Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Athletes as Actors, part 1: NFL Football

Click here for part 2.
Click here for part 3.

For whatever reason, athletes want to be actors, and actors want to be athletes. Normally, actors can't just spontaneously become athletes because they lack the physical attributes to make the switch (most actors are either quite dainty and fragile, or are fat chain-smokers). However, many athletes have been able to parlay their fame into some decent acting gigs. And football players, often because of their freakish size, seem to be well suited for acting. Here are some of the most notable (not necessarily the best) pro football players who tried their hand at acting:

Defensive Line - What is it about defensive linemen that make them turn to acting? There are lots to choose from for this list. Is it their freakish size and strength? Is it the steriods? Is it the slavish adherence to instructions and directions? Why so many defensive linemen, but no offensive linemen? Are offensive linemen too smart? I'm perplexed.

Bubba Smith
The former MSU Spartan All-American defensive tackle (who played professionally for the Raiders, Colts, and Oilers) played Moses Hightower in the Police Academy series of movies. But he also appeared in such 70s and 80s staples as Eight is Enough, Charlie's Angels, Taxi, Vegas, and Wonder Woman. What, no Love Boat? No Fantasy Island?

Typical role: big dopey oaf (or big oafish dope)

Merlin Olson
Former Rams defensive tackle and NFL hall-of-famer was on many episodes of the hit 70s/80s TV series Little House On The Prairie before starring in his own short-lived series, Father Murphy. Also "starred" in a series of ads for FTD, which tried to make it okay for men to like flowers.

Typical role: sensitive bearded man or clergy

Alex Karras
The former Detroit Lions defensive tackle not only starred in his own series (Webster), but he also played one of the most lovable iconic retards in film history - Mongo in Blazing Saddles. He appeared in such 70s series as Love, American Style, The Odd Couple, McMillan & Wife, and M*A*S*H. He even hosted SNL once in 1985. In researching this, I also discovered that Karras finished 2nd in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1957. Was also suspended from the NFL for a year for gambling.

Typical role: meathead

Roosevelt (Rosey) Grier
Another Rams lineman. He had roles in shows as far back as 1965 (Man from UNCLE). His credits include such memorable shows as I Dream Of Jeannie, Daniel Boone, Kojak, CHiPs, Quincy, and Love Boat. Oddly enough, also had a variety show called "The Rosey Grier Show" that lasted exactly one episode. He also appeared on Match Game, and in one episode of The Simpsons (as himself). Also known for espousing the masculine virtues of needlepoint. Rosey served as a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy during his run for president in 1968, but was guarding Ethel Kennedy, the Senator's wife, then expecting a child, the night that Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968. Grier and Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson heard shots fired ahead of them. Grier grabbed the gun of the assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, and jammed his finger behind the trigger, breaking Sirhan Sirhan's arm. Wow. Top that, Brian Bosworth.

Typical role: suave sensitive soul brother

Fred Dryer
Former Rams pro bowl defensive end had his own hit series in the 80s - Hunter. He has also reprised the role for a couple TV movies since then. According to IMDB, he was a finalist for the role of Sam Malone on Cheers. He did make several guest appearances on Cheers (as Sam's former Red Sox teammate) thru the years.

Typical role: macho stud (Clint Eastwood-lite)

John Matuszak
A former Raider and Oiler, one of The Tooz's early appearances was one that suited his acting talents well: he played a caveman in "Caveman," which featured Ringo Starr. Perfect casting, since his lines were essentially grunts. He went on to appear in lots of TV shows, as well as "One Crazy Summer." Appeared on one episode of "Hunter."

Typical role: caveman, or intellectual equivalent

Lyle Alzado
The former Broncos/Raiders/Browns defensive end was most well-known for his admission of steroid use during his career. Ironically, he appeared in an anti-drug music video sponsored by the Reagan administration called Stop the Madness. Just say no, Lyle. I had a loser classmate in junior high who insisted that he knew Alzado personally, and that this fact might impress people. This only made me dislike Lyle Alzado.

Typical role: Reagan administration shill

Running Back - Two of the all-time greats, and that's about it

OJ Simpson
This former Heisman Trophy winner went on to play for the Buffall Bills and break the single season rushing record with 2003 yards in 1973. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, his first year of eligibility. He also appeared in some sweet flicks: Roots, Capricorn One, Towering Inferno, the Naked Gun movies. He even hosted Saturday Night Live in 1978. Oh, and he slashed the throats of his ex-wife and an innocent bystander in 1994, instantly killing them both. Actually, I'm only kidding. He was never convicted of this crime. He has spent the last twelve plus years of his life tirelessly searching for the perpetrator(s) of this crime. It is rumored that he has spent over three million dollars in greens fees and charter fishing boat fees in the pursuit of the killers.

Typical role: murderer

Jim Brown
Widely considered the best football player to ever lace up the cleats, he retired at the age of 29 after a brief but spectacular 9-year career. He's got some great films on his list of credits: The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra, Three The Hard Way, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. He earned all-american honors in both lacrosse and football at Syracuse. He's well known for speaking out for, and supporting, causes he believes in. He is a bad mutha, and at the age of 72 could probably kick the ass of many current NFL players.

Typical role: badass hero

Defensive Back - Only one DB? Deion, are you ready for your close-up?

Fred Williamson
Former Raiders/Chiefs/Steelers defensive back, "The Hammer" played a badass in just about every one of his films. Of all these guys, he has had the longest, most successful acting career. In fact, he's still at it today. I have no idea what it's about, but he appears in the upcoming movie "Black Kissinger" as Henry Kissinger. Sounds like a straight-to-video release. Some other tidbits: like Alex Karras, is from Gary, IN; he appeared in Playgirl in 1973; he was Spearchucker Jones in the movie M*A*S*H.

Typical role: badass hero - lower budget

Quarterback - I would have thought there were more QBs that went into acting. After all, they are the glamour boys of the NFL.

Terry Bradshaw
Hall-of-Fame Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw recently appeared in the film "Failure to Launch" and showed his bare ass. Dozens of people from across the country are rumored to have been admitted to psychiatric hospitals in an effort to erase the image from their brains. Also appeared in Cannonball Run and Hooper, two Burt Reynolds films. Mostly plays a version of himself.

Typical role: affable southern country bumpkin

Joe Namath
Broadway Joe, along with respected journalist Dick Schapp, co-hosted The Joe Namath Show. He also guest-hosted The Tonight Show several times. He appeared on both The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, as well as The Brady Bunch. Namath was offered the job to host "Family Feud" when the show was revived in 1988, but the producers had second thoughts, and ultimately hired Ray Combs instead. He is most well known by the youngins for his Monday Night Football interview with ABC sideline reporter Suzy Kolber, in which he appeared drunk and asked Kolber for a kiss.

Typical role: drunk

It's strange that all of these are older guys. I have a theory. I think it is can be attributed to two factors:

  1. Current players make so much money when they are playing that they are less likely to need to have a post-NFL career that requires actual work (as opposed to "endorsing" or being a "spokesman" for someone).
  2. There are so many more NFL broadcasting jobs now. ESPN alone probably employs a dozen former players. Same goes for Fox, CBS, NBC, and the NFL network. Not to mention all the on-line stuff.

I must have missed some. Send me your suggestions in the comments and I'll add more if I have time. We were going to do all sports at once, but there were too many football players. We'll get to the others soon enough.


Brakeman said...

Whenever I see The Juice on screen I just crack up. Only in America can a crimally aquitted civally convicted man still pull in royalties for parts in bad movies. Great post Billy Ba-Ru. Who knew that there were so many football players attempting to be actors. I will find at least one that you missed. Can't wait for the baseball post and of course, the most famous athlete to actor of them all, the world champion middle weight boxer Marvin Hagler.

Assman said...

Yeah, boxers might be a fun one. Tex Cobb, Tommy Morrison, probably lots of other ones.

Anonymous said...

How could you forget John Matuszak's most famous role of all, Sloth, in Goonies?

rjjones24 said...

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