NBA Players Who Have Played Football in College

Athletes sometimes show off their flexibility in sports by dominating in several different disciplines. This is particularly true with professional basketball players, some of whom have already proven their talent on the football field while still in college. Many NBA players who later switched to basketball played football in college, including Tony Gonzalez and Julius Peppers.

The agility, versatility, and enthusiasm for several sports displayed by this trend are all characteristics of these people. We will look at several famous NBA players who played college football in this article, as well as how their time on the field of play may have influenced their basketball careers.

How Football Backgrounds May Have Helped NBA Players

There is no doubting that having a football background may help NBA players, even if the abilities and physical qualities needed for football and basketball are different. These are several ways that NBA players with a football background may have benefited:

Physicality and Toughness: Football is a contact sport that necessitates players to be physically fit and hardy. This tenacity and aggressiveness may be applied successfully to the NBA, where players frequently have to contend with rebounds and screens.

Agility and Footwork: It plays a crucial role in the sports. Football odds are based on the performance of the teams and it requires quick feet and agility, for the players to perform well for their teams. NBA players with a football background may have an advantage when it comes to lateral movement and changing directions quickly.

Endurance: Football players are accustomed to playing for lengthy stretches, which might help them with the endurance needed in basketball games. The physical rigors of the NBA may be easier for guys who played football in college.

Metal Toughness: Football players need to be mentally strong and have the capacity to perform well under duress. NBA players sometimes find themselves in high-stress situations, so having mental toughness may be helpful in those circumstances as well.

Success Stories of NBA Players with a Football Background

Nonetheless, there are several instances of players who have achieved success in both basketball and football, proving that it is feasible for an NBA player to go from one sport to the other. These are some instances to consider:


The New Orleans Saints chose Graham in the 2010 NFL Draft due to his football prowess while he was a student at the University of Miami. He played professionally for a number of years before to signing with the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. Graham entered the University of Miami after finishing high school and played four years of collegiate basketball there.

Being the first dual-sport player (NFL and NBA) since 1997, he joined the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014, creating history.

Antonio Gates:

Before switching to football, Gates was a standout basketball player at Kent State University. He had a fruitful career as a tight end after joining with the San Diego Chargers in 2003, making the Pro Bowl eight times and the First Team All-Pro three times. In the NFL, Gates is regarded as a legend among tight ends.

Tony Gonzalez:

Prior to being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997, Gonzalez attended UC Berkeley throughout his collegiate football career. He had a tight end career worthy of the Hall of Fame with 14 Pro Bowl choices and six First Team All-Pro accolades.

The University of California, Berkeley was Gonzalez's collegiate basketball home for three years. The accomplishments of these guys demonstrate the NBA's potential for NFL players.

Famous NBA Players Who Started Their Athletic Careers as College Football Players

Charlie Ward:

Charlie Ward was the starting quarterback for three years at Florida State University throughout his collegiate football career. In 1993, he was recognised as a consensus All-American and went on to win the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player.

The New York Knicks drafted Ward in the first round of the NBA draught after his college career. He spent 10 years with the Knicks and one year with the San Antonio Spurs, and in that time he became well-known for his defensive prowess and his ability to serve as a team leader.

A key contributor to the 1999 Knicks' run to the NBA Finals, he was named the league's Sixth Player of the Year that season. Following his retirement from the NBA in 2005, Ward is now a high school football coach in Florida.


Fayetteville State University was a Division II school in North Carolina, where Darrell Armstrong played college football. Also, he was a two-time All-CIAA selection in basketball while attending Fayetteville State. Armstrong entered the NBA in 1994 after spending time as a professional basketball player in Europe following his collegiate career.

Throughout his time in the NBA, he suited up for numerous different squads, including the Orlando Magic, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Indiana Pacers. In 1999, Armstrong was recognised as the fastest and most energetic player in the NBA, earning him the title of Sixth Man of the Year.

Nate Robinson:

With the University of Washington Huskies football team, Nate Robinson was an outstanding cornerback. Robinson was a two-time All-Pac-10 pick in basketball despite his football prowess at Washington. Robinson was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft after finishing his collegiate career.

Over the course of his NBA career, he suited up for multiple squads, including the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls. His scoring prowess and athleticism helped Robinson win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest three times.

Final Thoughts:

There have been several NBA players who began their athletic careers playing college football. While transitioning to a different sport can be challenging, these players have shown that it is possible to succeed with hard work, dedication, and a willingness to adapt. Their stories inspire athletes looking to pursue multiple sports and careers.