Whether you're a musician dominating the charts or an NFL star filling up the stat sheet, chances are you've dedicated your whole life to get to that level. Most successful musicians, athletes, and actors put all their focus and energy into their one particular craft. However, there are multi-hyphenates like Jamie Foxx and Donald Glover who are somehow able to be the best in different fields.
A few NFL players have tried to go the route of Foxx and Glover by hitting the booth. From Deion Sanders in 1994 to Le'Veon Bell today, a few of your favorite football players have spent time in the studio. Very few actually get past the Soundcloud stage, but imagine if a major label gave them the full treatment for an album rollout?
The Checkdown has the album art covered. Enjoy these hypothetical albums for Dez Bryant, Matthew Stafford, and more gridiron stars. For more, check out our albums for Gronk, Cam, and several other NFL stars.
Dezmatic, Dez Bryant
Original album: Illmatic by Nas
Release date: 4/19/1994
Players featured: Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant and Nasir Jones both know that it may take a while before others realize your greatness. Nas released his debut album, Illmatic, in 1994, but one of the greatest hip-hop LPs of all time was initially viewed as a commercial disappointment. The 10-track album about street life in Queensbridge, New York debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and was not certified platinum until December 2001. "It Ain't Hard to Tell" was the highest charting single but it only reached No. 91 on the Hot 100.
Today, Nas is regarded as one of the greatest lyricists of all time, and with seven platinum albums under his belt, he's found the commercial success that initially eluded him.
As the No. 24 pick of the 2010 draft, Dez Bryant entered the league as a talented rookie, but his true potential wasn't realized until a few years later. In his first three seasons in the NFL, Bryant averaged over 1,000 yards and 10 TDs per 16 games. However, he wasn't selected for the Pro Bowl until his fourth season in 2013 when he led the league in receiving touchdowns (16).
Running Forever, Matt Forte
Original Album: Finding Forever, Common
Release Date: 7/31/2007
Player Featured: Matt Forte
Like rapper/actor Common, RB Matt Forte is a dual-threat, capable of shredding defenses on the ground and catching passes out of the backfield. Common has won several Grammys for his albums Be and Finding Forever, and he won an Oscar in 2015 for the song "Glory" in the film Selma. Common is also an accomplished actor -- most recently he starred opposite Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2.
Both Forte and Common are veterans of the game in each of their professions, and both spent a lot of time in Chicago.
Also, they're friends.
If Matt Forte decides to get into music when he's done with football, he should consider hitting up Common to produce. --Grant Pardee
Late Hibernation, Staley Da Bear
Original Album: Late Registration, Kanye West
Release Date: 8/30/2005
Mascot Featured: Staley Da Bear
Windy weather, deep-dish pizza, sports, and Kanye West -- ask anyone to talk about Chicago and they're likely to mention any (or all) of the aforementioned. Yeezy and the Chicago Bears are linked through more than the Windy City, though: the two have a furry connection.
Staley Da Bear was "drafted" in the first round of 2003 and he's lasted a lot longer than QB Rex Grossman. While the Soldier Field faithful were getting acquainted with their new mascot, hip-hop fans were getting familiar with West as a rapper. Though he had already made a name for himself as a producer, 2003 was a breakout year for 'Ye as an MC -- he released "Through the Wire" in September, then followed up with "Slow Jamz," which became West's first No. 1 single.
Both songs were singles from West's debut album, The College Dropout. The cover of the LP featured a portrait of the Dropout Bear -- West's personal mascot, featured on the cover art for his first three full-length records, Late Registration and Graduation.
West and the Chicago Bears both had an amazing 2006. Da Bears went 13-3 and made their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1985. In 2006, West was still riding high off of the success of Late Registration, which went triple platinum and won Grammys for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Solo Performance, and Best Rap Song. --Ralph Warner
#Willpower, Mike Tomlin
Original album: #willpower, will.i.am
Release Date: 4/19/2013
Coach Featured: Mike Tomlin
Mike Tomlin and William James Adams, aka will.i.am, have some interesting parallels with their career paths. From their beginnings as part of a supporting cast to embracing the spotlight, Tomlin and will.i.am finally found their time to shine.
will.i.am's fourth album, #willpower, has been his most successful, including singles like "Scream & Shout" and "#thatPOWER." By Tomlin's fourth season as head coach, he'd already brought the Lombardi back to Pittsburgh after defeating the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII -- becoming the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Two years later, Tomlin had the Steelers back in the big game, facing off against the Packers in Super Bowl XLV. Tomlin and will.i.am might have actually crossed paths, since The Black Eyed Peas were performing the Halftime show. While there may not be any photo evidence of their meet, I'm sure they did a double take when they saw each other. --Daniel Greco
Coachin' the Rams, Wade Phillips
Original Album: Ropin' the Wind, Garth Brooks
Release Date: 9/2/1991
Coach Featured: Wade Phillips
Party on, Wade. Party on, Garth.
Alright, let's be real: the only similarity here is Wade Phillips and Garth Brooks are both good ol' boys in cowboy hats. We're linking these guys based purely on that -- and because the idea of Wade releasing a country-rock album about coaching the Rams makes us laugh.
Here's our imagined tracklist.
Back in 2015, then-23-year-old Travis Scott released his debut album Rodeo. The Texas trap rapper debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 1 on the rap albums chart. Powered by cosigns from established vets like T.I., Kanye West, and Future, and infectious singles like "Antidote," Rodeo went on to become certified platinum.
Just two guys in their early 20s, dominating their respective fields at an age where many of us were still stuck in college or dominating job search sites from our parents' couch. --Ralph Warner
Rae Sremmurd, the hip-hop duo from Mississippi had a similarly immediate impact in 2015 on the rap industry. The siblings (Slim Jxmmi is Swae Lee's older brother) dropped SremmLife, which not only went platinum, but so did all of the album's five singles. The duo followed that up by releasing their first No. 1 single "Black Beatles" in 2016. --Ralph Warner
Matthew: The Stafford Show, Matthew Stafford
Original Album: The Eminem Show, Eminem
Release Date: 5/26/2002
Player Featured: Matthew Stafford
Sure, they both rep Detroit, but there's a deeper connection between the controversial hip-hop artist and the Lions QB.
The Eminem Show was Eminem's third LP in a row that won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album; he's the first artist to win the award for three consecutive albums. Stafford has thrown for at least 4,200 yards every season in which he's started at least 16 games, including a 5,000 yard season in 2011; he is only the fourth player in NFL history to accomplish such a feat.
2002 brought both The Eminem Show and the film 8 Mile with the Oscar-winning song "Lose Yourself," and marked the end of the rapper's "golden era." Once he'd achieved mainstream success and critical acclaim, he struggled to maintain his identity as a chaotically irreverent underdog. By 2005, Eminem went into retirement for four years before resurfacing with a new approach (and new hair color).
Similarly, Stafford is at somewhat of a crossroad in his career. No one would dispute that he's among the best QBs in the game. He consistently puts up big yards, and he holds the NFL record for the most comeback wins in a season, with eight in 2016.
But what eludes Stafford is a win in the postseason. He's only taken the Lions to the playoffs three times in eight years (not counting 2017, his ninth season), and he's 0-3. Easier said than done, but with Aaron Rodgers out in Green Bay, this might be Stafford's clearest shot to the postseason yet.
Maybe, like Eminem at the BET Hip-Hop Awards a few weeks ago, this will be Stafford's time to make some noise. --Grant Pardee
Hard Knocks Life, Jameis Winston
Original Album: Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life, Jay-Z
Release Date: 9/29/1998
Player Featured: Jameis Winston
Want to feel old? In the fall of 1998, when Jay-Z (he still had the hyphen back then) released Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life,Jameis Winston wasn't even in kindergarten yet.
Fast forward nearly two decades later, and as Winston entered the 2017 season, he found himself in a somewhat similar position to Jay circa 1998. Prior to Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life, Jay-Z was respected, but was not yet regarded as the Best Rapper Alive... or even the best rapper in New York -- that title belonged to DMX after the release of It's Dark and Hell Is Hot. Then Jay released Vol. 2, which went five times platinum, ushered in the Hova era of Jay-Z's career, and made him the biggest name in rap at the time.
Six games into his 2017 campaign, Famous Jameis currently has a career-high 95.5 passer rating, but the Bucs are 2-4 and last in the NFC South. --Ralph Warner
Sgt. Thomas' Lonely QBs Corps Band, Joe Thomas
Original Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles
Release Date: 5/26/1967
Player Featured: Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas is a legendary offensive lineman, and his success at a difficult position for a very unsuccessful franchise is worthy of all of the accolades that Rolling Stone magazine usually heaps on Sgt. Pepper (even though Revolver is the better Beatles album).
Prior to his injury in Week 7, the left tackle's production had been second to none. Thomas has been selected to the Pro Bowl every season of his career -- a record for any offensive lineman. Earlier this year, Thomas played his 10,000th consecutive snap, an NFL record. Before being placed on injured reserve, Thomas had never missed a single play in his career.
Yet throughout his historic career, Thomas has never had the luxury of having a consistent quarterback behind him. He's danced the waltz for nearly twice as many QBs as he has years in the league.
Watch him try to name all 18 quarterbacks he's blocked for in his career:
I guess the silver lining is if he ever retires, Joe Thomas will have a lot of ex-colleagues to wish him well. It'd be wonderful to be there. Certainly a thrill. A splendid time would be guaranteed for all... until they put on the game highlights. --Grant Pardee