Top 20 Football Players Turned Actors

OJ Simpson from Naked Gun

OJ Simpson from Naked Gun

Football players are extremely popular among fans of the game. After their playing days are done, many go onto coaching, announcing, or other careers that keep them in the public eye. Many also go on into the field of acting.

Here is a look at the top 20 football players turned actors

#20 Bill Romanowski – Bill Romanowski played football for 16 years for the 49ers, Eagles, Broncos, and Raiders. Following his career he has appeared in movies such as The Longest Yard and Benchwarmers.

#19 Bill Goldberg – Though his football career was not much to speak of, Bill Goldberg made quite a splash in the acting world. He first became famous in the world of professional wrestling, but would go on to appear in Universal Soldier: The Return, The Longest Yard, and a number of television shows

#18 Brett Favre – Brett Favre is sure to go down as one of the best quarterbacks of all time. While he doesn’t have an extensive film career, it is impossible to ignore the large role he played in the hit comedy film There’s Something About Mary, starring Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller. The dance scenes at the end are worth seeing agains and again.

#17 Bo Jackson – One of the greatest running back careers was cut short when Bo Jackson suffered a career ending hip injury. He would go on to appear in a number of television shows and movies including Diagnosis Murder, Married with Children, The Chamber, and Moesha.

#16 Mike Ditka – Famous for being both a great tight end and a great head coach, Mike Ditka would go on to also make quite a few acting appearances including in Third Rock From The Sun, Kicking & Screaming, L.A. Law, Coach, and Cheers.

#15 Ed Marinaro – Ed Marinaro appeared in two Super Bowls for the Minnesota Vikings and also played running back for the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks during his pro career. He would go on to appear in a number of hit television series including Laverne & Shirley, Hill Street Blues, and Sisters.

#14 O.J. Simpson – O.J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy and then was the first person to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season in the NFL. He went on to appear as a guest star in a number of television shows and also appeared in a wide variety of commercials. His most famous role though was probably as Nordberg in the Naked Gun movies.

#13 Merlin Olsen – Merlin Olsen was a Hall of Fame defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams, and was one of the players that quarterbacks during the 1970s feared the most. After his playing days were finished, he appeared on Little House on the Prairie and then his own show, Father Murphy.

#12 Joe Namath – Broadway Joe Namath was the face of the American Football League in the 1960s and hero to New York Jets fans every where. He appeared in a number of movies and television shows including the A-Team, Brady Bunch, C.C. and Company, and he even guest hosted an episode of the Tonight Show.

#11 Lawrence Taylor – One of the greatest linebackers of all time, Lawrence Taylor is another of the famous football players who have gone on to have a credible acting career. He has appeared numerous times as himself on both television and in film. His other roles include The Waterboy, Shaft, and Any Given Sunday.

#10 Bubba Smith – Bubba Smith was a great defensive lineman for the Colts, Raiders, and Oilers. He achieved more fame after his career by appearing in a large number of very popular series of beer commercials for Miller Lite. He is also known for playing officer Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies.

#9 Alex Karras – Alex Karras was a legendary defensive lineman for the Detroit Lions. After his career he went on to appear in Blazing Saddles and was Emmanuel Lewis’ dad in the television show Webster.

#8 Howie Long – Howie Long played 13 seasons with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. Since then he has appeared in television commercials and movies like Firestorm and Broken Arrow.

#7 Dick Butkus – One of the most feared linebackers in football during his playing days, Dick Butkus would go on to have a decent acting career. He played in the films Any Given Sunday and Blue Thunder, as well as the television series My Two Dads.

#6 Terry Bradshaw – Many fans don’t know it, but Terry Bradshaw has not only been honored with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His film roles include Cannonball Run, Hooper, and Failure to Launch.

#5 Carl Weathers – Carl Weathers played linebacker in both the National Football League and the Canadian Football League. He has one of the most famous roles of any former football player, having played Apollo Creed in a number of the Rocky movies starring Sylvester Stallone.

#4 Fred Dryer – Fred Dryer played 13 seasons in the National Football League and was one of the most respected defensive ends of his era. He had one of the bigger hit television series of any football player, starring in the lead role of Hunter eight seasons in the 1980s and early 1990s.

#3 Fred Williamson – Fred Williamson played defensive back during the 1960s and upon his retirement he moved into acting almost immediately. He has had roles in Starsky & Hutch, Original Gangstas, and From Dusk Till Dawn in recent years, but is probably even more famous for the many films he made in the 1970s that were part of the blaxploitation genre.

#2 Woody Strode – Woody Strode is not a name recognized by most football fans. He played collegiately at UCLA, on the same team as Jackie Robinson, and then went on to play just one season in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams in 1946. He was one of the first African American athletes to appear in the National Football League, and he would later play professional football in Canada too. He had a long and impressive film career, even being nominated for a Golden Globe award for his performance in Spartacus. Other movies and television shows he appeared in include Stagecoach, The Ten Commandments, The buccaneer, Pork Chop Hill, Rawhide, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Daniel Boone, How The West Was Won, The Dukes Of Hazzard, and The Quick And The Dead.

#1 Jim Brown – Jim Brown is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is widely considered the best running back ever. He had a very successful acting career following his retirement from the NFL. He appeared in The Dirty Dozen, The Running Man, Original Gangstas, Mars Attacks, and a number of 1970s films that were part of the blaxploitation genre. He also appeared quite a few television series including T.J. Hooker, Knight Rider, Highway to Heaven, Police Story, The A-Team, ChiPS, and I Spy.

Check out more information on football players movie careers at! IQFB is a great place for football trivia of all kinds. IQFB… Get Football Smart!

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