Olympians in the NFL
- Published: July 30, 2012 at 05:14 p.m.
- Updated: April 8, 2013 at 10:42 p.m.
British Olympian Lawrence Okoye had an impressive showing at the Super Regional Combine this weekend and may have grabbed a spot in the NFL. Here’s a look at some of the most notable athletes who competed in both the Olympics and the NFL.
Michael Bates (Sprinter, 1992)
Bates captured the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona in the 200-meter dash. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the sixth round of the 1992 NFL Draft. Bates was a five-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Seahawks (1993-1994), Cleveland Browns (1995), Carolina Panthers (1996-2000) and Washington Redskins (2001).
Larry Burton (Sprinter, 1972)
Burton finished fourth in the 200-meters at the 1972 Munich Games. He played with the New Orleans Saints (1975-1977) and San Diego Chargers (1978-1979), amassing 44 career receptions for 804 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ron Brown (Sprinter, 1984)
Brown won the gold medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. He also took fourth in the 100-meter competition. Brown had a productive NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams (1984-1991). He also spent one season with the Raiders in 1990. Brown was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1985 because of his proficiency as a kick returner.
Milt Campbell (Decathlon, 1952, 1956)
Sports Illustrated called Campbell, center, the "best athlete you never knew," and he was once considered the greatest athlete in the world as a two-time Olympian. Campbell won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1956 Melbourne Games. He also was a running mate of Jim Brown with the Cleveland Browns in 1957.
Henry Carr (Sprinter, 1964)
Carr won two gold medals and set world records in the 200-meter and as the anchor leg of the 1600-meter relay at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Carr was drafted by the New York Giants in 1965 before playing three seasons as a defensive back.
Michael Carter (Shot put, 1984)
Carter won the silver medal in the shot put at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Carter was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his career with the San Francisco 49ers (1984-1992).
Glenn Davis (Hurdles, 1956, 1960)
Davis, center, was a three-time gold medal winner for the U.S., taking the 400-meter hurdles competition in Melbourne in 1956, and again in Rome in 1960. He also was a member of the Americans' record-setting 4x400-meter relay team in 1960. Davis spent two years with the Lions in 1960 to 1961.
Sam Graddy (Sprinter, 1984)
Graddy took the silver medal at the 1984 Games and won gold in the 4x100-meter relay (along with Ron Brown). Graddy would go on to play two years with the Denver Broncos (1987-1988) and Los Angeles Raiders (1990-1992).
Bob Hayes (Sprinter, 1964)
One of the most successful Olympians to make the transition from the Games to the NFL, Hayes won two gold medals at Tokyo in 1964 - the 100-meter and 4x100-meter relay. After being given a chance by Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys, Hayes changed the face of the NFL as his speed turned the league on its ear. Hayes was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys during his time in Dallas (1964-1974) and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Jim Hines (Sprinter, 1968)
Hines won a pair of gold medals and set world records in the 100-meter and as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. Hines played one season with the Miami Dolphins in 1969.
Johnny Jones (Sprinter, 1976)
Johnny "Lam" Jones, a standout football player at the University of Texas, competed in the 1976 Games in Montreal. Jones took sixth in 100-meter but won the gold as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. Jones played as a receiver with the Jets from 1980 to 1984, but injuries cut his career short.
Ollie Matson (Sprinter, 1952)
Matson vies with Hayes and Jim Thorpe for most prolific Olympian to make the transition to the NFL. Matson won two medals at the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki. Matson took the bronze in the 400-meter and was a silver medalist with the 4x400-meter relay team. Matson played for the Chicago Cardinals (1952-1958), Los Angeles Rams (1959-1962), Detroit Lions (1963) and Philadelphia Eagles (1964-1966). He finished his career second only to Jim Brown in rushing yards and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Glenn Morris (Decathlon, 1936)
Morris brought home the gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Morris took up acting after the Games, including starring in the title role in "Tarzan's Revenge" before he joined the Detroit Lions in 1940. But his career was cut short when he was wounded as a naval officer in the Pacific during World War II.
Ray Norton (Sprinter, 1960)
Norton was an accomplished sprinter for the U.S. from 1958 to 1960, running in the 100-meter, 200-meter and the 4x100-meter at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He had a brief career with the San Francisco 49ers (1960-1961).
James Owens (Hurdles, 1976)
Owens qualified for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, finishing sixth in the 110-meter hurdles. Owens was drafted in the second round of the 1979 draft by the 49ers (Joe Montana was picked by the team in the next round) and he had modest success with San Francisco (1979-1980) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1981-1984).
Bo Roberson (Long jumper, 1960)
Roberson, left, came within a centimeter of taking gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, but came away with the sliver. He went on to play in the AFL with the San Diego Chargers (1961), Oakland Raiders (1962-1965) and Buffalo Bills (1965) and Miami Dolphins (1966).
Clyde Scott (Hurdles, 1948)
Scott, left, took the silver medal at the last Olympics held in London, back in 1948. Scott was a first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1949, playing four seasons with the club before he finished with the Detroit Lions in 1952.
John Spellman (Wrestling, 1924)
Spellman, left midle row, was an accomplished athlete at Brown, going on to compete at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, where he won the gold medal in the light-heavyweight freestyle wrestling competition. Spellman played seven years with the Providence Steam Roller (1925-1931) and Boston Braves (1932).
Tommie Smith (Sprinter, 1968)
Smith set the world record and won the gold in the 200-meter at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, but he might be most remembered for his back-glove protest along with bronze medalist John Carlos that caused the duo to be expelled from Olympic Village. Smith played one season with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969. Carlos played in the CFL.
Jim Thorpe (Decathlete, 1912)
One of the greatest athletes of all time, Thorpe took home the gold medal in the pentathlon and decathlon while also participating in the long jump and high jump at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Thorpe would then go on to be one of the founding members of the NFL.
Gerald Tinker (Sprinter, 1972)
Tinker was a member of the gold medal-winning 4x100-meter relay team at the 1972 Munich Games. Tinker was a second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 1974 but played only two years in the NFL with the Falcons and Green Bay Packers.
Jack Torrance (Shot put, 1936)
The best shot putter of his era from 1932 to 1936, Torrance failed to medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Torrance would have a brief NFL career with the Chicago Bears from 1939 to 1940.
Herschel Walker (Bobsled, 1992)
Walker was well-known for his exploits on the gridiron at the University of Georgia, the USFL and with the Dallas Cowboys (among other teams) in the NFL. Walker was recruited to be a pusher for the two-man bobsled team in the 1992 winter Olympics in Albertville, France. His team finished seventh.
James Jett (Sprinter 1992)
James Jett won a gold medal as a member of the 4 x 100m relay team at the Barcelona games in 1992. That speed caught the eye of Raiders owner Al Davis who brought him aboard in 1993. Jett played 10 years in the NFL.