In the world of sports there is a general misconception that because you’re an athlete, you’re probably not all that bright. While it’s true that many pro athletes focus primarily on making the big leagues while in school and consider the classroom to be a matter of necessity to get to the draft, the players on this list defy being typecast. Cornell? Princeton? Yale? Sounds like the Alma matter of CEOs of fortune 500 companies, not a bunch of athletes, but these men have eschewed the “dumb jock” stereotype and have done some incredible things in the classroom to add to what they’ve done in the world of sports.
5. Pau Gasol: NBA – Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol originally didn’t want to have a career as a professional athlete. In fact, as a youngster the Spaniard was so captivated with the idea of helping sick people he decided on a career in medicine. Gasol attended the University of Barcelona medical school to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor but left early when his basketball career in Spain took off. Gasol was such a good student and keen learner that the dean of medicine has welcomed him to return and complete his degree at any time, something the Laker forward apparently plans on doing.
On the court, Gasol has won the Rookie of the Year Award, two NBA titles, been an All-Star four times, and won best European player of the year twice. He’s also represented his country in the Olympics. Most importantly however, is the fact that Gasol makes regular visits to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles where he not only makes donations, but actually sits in on surgeries with the attending doctors, one of whom remarked “we talk to him almost as if he is a colleague now.” Needless to say, as an NBA All-Star and future doctor, Gasol is one of the brightest minds in pro sports.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick: NFL – Houston Texans
Once considered the best Quarterback to suit up for the Buffalo Bills since Jim Kelly, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s value on the football field has declined dramatically over the past few seasons. It’s probably a good thing he’s one of the smartest men in sports then; back-up plans go a long way when you’re educated. Fitzpatrick scored a 1580 on his SAT’s, allowing him to attend Harvard where he majored in economics. While at the Ivy League school Fitzpatrick led Harvard to a 10–0 record, winning the Ivy League Championship in 2004. That same year he won the Ivy League MVP after accumulating 1,986 yards with 13 touchdowns to only six interceptions. Coming into the NFL combine, Fitzpatrick took the Wonderlic Test and completed it in nine minutes. There is some debate as to what his actual score was, but most estimate it was 48 out of a possible 50, the highest Wonderlic Test score of all time thus far. Regardless of his future on the field, Fitzpatrick’s education and intelligence have not only set him up for a future off the field, but make him one of the smartest and most educated current pro athletes.
3. George Parros: NHL – Montreal Canadiens
Any hockey fan knows George Parros, the tough enforcer with a career 1070 PIM and a wild mustache who fought his way to a Stanley Cup victory with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. Considering Parros’ on-ice role is to use his fists and take punches to the head, most wouldn’t guess that he’s one of the brightest men in sports. Parros graduated from Princeton in economics with a 3.18 GPA and has plans to be a business consultant once his NHL career is over. As a junior hockey player he even took a job at a Chicago Board of Trade. Not too shabby for an enforcer. Beyond being smart, Parros also has a heart. There’s a reason why his hair is always long during the season; he cuts and donates his hair to the charity Locks of Love every Christmas to help make wigs for children with cancer. If concussions don’t derail Parros’ career, he may have a few good fights left in him, but if they do, based on his education and intelligence George Parros will be successful long after his NHL days are over.
2. Ross Ohlendorf: MLB – Washington Nationals
Now here is a guy who is about as bright as they come in the world of sports. Ohlendorf graduated high school with a score of 1520 on his SATs and proceded to attend Princeton, where he majored in Operations Research and Financial Engineering and graduated with a 3.8 GPA. While at Princeton, Ohlendorf won the the Ivy League Rookie of the Year Award in 2002, wrote his senior thesis on Investing in Prospects: A Look at the Financial Successes of Major League Baseball Rule IV Drafts from 1989 to 1993 and received the George Mueller Award for combining “high scholarly achievement in the study of engineering with quality performance in intercollegiate athletics.” Off the field he’s also worked as a volunteer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as having worked on a cost-benefit analysis of a program that traces disease in livestock and its effect on farmers. While he’s never been nearly as successful in Major League baseball as he was in the classroom, Ohlendorf has managed longevity, heading into his eighth season this year. Regardless of how Ohlendorf’s pitching career pans out, his knowledge of baseball and agriculture will have either an MLB team looking to hire him in management, or an agricultural firm looking to do the same.
1. Craig Breslow: MLB – Boston Red Sox
Craig Breslow would be one of the smartest and most educated guys you might end up working for if he wasn’t a professional athlete. The fact that’s he’s a major league pitcher makes it all the more astonishing. He’s a relatively successful set-up man in the pitching rotation and has compiled very respectable numbers over his ten-year career with 20 wins to 19 losses, a 2.82 ERA, 329 strikeouts and six saves. He’s also won a World Series. But it’s in the classroom and community where Breslow really shines. Breslow graduated from Yale where he majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry with a 3.5 GPA and was then promptly accepted into New York University’s medical school. His score on his MCAT test was 34; the average is between 26-28. Because his love for baseball took precedence over medical school, Breslow decided to start the Strike 3 Foundation, a charity that heightens awareness and raises funds for pediatric cancer. The foundation has since joined forces with the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to combat cancer in children. As of now, the foundation has donated $500,000 to the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital to help enhance their Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program. It has also made numerous contributions to other pediatric cancer centres as well. Breslow oversees the daily operations of the entire foundation, making him not only the smartest and most educated man in sports, but one of the most philanthropic as well.