Tim Tebow has decided to pursue a career in professional baseball, but he isn’t the first former NFL player to explore other sports.
Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has decided to pursue a career in professional baseball instead of mounting a comeback in the NFL after three seasons out of the league.
Though the announcement of his foray into baseball was unexpected, Tebow isn’t the first NFL player to explore a different sport after his final days on a football field.
Two Heisman Trophy winners and seven members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame made the jump to baseball, and those players are among the 68 athletes to play in both MLB and the NFL. Several Olympic gold medalists also played in the NFL, and other former football players have found success in basketball, soccer and golf.
Here’s a look at some of the most notable professional football players who were two-sport professional athletes.
Sanders’s professional baseball and football careers began in 1989 when he played for the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Yankees. His 14 years in the NFL earned him induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011, and he holds the distinction of having the longest careers in each sport of any player who has played in both the NFL and MLB.
Sanders also said in a recent SI interview that he nearly played one game for the Atlanta Hawks in the early ’90s in an effort to earn the label of three-sport athlete.
The former New York Giants outfielder joined the NFL in its inaugural year in 1920, becoming one of the 11 first MLB veterans to go on to play football. Thorpe, Sanders, Red Badgro, Paddy Driscoll, George Halas, Ernie Nevers and Clarence “Ace Parker” are the only seven Pro Football Hall of Famers to also play major league baseball.
The leftfielder and running back was the first athlete to become both an NFL and MLB All–Star. He played for both the Raiders and Royals in 1987, staying in MLB for eight years and the NFL for four. Jackson is one of two Heisman Trophy winners (Auburn, 1985) to play in both the NFL and MLB. Vic Janowicz won the Heisman at Ohio State in 1950 before playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Redskins.
The former Atlanta Falcons safety is the most recent athlete two-sport athlete with extensive time in both sports. He played the most cumulative games across both sports of any football-baseball player, logging 36 games for the Falcons from 1989 to 1991 and 1,456 games for four baseball teams from 1992 to 2006. He was selected as an All Star once in his 15-year career as an outfielder.
Bonus: Cal Hubbard
Though he did not play baseball, he is the only football player to be inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame. He played for three NFL teams from 1927 to 1936 before beginning a long career as an umpire, for which he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bahr’s 14-year NFL career as a kicker overlapped with his time playing soccer for the Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League, where he won Rookie of the Year in 1974.
The former quarterback played all 17 years of his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, and he won the MVP award in 1970. Following his retirement, he played on the Senior PGA Tour and won one tournament in 1991.
Matson competed in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and won bronze in the 400-meters and a silver medal as a member of the 4x400m relay team. He was then drafted with the No. 3 pick of the 1952 NFL draft and went on to play 14 seasons in the league from 1952 to 1966. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
Hayes won two gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He is the only person ever to win a gold medal and a Super Bowl, which he won with the Cowboys in 1972. Hayes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Other notable Olympic athletes who played in the NFL include nine-year veteran Michael Carter and 10-year vet James Jett. Carter won silver in shot put in 1984 and Jett won gold in the 4x100-meter relay at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
“Sugar” Ray Edwards
Edwards played five seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and two for the Atlanta Falcons as a defensive end. He was released in 2012, and went on to compile a 9–0 record as a professional boxer.
Though he never appeared in an NFL game, Clarett was selected in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos, who then signed him to a four-year contract. His poor on-field performance and clashes with coaches led to his being released just one month after signing his contract. He attempted to start a rugby career with the Columbus affiliate of Tiger Rugby in 2013 in hopes of playing in the 2016 Olympics, but he did not stay with the team.
Grant was selected in the first round of the 1950 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and in the fourth round of the 1950 NBA draft by the Minneapolis Lakers. After playing two seasons for Minneapolis—where he won a championship in 1950—he switched to football in 1951 and played two seasons for the Eagles before moving to the Canadian Football League to play four seasons for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. After a stellar coaching career, including several years with Winnipeg and 18 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Grant became the first individual to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and CFL Hall of Fame.