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20 Actors Who Were Incredible Athletes

1. Sean Connery, Bodybuilder

Best known for his role as the secret agent James Bond, Sean Connery is probably the most famous Scottish actor of all time. However, Connery hadn’t planned to be an actor, instead wanting to be a bodybuilder. The star tried his hand at bodybuilding at the age of 18. He even competed in the famous Mr. Universe contest and came in third.

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2. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Football Player & Wrestler

As one of Hollywood's A-list actors, Dwayne Johnson has starred in numerous blockbuster films like The Fast and the Furious and Rampage. But before the star established himself as an acting phenom, he was flaunting his talents in sports. He started out as a football player and played briefly in the Canadian Football League before becoming a well-known pro wrestler.

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3. Tom Selleck, Basketball Player

From Three Men and a Baby to Magnum, P.I. to Friends, Tom Selleck has never failed to wow us with his performances. Well, prior to being an actor, Selleck was a standout basketball player, who played two seasons for the Trojans, while he was in college.

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4. Kurt Russell, Baseball Player

Kurt Russell started acting when he was a kid. He already had a number of acting roles under his belt by the time he’d made the decision to pursue a career in baseball. But sadly, while he was playing for EI Paso, he suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that forced him to end his baseball career. The good thing was that Hollywood was ready and waiting for him to pick up where he’d left off.

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5. Jason Statham, Diver

Before becoming a big-screen tough guy, Jason Statham was a competitive diver and spent 12 years as part of the British National Diving Squad. He ultimately represented England in the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland and finished 8th in the 1m springboard, 11th in the 3m and 10th in the 10m round. That was pretty awesome, though unfortunately he didn’t take home any medals.

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6. Burt Reynolds, Football Player

Burt Reynolds is widely regarded as one of the true legendary actors in Hollywood. He has brought us so many iconic works like Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, and Boogie Nights. However, the Hollywood hunk's stunning career may have never even existed had it not been for an unexpected twist of fate during his sporting days in college. Back in the 1950s, he was an outstanding halfback at Florida State University, but a knee injury forced him to end his football career and pursue his other passion.20 Actors Who Were Incredible Athletes_6

7. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bodybuilder

Schwarzenegger has gained worldwide fame as a Hollywood action film icon. However, before that, he was considered to be one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, and had won the Mr. Universe and the Mr. Olympia titles several times. It seemed conquering Hollywood and the bodybuilding world wasn't enough. We wonder what he will do next!

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8. Mark Harmon, Football Player

Mark Harmon has starred in a plethora of hit television shows, such as West Wing, NCIS, and JAG. But before Harmon became the prominent actor we know, he was strutting his stuff in Los Angeles. He won the Rose Bowl while playing as the starting quarterback for the UCLA Bruins.

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9. Gina Carano, Mixed Martial Artist

Fighting in action movies is by no means as easy as it looks, and participating in real life hand-to-hand combat is even harder, but Gina Carano can do both. The Haywire and Deadpool star competed professionally in combat sports long before she became an actress. She started out training in Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) and then transitioned to a competitive MMA, setting an incredible record of 12-1-1 in kickboxing and 7-1 in women's MMA. It seems Carano is good at whatever she does.

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10. Jim Gaffigan, Football Player 

You might know Jim Gaffigan from his hilarious stand-up comedy shows like Mr. Universe and Dad Is Fat. What you might not know is that this funny man was once a college athlete. He served as a walk-on in the Purdue football team for one year and then transferred to Georgetown to finish his college football career with the Hoyas.

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11. Matthew Perry, Tennis Player

Years before his success on the iconic TV sitcom Friends, a teenage Perry was a nationally ranked tennis player in his native Canada. He ranked as high as No.17 in junior singles and No.3 in junior doubles. But when he moved to California at 15, he found the competition much stiffer than he had expected. As he said in an interview, “I was pretty great in Canada. Not so much in Los Angeles. It was insane. I realized I wouldn’t be playing tennis for a living, so I went for acting.”

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12. Ronda Rousey, Wrestler

Ronda Rousey is regarded as one of the best and most influential female athletes ever. She holds the record of being the only woman to win a championship in both the UFC and WWE. But her impressive resume is far more than that. The star has also enjoyed success as an actress, amazing us with her performances in films like The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Mile 22.

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13. John Cena, Football Player And Wrestler

John Cena was an NCAA Division III All-American football player at Springfield College before becoming an iconic wrestler. It was his outstanding wrestling career that eventually led to his roles in big-screen movies like Trainwreck and Blockers.

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14. O.J. Simpson, Football Player

O.J. Simpson is infamous for the O.J. Simpson murder case. In 1991, he was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Though Simpson was exonerated, Ron Goldman's parents sued him for wrongful death and won. But before all this happened, he was known as a football legend, one who won a Heisman Trophy while at USC and set an NFL rushing record while playing for the Buffalo Bills. During the off-season, "the Juice" also pursued an acting career and received high praise for his performances in Roots and The Naked Gun series.

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15. Terry Crews, Football Player

When the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star graduated from high school, he earned a football scholarship to Western Michigan University, where he ended up winning a MAC championship. After graduating from college, he went on to play professionally for several NFL teams and retired in 1997. Ever since, he has been pursuing his acting career.

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16. Stacy Keibler, Wrestler

Stacy Keibler was once a household name in the WCW and WWE. She retired from the competition in July 2006, and went on to make numerous appearances in TV series like George Lopez and How I Met Your Mother. However, her most notable role wasn’t related to wrestling or acting, but rather to being George Clooney’s girlfriend for two years. 20 Actors Who Were Incredible Athletes_16

17. Tommy Lee Jones, Football Player

Long before he was fighting against aliens in Men in Black with Will Smith, or tracking down the murderer in The Fugitive, Tommy Lee Jones was tossing bodies around as a member of the Harvard Crimson football team. He earned All-Ivy League team honors for the 1968 season and even played in one of the most famous college football games in history - the classic Harvard/Yale rivalry, 29–29 tie.

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18. Chuck Norris, Martial Artist

Chuck Norris is truly a martial arts guru, who is a black belt in Tang Soo Do, taekwondo, karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and judo. Such an awesome background led him to star in many action films and television shows, such as Code of Silence and Walker and Texas Ranger.

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19. Michael Jordan, Basketball Player

As a basketball player Michael Jordan doesn't need an introduction. He managed to shock the world with his brilliant NBA career. Jordan's acting career however was limited to one memorable film, Space Jam, in which he starred with Warner Brothers’ legendary animated characters. The movie tops the list of the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time.

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20. Shaquille O'Neal, Basketball Player

The former NBA star always had interests outside of basketball. He released rap albums; He appeared on the covers of video games; He promoted products in television commercials; He trained in the MMA; And of course he acted. He’s guest-starred in a number of television shows like The Parkers and Southland. Besides all this, he’s also done voiceover acting in movies like The Smurfs 2 and The Lego Movie.

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