In recent history we’ve seen NFL stars emerge with modest backgrounds in football. Antonio Gates was a great high school football player, good enough to play at Michigan State. He was also a really good basketball player. After not being able to play both sports at MSU, Gates transferred to Kent State University where he enjoyed massive success on the hardwood. He didn’t receive much interest from the NBA because his size and ability didn’t translate well at the next level so he set up workouts with NFL scouts and the rest is history. Even after not playing football for years, Gates was able to hone his skills through basketball and his size (6’4", 250) had NFL executives drooling.
Other athletes have followed similar paths; guys like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas have each put up big numbers in the NFL after hooping at Miami (FL) and Portland State respectively. So why don’t more basketball players test NFL waters when their hoop dreams don’t go as planned? The obvious answer is injuries and the physicality of the sport. Football is a brutal game and it’s not for nice guys. Off the field, guys are who they are, but when they step on that field they are totally different people. Football players have a much different mentality than basketball players and it takes a certain kind of mindset to even put the pads on and start hitting, let alone have success. That’s why you don’t see more basketball players taking the football route in my opinion. Athletically, I believe basketball players are just as athletic and gifted with size and length but if they’re not mentally ready for the trauma that football brings, it’s a lost cause.
There’s been fantasy speculation about how guys like LeBron James or Russell Westbrook would fare on the gridiron. It sounds good on paper, for example, LeBron is 6’8" 250 and probably runs close to a 4.5 40. It’s easy to say "let’s throw him at tight end" and expect monstrous numbers. Though I agree that he’d be one of the greatest NFL players ever (I mean, he is LeBron), those guys in the NFL are different animals. I picture guys like James Harrison or JJ Watt coming at you full speed trying to take your head off. The question remains, can they take the hit? If LeBron and Westbrook could hit like NFL players hit, I believe they’d be absolute studs in the NFL solely off of athletic ability.
Basketball and football are two very different sports – for obvious reasons. That being said, they’re also very similar. Similar in the way cuts are made, the way they’re both explosive games, and in the way you have to read and react in a split second. It’s no mystery why the transition from basketball to football can lead to great things and if they have that football mentality, the sky is the limit.
Here are some Utes athletes from this past year who I think could make solid football players and vice versa:
Jordan Loverage - Tight End
Brandon Taylor - Defensive Back
Marcus Williams - Shooting Guard (he's got some serious game)
Who are some athletes (basketball or not) you think would make good football players?