Both football and baseball require running quickly and covering long distances in a short period of time. Sheer strength is an asset that’s utilized to either crush a ball, or crush a person. And footwork is vital, whether it’s a second baseman and shortstop attempting to turn a double play, a quarterback planting to throw, or a wide receiver running the perfect route.
There are more similarities, but even just those core skills begin to show why so many athletes have been successful in both sports, or at the very least have had their talent acknowledged by scouts and coaches on both sides. The pipeline between football and baseball is well worn, with two Heisman Trophy winners playing professional baseball.
Who knows, maybe the next crossover star could be a quarterback currently running, jumping and shuffling at the NFL Combine. He could be taken off the board during the first round on draft day, so you might know him.
His name is Jake Locker. Prior to starring for the University of Washington for four years and building his golden arm status, Locker was pitching and patrolling the outfield for Ferndale High School and playing in a 2008 college summer league.
For Locker, baseball is far more than just a sporting hobby to keep the athletic juices pumping when it’s not football season. The Los Angeles Angels took a flier on him in the 2009 MLB draft, selecting the 22-year-old in the 10th round. He later signed with the Angels and received a $250,000 signing bonus, and Los Angeles now controls his MLB rights until 2015.
So if a doomsday scenario plays out and Roger Goodell’s stare down with DeMaurice Smith continues into the summer and fall, Locker could end up at a minor league ball diamond near you.
Whenever crossover athletes between football and baseball are discussed, the two no-brainer names immediately tossed out are Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. Sanders will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, and stole 168 bases over nine professional baseball seasons, finishing with 56 in 1997. Remembered most for his time with the Atlanta Braves, Sanders remains the only player to appear in both the Super Bowl and the World Series.
Blue Jays fans remember Sanders for something entirely different: his heel that hit the glove of Kelly Gruber, and umpire Bob Davidson’s botched call.
Even though he wasn’t drafted and therefore hasn’t been on the field for an NFL snap, Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija also instinctively comes to mind when rhyming off crossover players. Smardizija piled up 2,520 yards as a standout wide receiver at Notre Dame, and may have been selected in the first round if he chose to enter the NFL draft.
But we’re not interested in widely known answers to softball trivia questions around here. There are a number of lesser known failed forays into baseball prior to long football careers that blossomed into multiple Pro Bowl appearances. The sheer number of NFL players who were drafted by an MLB team is triple-take inducing, and thankfully they all chose to pursue football.
Archie Manning could have seriously altered NFL history if he put down the pigskin and picked up his ball glove to play shortstop for the White Sox.
The list: football players drafted by baseball teams
Drafted: 30th round in 2000 by the Colorado Rockies
The MLB draft is a disgustingly long monstrosity in which over 1,500 young men are plucked from the nether regions of the athletic kingdom. This results in a few odd football-related selections, and it’s why Colorado took a flier on Vick 11 years ago with the 887th overall pick. At the time Vick had just finished leading Virginia Tech to the national title game, and hadn’t played baseball since grade eight.
The Rockies saw him scampering between the chalk lines of the football field, and figured he could do the same in their outfield.
Drafted: 4th round in 1979 by the Kansas City Royals
Some flame-throwers can throw their flames while using any throwing motion. Marino would have been around for the Royals’ glory years in the early 80′s, so maybe this was his best shot at a championship.
Drafted: 3rd round in 1971 by the Chicago White Sox
Imagine a world where Archie’s kids were inspired by his range at shortstop, and Peyton is now with the Orioles, Eli is shagging balls out in left field in Cleveland, and Cooper is the backup catcher for the Brevard County Manatees.
I think I just vomited in my mouth.
Drafted: selected by the Royals in 1979, and the Yankees in 1981.
Elway didn’t sign with the Royals, but stuck around in New York’s system to play right field for the Oneonta Yankees, hitting .318 over 42 games in 1982.
Drafted: 7th round in1991 by the Pittsburgh Pirates
Smith performed the rare dual flop. Before notoriously becoming one of the worst draft busts in NFL history, Smith quite fittingly flamed out with the Pirates while playing in Pittsburgh’s minor league system for three years during college. The woefully inaccurate quarterback finished his professional baseball career in 1995 with a batting average of .125.
Drafted: 8th round in 1998 by the Philadelphia Phillies
While he was breaking records at the University of Texas, the always erratic Williams was spending his offseasons trolling the minor leagues as an outfielder. He spent four seasons in the Phillies’ system, reaching Single A. His best year came in 1996 when he finished with three home runs, 20 RBI, and eight stolen bases while striking out 87 times.