We all know that many professional athletes played college sports before starting their pro career. But did you know that there are some very powerful and famous people who actually started their careers as a student-athlete? Here a list of top athletes and famous people you didn’t know played college sports!
Tim Tebow – Football – University of Florida
He played college football at the University of Florida, where he won a Heisman Trophy. He was the first college football player to both rush and pass for twenty or more touchdowns in a single season and was the first college sophomore to win the Heisman. Tebow won 2 national championships and 3 SEC Title games in his first 3 years at Florida.
John Isner – Tennis – University of Georgia
You probably know him from the longest match in grand slam history. At the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, Isner faced qualifier Nicolas Mahut in the first round. Isner won the match 6–4, 3–6, 6–7, 7–6, 70–68 in a total of 11 hours and 5 minutes. He played for the University of Georgia for four years, reaching the No. 1 ranking during his junior year. During his senior year, he helped the Bulldogs pull off an undefeated season, culminating with the NCAA Championship crown. And what Isner had to say about college tennis: “I’m always a proponent of playing college tennis. The average age for someone in the Top 100 is 27, it’s crazy. You have so much time. Going pro at 21 or 22, it’s not too late.” Go DAWGS!
John Olerud – Baseball – Washington State
You probably remember John Olerud as a Major League batting champion who played a slick first base and wore a helmet in the field. In college, he was known as a two-way player who hit and pitched at an elite level. During his freshman year at Washington State, Olerud batted .414 and finished 8-2 with a 3.00 ERA on the mound. He exploded as a sophomore, hitting .464 with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs while compiling a 15-0 record with a 2.49 ERA, easily winning the National Player of the Year. Olerud suffered a scary brain aneurysm between his sophomore and junior years, which is why he always wore a helmet as a pro. Since 2010, the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award has been given to the best hitter/pitcher in College Baseball.
Michael Jordan – Basketball – University of North Carolina
Michael Jeffrey Jordan, also known by his initials MJ, is an American former professional basketball player and the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls. You might know him from his Nike Air Jordans. Motivated to prove his worth, Jordan became the star of his junior varsity team. Numerous college basketball programs, including Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina, Syracuse, and Virginia recruited Jordan. In 1981, Jordan accepted a basketball scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in cultural geography.
Tiger Woods – Golf – Stanford University
Tiger Woods attended college at Stanford University from 1994-1996. He was at Stanford for two NCAA golf seasons before leaving college after his sophomore year to turn professional. At Stanford he studied economics. Woods won 11 college golf tournaments during his two seasons at Stanford University. He won the player of the year awards in 1996, the year he won eight times including the NCAA Championship. What Tiger Woods has to say about his college golf career: “I really enjoyed being stimulated by the students and professors. Some were geniuses and others were Olympic athletes. It’s amazing how well-rounded they are. That’s what’s so cool about it. You must soak up that experience. It was one of the best times in my life.”
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Football – University of Miami
Current movie star Dwayne Johnson had a very surprisingly turn in his career path. Johnson’s high school football skills earned him collegiate Division I offers, from which he chose an athletic scholarship to the University of Miami, where he graduated in 1995. A defensive lineman who earned the nickname “Dewey,” the 6-foot-5 Johnson played in 39 games. His teammates and coaches described him as a strong player and wildly impressive physical specimen.
Rapper 2 Chainz – Basketball – Alabama State
Back in the mid-1990s, rapper 2 Chainz was a 6-foot-5 teen who played for Alabama State on a Division I basketball scholarship. He has maintained an involvement in the basketball community through his music career, recently releasing a song called “NCAA” in which he points out the system that requests so much of college athletes, yet pays them nothing.
Emma Watson – Field Hockey – Brown University
Watson entered Brown as a freshman in 2009 and spent part of her time as a member of the club field hockey team. Her love for hockey began in childhood due to her parents’ shared passion for the sport, and she has maintained her involvement by visiting elementary school teams and sharing why she cares about field hockey so much.
Stephen Hawking – Rowing – Oxford University
Stephen Hawking’s life was full of extraordinary achievements. A chapter in Hawking’s story which few may be aware of is his collegiate athletic chapter. Hawking was a member of the Oxford rowing team before he was diagnosed with the disease that got him in a wheelchair. Hawking was a coxswain, the team member responsible for navigating the boat and maintaining a steady rowing pace.
Channing Tatum – Football – Glenville State College
Channing Tatum’s athletic abilities are no well-kept secret with his incredible dancing in the film “Step Up.” He earned a football scholarship to Glenville State College in West Virginia. He played here for a little while before dropping out to begin the exotic dancing work that would form the basis of the movie “Magic Mike.” Tatum has said that he lost the love of the sport in college and played as long as he did only to maintain his scholarship.
John F. Kennedy – swimming – Harvard
John F. Kennedy served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961–63. Back in the late 1930s, Kennedy came out for Harvard’s swimming team. Kennedy tried out for several sports teams upon his arrival ended up getting into the swimming team. Coaches later recalled that Kennedy was immensely popular and even then possessed the charm and diplomacy that would carry him into the Oval Office.
Rick Ross – Football – Albany State
Before Rick Ross was signing multi-million dollar deals at Def Jam Records or getting into various forms of legal trouble, he was playing football. Ross was a skilled and respected athlete in high school, and his abilities earned him a football scholarship to Albany State. Ross spent only one year playing football at the historically black university before leaving to pursue a career as a corrections officer, and then in the music industry. Check out this funny interview with the rapper when he is linking current rappers to American Football positions!
Bradley Cooper – Rowing – Georgetown
Around the 1990s Bradley Cooper became member of the Georgetown rowing team. Cooper’s college career began at Villanova. He transferred to Georgetown, where he studied English, became fluent in French, and rowed alongside his fellow Hoyas. Cooper almost won in a final and the coach said : “the most magnificent thing he’d ever seen in rowing”.
Which of our student-athletes do you think will be the next famous person to make the list?