By Emily Feimster
For most stars of stage, screen, television and recording, success as a performer was a cherished dream. But for a surprisingly large group of celebrities, entertainment was a second choice. These are the talents who first imagined themselves as stars on the playing field or court - and some of their stories are pretty surprising.
Before hitting it big in country music, Reba McEntire was following in her father's rodeo footsteps as a competitive barrel racer. "I wanted it to be a career. I wanted to be the world champion barrel racer of all time," Reba told me recently. "Gail Fasca, who was the world champion barrel racer, and I were sitting behind the chutes one night waiting to perform and I said, 'Gail, I'd give anything in the world if I could run barrels like you' and she said, 'Well, I'd give anything in the world to sing like you.' I said, 'You wanna swap?' and she said, 'Nah.'"
Reba's certainly not the only singer who aspired to be an athlete. Garth Brooks went to Oklahoma State University on a javelin throwing scholarship, rapper Nelly dreamed of playing pro baseball before forming the rap group the St. Lunatics, and Master P is still trying to become a basketball player. Before making his millions, Master P enrolled at the University of Houston aiming to play college ball, but hurt his knee before the season began. He's since played with the International Basketball League, the American Basketball League, and has tried out for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors. Yeah, buddy, just stick with the music.
For actor Charlie Sheen, nothing could have compared to playing professional baseball. In fact, when in high school, he used to skip class to go play. Though life had other things in mind for him, he still remains a baseball fanatic. "All actors want to be athletes, and all athletes want to make movies," said Sheen in an interview. "So I'm making movies -- big deal! They're playing major league baseball. That's the ultimate."
"7th Heaven's" Tyler Hoechlin couldn't agree more. After all, the high schooler is currently being scouted by the major leagues.
There are plenty of other television stars who had the itch for competition.
In 1999, "Commander in Chief's" Geena Davis placed 24th out of 28 in semi-finals for the Olympic Archery team.
Star of "Navy NCIS," Mark Harmon followed in his Heisman Trophy-winning father, Tom Harmon, by playing quarterback for the UCLA Bruins.
"Charmed's" Kaley Cuoco consistently ranks in Southern California's amateur tennis league, but none loves the sport more than Matthew Perry. Growing up in Canada, Perry became a top junior tennis player, ranking 17th nationally in the junior singles category and third in the doubles category. However, after moving to Los Angeles at the age of 15 to live with his father, he became more interested in acting. All we have to say is, smart move!
Of course there are a fair share of celebrities who did get the chance to become professional athletes, but when their careers came to an end, it was hello Hollywood! Take Tony Danza, for example. The famous New Yorker never dreamed of being an actor, but rather saw himself as a champion boxer. Fighting as a middleweight, Danza became a crowd favorite, compiling a record of 9-3 with nine knockout victories. However, his life would change during a gym workout when he was discovered for the part of "Tony Banta" on the TV show, "Taxi." Though he continued to box for awhile, he retired to concentrate on acting after being unable to secure a title shot.
Then there's the hunky Luke of "The Gilmore Girls," Scott Patterson, who was drafted into baseball's minor leagues in 1980. He went on to play with the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves and the Texas Rangers for eight years before being dropped. Luckily he's hot, so it all worked out for the best.
Speaking of hot, the former "Superman" star, Dean Cain had quite a promising football career ahead of him. After setting an NCAA record for interceptions in a season as a defensive back for Princeton, he was signed to the Buffalo Bills, but a knee injury ended his pro career before it began.
"I wish I had played longer in the NFL. I thought that I would end up playing five years. I wish I hadn't gotten injured," Cain told me. "The thing that was a bummer was that if I had made the squad with Buffalo then I would have gone to four Super Bowls and just had an amazing, amazing experience." Poor guy! Now he'll just have to settle for making out with beautiful women on TV.
Former "Hunter" star Fred Dryer was a first round draft pick for the New York Giants where he played for three seasons before finishing his 13-year career with the Los Angeles Rams.
It wasn't that long ago that star of "Everybody Hates Chris," Terry Crews, played defensive end in the NFL. "I miss football every time I watch it, but I'm 37 years old so there ain't no going back. I don't miss the training room or getting banged up on Sundays," admitted Crews. "Being on this sitcom makes up for it because everybody kind of counts old football players out. Most guys would love to have a career in the NFL, but then to have a career in film and TV as well is amazing. There are a very select few of us who have ever done that." True, indeed.