Eight celebrities who played college football

Dec 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of the 100th Rose Bowl logo helmet at press conference at LA Hotel Downtown. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Before pursuing their acting careers, some celebrities dabbled in college football, and a few had hopes of making it to the professional level. Due to various circumstances, their paths eventually went in different directions and led them other successes.

Here are eight guys who may look a bit familiar.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Well before we began seeing Johnson in his action movies, he played defensive tackle for the University of Miami Hurricanes from 1991-1994. And, while he appeared in 39 games, he got only one start.  The interesting reason for Johnson’s one and only start was because his coach at the time claimed “there was a guy named Warren Sapp” who sat ahead of Johnson on the depth chart.

“That guy” is now a Hall of Famer.

But, enough about Sapp and back to Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson sustained a back injury while playing football in college which ended his NFL dream. He then went on to dominate in the WWE where he earned his nickname “The Rock.” Wrestling led to multiple movies including the successful chain of “Fast and Furious” movies.

Due to Johnson’s celebrity status, the University of Miami had a their new locker room dedicated to him in 2013.

Johnson’s most recent stint in acting has him starring as an NFL player agent in HBO’s miniseries “Ballers” which has been picked up for a second season. Talk about combining the best of both worlds.

Tommy Lee Jones

Before Jones got into acting, he attended Harvard University on a scholarship. Jones played at offensive guard during his college football days which included the popular 29-29 Harvard/Yale football game of 1968 known as “The Tie.”

After graduating from Harvard in 1969, Jones relocated to New York where he began his acting career on Broadway. That led Jones to star in multiple television series and films such as “Charlie’s Angels” and those popular “Men in Black” movies.

Forest Whitaker

Long before winning an Academy Award for his performance in the 2006 movie, “The Last King of Scotland”, Whitaker attended college on a football scholarship. He then transferred to USC where, after graduating, he made his film debut in 1982 at “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” playing none other than a footballer.

In addition to that high school movie classic, Whitaker’s vast list of movies includes “The Crying Game” and “The Great Debaters”

John Goodman

Goodman was awarded a football scholarship to Southwest Missouri State University where he played for one season in 1970. Unfortunately, an injury put an end to any possibility of a professional football career.

Goodman then changed his major to drama which ultimately led him to an acting career. He is most famously known for his role as Dan Connor in the television sitcom “Roseanne.” Goodman also has starred in many movies including his most recent, “The Monuments Men.”

Ed O’Neill

Who doesn’t love catching O’Neill as Al Bundy in old re-runs of “Married with Children,” or in his current sitcom “Modern Family?” Long before these television shows, O’Neill had a dream of becoming a defensive linebacker in the NFL.

After playing football at both Ohio University and Youngstown State University, O’Neill received a tryout for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969. Unfortunately, after being there for just a brief period of time, the Steelers cut O’Neill during training camp.

Needless to say, switching over to acting has been very kind to O’Neill.

Matthew Fox

We most associate Fox with the long-running television show, “Lost.” However before we all got lost on “Lost,” Fox played wide receiver when he arrived at Columbia in 1985. Unfortunately, Fox found himself on one of the worst teams in the nation, as the Lions lost the first 33 games in which Fox played. There’s that word again.

Fox’s first win came in a game where a touchdown catch he made got called back for penalty. The game was close to a tie when former Princeton Tigers quarterback and Dallas Cowboys current head coach Jason Garrett led the Tigers into field goal range. Fortunately for the Lions, the Tigers missed the 48-yard field goal opportunity.

Over the course of Fox’s four years at Columbia, he ended up with a career win-loss record of 2-38.

It’s no wonder Fox switched career paths.

Mark Harmon

Harmon, who currently stars in CBS’ “NCIS” has a massive resume of acting, including past televisions series “Chicago Hope” and “St. Elsewhere.”

Prior to establishing an acting career, Harmon was a quarterback at UCLA in 1972 and 1973 where he totaled 845 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. Needless to say, he didn’t exactly follow in the footsteps of his father, Tom Harmon, who was a 1940 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback with the Michigan Wolverines.

When Harmon was younger, he would eat dinner with his father and mother at other former Heisman Trophy winners’ homes. He recalled a conversation with between his mom and dad where his mom asked (via ESPN):

‘I don’t know what the big deal is about this Heisman Trophy. Everybody has one!’

Ronald Reagan

One of the many attributes of the legendary and late President Reagan is that he was an incredible athlete. Reagan attended Eureka College, where he enrolled in 1928. During his college tenure, Reagan played guard and lettered in football for three years.

After graduating from college, Reagan starred in countless movies from 1937 up to his role on the television series “Death Valley Days” that aired from 1964-1966.

Considered one of the all-time acting greats, Reagan as an athlete-turned-actor eventually found his way into politics. He served as the governor of California from 1967-1975 and served two terms as the U.S. President from 1981-1989.