A few months ago, NBA superstar LeBron James loaded the talk-show airwaves when he said he had the goods to play in the NFL, perhaps even helping out his home-town Browns. The crazy thing was, there weren’t many people who disagreed.
It got the Daily Globe sports department thinking, what if we could form a football team out of non-professional football players? Could we find 24 players that would at least give, say, the Detroit Lions a run for their money? We thought it might be possible.
Here’s the list we came up with, position by position. Disagree? Feel free to add your own suggestions below.
Quarterback: Joe Mauer, MLB catcher, Minnesota Twins (6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Age 26)
Mauer, a product of Minnesota’s own Cretin Durham-Hall, was actually the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year in 2000. He had a full-ride scholarship to play quarterback at Florida St., but opted to play baseball instead. We can’t think of anyone better to direct our offense than the American League MVP, whose decision-making skills are unparalleled while covering home plate for the Twins.
Running Back: Carl Crawford, MLB outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays (6-2, 215, 26)
Crawford, much like Mauer, had just as bright of a future on the gridiron as he did on the diamond. The speedster originally signed a letter of intent to play option quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He was so good, former coach Frank Solich said, that he might have beaten out Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch for the starting job. He has the quickness to play running back, as evidenced by his six stolen bases in a single game against the Red Sox in May – an MLB record.
Fullback: Brock Lesnar, MMA fighter (6-3, 265, 32)
It’s true that the national champion wrestler turned WWE star turned mixed-martial arts standout tried out for the Vikings once, and ended up being a late cut. But he tried out as a defensive lineman, which he was the first to admit was his downfall. His aggression is more suited for a fullback, where he can flat out pancake linebackers (assuming he gets over his recent bout with mono that’s kept him from fighting for the past few months).
Wide Receiver: Jeff Samardzija, MLB pitcher, Chicago Cubs (6-5, 220, 24)
It wasn’t too long ago that Samardzija was catching passes from Brady Quinn as an NCAA All-American receiver for Notre Dame. Samardzija shined on the football field, and there’s no doubt he would have been a top-tier draft pick had he decided to stick with it.
Wide Receiver: Dwyane Wade, NBA guard, Miami Heat (6-4, 210, 27)
Wade chose between football and basketball when he was just a junior in high school, and the high-flying guard chose hoops, deciding to follow in his older brother’s footsteps. He has always said that football was his first love, though. With the Olympian and NBA champion’s size and hops, Wade would have had scouts salivating.
Wide Reciever, Kick Returner: Usain Bolt, Olympic sprinter, Jamaica (6-5, 210, 23)
It doesn’t hurt being the fastest man who ever lived. But what makes Bolt truly a freak is his NFL frame. The guy looks like he could take a few hits. His 9.58-second, 100-meter dash translates to a sub-4 second forty-yard dash, even with pads on. It’s doubtful anyone would be running him down anytime soon.
Tight End/Defensive End: LeBron James, NBA forward, Cleveland Cavaliers (6-8, 250, 24)
No surprise here. James was, after all, the reason why we started this list. He was an all-state wide receiver at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s high school in Ohio, along with being the top prep basketball player in the country for consecutive years. He’s so athletic that we’ll play him both ways, as a linebacker and a defensive end/linebacker type.
Offensive Tackle: Glen “Big Baby” Davis, NBA forward, Boston Celtics (6-9, 300, 23)
“Big Baby,” 6 foot 9 and weighing in at 300 pounds, looks more like a lineman than a basketball star. He played several different positions while starring for his high-school football team, including fullback and defensive end. With the footwork he displays in the post, we think he’d be best suited protecting Mauer’s blind side.
Guard: Cole Konrad, NCAA Champion wrestler, Minnesota (6-3, 315, 25)
Konrad is a two-time, NCAA heavyweight champion for the Gophers. At 6-foot-3, 315-pounds, he’d be in the same mold as Stephen Neal, another NCAA champion wrestler who had no previous football experience, but turned into a perennial Pro-Bowl guard for the New England Patriots. Two years ago, Konrad impressed the New York Jets in a mini-camp, but decided to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic team instead. He also performed well at a Vikings mini camp earlier this year, but he remains unsigned and is currently a graduate student at the U.
Center: Steve Mocco, NCAA Champion wrestler, Oklahoma St. (6-0, 275, 27)
Don’t mention Mocco’s name in Iowa. After winning a national title in 2003, the Hawkeye turncoat transferred to rival Oklahoma St., where he won another heavyweight title in 2005. In 2006, however, Konrad beat him three times. Mocco is such an athlete that during his senior year, the U.S. Olympian tried out for OSU’s football team even though he had no gridiron experience. He made the team as a defensive tackle, and even earned playing time.
Guard: Asashoryu Akinori, champion sumo-wrestler, Mongolia (6-0, 330, 29)
Arguably the best sumo-wrestler in the world, Akinori would hold his own in the trenches. As Gene Hackman quipped in the movie “The Replacements” when his assistant coach asked him what a sumo-wrestler was doing at football tryouts, Hackman said, “He’s an expert at pushing people around. That’s what pass blocking is, remember?”
Tackle: Jai Lewis, international basketball player, Philippines (6-7, 292, 26)
The roly-poly Lewis is best known for leading George Mason’s basketball team to its miracle Final Four run in 2006. He was big, he had footwork and he could move the floor. Those skills tempted the New York Giants to sign him as an undrafted free agent, but instead of playing football, Lewis decided to take the hoops route.
End: Dwight Howard, NBA forward, Orlando Magic (6-11, 265, 24)
Aside from James, Howard might be the most athletic basketball player in the world. Few athletes are talented enough to win the slam-dunk competition at his size, but that’s exactly what Howard did. For opposing quarterbacks, it would be pretty difficult to throw with a 6-foot-11 obstacle standing in the way.
Tackle: Mariusz Pudzianowski, Strongman competitor, Poland (6-1, 313, 32)
He’s won the “World’s strongest man” competition five times, so that in itself warrants him being the stalwart on our defensive line. Consider this, though: Pudzianowski also plays rugby in Poland where his coach is quoted as saying, “He was immensely invaluable especially in the scrums, where thanks to his strength and power we were able to push the opponent back 20 meters.”
End: Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight boxer, Ukraine (6-6, 245, 33)
Klitschko is the currently the best heavyweight boxer in the world, holding the IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine world titles. All he has to do is turn his forcefulness in the ring into intensity on the gridiron.
Linebacker: Elijah Dukes, MLB outfielder, Washington Nationals (6-1, 250, 25)
One of baseball’s bad boys, Dukes was a four-star rated linebacker who signed a letter of intent to play for North Carolina St. Dukes’s anger problems have made him infamous, but the football field would be the perfect place for his fury.
Linebacker: Richie McCaw, rugby star, New Zealand (6-1, 230, 28)
The International Rugby Board selected McCaw as its player of the year in 2009, meaning he’s arguably the best rugby player in the world. As an open-side flanker for New Zealand, it’s McCaw’s job to read opposing offenses and chase after backs. Sounds a little bit like a middle linebacker.
Linebacker: Kimbo Slice, MMA fighter, Miami, Fla. (6-2, 235, 35)
He gained fame through his underground street fights that spread throughout the Internet, but Slice, whose actual name is Kevin Ferguson, was an All-Dade County football player at Miami Palmetto High School. Before he could pursue is football dreams, Hurricane Andrew hit Miami in 1992 and left Ferguson homeless. He eventually attended the University of Miami, but didn’t play football there.
Cornerback: Nate Robinson, NBA guard, New York Knicks (5-9, 180, 25)
They call him “Kryptonate,” because of his 43.5-inch vertical jump, which has enabled Robinson to win slam dunk competitions despite his small stature. Robinson played both basketball and football at the University of Washington, where he made the game-winning interception against rival Washington St. in 2002.
Cornerback: Allen Iverson, NBA guard, Philadelphia 76ers (6-0, 180, 34)
As long as he’s willing to “practice,” Iverson can have a spot on our team. Iverson quarterbacked Bethel high school to a state football championship in Virginia. He was considered one of the country’s top dual-threat quarterback/defensive back prospects, but he decided to play basketball at Georgetown for John Thompson.
Free Safety: Jeff Francoeur, MLB outfielder, Atlanta Braves (6-4, 220, 25)
Francoeur was a Top 100 football prospect coming out of high school, but the lofty baseball paychecks were enough to lure him away from the gridiron. Francoeur once said if he had to choose a profession besides being a professional baseball player, he’d like to be a high-school football coach.
Strong Safety: Georges St. Pierre, MMA fighter, Canada (5-9, 170, 28)
A strong safety’s job is to hit, and few people in the world do that better than St. Pierre, who consistently sits atop the world’s MMA rankings. A specialist in jiu-jitsu, karate and kick-boxing, St. Pierre is such an athlete that he is even considering trying out for Canada’s Olympic wrestling team.
Kicker: David Beckham, MLS midfielder, Los Angeles Galaxy (6-0, 170, 34)
For someone who can find the corner of the net from 50 yards away, splitting the uprights with a slightly more ovular ball couldn’t be that hard, could it? It’d be a shame not to put him on this team. After all, who else can “bend it like Beckham?”
Punter: Darin Erstad, MLB free agent (6-2, 215,35)
You know Erstad was a glue-type, do-it-all player for the Los Angeles Angels. But what you might not know was that Erstad was also the punter on the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ 1994 National Championship squad, averaging 42.5-yards per punt that year.