To play in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL you have to be an elite athlete. However, some players have more athletic prowess than others, displaying a rare ability to cross between sports and disciplines. The NFL has seen late bloomers develop after lengthy careers in basketball in college. Even after playing at a high level at one sport in the fledgling years, players have cultivated Hall of Fame caliber careers in the NFL. Here are the men who are NFL players who have played college basketball.
Gates enjoyed a stellar career in the NCAA for Eastern Michigan and Kent State. Standing at 6ft 4in, he possessed the perfect build for a power forward. Gates was a potent force in the final third in his final season with the Golden Flashes in the 2001/02 college season, averaging 20.6 points per game. Despite his pedigree, he was not considered worthy of a spot on an NBA team and was signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent.
Having not played football since high school, Gates was not expected to compete for a roster spot. However, Gates forced his way onto the Chargers’ roster and did not look back. He set the standard at the tight end position for 16 seasons, earning three appearances on the NFL First-Team All-Pro between 2004 and 2006 and eight Pro Bowl nods. Gates finished his illustrious career with 955 receptions for 11,841 receiving yards and 116 touchdowns – the latter an NFL record for a tight end. A place in Canton awaits Gates when he becomes eligible.
Graham could be on the path to the Hall of Fame and remains active in the NFL. He played only one football season at the University of Miami, but excelled for four years on the basketball court. Despite, having only one year of experience in football, he declared for the NFL Draft in 2010 and was selected in the third round.
At the start of his career, Graham was electrifying at the tight end position for the New Orleans Saints, but since 2014 his outstanding form has declined. Graham is still a difference-maker and will be part of the Chicago Bears’ efforts to reach the playoffs in 2021, being backed when betting on football at Space Casino at +260 to return to the post-season. Graham still has a role to play and may require an extra push in his final years to ensure that he can round off a Hall of Fall résumé.
Peppers was a two-sport athlete at the University of North Carolina. He was a standout defensive end for the Tar Heels excelling on the football field, but he was more than a useful contributor on the court in his two seasons playing basketball.
Peppers was a solid option, averaging 7.1 points per game in his final term. However, football was always his calling after being resoundingly hailed as the best defensive player in the college game. Peppers was selected second overall in the 2002 Draft by the Carolina Panthers, allowing the defensive end to remain in his home state.
Over the course of his career in the NFL, Peppers mustered the fourth-most sacks in the history of the game with 159.5. The defensive end produced legendary performances for the Panthers, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in a storied career that will most certainly see him enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
These players have been proven commodities in the world of both basketball and football, but these stars are becoming less common as fledgling athletes are being funneled into one direction. Hopefully, the trend does not continue and we can enjoy success stories for many years to come.