fading superstar to the barely-roster cracking historical footnote, here are some of our favorite former grid iron gladiators turned master thespians.
15. Brett Favre (There’s Something About Mary)
Sure, all Captain Indecision had to do was stand there holding Cameron Diaz like a freshly-caught marlin, but, hey, he did it, right? Of course, we detract points because Favre was technically an acting back-up—the Farrelly Brothers originally wanted Steve Young, but his Mormon beliefs bristled at the raunchy script.
14. Lawrence Taylor (Any Given Sunday)
“OK, LT….imagine you’re a prickly linebacker with the interpersonal skills of a rabid wolverine and a substance abuse problem. Aaaaaaand….action!” This was, by far, the easiest director job of Oliver Stone’s career. The only shocking thing was not see “as himself” next to Taylor’s name in the ending credits.
13. Ed Marinaro (Hill Street Blues)
Ed makes the list because more people probably know him from his role as Joe Coffey on Blues than from his playing days with the Vikings, Jets, and Seahawks. Now, of course, he likely spends most of his time repeating “No, I was not on Who’s the Boss?” at car shows nationwide.
12. Terry Bradshaw (Failure to Launch)
We’re not including his seminal role as “Terry” in Cannonball Run for two reasons: 1) The Run will be coming up later down the list and 2) Bradshaw was upstaged by Mel Tillis. Launch was terrible, but Bradshaw as Matthew McConaughhey’s dad explains a lot. No wonder Matt is so perma-stoned—his dad’s nutsack got stomped by Larry Csonka every third Sunday.
11. Howie Long (Firestorm)
The guy who seems to be constructed entirely out of square blocks seems like a natural for the action movie genre. Too bad Howie can’t even run from fire convincingly. Still, it’s a noble effort, and at least he gets top billing and his mug on the movie poster.
10. Brian Bosworth (Stone Cold)
Howie Long with slightly more personality (but no more acting ability), Bosworth’s entire life seems like a series of train wrecks. From his football career to his acting career, the guy has been a disaster. But at least an entertaining one.
9. Bubba Smith (Police Academy)
Bubba may, essentially, be Police Academy’s Chewbacca (big, intimidating, and given no dialogue), but Smith’s goofy grin makes cadet Moses Hightower a classic character despite the limitations. And he gets to be the hero who saves the day at the end, which is more than fitting. Bubba stuck with it so long, he even appeared on the TV spin-off series, which, we believe, was canceled during the pilot’s opening credits.
8. Joe Klecko (The Cannonball Run)
The former New York Jet was the only NFL player in history to go to the Pro Bowl for playing three different positions: Nose Guard, Defensive Tackle, and Defensive End. Can also lift vans.
7. Fred Williamson (Hammer)
Williamson parlayed grid iron glory into blaxploitation legend status with movies like Hammer, Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem, and Boss Nigger. He also proved he could stake the shit out of vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn. Badass? The word doesn’t even begin to cut it when it comes to Fred.
6. Alex Karras (Blazing Saddles)
When you can claim one of the funniest scenes in one of the all-time funniest movies, you deserve prime list placement. When you follow-up by playing the dad in Webster…you fall back a few slots. Just kidding, Alex, You set the bar for foot-thespians pretty high.
5. John Matuszak (The Goonies)
Buried under a foot of mutant make-up didn’t diminish the former Oakland Raider’s contribution to Goonie lore. His loveable giant Sloth was by far the movie’s break-out character (sorry, Data). And while most trained actors will run screaming from comedy, Matuszak jumped right in, racking up roles in goofy flicks like Caveman, One Crazy Summer, and The Ice Pirates.
4. Jim Brown (The Dirty Dozen)
Inglorious Basterds actually tried to convince us that you could frighten Nazis with a group of soldiers that look like high school mathletes. Eli Roth? BJ Novack? The shrimpy kid from Freaks and Geeks? No, no, no…you wan to scare some Krauts, you get yourself Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Jim Fucking Brown. “SS” will suddenly mean “Scared Shitless.”
3. Fred Dryer (Hunter)
On the TV cop show Hunter, Dryer was basically Clint Eastwood with a sense of humor and a hot partner (Stephanie Kramer – call us!). Sure, Fred’s face looked like he slept stomach-down on a George Foreman Grill for most of his adult life, but we were looking for ass-kickers, not male models here.
2. Terry Crews (Idiocracy)
Not only did he play in the NFL and NFL Europe (Rhein Fire! WOOT!), but Crews’ President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is simply one of the greatest movie characters of all time ever. End of story.
1. Carl Weathers (Rocky)
His NFL career was little more than a blip, but his acting career is the stuff of legend. Rocky. Predator. Force 10 From Navarone…erm…Action Jackson. Arrested Development. Weather is simply the gold standard. Why? Because some damn fool accused him of being the best.