Many players from the NFL have risen to the occasion, attempting to answer that query. Some have done it with great flair and immense success.
Take, for example, Brett Favre. This Green Bay Packers quarterback has dazzled fans for years. But he opened himself up to a captivated audience when he starred as one of Cameron Diaz’s wrongly accused, jilted ex-boyfriends in 1998’s There’s Something About Mary.
Former Dallas Cowboys QB and current football commentator Troy Aikman appeared in the 1996 Cameron Crowe film Jerry Maguire. The movie, starring Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger, focused on a burned-out sports agent who endures many life-altering personal and professional changes.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw – a career football player whose days on the green span back to his high school year – lent his slow Southern drawl to the animated flick Robots in 2005. Before that, he appeared in the Burt Reynolds comedy The Cannonball Run.
In recent years, Bradshaw has shocked fans with his hilarious (and partially nude) portrayal of a father who – along with his wife (played by Kathy Bates) – hires a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) to seduce and lure his bachelor son (Matthew McConaughey) from the nest in the romantic comedy, Failure to Launch.
Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, appeared in the Farrelly brothers’ 2003 film Stuck on You. The acting bug hit Brady so hard that he later became romantically involved with model-turned-actress Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot). The couple – no longer together – have a son.
Detroit Lions former tackle, Alex Karras, was quite sought-after in his heyday. In 1974, he starred in the film classic Blazing Saddles, as a character called Mongo. He went on to play the sheriff in Porky’s and was even Emmanuel Lewis’ adoptive father on the hit ABC sitcom, “Webster.” That series came under fire when minority groups questioned the validity of a program depicting the adoption of an African-American child by white parents.
There have, however, been a few onscreen crossovers that have not withstood the test of time. Take Lyle Alzado. This hulking athlete turned actor played in the NFL for teams like the Los Angeles Raiders, the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos during the 1970s and early 1980s. He was known for his intimidating presence on and off the field.
Unfortunately, Alzado’s massive power did not crossover into box office gold. His most well known onscreen performance can be seen in 1987’s critical flop Ernest Goes to Camp and later in the 1989 comedy Who’s Harry Crumb?, starring the late John Candy. Alzado flirted with other roles throughout his career until he died in 1992.
Then, there’s Orenthal James Simpson. That’s O.J. to you and me.
This former Heisman trophy winner practically reinvented the game when he donned the jersey for the San Francisco 49ers. His earlier stint with the Buffalo Bills may have proven a bit embarrassing for the football phenom, but by the end of the 1970s fans forgave him for that slow start.
Simpson’s winning smile soon landed him a plethora of endorsement deals for companies like Hertz and Pioneer Chicken. His film acting resumé also includes some impressive titles.
He had a role in 1974’s disaster hit The Towering Inferno and tickled everyone’s funny bones in the Naked Gun franchise. Unfortunately for Simpson, his career in Hollywood (as well as on Madison Avenue) was cut short by his numerous legal run-ins.
The 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, starring Adam Sandler, saw many clever football player cameos. In the film, a former professional quarterback (Sandler) is jailed and forced to form a winning team comprised of his fellow inmates from behind bars.
Bill Goldberg, who played for the Atlanta Falcons, the Rams and the Carolina Panthers, had a role in this remake. Bill Romanowski who played defense for the San Francisco 49ers, Eagles, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, as well as Michael Irvin – formerly of the Dallas Cowboys (and now a sports commentator) are just a few of the other players from this moderately successful comedy.
However, there is one star from that property who has managed to sustain a highly profitable new career as a Hollywood funnyman. Terry Crews, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1991, wowed audiences with his breakthrough performance in 2004’s White Chicks. As Latrell Spencer, Crews demonstrated his over-the-top love of blonde-haired, blue-eyed cuties. This athlete/comedian also had roles in the Ben Still/Owen Wilson vehicle Starsky & Hutch, as well as Norbit and Balls of Fury, and can be seen each week on the CW’s sitcom, “Everybody Hates Chris.”
It will be interesting to see how the NFL’s new crop of fresh talent fares in the limelight. Many have suggested that players like the New Orleans Saints’ Reggie Bush and Arizona Cardinals’ Matt Leinart have been courting the big screen. If they do, both (as well as their contemporaries) will stand among very talented company.