Dandy Dozen: College football's multisport stars

RALPH D. RUSSO - AP College Football Writer
The Associated Press
FILE - This is an undated photo showing Jim Thorpe.  The greatest athlete of all-time? Hard to argue.  (AP Photo/File)
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FILE - This is an undated photo showing Jim Thorpe. The greatest athlete of all-time? Hard to argue.

For some guys, being a football hero just isn't enough.

Some college football stars — in fact some of the game's greatest players — also blasted homers, scored goals and won Olympic medals.

A look at a dozen who dazzled on the field and the diamond, or the hardwood, or the track (or in Jackie Robinson's case, all of them).


1) Jim Thorpe, Carlisle. The greatest athlete of all-time? Hard to argue. Starting in 1908, Thorpe played running back, defensive back, kicker and punter for coach Glenn "Pop" Warner and led Carlisle to victories against Harvard and Army. In 1912, he won Olympic gold in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm Games. He played Major League Baseball for the six seasons with three teams and played professional football from 1920-28. Quite simply, his accomplishments will never be matched.

2) Bo Jackson, Auburn. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1982, but instead chose to play football at Auburn. Good choice. He went on to win the 1985 Heisman Trophy and he played baseball for the Tigers. Then when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he instead went to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. Eventually, he played in the NFL, too, with the Oakland Raiders. He was an All-Star major leaguer and a Pro Bowler in the NFL.

3) Jim Brown, Syracuse. On the short list of greatest football players of all time, Brown is also considered one the greatest lacrosse players ever. He scored 43 goals in 10 games as senior. He could play basketball, too. He averaged double-digits in points for Syracuse as a sophomore and junior. And he lettered in track and field, probably just for the heck of it.

4) Jackie Robinson, UCLA. Like Brown, Robinson lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track and field in college. He didn't just dabble in football, either. He led the nation in punt returns in 1939 (16.5 yards per return) and '40 (21.0). In two seasons with the Bruins, he ran for 954 yards and passed for 449.

5) Charlie Ward, Florida State. Ward won the Heisman Trophy in 1993, leading Bobby Bowden's Seminoles to their first national championship as a dual-threat quarterback. He was also the starting point guard for the basketball team that came up a victory short of making the Final Four in '93. He went undrafted by the NFL, in part because teams knew he'd likely pursue an NBA career. He was drafted in the first round by the New York Knicks and played 11 seasons in the NBA.

6) Terry Baker, Oregon State. How's this for a great senior year? In the 1962-63 school year, Baker won the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback for the Beavers' football team and played point guard for their Final Four basketball team. He's the only person to win a Heisman and play in the Final Four.

7) Deion Sanders, Florida State. Neon Deion made cornerback a glamour position while playing for Bobby Bowden's Seminoles from 1985-88 and played outfield for the baseball team. Then he decided if Bo Jackson could play professional baseball and football, so could he. He was never a baseball star like Jackson, he didn't have much power, but his speed made him a decent player for seven seasons with four teams.

8) Jake Gibbs, Mississippi. Gibbs was the quarterback for what is considered Ole Miss' greatest football teams. The Rebels finished No. 2 in the AP poll in both 1959 and '60. He also played baseball in Oxford and instead of trying out pro football — he was drafted by the AFL and the NFL — he went on to a long career (1962-71) as backup catcher with the Yankees. He returned to Ole Miss to coach the baseball team and was eventually inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

9) Jeremy Bloom, Colorado. Bloom was a speedy and dangerous kick returner and receiver at CU, but his real gift was freestyle skiing. He won three world championships and competed in two Olympics (2002 and '06). But to fund his training he had to accept sponsor money and that's a no-no under NCAA rules. He wrangled with the NCAA through various appeals, before he was finally ruled permanently ineligible in 2004 after playing only two seasons of college football. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006.

10) Vic Janowicz, Ohio State. Janowicz was a halfback in the single-wing and he also played defensive back and kicked for the Buckeyes. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1950 and never played baseball for Ohio State. But after serving in the military, he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played third base, batting .214 in two seasons, then went to the NFL and played a couple seasons for the Washington Redskins.

11) John Elway, Stanford. Elway also played outfield for the Cardinal baseball, a skill that came in handy when he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the first pick in the 1983 draft. He had already played minor league baseball for the Yankees by that point, and said he would go that route if the Colts didn't trade him. The rest, as Denver Broncos fans will tell you, is history.

12) Brian Jordan, Richmond. Jordan was a first-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball out of Richmond and a seventh-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in football. He ended up playing three years with the Atlanta Falcons (1989-91) at safety, starting in the same secondary as Deion Sanders. When he finally made it to the major leagues with St. Louis, he gave up football and became a starting outfielder. He even made it to an All-Star game.