11 Hollywood Stars Who Were Almost Pro Athletes

As most people probably already know, when you are looking to make it big (or find some decent success) in sports, it's always a good idea to have a well thought out Plan B. This is simply because most of the top high school and college prospects aren't able to land a full-time spot in the pros.

Worried you won't make it as a star athlete? Why not just fall back on Hollywood stardom? It's good work if you can get it... Right? With that said, here is a list of eleven big-time Hollywood performers who almost made it as pro athletes.

11 Dwayne Johnson

Depending on your opinion of pro wrestling, Dwayne Johnson is one of the most high-profile professional athletes to make the transition into acting. But if we're limiting consideration to the top 4 American pro leagues - NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB - the star of Pain & Gain just missed the cut.

10 Ed O'Neill

We think of Ed O'Neill as a lovable loser. His first step into stardom came as the put-upon husband Al Bundy on Married...With Children. Now he's the aging husband to feisty younger wife Sofía Vergara on Modern Family.

9 Burt Reynolds

When he was one of Hollywood's top stars in the 1970s and 1980s, Burt Reynolds was known as an athletic actor, with one of his best-known roles coming as a star quarterback in The Longest Yard.

Reynolds' reputation as an athlete was well earned. He was an all-state running back in high school and went to college at Florida State University on a football scholarship. It looked like NFL success might be in his future, but injuries ended his football dreams.

8 Master P

Master P is one of the all-time great hip-hop entrepreneurs. He was also an elite athlete, who tried to make it as a pro basketball player even after scoring big in music.

7 Jason Lee

Jason Lee breaks a couple of the informal rules of this list: 1) he didn't play one of the four main U.S. sports, and 2) he actually was an accomplished professional in his chosen field before becoming an actor. But given his chosen sport, a little rule-breaking makes sense.

6 Geena Davis

Geena Davis also breaks a lot of the rules of this list. While she proved herself to be a top-flight athletic competitor, she was never close to a professional career. Her sport isn't one of the "big four" American sports, or even one with a strong professional league. Also, she only became interested in her sport later in life. Still, with few opportunities for women professional athletes until very recently, Davis will have to stand in for all the athletic women who never had the chance to get close to professional success, despite their talent.

5 Mark Harmon

Now best known as the head of the team of investigators on NCIS, Mark Harmon was once a promising football prospect.

4 R. Kelly

Like Master P, R Kelly made a late attempt at a pro basketball career. He played on his high school team, but quit the sport to pursue his singing career. Kelly would eventually become one of the biggest R&B acts in the world, fittingly scoring his most enduring hit with "I Believe I Can Fly" from the Michael Jordan movie Space Jam.

3 Dean Cain

Dean Cain made a name for himself as Superman on the sexy TV version of the superhero. The casting of Cain as a superhuman specimen would have come as no surprise to people who knew him in his younger days.

In high school, Cain played baseball with, Charlie Sheen (who would later impress his co-stars on Major League with his real-life pitching chops). In college, Cain excelled at football and signed a contract with the Buffalo Bills following graduation.

2 Kurt Russell

When Ron Shelton was casting the lead character in his baseball classic Bull Durham, he wanted an actor who would be believable as a near-major league level player. The choice came down to Kevin Costner, who eventually won the role, and Kurt Russell.

1 George Clooney

George Clooney had a long climb to the top of the Hollywood pyramid. He labored in low-budget movies (Return of the Killer Tomatoes) and in second-rate TV roles (a stint on Facts Of Life) before breaking through to the big time in E.R.

Before his acting career began to take shape, the future Oceans Eleven star had his sights on a baseball career. In 1977, a 16-year-old Clooney tried out for the Cincinnati Reds, who were coming off a World Series season. Clooney told The Enquirer that he was a great outfielder, though he had a weak arm. Obviously, the tryout didn't lead anywhere, and the teenage Clooney turned his attention to acting.


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11 Hollywood Stars Who Were Almost Pro Athletes