Rating NFL players by their acting career - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Rating NFL players by their acting career

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Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2008 9:28 am | Updated: 11:42 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

When the petal has wilted on your NFL career, isn’t it nice to know that there’s a B-movie starring role with your name on it? In honor of Sunday’s Super Bowl, let’s look at the former and current NFL stars who gave movie acting a try, some successfully (cough … Jim Brown), some not so much (cough … Brian Bosworth).

Carl Weathers (1970-71; Raiders): Of all the men on this list, Weathers probably came the closest to bona fide big-screen stardom. The one-time linebacker’s portrayal of Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” movies is arguably the most iconic acting work of any NFL player, and his suave, cocksure charisma almost stole the show from Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Predator.” He also flashed surprisingly sure comedic chops as the one-handed golf pro in “Happy Gilmore.” Signature line/moment: “Apollo Creed vs. The Italian Stallion … sounds like a damned monster movie!” B+

Bernie Casey (1961-68; 49ers, Rams): No slouch as a wide receiver (he made the Pro Bowl in 1968), Casey always perceived himself first and foremost as an artist (with easel in hand, he admitted to an NFL Films crew that he only played football for money). To be sure, the transition to acting was a natural one for the refined, uber-intense Casey, first in “blaxploitation” flicks (“Cleopatra Jones,” “Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde”), then in a series of mainstream roles that have made him one of the most recognizable character actors in Hollywood (“Never Say Never Again,” “Revenge of the Nerds”). Signature line/moment: Teaching Keenen Ivory Wayans how to shuffle to his own “hero theme music” in the self-parodying “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” B

Jim Brown (1957-65; Browns): More than any other player, the Hall of Famer’s stature as an actor is dwarfed by his accomplishments on the field (he was, you might say, the Olivier of exploiting the soft interior run defense). He performed an explosive end zone dive in “The Dirty Dozen,” had moderate success as a blaxploitation hero in “Slaughter” (tagline: “Slaughter will blow your mind … clean out of your head!”) and played a gone-to-seed boxing champ in “Mars Attacks!” Signature line/moment: Grenade-barbecuing Nazis in “The Dirty Dozen.” B-

Alex Karras (1958-71; Lions): The four-time Pro Bowl tackle didn’t get a whole lot of movie work — at one point, he was considered for the role of the Talia Shire-abusing brother-in-law in “The Godfather” — but when he did act, especially opposite Jeff Bridges in “Against All Odds,” he gave us something few other athlete-actors ever do: a hint of honest-to-God pathos. Unfortunately, his enduring legacy is “Webster,” the grotesque “Diff’rent Strokes” knockoff. Signature moment/line: Punching out a horse in “Blazing Saddles.” B-

Fred Williamson (1960-67; Steelers, Raiders, Chiefs): A blue chip blaxploitation legend, from the days when it was deemed appropriate for the n-word to appear in movies. After evening the score with The Man in such “Shaft”-esque classics as “Black Caesar” and “Hell Up in Harlem,” the Hammer (his nickname as a feared defensive back) moved on to a prolific straight-to-video career. Signature line/moment: “I threw javelin in college,” explaining his character’s racially offensive nickname in Robert Altman’s “MASH.” C+

Terry Crews (1991-97; Packers, Chargers, Eagles and Redskins): Once an 11th-round draft pick and journeyman defensive end, Crews now challenges fellow actor Tiny Lister (“Friday”) for any movie role that calls for an enormous, slightly crazy man of color. Curiously, they’ve both played post-apocalyptic chief executives: Lister in “The Fifth Element,” Crews in “Idiocracy.” Signature line/moment: “You always gotta protect your McNuggets!” explaining safety in “The Longest Yard.” C+

O.J. Simpson (1969-79; Bills, 49ers): The Juice is only NFL player on this list ever to collect a Razzie, for “Naked Gun 33 1/3” in 1994. That the Hall of Fame running back still ranks in the middle of the pack is telling; his comedic timing, while imperfect, was still head and shoulder pads above the likes of Brett Favre (see below). Film-career-wise, we’ll refer to the former Hertz shill in the past tense, for obvious reasons. Signature line/ moment: Bed-ridden in “The Naked Gun.” C

Tony Siragusa (1990-2001; Colts, Ravens): As a Russian mob heavy opposite Ed Norton in Spike Lee’s “25th Hour” (2002), the fun-loving defensive tackle seemed to flash some dramatic potential, but his only acting work since has been a few episodes of “The Sopranos.” Guess I’m just a sucker for a fake Russian accent. Signature line/moment: “Theese dog … how you call eet? Peet bull?” C

John Matuszak (1973-81; Oilers, Chiefs, Raiders): No player, living or dead, could grunt on cue like the Tooz. Gen Y types still fondly recall the late, hard-living defensive end’s defining role as the deformed Sloth in “The Goonies.” Signature line/moment: “Ehh!” C-

Bubba Smith (1967-76; Colts, Raiders, Oilers): Yes, we all loved him as soft-spoken recruit Moses Hightower in the “Police Academy” movies, but the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end proved to be something of a one-trick behemoth. Signature line/moment: Ripping open beer cans in those hugely successful Miller Lite ads. C-

Fred Dryer (1969-80; Giants, Rams): If the lanky, chiseled defensive end had scored the lead role in “Cheers” instead of Ted Danson, his subsequent film resume would probably look more impressive than “Cannonball Run 2,” “The Independent” and a smattering of straight-to-video titles. Instead, he scored TV’s “Hunter,” type-cast as a Clint Eastwood clone in a town that already had a Clint Eastwood. Signature line/moment: Scoring the cover of Andy Warhol’s counterculture Interview magazine in 1981. C-

Howie Long (1981-93; Raiders): Passable as an actor, Long’s unflappable, square-jawed demeanor seems best suited for the broadcast booth. The eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end had a brief run as an action sidekick in the late 1990s (“Broken Arrow”). Signature line/moment: Telling John Travolta “You the man!” in “Broken Arrow.” C-

Merlin Olsen (1962-76; Rams): The Hall of Fame tackle’s wholesome, teddy bearish persona was always better suited for flower commercials and prime-time frontier operas than the big screen, though he did make an early impression in the John Wayne/Rock Hudson Western, “The Undefeated.” Signature line/moment: Having his name dropped in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” C-

Brian Bosworth (1987-89: Seahawks): A momentous flop after his illustrious days as a Dick Butkus Award winning college linebacker, the Boz hasn’t fared much better as an action star, though his recent turn as a villainous prison guard in “The Longest Yard” may augur a modest career as a character actor. Signature line/moment: Sporting an epic mullet in “Stone Cold.” D+

Rosy Grier (1955-66; Giants, Rams): When your biggest credit is a cult H-bomb stinker such as “The Thing With Two Heads,” you know you’re no Carl Weathers. Still, Olsen’s Fearsome Foursome mate managed to work steadily until the early 1980s. Signature line/moment: Going head-to-decapitated-head with Oscar winner Ray Milland. D

Brett Favre (1991-present; Falcons, Packers): If his cameo in “There’s Something About Mary” is any indication, the 38-year-old signal caller should hold onto that day job as long as possible. Signature line/moment: “I’m in town to play the Dolphins, (expletive).” F

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