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5 Great Athletes Who Spurned Chances to Play Other Sports

Athletes who switch sports
Harry How/Harry How/Tom Hauck/Chris Trotman/Andy Lyons, Getty Images

Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, Brian Jordan, Danny Ainge and a select few others set a modern standard for their unique abilities to play two professional sports at their peaks. But it’s not so odd for a young phenom to make a choice when it comes to picking one sport over another.

University of Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson is the latest rising star to decide between two sports, reportedly opting for professional football player over baseball.How’d other athletes in Wilson’s position fare? Here’s a modern-day look back:

JOE MAUER

Joe Mauer
Harry How, Getty Images

Before emerging as one of baseball’s premier hitters, the Minnesota Twins All-Star catcher had actually verbally committed to play quarterback for Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles. But Mauer was drafted in the 2001 amateur baseball draft and the rest is history. His 2009 AL MVP probably erased any doubt that Mauer ever had over his decision.

JOHN ELWAY

John Elway
Andy Lyons, Getty Images

In an infamous story, one of the NFL’s greatest all-time quarterbacks once threatened to choose a career in baseball in his demands weren’t met. Elway was the first overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft and the Baltimore Colts were poised to make him their quarterback of the future. But Elway had other plans, having spent some time in the New York Yankees’ minor league system, and, refusing to play for the Colts, considered leaving football altogether. Rather than lose their top pick without anything in return, the Colts opted to trade Elway to the Broncos, and the Elway success story is, as they say, history.

ANTONIO GATES

Antonio Gates
Harry How, Getty Images

This perennial All-Pro has redefined the position of tight end as a standout pass-catcher and force to be reckoned with on the field. The Chargers star has made the Pro Bowl each of the past eight seasons and shows no signs of letting up. What he did give up, however, was a promising basketball career. At Kent State University, Gates averaged 20.6 points a game during his senior season and took them to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Good enough for Gates to have his number retired there years later.

TOM GLAVINE

Tom Glavine
Chris Trotman, Getty Images

One of the greatest pitchers of his day, Glavine shut down opposing batters with expert proficiency. You might be surprised to learn, though, that Glavine nearly chose an NHL career ahead of baseball. The Los Angeles Kings drafted him in the fourth round of the 1984 draft before the future MLB Hall of Famer opted out of life in hockey. He won 305 games and two Cy Young awards as a starting pitcher.

CHARLIE WARD

Charlie Ward
Tom Hauck, Getty Images

The 1993 Heisman Trophy winner thought he was ready to excel as an NFL player. Coming out of college football powerhouse Florida State, he wished to be a first round pick. Yet, when his football future became uncertain, and people questioned his size and prowess, Ward went another route and entered the NBA draft. The Knicks took him in the first round of the 1994 draft and he would rise to become the team’s point guard. He played for a dozen seasons and put up decent numbers. Football fans are left to wonder what might have been.

 

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