Beyond the Game: Exploring the Diverse Ventures and Projects of Sports Stars

Beyond the Game: Exploring the Diverse Ventures and Projects of Sports Stars


Professional athletes live incredibly demanding lives: while they’re paid millions for their efforts to play a game, those dollars still don’t come cheap when you take into account the intense training regimens, nutrition plans, film study and travel requirements they deal with, no matter if it’s game day or the middle of the offseason.

Even so, many athletes find the time to try their hand at other ventures when they are able to do so, whether it’s starting charities, going into business with a side hustle or even becoming rappers. Here are some of the most interesting activities that superstar athletes take part in when they aren’t on the field.

Josh Dobbs – NASA Scientist

It’s an open secret that many college athletes — especially those with big league potential — don’t take their classes seriously. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs is one of the players who bucked that stereotype, majoring in Aerospace Engineering during his time at the University of Tennessee, compiling a perfect 4.0 GPA and earning the prestigious Torchbearer Award, the highest academic award an undergraduate of the school can attain.
After getting drafted into the NFL, Dobbs has continued his career as a scientist, interning with NASA during the 2020 and 2021 offseasons.

Dobbs isn’t the only NFL star to make his mark in the world of science. Former Kansas City offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif graduated from medical school at McGill University in his native Quebec during his time with the Chiefs. Even though he was making millions of dollars as part of his NFL contract, Duvernay-Tardif felt a greater calling, opting out of the 2020 NFL season because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and working to combat the disease at a hospital back in Canada.

Shaquille O’Neal – Rapper Extraordinaire

While he’s retired now, if there’s anything that Shaq knows how to do — besides being one of the best big men the league has ever seen — it’s betting on himself. A true jack of all trades, Shaq has spent time as a police officer, acted in movies, promoted some of the best sports betting apps, and he even recorded four rap albums during the early 1990s.

O’Neal’s debut album went platinum, and he had five singles chart in the US Top 100: the highest-ranking one of them all was “(I Know I Got) Skillz” (featuring Def Jef), which made it all the way to the No. 35 spot.

The 1990s and early 2000s saw many professional athletes test their hands in the rap game as hip-hop really took off as a genre, but none of them managed to succeed like O’Neal did. His teammate with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, performed in high school as part of an underground rap group.

As Bryant broke out as an NBA star in his own right, Sony Records signed him in the hopes of turning him into a mainstream star and capitalizing off of his growing appeal, but the gamble never panned out. Allen Iverson, similarly, recorded a single that never saw the light of day because of purported homophobic lyrics, bad enough that then-NBA Commissioner David Stern had to step in and advise him to rethink the release.

Superstars Give Back: Roberto Clemente Award and Walter Payton Men of the Year

Some professional athletes are as well known for their charitable efforts off the field as they are for their performance on it. Two such examples are MLB Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who tragically died in a plane crash in 1972 while trying to transport much-needed supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Latin America. Walter Payton, the Hall of Fame running back for the Chicago Bears, held a similar reputation as a humanitarian, funding programs to improve children’s literacy and life saving organ donations.

The two men’s legacies live on, even in death, as their respective leagues hand out awards bearing their names to the top humanitarians each year. In the NFL, those winners include Dak Prescott, who works to fund causes like colon cancer research, mental health and suicide prevention; JJ Watt, who raised more than $37 million to help the city of Houston recover from the debating effects of Hurricane Harvey; and Calais Campbell, whose foundation focuses on giving young people the life skills they need to succeed and become leaders.

Over in MLB, Clemente award winners include Albert Pujols, who works to help victims of human trafficking; Carlos Carrasco, who prepares meals for the needy during the offseason and provides scholarship for single mothers to attend to college, and Yadier Molina, who traveled back to his native Puerto Rico to help victims of Hurricane Maria, saving the life of a diabetic man trapped without any insulin and delivering food and water to others in need.

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