20 Actors Who Were Once Athletes

Sometimes, how athletic Hollywood actors are on screen is not completely acting. It shouldn’t be surprising that actors like Dwayne Johnson and Terry Crews were former athletes, but some celebrities you can never tell! Check out 20 actors who used to be athletes before being stars!

1. Matthew Perry

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You may know Matthew Perry from the iconic sitcom, Friends, or for his drastic change in appearance, but do you know the young Perry played tennis competitively and was even nationally ranked? Believe it or not, he was ranked as No. 17 in junior singles and No. 3 in junior doubles.

2. Emma Watson

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Emma Watson is impressive enough with advanced degrees, as well as her outstanding performances on the big screen. You may be surprised to find out that she also played collegiate field hockey too! How much energy does she have?

3. Chuck Norris

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The inspirational actor, Chuck Norris, was actually a former martial artist before having an acting career. He earned black belts in Tang Soo Do, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Judo. What's more, he even founded his own fighting school named Chun Kuk Do. 

4. Terry Crews

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You may guess from his perfectly-built body that Terry Crews has an athletic side. Well, he was once a running back and a quarterback at college and pro level. During his time at Western Michigan, Crews won a MAC championship. 

5. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

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Dwayne Johnson was well known for being "The Rock" since his time wrestling in the WWE, but do you know that he was a football player before that? Johnson was once a member of the iconic Miami Hurricanes 1991 National Champion team. 

6. Sean Connery 

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Sean Connery in real life may just be as charming as his James Bond character. Don't believe it? Then take a look at the young Connery as a competitive bodybuilder, and you'll come around. His amazing physique even got him in the famous Mr. Universe competition. 

7. Tom Selleck

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You may guess that Tom Selleck's 6'4" frame made him a good basketball player when he was young. His performance in high school was good enough to get him a scholarship to USC. He somehow managed to balance working as a model, earning a business degree, and playing basketball.

8. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Arnold Schwarzenegger surely earned his name in acting, but before he focused on performing, he was known as one of the greatest bodybuilders and fitness athletes of all time. Well, we suppose it's not that hard to guess from his physique anyways. 

9. Channing Tatum

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Channing Tatum has had athletic talent since high school, where he was on the football team. Being voted as the most athletic one in the class, he went on to play college football before realizing that it wasn’t for him. He decided to drop out and take odd jobs, which eventually led him to Hollywood. 

10. Jennifer Lawrence

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The now Hollywood star, Jennifer Lawrence, was once encouraged to play sports by her parents. She played softball, basketball, field hockey as well as cheerleading. She's not a fan of team sports though, to be more specific, she hates it. Well, now there is no way she needs to do things she doesn't like!

11. Gina Carano

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Fighting on the screen is a totally different thing from real-life combat. You may be impressed by Gina Carano's fight scenes, but you probably want to check out her MMA performance too. Yes, she has also professionally competed in combat sports with a 12-1-1 kickboxing record and a 7-1 MMA record. 

12. Burt Reynolds

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Burt Reynolds was no doubt a legend as an actor, but his accomplishments might not exist if he hadn't had an unfortunate accident as a star football player in high school. Reynolds wanted to pursue a professional football career until a knee injury and a car accident led him down another path. 

13. Andre The Giant

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Before being Fezzik in The Princess Bride, Andre The Giant was a professional wrestler and a legend in the wrestling world. How good was he? As the first big man, he was Hulk Hogan's rival for 8 years. 

14. Ed O’Neill 

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Ed O'Neill nowadays may be the lovable grandpa Jay in Modern Family, but he was a talented football player in high school. Being an All-State quarterback, O'Neill's athletic skills earned him a scholarship to Ohio University.

15. Jason Statham

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It's hard to picture Jason Statham as someone other than a tough, badass actor who cracks skulls in most of his movies. But you likely didn’t know that he used to be a member of Britain's National Diving Squad! Before being a star, he competed for England in the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

16. Jason Lee

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You may be surprised by Jason Lee's passion for skateboarding, but it's quite understandable since he basically grew up on Huntington Beach. During the '80s and early '90s, Lee skated as a pro with impressive moves, which you can tell from the picture. 

17. Steven Seagal

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Martial arts was how Steven Seagal started his career in Hollywood. He was so dedicated that he spent 15 years studying Eastern philosophy and choreographing martial arts scenes for films in Asia. He also had his own martial arts academy before officially becoming an actor. 

18. Joe Rogan

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Joe Rogan may be known as a stand-up comedian and the UFC's animated commentator, but he actually grew up in the world of competitive taekwondo. He won Massachusetts state championship 4 times and the 1987 taekwondo U.S. Open Championships at 19. He later earned black belts in no-gi and gi jiu-jitsu too. 

19. Mark Harmon

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Before becoming a Hollywood star, Mark Harmon finished his associate degree at Pierce College and transferred to UCLA as the Bruins' starting quarterback for 2 years. He led the team to an 8-3 and 9-2 record during that time. 

20. Josh Duhamel

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Josh Duhamel went into modeling after college, but he used to be very athletic as the quarterback for Minot State University. His efforts didn't take him to the NFL, but thankfully, the failed attempt has led him to a successful acting career. 

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