LOS ANGELES — Super Bowl Sunday may be gone, but it’s still a good time to reflect on the many football players who've branched out into movies. We'd be here all day if we pondered college standouts like John Wayne and Dwayne Johnson, so we're sticking to the NFL.
1) O.J. Simpson: In a simpler, happier time, after winning the Heisman Trophy as a running back at USC in 1968, Simpson put together a stellar career with the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. But he'd already begun his acting career before he retired, playing a security chief in The Towering Inferno (1974) and an astronaut in Capricorn One (1978), before probably his most famous film performances in the Naked Gun trilogy.
2) Jim Brown: Spike Lee devoted an entire documentary, 2002’s Jim Brown: All-American, to Brown's accomplishments on and off the field. One of the greatest running backs in football history, Brown played nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns which put him in the Hall of Fame. His confident persona drew the attention of a Hollywood agent, who thought he'd be perfect for action films. Brown has a revolutionary presence on the screen — a virile, almost threatening black man, in contrast to the sophisticated characters Sidney Poitier played. And in movies like the 1969 Western 100 Rifles, he did something previously unheard of: an interracial love scene (with Raquel Welch).
3) Carl Weathers: Come on, he's Apollo Creed! And he was in Predator. Weathers was a star linebacker at San Diego State University before an extremely brief pro career with the Oakland Raiders in the early ’70s. After a couple years in the Canadian Football League, Weathers retired to pursue acting, his most important role being Rocky Balboa's nemesis and eventual friend in four Rocky movies.
4) Terry Crews: Better-known now as an actor than as a football player, Terry Crews has done everything from dopey comedies (Soul Plane, White Chicks), to bombastic action movies (Terminator Salvation, The Expendables), to a bit part in the Oscar-nominated Bridesmaids. He's also carved out meaty television roles for himself on Everybody Hates Chris and Are We There Yet? Oh, and he played football; defensive end and linebacker for the (then-Los Angeles) Rams, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins.
5) Alex Karras: Known best for his television work as Emmanuel Lewis' adoptive dad, Mr. Papadapolis, on the feel-good ’80s sitcom Webster, Karras was an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions between 1958 and 1970. Even before his football career was over, he played himself in Paper Lion. (1968). He later punched a horse as the fearsome but dimwitted Mongo in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974). Karras played the sheriff in the classic teen-sex comedy Porky's and a closeted gay bodyguard in Victor/Victoria — and those movies happened to come out on the same weekend in 1982, a real demonstration of his range.
Photo: Terry Crews