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15 Athletes Turned Politicians


Many athletes hit the campaign trail once their playing days are over. And on the other side of the aisle, quite a few politicians were once on-field leaders. Here are 15 former players who became important leaders in the field of politics.

Gerald Ford
38th President of the United States (R)
Linebacker/Center, University of Michigan
An iron man on the Wolverines’ 1932 and 1933 undefeated national title teams, Ford’s No. 48 has since been retired.

Dwight Eisenhower
34th President of the United States (R)
Linebacker/Running back, U.S.M.A. at West Point
Ike tackled the legendary Jim Thorpe in 1912, but suffered a career-ending knee injury in the same game.

Ronald Reagan
40th President of the United States (R)
Offensive guard, Eureka College
Before he played “The Gipper” in the movie Knute Rockne, All American, Reagan played football.

George H.W. Bush
41st President of the United States (R)
First baseman, Yale University
H.W. played in the first two College World Series. His son, George W. Bush, co-owned the Texas Rangers before becoming the 43rd President of the United States.

Kevin Johnson
Mayor (D-Sacramento, Calif.)
Point guard, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers
K.J. averaged 17.9 points and 9.1 assists over 12 seasons before becoming the first African-American mayor in Sacramento history.

Bill Bradley
Senator (D-New Jersey)
Small forward, New York Knicks
The Rhodes Scholar was the Final Four MOP at Princeton in 1965 before winning two NBA championships with the Knicks.

Jim Bunning
Senator (R-Kentucky)
Starting pitcher, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, L.A. Dodgers
The righty threw a no-hitter in 1958, a perfect game in 1964 and was a Veterans Committee selection in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor (R-California)
Bodybuilder, Austria
Mr. Universe became the Terminator and then the Governator. Schwarzenegger was also married to Maria Shriver, the niece of JFK.

Dave Bing
Mayor (D-Detroit, Mich.)
Shooting guard, Detroit Pistons, Washington Bullets, Boston Celtics
Named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996, Bing was a steel magnate before taking the top office in the Motor City.

Jesse Ventura
Governor (I-Minnesota)
Pro wrestler, WWF
The Body fought in the Vietnam War and alongside “Macho Man” Randy Savage before becoming the Governing Body.

Steve Largent
Congressman (R-Oklahoma)
Wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks
An eight-time All-Pro and 1988 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Largent finished with 819 catches and 100 TDs.

Heath Shuler
Congressman (D-North Carolina)
Quarterback, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints
The Blue Dog Democrat was a Heisman Trophy runner-up at the University of Tennessee and No. 3 overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft.

Tom Osborne
Congressman (R-Nebraska)
Wide receiver, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers
A quarterback at Hastings College and a wideout in the NFL, Osborne won three national championships as the head coach at Nebraska.

Jack Kemp
Congressman (R-New York)
Quarterback, Buffalo Bills, L.A. Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bob Dole’s running mate in the 1996 Presidential election, Kemp carried a 122–105 record as a starting quarterback.

J.C. Watts
Congressman (R-Oklahoma)
Quarterback, University of Oklahoma
Julius Caesar Watts led the Sooners to back-to-back Orange Bowl wins and was MVP of the 1981 Grey Cup for the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders.