The career of a sport star is a relatively short one in most cases. There will come a point when it’s time to hang up the kit and ask ‘what’s next?’ Punditry? Presenting? A reality tv show? or how about acting? Why not? Singers do it, rappers do it, even animals do it, it can’t be that hard. This was the thought process of several athletes over the years, but some took it that extra step further and had just as much success in front of the camera. Here are five that made the successful transition.
5. Fred Williamson
Nicknamed “The Hammer” for his hard tackles, Williamson played one year for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL, before moving to the new American Football League where he played for Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. During his career he was a three time AFL All-Star, AFL Champion and played in the very first Super Bowl. Williamson retired in 1968 and started his acting career, starring in mostly blaxploitation films such as Black Caesar (1973) and Three the Hard Way (1974) he even had a role in The Inglorious Bastards (1978). He is probably best remembered for his role as Vietnam Vet Frost in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).
4. Bubba Smith
Smith spent nine years in the NFL as a defensive end playing for the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers. He played in two super bowls winning one along with 2 Pro Bowls. Despite his height at 6 feet 7 inches and his 265 pound weight, he was noted for his speed, causing him to draw two blockers. After retiring he had roles in small films and television, but is known for playing Moses Hightower in Police Academy (1984), featuring in all but one of it’s sequels. He continued to act until his death, appearing in popular television shows such as Married…with children, MacGyver and Family Matters.
3. Eric Cantona
Considered the greatest Manchester United player ever, he was affectionately nicknamed “King Eric” by fans. Despite a short temper that resulted in a ‘kung fu’ kick on a fan, Cantona found much success in his 14 years on the pitch. Early honours include the Division 1 title twice with Marseille and First Division with Leeds United, but it was with United he found most success winning the Premier League 4 times and the FA Cup twice. After retiring he had a small role in Elizabeth (1998) and has since built an acting career both in the French and English cinema, most notably Looking for Eric (2009) and French Film (2008)
2. O.J. Simpson
Becoming one of the most famous NFL players in the world, Simpson was the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Playing for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers throughout 11 seasons he earned numerous accolades including the Pro Bowl 6 times and the NFL rushing champion 4 times, ultimately being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even before he had retired from football he had parts in The Towering Inferno (1974) and Capricorn One (1978) however it was his role as Nordberg in The Naked Gun trilogy (1988, 1991,1994) that solidified him as an actor. Unfortunately a certain incident occurred and his acting career was prematurely ended.
1. Vinnie Jones
A member of Wimbledon F.C’s “Crazy Gang”, Vinnie Jones was renowned for his tough guy attitude and hard knocks on the pitch. Throughout his fifteen year football career, he played for the likes of Leeds United, Sheffield United and Chelsea, but it was with Wimbledon he found most success, playing over 200 games during two spells and winning the FA Cup. In 1998 Jones made his acting debut in Guy Ritchie’s crime comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) playing debt collector Big Chris, since then he has experienced a fledgling career in Hollywood, starring in Gone in 60 seconds (2000) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), though he is regularly typecast as a “hard man”.
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