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8 NFL stars who used to ball out on the basketball court

In honor of tonight’s NBA Draft, Rise ‘n Grind takes a look at the NFL stars who started out their athletic careers on the basketball court.

Miami v Texas Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In honor of tonight’s NBA Draft, we’re taking a look at some NFL stars who used to be known for their ability to shoot hoops. From Antonio Gates to Jimmy Graham, there are quite a few big-time NFL players who once dazzled on the basketball court.

On the flip side, one of tonight’s expected first round picks, Kevin Knox, was once a highly-regarded quarterback who was told he was too tall to make it in the NFL.

Here are a few NFL players who started out on a basketball court.

1. Packers cornerback, Quinten Rollins

Rollins played four years of college basketball at Miami University (Ohio) before playing one season of football for the RedHawks. He still ended up as a second-round pick in the NFL Draft after being named the 2014 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-MAC. He earned his spot as a starter in his rookie year in Green Bay.

2. Packers tight end, Jimmy Graham

Rollins isn’t the only Packers player who played basketball. Graham played four years of basketball at the other Miami, University of Miami (Florida). He also spent his last year of college eligibilty playing football, which turned out to be a great decision as he’s now been in the NFL since 2010 and is a five-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro.

3. Free agent tight end, Antonio Gates

Gates isn’t currently on an NFL roster, but the former Chargers star tight end actually had a pretty nice college basketball career. He started out at Eastern Michigan before transfering to Kent State where he averaged 18.1 points per game. He led his team to back-to-back conference championships and even to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA tournament. He then took his talents to the football field and never looked back.

4. Panthers defensive end, Julius Peppers

Peppers played two seasons of college basketball at UNC where he averaged 5.7 points and 3.7 total rebounds per game with three starts in that span. He also played football at UNC in both of those seasons and a third in 2001 when he decided to dedicate his time solely to football and not basketball, too. Again, it turned out to be a good decision for the 2002 first round pick who has been playing in the NFL for well over a decade.

5. Browns tight end, Darren Fells

Another tight end to make the list, Fells played four years of college basketball at UC Irvine, averaging an impressive 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He actually went on to play professional basketball overseas following his college career and then signed with the Seahawks in 2013 in an attempt to transition to the NFL. He didn’t make it in Seattle, but landed on the Cardinals’ practice squad where he spent some time developing. He made his NFL debut in 2014 with the Cardinals and has now played four years in the league, racking up 57 catches for 713 yards and 7 touchdowns. Not bad at all!

Honorable mentions: Free agent tight end, Julius Thomas; free agent defensive end, Connor Barwin; Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers.

If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that basketball players transition into good NFL tight ends.

You can follow along with SB Nation’s NBA Draft coverage here!


Today’s NFL headlines

The Browns are awfully confident (again) that they aren’t going to be terrible (again)

What should we expect from Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in 2018 after their ACL injuries?

Melvin Ingram wants to play a little tight end for the Chargers, and we’re here for it


What fans are talking about today

Terrell Owens denies orchestrating the Julio Jones holdout

Brett Favre discusses his relationship with Aaron Rodgers

Baker Mayfield isn’t competing with Tyrod Taylor, and that’s OK

The Panthers and right tackle Daryl Williams are not close to reaching a new deal

Dak Prescott is confident in his wide receivers, whether or not the media are

The Chiefs could be eyeing CB Adonis Alexander in July’s supplemental draft


Tweet of the day

There’s something I really love about NFL players calling out their haters. As Deshaun Watson later tweeted, ”Hate me, never met me in the flesh.”