Sunday, February 4, 2018

Dell's Pointless Lists: Greatest Actors Who Played in the NFL

If you're a football fan, like me. today is a holiday. If you're somehow unaware of what this glorious day is, it's Super Bowl Sunday. You might not love football, but if you're here it's probably because you love movies. Well, the two intersect a lot more often than you might think. Even this year's most famous participant, Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, has several acting credits. In his biggest role to date, he played himself in an extended cameo in Ted 2. And that brings me to today's subject:

Greatest Actors Who Played in the NFL

This list is focused on former NFL players because the Super Bowl is the biggest event the league has. That means this list won't include some great actors who played at the college level, most notably: John Wayne, Bert Reynolds, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. However, we do have some honorable mentions. We'll these guys...

The Second String

Bubba Smith

Terry Bradshaw

John Matuszak

Rosey Grier

Merlin Olsen

Enough of the back-ups. Let's get to the real stars...

The Starters

11. Bill Goldberg
On the field: Atlanta Falcons, 1992-94

On the screen: Though most known as WWE superstar Goldberg, certainly a type of acting, he has made a career for himself as a more traditional thespian, as well. He has a number of appearances as big, tough guys on both the big and small screen. Most notably, and memorably, he played the lead as a murderous St. Nick in the horror flick Santa's Slay.

10. Fred Dryer
On the field: New York Giants, 1969-71
                      Los Angeles Rams, 1972- 1981
                      1975 Pro Bowl Selection
                      Played in Super Bowl XIV with the Rams

On the screen: Dryer has a solid list of appearances in both movies and television playing a variety of roles. The one he's most known for is his starring and eponymous turn on the long running '80s cop drama Hunter.

9. O. J. Simpson
On the field: Buffalo Bills, 1969-77
                      San Francisco 49ers, 1978-79
                      NFL Most Valuable Player, 1973
                      6-time Pro-Bowl Selection
                      Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985

On the screen: Putting aside however you feel about him now, there's no denying Simpson had a huge presence in mainstream America throughout the 1970s and 80s. He first big off the field success was running through an airport in a rental car commercial. He had notable roles in TV productions such as Roots, and Goldie and the Boxer. On the big screen, he appeared in Capricorn One, The Towering Inferno, and most famously, The Naked Gun trilogy.

8. Frank McRae
On the field: Chicago Bears, 1967

On the screen: McRae amassed over 60 acting credits spanning over 30 years on both television and in movies. On TV, he made appearances in Police Story, Wonder Woman, and Hill Street Blues. In movies, he had roles in Rocky II, National Lampoon's Vacation, and batteries not included. He is often credited with helping to create the angry police chief trope with his most famous role as such in 48 Hrs.

7. Alex Karras
On the field: Detroit Lions, 1958-70
                      3-time Pro-Bowl Selection

On the screen: Karras has several memorable roles on the big screen in Porky's, Victor Victoria, and most hilariously in Blazing Saddles. His biggest impact came on TV playing adoptive father George Papadopolis in the hit series Webster.

6. Woody Strode
On the field: Los Angeles Rams, 1946

On the screen: Strode was a pioneer on the field, as one of the first Black players in the history of the NFL, and a pioneer on the screen. He even started his acting career well before his football one with an appearance in 1941's Sundown. He would amass 80 credits over the next 50-plus years, culminating with a part in 1995's The Quick and the Dead. He played many tiny parts with most of them being strong, silent types. He's appeared in such major motion pictures as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Ten Commandments, Spartacus, and Once Upon a Time in the West.

5. Bernie Casey
On the field: San Francisco 49ers, 1961-66
                      Los Angeles Rams, 1967-68
                      1967 Pro Bowl Selection

On the screen: With 80 acting credits to his name, from 1969's Guns of the Magnificent Seven to 2007's Vegas Vampires, in every genre you can imagine, on TV and in movies, you've probably seen Casey in something. He's most famous for his turns in Revenge of the Nerds, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Spies Like Us, and of course, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

4. Terry Crews
On the field: Los Angeles Rams, 1991
                      San Diego Charger, 1993
                      Washington Redskins, 1995

On the screen: His first role was as one of the "athletes" on a show called Battledome, a clone of American Gladiator, back in 1999. The one that launched him into bigger and better things was his turn as an ex-con in Friday After Next. Ever since, he's been pretty much everywhere. On TV, he's most known for his work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Everybody Hates Chris, and those wacky Old Spice commercials. In the movies, he racked up a lengthy list of small, but memorable roles in movies like White Chicks, Idiocracy, Bridesmaids, and in The Expendables franchise.

3. Carl Weathers
On the field: Oakland Raiders, 1970-71

On the screen: Beginning with a handful of roles in the early 1970s on TV, including The Six Million Dollar Man and in Blaxploitation flicks like Bucktown, and Friday Foster, Weathers made his big splash when he played heavyweight champion of the world Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky movies. Though no longer a part of the franchise, he still casts a huge shadow over it, as evidenced by 2015's Creed. Away from the Rocky movies, he also appeared in movies such as Predator, Happy Gilmore, and one of my all-time so-bad-it's-awesome favorites, Action Jackson. Lately, he's been a staple on TV shows Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.

2. Jim Brown
On the field: Cleveland Browns, 1957-65
                      NFL Most Valuable Player, 1957, '58, '65
                      Won NFL Championship, 1964
                      9-time Pro-Bowl Selection
                      Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1971

On the screen: Brown is a bit of an odd bird. He's considered by many to be the greatest football player who ever lived. The odd part is that he not only retired while still at the top of his game, winning the MVP in his last season, but he did so to pursue an acting career. He became a staple of the Blaxploitation era with starring roles in Slaughter, Black Gunn, Slaughter's Big Rip-Off, and Three the Hard Way. He also made a mark in the first big parody of the genre in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Away from the genre, he's racked up credits in all sorts of TV shows and movies. Most notably, he appears in The Running Man, Mars Attacks!, He Got Game, and Any Given Sunday. I guess he made a good choice.

1. Fred Williamson
On the field: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1960
                      Oakland Raiders, 1961-64
                      Kansas City Chiefs, 1965-67
                      3-time Pro Bowl Selection
On the screen: With his ever-present cigar and swagger always on a thousand, no one epitomized 70s-cool more than Fred "The Hammer" Williamson. His first acting gig was as a detective on TV's Ironside in 1968. A year later, he appeared in an episode of Star Trek. In 1970, he showed up in the hit series Julia and in the classic comedy movie MASH. This led to what is his real claim to fame, being the male face of the Blaxploitation era. His handiwork there includes lead roles in Black Caesar, Hammer, Bucktown, Hell Up in Harlem, and Mean Johnny Barrows among others. Once the genre fizzled out, he would continue his career starring in smaller budget vehicles and as a character actor in mainstream productions, both on TV and in the movies. Among his notable TV roles are: CHiPs, Arli$$, and Being Mary Jane. Some of his most known movie roles are: From Dusk Till Dawn, Starsky & Hutch, and The Big Score. He has well over 100 acting credits and over 20 directing credits, and the man is still going strong. According to his imdb page, he has 10 projects currently in various stages of production. And the dude is about to turn 80.

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  1. Every time I See Terry Crews I think of him singing A Thousand Miles in White Chicks and laugh.

  2. Fred Williamson. Now that is the man. That is a good list of guys who can bring it on a film set and on the field. Terry Crews is my favorite of course. I love that man.

    I bet the one joy in Ron Goldman's father's life is watching OJ get it a bunch of times in the first Naked Gun movie.

    1. Crews is a good favorite. Dude is in everything.

      Great point about Mr. Goldman, lol.

  3. Great idea for a post! I had no idea Woody Strode and the giant from The Goonies played in the NFL, you learn something new each week (or is it day?). I can't believe I still haven't watched Rocky 2 and 3, need to get that done this year! When I think angry police chief, an image of Frank McRae automatically pops into my head, and I guess it's the same for many of us!

    1. Thanks! Most people didn't know that, so don't feel bad. A Rocky might be a good idea. And yes to Frank McRae being THE angry police chief.

  4. Okay, so I was a bit surprised that Jim Brown wasn't number one until I got to number one.

    Yeah, that's the right call.

    Thank you for not including Howie Long and Brian Bosworth.

    1. Thanks!

      Wait, you didn't love Firestorm and Stone Cold?

  5. This is the greatest post in the history of time. Holy shit, Dell. You not only scored a touchdown, but you went for two.

    I sadly didn't know half these fine gents ever played in the NFL. And you're number one choice of FW is perfect. I haven't seen much with him in it, but I remember him in Vigilante and he was THE BEST.


    1. Thanks! And you need more Fred Williamson in your life.

  6. Some great ones here and ones I always had a soft spot for from Melin Olsen to Rosey Grier and Alex Karras. I am glad you mentioned Woody Strode but I would add Paul Robeson because I had heard he was in football way back in the day. I don’t know if he was professional though since...well, it is football and anything sports just never interested me.

    1. I would love to have included Robeson. However, he never played professionally and doesn't qualify.

  7. Britaini is soooo right. He is great in Everybody Hates Chris. In Brooklyn 99 it’s great as his physique is referenced all the time. On a related note I saw Chris Dock love for his stand up. Funniest guy on the planet for me. What did you think of the final?

    1. I'm a big fan of Rock's stand-up, but I have not had the chance to see him live. As for the show, I remember liking the last episode, but I need to see it again to refresh my memory. It's been a while since I've watched it.

    2. The episodes were quite short so was quite easy to watch a lot in a row. I never did see the final episode. Really should go watch it.

    3. You're making me want to do a binge re-watch. I love that show.

  8. Looking forward to Avengers: Infinity War?