Five Multi-Talented College Athletes (Who Are Way Better Than You)

Five Multi-Talented College Athletes (Who Are Way Better Than You)

For some, making it through college with a reasonable degree and an in-tact liver is hard enough.

But spare a thought for those talented athletes who made it through college and used their time there to launch supersonic sports careers, not just in one sport but many.

From basketball players who are a dab hand at the poker table to baseball players who find time to ballroom dance for their college and take down double Olympic golds, the history of sport is littered with collegiate athletes who used their education as a springboard to greatness. Here we salute some of the greatest.


1 Jim Brown

Played: Basketball, Lacrosse, football
Accolades: All-American lacrosse player
College: Syracuse University

For some athletes, achieving greatness in one sport - and keeping it - is hard enough. For others, that's not enough.

In fact, some sportsmen just want to mess with people's heads so much they excel in two totally different sports.

Or there's Jim Brown, who managed a glittering career in three sports: basketball, NFL and lacrosse. Brown started his career at Syracuse University by playing football and lacrosse. In fact, so good was he at lacrosse he became in the late 1950s a member of the All-American lacrosse team (he was inducted into the sport's Hall of Fame in the 1980s).

However, it was football where Brown really acquired the accolades: Pro Football Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame, and a second-place ranking in the list of all-time pro football players.

Jim Brown busy racing to being one of the best all-round sportsmen in US history.

Jim Brown busy racing to being one of the best all-round sportsmen in US history.


2 Paul Pierce

Played: Basketball, poker
Accolades: NBA Champion (2008); NBA Finals MVP (2008)
College: Kansas

He might be seeing out his career at the Los Angeles Clippers (in a reputed $10 million deal), but Paul Pierce has the stats and career to back the hype.

During his time at the University of Kansas, Pierce averaged 16.4 points every single game. After his junior year at college Pierce went into the NBA draft and was picked by the Boston Celtics in the 1998 draft.

However, more recently, the NBA star has become as known for his skills at the poker table as well as on the court. He competed in the World Series of Poker Main Event for the second time in 2014, the year the world's biggest poker tournament guaranteed $10 million to the winner. He’s one of many celebrities including actors and comedians whose love of the game is fuelling yet more increase in popularity of the US online poker scene.

Paul Pierce is one of a long line of former college sportsmen to grace the professional poker tables.

Paul Pierce is one of a long line of former college sportsmen to grace the professional poker tables.


3 Jim Thorpe

Played: Pentathlon, decathlon, baseball, and er....ballroom dancing
Accolades: Double Olympic gold
College: University of Carlisle

Mixing up a successful NBA career and a burgeoning poker life might be impressive, but then you probably haven't considered Jim Thorpe - possibly the greatest collegiate all-rounder ever.

Jim Who?, you might be screaming.

Thorpe began his career at the University of Carlisle where he caught the eye as a proficient high jumper. However, he soon got bored of that and moved into football, baseball, and even ballroom dancing (where he won an intercollegiate competition).

Thorpe also played baseball professionally for seven years and went on to compete in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

But Jim Thorpe wasn't in the mood to just make up the numbers having travelled thousands of miles across the Atlantic; he went on to win both the decathlon AND pentathlon gold medals. Legend doesn't come close.

Jim Thorpe: pentathlete, decathlete, football player....ballroom king.

Jim Thorpe: pentathlete, decathlete, football player....ballroom king. 


4 Jackie Robinson

Played: Athlete, baseball, football
Accolades: Baseball Hall of Fame, 1955 World Series, NCAA long jump
College: UCLA

UCLA has produced many sporting greats over the years - Arthur Ashe, Reggie Miller and Troy Aikman - but no-one came out of the college quite so multi-talented as Jackie Robinson.

Although he actually couldn't complete his degree due to money problems, it didn't stop Robinson excelling in a multitude of sports.

He was the first UCLA student to earn letters in four separate sports (track, basketball, football and baseball) and won the NCAA Track and Field Championships long jump in 1940.

However, baseball was to be Robinson's calling, and he went on to make his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, staying there for nine years. His baseball career recorded a batting average of .311 and 137 home runs.


5 Charlie Ward

Played: Football, baseball, basketball
Accolades: Drafted by both NBA and NFL sides; Davey O'Brien Award
College: Florida State University

It was at Florida State University that Charlie Ward was spotted for his football skills. As a quarterback he won both the Heisman Trophy (1993) and Davey O'Brien Award.

That's pretty impressive, but what's more eye-opening is that Ward played basketball too at college - and duly kicked ass at that too. The only winner of the Heisman Trophy to compete in the NBA, Ward went on to play for the New York Knicks from 1994-2004 scoring almost 4,000 points.

Incredibly, Ward was drafted to play for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993 and New York Yankees in 1994, having not played baseball at all in college. It was just his overall skills that attracted the eyes of the big teams.