Five of the Best Players to Play in Both the MLB and NFL
Kyler Murray took the college football world by storm in 2018, winning the Heisman Trophy despite already being drafted to play Major League Baseball. And, with Murray now reconsidering and entering the NFL Draft as well, it is worth looking back at some of the best players to play in both MLB and the NFL, for a possible glimpse into Murray's future.
Sure, playing professional sports in the 1920s was usually just something to do while waiting for work as a plumber or construction worker to come in, but Jim Thorpe was as close as you could get to a celebrity athlete during that time period. Right up there with Babe Ruth, Thorpe was one of the first athletes to play in both Major League Baseball and the NFL, as he was also one of the first athletes to play in the NFL at all.
Thorpe was a part of the Canton Bulldogs of the American Professional Football Association, which then became the NFL while he was a part of the team. Not only that, but he was also included in the first All-NFL team in league history as well.
His baseball career saw him play for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves, where Thorpe posted a disappointing .252 from 289 MLB games. He was, however, a key part of a historic game between the Reds and Chicago Cubs. Thorpe drove in the winning run in the extra innings of a contest where both starting pitchers had thrown no-hitters over the first nine innings.
It isn't often that you see a player take part in two professional sports in the same city, but Brian Jordan did just that when he played for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball. Jordan was a starting safety for multiple years for the Falcons, who showed he was capable of both rushing the passer and making plays in pass defence for a Falcons team that he helped get to the playoffs in the early 1990s.
Jordan made the switch to baseball in 1992, where he played until 2006. He was most remembered for his time with the Braves, where Jordan made a habit of hitting huge home runs against the New York Mets. Jordan was a part of some of the most successful teams of that era, getting to multiple World Series and hitting six career home runs in the postseason.
Russell Wilson is perhaps the best glimpse into the future of Kyler Murray that there has been in the world of two-sport athletes. An undersized quarterback with great mobility, Wilson was also a Major League Baseball draftee, going in the fourth round to the Colorado Rockies in 2010. While not as highly regarded as a baseball prospect as Murray, Wilson ended up choosing football and has had tremendous success, being able to evade elite pass rushers like Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald to make plays on a regular basis.
Wilson hasn't completely given up on baseball, though, as he often attends Spring Training. He has spent time as a pseudo-member of the Texas Rangers' and New York Yankees' farm systems in recent years, even getting an at-bat in a spring training game with the Yankees in 2018. While he struck out in that at-bat, Wilson is still one of the few athletes in this age of specialization to play multiple sports in any capacity.
When it comes to two-sport athletes, Deion Sanders might be the ironman of the bunch, having played longer in MLB and the NFL than anyone else to do both. He played baseball from 1989 to 2001 and football from 1989 to 2005. Of course, when you virtually refuse to tackle anyone, your career longevity in football can be longer, but Sanders was an impact player in both sports regardless of his tackling ability.
Neon Deion had over 50 stolen bases in a season as a pro baseball player and led the National League in triples once as well. Hitting .533 in a World Series would be the dream of most athletes but it was something that Sanders did as a second job while still playing football. On the gridiron, Sanders racked up 53 career interceptions and was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection during a Hall of Fame football career.
Bo Jackson might not have had as impressive a career as Deion Sanders when it comes to longevity or statistics but the run Bo Jackson had as a multi-sport athlete is the stuff of legends. Jackson played baseball for eight seasons at the professional level and pro football for four years, becoming the first player to be named an all-star in both sports.
Jackson was a supreme athlete, known for his unique combination of speed and power. One minute he was memorably snapping a bat over his knee like a twig, and another he was outrunning defenders on his way to the end zone. While Kyler Murray might not ever reach that level of success as a two-sport athlete, players like Jackson and Sanders certainly give him something to aspire to as a pro in whatever direction he chooses.