10 Prominent Musicians Who Started Off As Elite Athletes

From Oscar De La Hoy to Kobe Bryant, plenty of sports stars have tried their hand at music albeit with mixed results. But it hasn’t been a swing and miss for everyone with some athletes having a successful transition to a music career.

Mike Stud

If you’ve never heard of Mike Stud, we would highly recommend you going to check out some of his music on YouTube. This former all American baseball player was able to reinvent himself into a hip hop artist. 

At 6-foot-2 and athletic Mike Stud had always excelled in sports from his childhood. In 2006 he was named Rhode Island’s Gatorade Player of the Year in baseball. Soon  after, Duke university came calling and there he quickly established himself as a quality college pitcher. But his big baseball dream came crashing down after an elbow injury.

To pass the time during his recovery he picked up his childhood hobby again and started composing new rap songs. Turns out he had done a few rap songs when he was much younger but had never really taken it seriously. To his surprise his college baseball teammates liked his sound.

This formed a new start for Mike Stud—he  had lost one dream but found another. He decided to give up on baseball and focus on music. Over the years he’s garnered a couple of accolades including three No. 1 on the iTunes Hip Hop Charts.

Interesting Fact: After completing his tour for his 2018 album 4THEHOMIES, he changed his stage name to Mike. In case you are wondering, his real name in Michael Seander and the stage name Mike Stud began as a joke in college but quickly stuck on.

Wayman Tisdale

The late Wayman Tisdale had a solid NBA career during which he averaged more than 15 points and six rebounds per game with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns between 1985 and 1997. In 2009, Tisdale was elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

But his talent did not end on the court, Tisdale was also an exceptionally accomplished musician. Tisdale got his musical start playing bass guitar at his dad's church. Ultimately he mastered the instrument and recorded eight jazz albums prior to his passing away due to cancer in 2009. In fact, one of those albums, "Face to Face," reached No. 1 on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart.

Interesting Fact: Tisdale was known to carry a big black case with his bass guitar everywhere his team travelled. And it didn't matter if it was on the plane or bus. On those numerous road trips, he would visit local jazz clubs after the game and meet with musicians.

Johnny Mathis

The legendary crooner received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and was inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame in 2014. But long before his exemplary music career started he was a stellar track athlete and was even asked to try out for the 1956 Olympic Team in the high jump category. 

If you know his story you know that Mathis instead chose to go to New York to pursue a recording contract. In the same year recorded his first jazz album. 

Interesting Fact: In one of his many interviews, Mathis said that his big claim to fame as a high jumper was that he broke Bill Russell’s high jump record during a track meet in Reno. At the time Bill Russell was playing basketball at Oakland’s McClymonds High and was yet to become an NBA star.  

Johhny Mathis

Manny Pacquiao 

Everyone knows Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino boxing legend. He currently holds the record as the only eight-division boxing world champion as well as the first boxer to win major titles in four of the eight divisions. He’s also won twelve world titles and was the first boxer to win the lineal championship in five different weight classes. 

But did you know that Pacquiao is also an incredibly gifted singer and guitarist? He also has quite an established music career, having released a number of albums over the years.

Pacquiao’s first album “Laban Nating Lahat Ito” went platinum in the Philippines.

Interesting Fact: Pacquiao recorded his own entrance tune which plays every time he strides down to the ring for a fight. It’s called “Lalaban Ako Para Sa Filipino,” which translates to “I Fight for the Filipino People.”

Manny Pacquio performing

Julio Iglesias

There's no denying Iglesias' international superstardom. With more than 300 million records sold, he is arguably the most famous Spanish singer of all time.  During his more than 6 decade long career, Iglesias has won many awards in the music industry, including the Grammy, Latin Grammy, World Music Award, Billboard Music Award among many others.

But not many people know that he was a budding soccer star (he was a goalkeeper for Real Madrid Castilla in the Segunda División) until an auto accident in 1963 brought his career to an end. Depressed, he turned to music to pass the time. 

Interesting Fact: Julio Iglesias is the father of the famous singer Enrique Inglesias. Despite being a music legend Julio did not support his son as he was starting off on his own music career. This led to the father and son being estranged for over 20 years. Only recently have they started reconnecting.

Bruce Dickinson

Bruce Dickinson is a man of many talents from being a lead singer of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden to a pilot for the Royal Air Force. But one thing many people don't know is that Dickinson is quite accomplished at fencing as well. In fact he gave up competing in fencing  tournaments when he was 23 at a time when he was ranked No. 7 in Britain.

But despite participating in very few fencing tournaments in the past forty years, Dickson remains a big fan of the sport. In fact he engages in fencing for enjoyment and because it keeps him in reasonably good shape for his on stage theatrics when he’s performing with his band.

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson is a Hawaiian folk singer and guitar player who rose to fame in the 2000s for his cool and mellow singing style. Son of a famous surfer, he got his first surfboard when he was five and soon started surfing every day.

Over time, Jack got good at surfing - good enough to compete professionally. Aged 17, he became the youngest invitee to make the finals of the prestigious Pipeline Masters in Hawaii.

Sadly, a week later, he had a serious accident - he smashed his head on the coral reef, rendering him unconscious. Luckily, a wave broke over him and he drifted to the beach. 

But the accident put an end to his career as a pro surfer. But all was not lost. There was one more thing Jackson had always loved—and that was playing music. 

He decided to focus on his music and film career and over the years he turned into an extraordinarily successful singer-songwriter. In 2002, he launched his own record label with his first four albums all going platinum in the US.

jack johnson performing

Mike Reid

Mike Reid who graduated from Penn State University in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in music. Reid has always loved country music. But at the time he was preoccupied with something else— football. The NCAA All-American and All-Pro NFL defensive lineman was the seventh overall pick in 1970 and ended up playing in the Cincinnati Bengals for five seasons.

After retiring, Reid moved to Nashville and devoted himself completely to music. His early music career comprised of playing album covers and original songs at listening rooms around the country. In 1984, he won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song for his contributions to Ronnie Milsap’s “Stranger in My House.”

Aside from writing for country music stars, Reid's recording-artist deal with Columbia Records resulted in his debut single, “Walk on Faith,” which topped the Billboard country charts.

Mike Reid singing

Bernie Williams

By the end of his 16-year career as center fielder for the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams had become a four-time World Series Champion, five-time All Star and one of the Yankees all-time leaders in every major batting category.

Throughout his years with the Yankees, his childhood passion for music never waned. Known for his love of Jazz, a guitar was a constant presence in the star’s locker or equipment bag.

Following his retirement from baseball, he has released two jazz albums. His second album Moving Forward  was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2009. In 2016, Williams graduated from the Manhattan School of Music, in New York, NY, a prestigious music conservatory in New York, NY, receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Performance.

Interesting fact: Williams is a firm believer in the value of arts in the education system and has been lobbying to ensure that arts and music become part of a core education in schools across the United States.

Bronson Arroyo

One-time All-Star and World Series champion, Bronson Arroyo was a successful big-league pitcher for nearly two decades. His exploits on the field did not hinder him from pursuing his musical interests. In 2005, Arroyo had released his debut album, “Under the Covers,” where he played some of his favorite rock songs, including a couple of Pearl Jam numbers. 

The former MLB pitcher, who retired from the sport in 2017 and since then has been dedicated to growing his musical career with the help of his band, The Bronson Arroyo Band.

Coming from playing baseball before a stadium full of thousands of people, Arroyo now prefers playing at smaller, more intimate venues where his audience can get up close and personal. 

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