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5 Amazing Athletes Who Switched Sports After College

5 Star Athletes Who Changed Sports After College
Jeff Gross/Chris Graythen/Otto Greule Jr, Getty Images

Even with years of practice and training, it’s hard enough to become a star player in one sport. So when an athlete decides to try his hand at a new game, the results typically aren’t pretty.

Still, certain elite performers have managed to thrive at their second profession and achieve new levels of success.

Here are five athletes who make multi-sport stardom look easy:

Jim Brown

Jim Brown
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 2010, named Jim Brown the second greatest football player of all time—and with good reason. Over a nine-year NFL career, the Syracuse product was a three-time MVP and led the league in rushing a record eight times. Incredibly, football may not have been his best sport.

While attending Syracuse, Brown established himself as one of the greatest lacrosse players ever to handle a spoon. In 1957, Jim utilized his incredible speed and strength to secure a scoring title, All-American honors, and a National Championship. He is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and once said “I’d rather play lacrosse six days a week and football on the seventh.”

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar
Jon Kopaloff, Getty Images

Basically, if a sport involves violence, Brock Lesnar is good at it.

Lesnar was a dominant amateur wrestler at the University of Minnesota, posting a 106-5 career record and a 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Championship. After graduating, Lesnar decided that he wanted to hurt people professionally and became one of the WWE’s biggest stars. Before long, Brock’s combination of charisma, strength, and athleticism had caught the eye of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, who offered the 285-pound behemoth a tryout. Lesnar nearly made the squad, despite not having played since high school.

Once he was bored with football, Lesnar tried his hand at mixed martial arts, where he promptly disposed of octagon legend Randy Couture and became UFC Heavyweight champion.

Charlie Ward

Charlie Ward
Otto Greule Jr, Getty Images

Normally, the winner of the Heisman Trophy is considered a lock for NFL success.

In 1993, Charlie Ward was named college football’s best player by the second-largest margin of all time after quarterbacking Florida State to its first National Title. Surprisingly, concerns about his size and a first round commitment from the New York Knicks caused Ward to forsake football stardom for the NBA. Charlie was a serviceable point guard in the league for over a decade, and played a critical role on the 1999 Eastern Conference Champion Knicks.

Jimmy Graham

Jimmy Graham
Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images

After a forgettable career as a member of the Miami Hurricanes basketball team, Jimmy Graham decided to take his considerable talents to the gridiron. While Graham lacked experience, his size (6’8”) and speed (4.53 40-yard dash) intrigued the New Orleans Saints enough that they risked a third round pick to snag him in 2010. Graham spent his first season learning how to fit into an NFL offense, and then put his newfound football acumen to legendary use in 2011. His 99 catches, 1,310 yards, and 11 touchdowns rank among the greatest single-season statistics of any tight end in NFL history.

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates
Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Antonio Gates’ rise from unknown college basketball player to NFL star is perhaps the most successful transition on this list.

Gates had been an excellent power forward at Kent State University, but at 6’4”, his chances at making an NBA impact were slim. Rather than call it a career, Gates decided to parlay his athleticism into an NFL tryout. Impressed by his potential, the San Diego Chargers signed the undrafted rookie to a contract, and have been reaping the rewards ever since.

ates is an eight-time Pro Bowler, a member of the 2000’s All-Decade Team, and a sure-fire Hall of Famer.


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