13 Crossover Sports Stars

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Usain Bolt to the Central Coast Mariners in the A-League? It isn’t as crazy as it sounds!

Since retiring as the greatest sprinter of all-time, Bolt has spent his time persuing a professional football career and has spent time with Stromsgodset in Norway and Borussia Dortmund in Germany and he has now been offered the opportunity to trial with the Mariners ahead of the start of the A-League season.

Could we actually see Bolt on an A-League pitch? If we do, he will join a select group of athletes that have played multiple sports at the highest level.

Deion Sanders – NFL & MLB

One of the most famous crossover athletes, the man nicknamed “Primetime” is the only person to have played in both a Super Bowl and World Series.

Sanders played for five top level MLB teams and five NFL sides between 1989 and 2005 including the biggest teams in both leagues at the time in the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys.

Jarryd Hayne – NRL, NFL & Rugby 7’s

Right now you are most likely to find Hayne’s name in the punchline of several jokes for his code hopping antics between 2014 and 2017.

After announcing his departure from the Eels he made his way onto the San Francisco 49ers roster for the start of the 2015 NFL season however a fumble on his first punt return set the tone for his career there.

May 2016 saw him leave the 49ers in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to make the Fiji Olympic Rugby 7’s side before his eventual return to the Gold Coast Titans later that year and a 2018 Parramatta homecoming.

Brad Thorn – NRL & Super Rugby

Thorn may be the only player in history to ever represent Australia in rugby league and New Zealand in rugby union.

Beginning his career as a fresh-faced youngster in the Brisbane Broncos set up, Thorn won ARL, Super League and NRL titles with the Broncos before switching to the Crusaders Super Rugby side in 2001.

After four seasons he returned to the Broncos to win the 2006 NRL premiership before returning to the Crusaders for three more seasons in 2008.

Thorn was not finished there and he spent time in Japan, Europe, New Zealand before finally retiring after two games for Queensland Country in the NRC in 2016 at age 41.

He was not lost to the sport however as he is currently coaching the Queensland Reds.

Nate Ebner – NFL & Rugby 7’s

During a successful college rugby career with Ohio State, Ebner spent some time with the gridiron team and played well enough to get drafted to the New England Patriots where he emerged as a key special teams contributor and was a part of their Super Bowl XLIX win over Seattle.

In 2016, Ebner took leave from the Patriots to take part in the Rugby 7’s series and ended up making the US Olympic team.

Ebner returned to the Patriots and six months later won his second Super Bowl.

Michael Jordan – NBA & Baseball

Perhaps the most famous of crossover athletes, Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time.

His career had a two-year hiatus after winning three NBA titles in a row where he spent time playing baseball, in honour of his late father.

He followed that up with perhaps the best press release of all time with a simple two-word announcement on his NBA future, “I’m back!”

Peter Ryan – NRL & Super Rugby

Perhaps not the most famous code hopper, Ryan certainly warrants inclusion on this list as the first player to claim Premierships in both sports.

Ryan spent 11 years playing for the Broncos, being a part of four Grand Final winning sides in that time despite only playing in two actual deciders.

Ahead of the 2000 season, Ryan signed on with the ACT Brumbies playing as a lock forward.

In his second season Ryan won the Super Rugby title, a feat also achieved since by Brad Thorn, Will Chambers and Sonny Bill Williams.

Darren Bennett – AFL & NFL

Nowadays the NFL is littered with Australian punters however the stage was set by former Eagles and Demons forward, Darren Bennett who left the VFL in 1993 and joined the San Diego Chargers. A

fter ten seasons with them, Bennett ended his lengthy career with two years punting for the Minnesota Vikings.

Since then other former AFL stars such as Sav Rocca, Nathan Chapman and Ben Graham have all followed the path forged by Bennett, with Graham playing in Super Bowl XLIII with Arizona.

Ellyse Perry – Cricket & Football

It would be remiss to leave Australia’s most famous two-sport female athlete off this list as Perry has been juggling cricket and football commitments since her teenage years.

Her Matildas debut came two weeks after her debut for the Australian cricket side however in recent years her cricket career has become much more prominent.

Or perhaps it was tackles like this from Matildas teammate Lisa De Vanna?

Anthony Mundine – NRL & Boxing

Mundine will happily inform anyone willing to listen of his athletic prowess so it is impossible to leave him off.

After spending time with the Dragons and Broncos, Mundine left the game in the middle of the 2000 season to switch to boxing.

He is still chasing big fights despite being well into his 40s – could we see Mundine vs Horn?

Sonny Bill Williams – NRL, Rugby Union & Boxing

When he is not being used as a punchline by South African cricketers and their fans, Sonny Bill has carved out an impressive career across both rugby codes.

It is impossible to forget the great SBW defection of 2008 where he walked out on the Bulldogs to join Toulon.

He returned to the Southern Hemisphere in 2010 to link up with the Crusaders and won the World Cup with New Zealand in 2011.

A brief second stint in rugby league lasted two years with the Roosters yielding one Premiership before he returned to rugby union in 2014 and won the World Cup again the following year.

To top it all off, Williams has amassed a 7-0 boxing record in between code hopping.

Safe to say that no matter what sport Williams plays he is known as a big hitter.

Karmichael Hunt & Israel Folau – NRL, AFL & Rugby Union

Two players have managed to play for a hat-trick of Australian football codes.

Both Hunt and Folau followed the same path going from NRL to AFL to Super Rugby.

Hunt burst onto the scene with the Broncos in 2004 jumping to French rugby in 2009 before spending three years with the Gold Coast Suns in 2011 ahead of what has been a fairly ill-fated stint in Super Rugby since 2015.

Folau began his AFL stint in 2011 with the GWS Giants.

He left the AFL after two years and joined the NSW Waratahs and quickly becoming one of the Wallabies best attacking weapons, winning the John Eales Medal three times.

Andrew Johns – Rugby League & Cricket

Twenty20 Cricket is now big business, but when it was first introduced in Australia it was nothing short of a joke.

New South Wales did their best to get crowds through the gate by signing Rugby League legend Andrew Johns.

Johns looked absolutely terrified during his time as a professional cricketer, but it is fair to say his stint as a cricketer is not even close to his most embarrassing moment  since he retired by rugby league.