15 Athletic Actors Who Got Famous For Playing Dorky Guys

15 Athletic Actors Who Got Famous For Playing Dorky Guys

New Line Cinema, Fox

For many of us, our career paths are pretty straightforward: We figure out what we want to do, and then work hard to get there. But for some, their paths are more winding, with unexpected turns and detours. This list highlights some of the most inspiring career transitions of people who have gone from being an athlete to an entertainer ... playing a dorky dude on screen. From Bob Ross, the former drill sergeant who became a painter and television personality, to Joel McHale, the walk-on tight end who went on to become an actor, each of these stories is unique and inspiring. 

We’ll also hear from Kevin James, the college football player who found success in Hollywood, and Terry Crews, who retired from the NFL and eventually used football as a way to burn off his rage. We’ll learn how Mark Ruffalo, Jon Stewart, and Martin Freeman all used sports to build determination and perseverance, and how Sean Astin, Jim Parsons, and Ashton Kutcher all found success outside of their respective sports. We’ll also hear from Danny Pudi, Alfonso Ribeiro, Adam Sandler, and Ed O’Neill, all of whom made the transition from athlete to playing a schlubby, nerdy guy. 

Kevin James: Comedic Icon and Former College Football Star.

Jocks playing dorks POVILION RITY RD KEVIN JAMES is known for his physical comedy in films and shows like The King of Queens and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but before his rise to fame he was a college football player at the State University of New York. CRACKED

Columbia Pictures

Showbiz CheatSheet

Adam Sandler: master of pickup basketball?

Jocks playing dorks ADAM SANDLER is known for joining pickup basketball games with strangers and showing off his skills, often surprising people with his ability to keep up with the younger players and make baskets. CRACKED

Universal Pictures


Danny Pudi: Marathon runner, barefoot enthusiast, and aspiring hand-shoe-wearer.

Jocks playing dorks DANNY PUDI is a passionate runner who has run four marathons and hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Не enjoys running barefoot in a park and even dreams of running naked with shoes on his hands. CRACKED

Sony Pictures Television

Runner’s World

Wrestler to actor: Mark Ruffalo’s unlikely transition.

Jocks playing dorks MARK RUFFALO was a successful wrestler in junior high and high school, but he put his singlet away when he discovered acting his senior year. Wrestling helped him develop determination and perseverance which have been beneficial for his acting career. CRACKED

Marvel Studios

USA Today

Jim Parsons: Actor, comedian, and gym rat.

Jocks playing dorks SMART it ax(1 at -[has +B JIM -its PARSONS is known for his role on The Big Bang Theory, but he is also a dedicated gym-goer who has been seen pushing major weight and doing one-armed sled rows with his trainer Ben Bruno. CRACKED


Men’s Journal

From benchwarmer to award-winner: Jon Stewart’s inspiring story.

Jocks playing dorks JON STEWART worked his way up from the junior varsity team to a starting spot on the varsity team at William & Mary, impressing his coach with his perseverance and earning an annual award named after him. CRACKED

Comedy Central


Alfonso Ribeiro: Athlete, racer, and scratch golfer.

Jocks playing dorks ALFONSO RIBEIRO considers himself an athlete, playing basketball and golf, and has also raced cars professionally. Не is a scratch golfer, shooting low 70s and high 60s. CRACKED



Football not working out? Ed O’Neill had a Plan B.

Jocks playing dorks ED O'NEILL was a football player who signed a professional contract and was briefly part of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, but he was unable to make the team and eventually moved on to acting about a year later. CRACKED


CBS Sports

Ashton Kutcher: Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Jocks playing dorks ASHTON KUTCHER was promoted to brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, having previously earned his purple belt in 2014. His professor praised his high-level wrestling background and hoped to see him use his grappling skills in a John Wick movie. CRACKED


Jiu-Jitsu Times

Tight End? Not Quite: Joel McHale’s Story.

Jocks playing dorks PLUXIBUS EENDALE URT - - - ANUS ck Justice II JOEL McHALE was a walk-on tight end for the University of Washington in the early '90s, but never took a live snap. Despite this, he looks back fondly on his time there and credits it with teaching him to work hard, which eventually led to his success in Hollywood. CRACKED


NBC Sports

Martin Freeman: From squash enthusiast to squash apathete.

Jocks playing dorks MARTIN FREEMAN was passionate about squash as a teenager, but eventually lost interest in the sport. CRACKED

New Line Cinema

The Guardian

Actor by day, triathlete by night - Jon Cryer.

Jocks playing dorks JON CRYER is an actor who also competes in triathlons, which he attributes to his trainer Rich Guzman and his own competitive nature. CRACKED



Sean Astin: Marathon master and Ironman conqueror.

Jocks playing dorks SEAN ASTIN has completed ten marathons and a half-Ironman in seven hours and 25 minutes, which he considers a confidence- building accomplishment. CRACKED

New Line Cinema


From Drill Sergeant to Painter: Bob Ross’ unique career transition.

Jocks playing dorks BOB ROSS was a drill sergeant in the Air Force for 20 years, and his experience in the military influenced his later career as a painter and television personality. Не chose to use a calm demeanor in his work, rather than the yelling he was used to. CRACKED

Bob Ross Incorporated

Veteran Life

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