With the NFL seemingly out of the cards forever, Tim Tebow is looking to make some noise in professional baseball. This will be difficult, because baseball is super-dee-duper hard to just break into, even for those with experience, and as history has shown us, being even college-level good at multiple sports —much less pro-level good—is a tall task for even the greatest athletes. That being said, it is possible for athletes to play a secondary sport at a high level. The following are 20 athletes who tried their hand at more than one sport, with at least a golf clap-worthy level of success.
Antonio Gates: Basketball
Before entering the NFL and becoming a living touchdown sponge for the San Diego Chargers, Antonio Gates was a two-sport athlete at Kent State in football and basketball. And he was pretty good on the court! Gates nearly averaged a double-double his junior season with the Golden Flashes (16 points, 8.1 rebounds). That was good for a two-way tie as the team’s leading scorer as Gates helped Kent State reach the Elite Eight for the first time in team history in the 2002 NCAA tournament.
Getty ImagesDoug Pensinger
Herschel Walker: MMA
Herschel Walker was a monster on the football field for the Georgia Bulldogs, the USFL and the NFL. He’s also given bobsled and sprinting a chance, but his greatest secondary sport success has come in mixed martial arts. In the last five years, Walker has TKO’d two men in the octagon, and the 54-year-old claims he’s down for at least one more MMA bout before retiring.
Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesEsther Lin/Zuffa LLC
Nate Ebner: Rugby
An American Olympian in sevens rugby and a safety with the New England Patriots. Nate Ebner has been running and handled ovoid sports objects for most of his life. The 27-year-old athlete is taking on his latest challenge helping Team USA's men's sevens rugby team in Rio.
Boston Globe via Getty ImagesBoston Globe
Deion Sanders: Football, baseball
"Neon" Deion is one of the most dynamic athletes in modern memory, having played defense, special teams and even the odd offensive possession while in the NFL. Oh, and he signed to play for the New York Yankees after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. Double "Oh": Deion Sanders is also the only athlete to ever hit a home run in the MLB and score a touchdown in the same seven-day period.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesRon Vesely
Danny Ainge: Baseball
Before winning multiple championships in the NBA, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977. Ainge made the Majors in 1979, played three seasons with the Blue Jays and became the youngest player in franchise history to hit a home run for the team (20 years, 77 days).
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesRich Pilling
Jeff Samardzija: Football
Before becoming a roving starter around the MLB, Jeff Samardzija was a force in NCAA football. The Notre Dame tight end was prolific on the field and a consensus All-American in 2005, catching 15 touchdowns for the Fighting Irish. I was super excited to see what he'd do in the NFL, but he intelligently chose the sport where they pay you more and your body isn't systematically ground into hamburger.
ASSOCIATED PRESSMICHAEL CONROY
Jameis Winston: Baseball
Jameis is/was a pretty good baseball player, and while pitching for Florida State he expressed his desire to one day be a professional, two-sport athlete. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided this was a credible enough possibility, and upon drafting the FSU quarterback, wrote a clause in his rookie contract explicitly forbidding him to play baseball while in their employ.
Lolo Jones: Bobsled
When you’re struggling in hurdles, you try the next most logical thing: bobsled racing.
Getty ImagesDoug Pensinger
Brock Lesnar: Wrestling, football, MMA
An NCAA Division I heavyweight wrestling champ at Minnesota, Brock Lesnar's trip to WWE stardom started with real, actual (and dominant) grappling. His other tinkerings have including a scrape with the NFL and, of course, his forays in the UFC (the most recent being, uh, ill-fated).
Tony Gwynn: Basketball
Tony Gwynn still holds records with the San Diego State Aztechs basketball team, including most assists in a career (590), assists in a season (221) and assists in a single game (18). Not bad for one of the best bats to ever rake in the MLB.
Getty ImagesRogers Photo Archive
Tony Gonzalez: Football, basketball
A three-year football / basketball player at Cal, Tony Gonzalez showed enough skills on the hardwood to receive interest from NBA teams. He played Summer League ball in 2002 and handled himself well. His biceps alone are worth a 10-day contract.
NBAE/Getty ImagesFernando Medina
Donovan McNabb: Basketball
He was a reserve, but for two years at Syracuse, Donovan McNabb played ball for Jim Boeheim. His accomplishments include being on the roster for the 1996 squad that lost to Kentucky in the National Championship game. That's pretty much it. But he was there!
NBAE/Getty ImagesJesse D. Garrabrant
Charlie Ward: Football, baseball
Won a Heisman trophy at FSU. Drafted twice by the Yankees (1993 and 1994). First-round NBA Draft pick and role player on the 1999 Knicks Finals team that were run off the court by the San Antonio Spurs. He even managed to squeeze in a little bit of tennis in there. Charlie Ward was, undeniably, the picture of a full-service, multidimensional athlete.
Chris Weinke: Baseball
Before he won the Heisman at FSU and made his way to the NFL, Chris Weinke spent roughly an eternity kicking around the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system. He made it all the way to Triple-A, which is further than you made it. I do not know if this is true, actually. You could be Derek Jeter. I hope Derek Jeter reads this.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
Brandon Weeden: Baseball
Brandon Weeden was an All-State baseball player in college and was drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the MLB Draft in 2002. He wasn’t great, but he managed to stay in the MLB minors for four years before leaving to play in the NFL. At least everything's going much better now.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
Dave Winfield: Basketball
Before winning seven Golden Gloves, six Silver Slugger awards and a World Series title with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992, Dave Winfield was a two-sport athlete in baseball and basketball at the University of Minnesota. Future NBA head coach Bill Musselman described Winfield as the “best rebound [he’s] ever coached.” Definitely a solid glue guy.
Drew Henson: Baseball
After three years as backup quarterback and starter for the Michigan Wolverines in the late '90s, Drew Henson signed a $17 million with the New York Yankees in 1998 and joined their farm system. He would retire from baseball in 2003 with a handful of major league game appearances.
Getty ImagesRick Stewart
Julius Thomas: Basketball
He wasn’t as prolific as Antonio Gates in the paint, but Jacksonville Jaguars tight end / breakout NFL star Julius Thomas played four years of college ball for Portland State. In his senior year, he averaged a credible 10.8 points and 5.8 points a game. He never shot a single three-pointer. Because he knew his game.
ASSOCIATED PRESSJIM BRYANT
Bo Jackson’s four years playing MLB baseball and running the football for the Los Angeles Raiders makes him the closest thing we’ve experienced in modern times to a true, two-sport athlete. The Heisman Trophy winner excelled on the gridiron and the baseball diamond, and is one the rare athletes to make an All-Star roster in multiple sports. Bo Jackson is/was an anomaly. Dan is on Twitter.