When Professional Jocks Were Geeks

We’re all well aware of the struggle between brains and brawn, but some people were blessed with both. A surprising number of athletes have incredible academic pasts, and some were even hoping to follow a much geekier career path. Here are some of the smartest jocks in all of professional sports.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Annihilated the SAT

Ryan Fitzpatrick 2021
Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2021. Photo by All-Pro Reels. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Who would have thought that a jocky football player could pass the SAT? Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did more than just pass it, he scored a near-perfect 1580. With his tremendous grade, Fitzpatrick studied economics at Harvard and would have liked to net a job on Wall Street if it weren’t for his athletic career.

Craig Breslow Wanted to Be a Doctor

Watching his younger sister face cancer inspired this Red Sox pitcher to study medicine. That’s right: Craig Breslow was going to become a doctor. Breslow majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale and was accepted to NYU Medical School when he was drafted into the major league. Considering his incredible MCAT score of 34 when the average is 28, Breslow would have been one fantastic doctor.

Ross Ohlendorf Researches Cattle

While most athletes spend their off-season relaxing or working on improving their game, you won’t find Ross Ohlendorf anywhere near a training field. The San Diego Padres relief pitcher, who majored in financial engineering and operations research at Princeton, prefers to spend his spare time doing research or working for the government. He even works on his family’s cattle ranch in Texas.

Shane Carwin Loves Engineering

You probably wouldn’t expect a bulky UFC fighter to have a geeky side, but former mixed martial artist Shane Carwin‘s brain is as big as his biceps. Carwin holds degrees in mechanical and environmental engineering and was aptly nicknamed “The Engineer” by his fans. Now that he’s retired, Carwin works full-time as an engineer improving hydraulic systems in a water district.

Pau Gasol Went to Medical School

Another doctor-turned-athlete is basketballer Pau Gasol, who attended the medical school at University of Barcelona before joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Gasol has observed spinal surgeries and has a life goal of finding a cure for AIDS. If those feats weren’t awesome enough, Gasol speaks five different languages and is even self-taught in Italian and French. Only a true geek could manage something like that.

Myron Rolle Was a Rhodes Scholar

Sometimes geeks are so far ahead of the curriculum that they get to graduate early. That’s exactly what Myron Rolle accomplished, leaving Florida State University a few years ahead of schedule to study medical anthropology at Oxford. This Rhodes Scholar wanted to be a traveling neurosurgeon, but ultimately gave up his academic endeavors to play as a safety for the Tennessee Titans. Rolle still wanted to be a doctor, though, and announced leaving the NFL in 2013 to return to FSU medical school. He graduated in 2017 and matched to a neurosurgery residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

It’s amazing to think that your favorite athletes might have bypassed sports altogether in favor of some super-smart careers. One thing’s for sure: no high school bully would have been able to stuff these geeky jocks into trash cans.

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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