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Tom Cruise would probably be a shitty plumber. The truth is, most people are only extraordinarily great at one thing (if that) and celebrities are no different -- Shaquille O'Neal was a fine basketball player but would likely not have become famous if he'd focused entirely on acting and rapping.

But there are exceptions, famous people who mastered skills that have nothing to do with what we know them for. For example ...

8
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Was a Muscle-Bound Wrestler

Cosmos Studios

You're probably familiar with astrophysicist and Internet darling Neil deGrasse Tyson, part of that rare breed of gifted scientists who can be almost supernaturally smart without being intimidating (it helps that he doesn't have a robot voice). Whereas your third grade math teacher seemed like the scariest person on the planet for knowing how to multiply, Tyson knows the secrets of the cosmos and still manages to look like an adorable nerd.

But that wasn't always the case, as this old photo of him proves:

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Each of his arms is bigger than Bill Nye.

That's Tyson as a college wrestler. Back before he became head of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson was a regular high school student like the rest of us, with dreams of one day pile-driving the universe and other fellows in unitards. So he became the captain of his wrestling team, and he absolutely looked the part:

Neil deGrasse Tyson
We'll spare you the "we got us a badass" joke (but we do).

So he must have gone to grad school to study science and meme creation and gave up sports, right? Nope. Tyson still wrestled competitively deep into his Ph.D. progress, even if it meant sacrificing his free time. To show you the level of commitment this guy had to both astrophysics and pinning muscular dudes to the ground, he says at one point he tried to create a new wrestling hold based on "a phenomenon in orbital mechanics called a double tidal lock," but he could never get it to work.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
"The other kids kept getting sucked into wormholes."

Crap, now we almost want his next debate to go horribly wrong so we can see some of those moves in action.

7
Hulking Action Hero Arnold Schwarzenegger Was a Rich Entrepreneur Before He Was Famous

20th Century Fox

You probably assume Arnold Schwarzenegger is the luckiest bastard in history. He moves to Hollywood in 1968 and, while barely able to speak English, becomes a bodybuilder and then later the biggest movie star in the world. It has to be through a series of incredibly lucky breaks, right? Keep in mind, it's not like bodybuilding is an instant ticket to riches for anyone else (how many Mr. Universe winners can you name?).

Yet, by the time Schwarzenegger landed his first movie role in the mid-1980s, he was already doing very well for himself. How? By being a goddamn business genius.

White Mountain Films
Pictured: a keen financial intellect.

At 21 and with only a few hundred shillings in his pocket, Schwarzenegger started a bricklaying company with a friend in California. Only they didn't market it as a bricklaying company; they used the term specialty European bricklayers. That way, the group of muscular supermen could pretend they were some sort of rare gourmet business and charge more, when they were actually no different from any other bricklaying business.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
That was the same year California suffered a rash of mysterious roof cave-ins.

He combined that money and what he'd made from bodybuilding competitions to create a mail-order business where he sold T-shirts, books, supplements, and pictures of his biceps. The profits from that were invested and put into property. By the time he appeared in his first movie, at 22, he'd been in the U.S. for only a year and was already a millionaire -- which was pretty lucky, considering that the movie was Hercules in New York.

RAF Industries
He wasn't even the most important Arnold S. in this piece of crap.

So, in one year Schwarzenegger had bench-pressed the American dream and was already more successful than most of us will ever be. Wasn't making us feel like physical inferiors enough for you, Arnold?

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6
Comedian and Political Satirist Jon Stewart Represented the U.S. in Brazil ... Playing Soccer

Comedy Central

If we asked you to picture Jon Stewart in college, you'd probably imagine some nerdy, slightly hipsterish political science major carrying a book about Karl Marx, Woody Allen, or someone nasty like that. You probably wouldn't picture a smiling jock wearing a soccer jersey. Like this guy here:

via Sports Illustrated
This looks less "Where are the WMDs?" and more "Where's your lunch money?"

Yep, before he was taking the piss out of prominent political figures, Stewart was taking the piss out of real athletes by pursuing a career in soccer. As in, he seriously wanted to be a professional soccer player, like Pele, and the scariest part is that he probably could have made it if he hadn't broken his knee. In fact, his old team at the College of William & Mary even has an award based on him, the Leibo (after his real name, Leibowitz), which is awarded to the player who "best affects team's attitude and morale."

Sports Illustrated
And who "has the most Jewish hair possible."

How good was Stewart at soccer? World-class good: He represented the U.S. at the Pan American Games in soccer-mad Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is a lead-up event to the World Maccabiah Games (the all-Jewish version of the Olympics), and his team reached the finals. But then his promising career in ball-kicking was cut short, forcing him to settle for life as a rich and famous comedian.

Carlo Allegri, Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
If he hadn't blown his knee, these would all be World Cups.

5
Prankster Comedian Tom Green Was a Famous Rapper

Frank Micelotta/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tom Green's show on MTV was so popular about a decade and a half ago that he got a movie deal out of it. The show was part celebrity interviews and part borderline illegal pranks, so it might come as a surprise when you hear he used to be a pretty serious musician. You'd probably say, "What, like that song where he put his butt on everything?"

20th Century Fox
Or you'd think of this scene.

Unless, that is, you're one of our many readers who happen to be into Canadian hip-hop. Back in the early '90s, Green was part of a group called Organized Rhyme who were pioneers in the "white guys do hip-hop well" genre. Although Organized Rhyme never really achieved mainstream success outside of Canada, their song "Check the O.R." became a hit there and won the coveted MuchVibe Best Rap Video award in 1992.

We know the morbid part of your brain is gonna make you look that shit up eventually, so here it is:

That's ... frighteningly un-terrible. As Xzibit put it while being destroyed by Green in a freestyle battle, "You got flow, Tom." Because, yeah, he never really stopped rapping and released a few solo albums too. The following is not being lip-synced:

In fact, Organized Rhyme recently reunited to re-enact "Check the O.R." in Toronto, no doubt causing at least one bystander to wonder why Drew Barrymore's annoying ex is being allowed to hang out with a beloved '90s hip-hop act.

A&M Records
"And where did the guy on the left go? He was my favorite."

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4
Oscar-Winner Sean Connery Was a Professional Bodybuilder

20th Century Fox

Say what you will about Sean Connery (and we will), you can't deny that, for most of the world, he's still seen as one of the most distinguished actors ever. During his long career, he managed to transition from suave leading man to respected elder statesman -- not even prancing around in the most uncomfortable thong ever for Zardoz could change our perception of him as the personification of class.

Which is why it's weird to see him as a primping meat head who looks destined for a career in soft porn.

National Amateur Bodybuilders Association
What ... what is he mimicking with his fist?

No, that's not an ad from a male prostitute catalogue: It's Connery in the 1950s, when he competed for the Mr. Universe title and placed third (defeated only by a young Walter Matthau and a young Larry King, we're guessing). During this time, Connery apparently lived exclusively off the firmness of his buttocks, since he also posed as a live model for art classes. Here's the NSFW-ish evidence, if you really need it.

Rex Features
There's no evidence that he ever wore a shirt during the 1950s.

That doesn't look like someone who's a few years from playing James Bond. He looks more like a nameless half-naked henchman/love slave at some villainess' lair. Connery's oiled pecs may not have won him the Mr. Universe title, but as a consolation prize, someone at the competition convinced him to attend the casting for a stage production, launching his 50-year acting career. Now that he's retired from that, we can only hope he goes back to his true passion.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Unless he already started and has massive guns hidden under those clothes.

3
Typecast Slacker Jason Lee Is a Skateboarding Legend

Michael Buckner/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Besides being an eternal sidekick and cameo artist in Kevin Smith movies, Jason Lee is probably best known for his sitcom My Name Is Earl, about a mustachioed redneck loser trying to fix his bad karma (considering the show was canceled on a cliffhanger, it didn't work). But before he was famous as "you know, that guy from that movie," Lee was a distinguished figure in a different area: He was one of the very first pro skateboarders to get a shoe named after him.

Airwalk
They were so sweet even he couldn't stop staring at them.

Way back in the dystopian late 1980s, the same actor your teen cousin knows as "the dad from the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies" was a pretty badass boarder. Not one of those skateboarders who wore a helmet either -- he was a pioneer of the sport back when it was something only deeply irresponsible people were doing. And on that note, Lee is often credited for either inventing or perfecting the 360 flip (exactly what it sounds like), and teens everywhere have been breaking bones imitating him since.

Blind Skateboards
Crying out for protective gear.

Cashing in on this success, Lee and a pal who didn't end up on television (so we don't care about him) started the legendary Stereo Skateboard Company. They became synonymous with the sport, like Rip Curl with surfing or steroids with everything else. But perhaps the most impressive part is that even at the ripe old age of 40-something, grandpa's still got moves:

Stereo Sound Agency
Even his mustache was sore after that, but it was worth it.

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2
Temperamental TV Dad Ed O'Neill Is a Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt

Columbia Pictures Television

For two generations Ed O'Neill has been known to viewers as the bad-tempered TV dad with the big-boobed wife, thanks to Married With Children and Modern Family. In the former, his entire persona was centered around being a huge slob, so it's hard to shake the image of O'Neill as the pathetic has-been who barely has the energy to get up from his couch.

This might help though:

Raw MMA
Black belt or not, nobody comes between Al and his nudie mags.

That's Al Bundy himself, now in his late 60s, using his expert knowledge in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which he has been practicing for over two decades. Even more impressive than the fact he's been at it for so long is who he learned jiu-jitsu from: O'Neill rolls with the Gracie family, one of the most legendary groups in martial arts. If life were a kung fu movie, they'd be the wise old masters on the top of a mountain. And they personally gave a black belt to this guy:

Black Belt Magazine
One time, he rolled over four dudes in one match.

Just to really hammer home the point that O'Neill knows his shit, he had at least 12 private lessons with Helio Gracie, one of the founders of the discipline, and whose sons see O'Neill as a brother. In other words, Al Bundy is basically martial arts royalty, and nothing makes sense in this world anymore.

Columbia Pictures Television
At least his son is keeping the loser dream alive.

1
Rock Star Rod Stewart Builds Model Train Sets the Way God Builds Universes

Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Rod Stewart, the aging rock star who can't stop wondering whether we think he's sexy (nope), revealed a few years ago that he's into building model trains. You'd assume from that bombshell that he'd maybe have one sad Reverend Lovejoy effort in the basement, but no, when Rod Stewart is into something, he's really into it:

Model Railroader Magazine
"Do you think I'm sexy now?"

That's just a glimpse of the massive 124-foot-long train set that occupies most of the third floor of Stewart's Hollywood mansion. And yes, he built it himself, and not only that, he did it while touring -- that sacred time most of his colleagues devote to banging groupies and getting shitfaced -- by carrying the whole setup around in seven giant cases. The level of detail on this thing is Pixar-esque:

Model Railroader Magazine

Model Railroader Magazine

Model Railroader Magazine
Each male figure has a lovingly crafted, anatomically correct boner.

Stewart isn't just a guy who builds model trains: According to the National Model Railroad Association of America, his official title is "Master Model Railroader." There aren't a lot of photos of Stewart's kinda terrifying mini world because he doesn't open his doors to most film crews. He shows the train set only to a single magazine called Model Railroader, which he, no shit, refers to as "better than Rolling Stone."

Model Railroader Magazine
"For one, they didn't stop putting me on the cover when I started looking like an old lesbian."

Clearly, Stewart needs to be introduced to Sim City before his train set ends up covering most of North America and nothing remains that isn't stuck together with super glue.


Aaron is a film student and freelance writer. Feel free to talk to him on Twitter. Hossey is currently writing his mother's favorite fantasy serial and blog.

Related Reading: Actors aren't the only ones who could've made money doing something else. Gene Simmons could've continued on as an elementary school teacher, while Michael Clarke Duncan could've stuck to bodyguarding rappers. And life after the limelight isn't always depressing, just ask RoboCop about his stint as a fine art scholar.

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