Secret Talents of Athletes
There's nothing unusual or mean-spirited about the fact that most star athletes are best known for what they accomplish in their respective sports versus other areas of their life.
It's no different than when Ted from accounting is usually referred to in the office as "Ted from Accounting."
When the vast majority of our time and attention involves one thing—or at least the one that that matters to everyone else—there's little reason anyone but your friends and family would dig deep into your love of horticulture.
It's no different for the athletes we cheer for or root against—on occasion we may have our curiosity piqued by a certain athlete and journey down the Wikipedia rabbit hole to learn more about their life outside work, but the most relevant news is almost always focused on their stats, contract or other sports-related matter.
And when the subject does turn to their personal life, more often than not the story is much less about their secret talents than it is about their court docket.
But there are plenty examples of athletes who manage to focus on their career while taking on other interests that reveal that their talent doesn't begin and end on the field, on the track, on the ice or wherever they earn a paycheck.
These are the secret talents of athletes.
Athlete/Team: Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
Secret Talent: Forecasting the weather
Texans tight end Owen Daniels can both play on Sunday and provide a detailed forecast for his teammates. Daniels is the only player in the NFL that has a degree in meteorology. He’s also pretty good at ping pong.
Athlete/Team: LeBron James, Miami Heat
Secret Talent: Singing
We all know LeBron James is a showman on the court, but the baller has also been known to put on a show off the court by singing or busting a rhyme.
Athlete/Team: Cliff Avril, Seattle Seahawks
Secret Talent: Speaking other languages, basketball
Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril is actually bilingual. As he explained during a post-Super Bowl trip to ESPN, Avril is of Haitian descent and speaks Creole in addition to English. Avril is also pretty good at basketball.
Athlete/Team: Gracie Gold, Olympic Figure Skater
Secret Talent: Juggling
Adorable American Olympian Gracie Gold has said she often juggles to calm her nerves before competitions.
Athlete/Team: Aaron Maybin, Toronto Argonauts
Secret Talent: Painting
Former NFL linebacker Aaron Maybin was featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks in the summer of 2013. He was ultimately cut by the Bengals, but according to TMZ, the demand for Maybin’s artwork “went through the roof.”
Athlete/Team: John Denney, Miami Dolphins
Secret Talent: Violin
Dolphins long snapper John Denney grew up playing the violin. He started playing at age five and, although it was kind of forced upon him by his mother, he’s actually quite good. Denney’s mother wouldn’t let him play a sport unless he played an instrument.
Athlete/Team: Herschel Walker, Retired
Secret Talent: Ballet
This one isn’t so secret anymore, but no list of athlete hidden talents would be complete without mentioning former football player and martial artist Herschel Walker’s ballet training. Walker revealed that ballet was part of his fitness regime to the New York Times back in 1988.
Athlete/Team: David Beckham, Retired
Secret Talent: Fencing
Famed English footballer David Beckham picked up fencing as a hobby in 2008. According to a report by The Telegraph, Beckham used the sport as an opportunity to bond with celebrity friends like Tom Cruise and Will Smith.
Athlete/Team: Michael Almanzar, Baltimore Orioles
Secret Talent: Playing video games
While at Spring Training 2014, Orioles infielder Michael Almanzar revealed he’s pretty good at video games. But not any of that new junk—he’s an old-school guy. Like original “Zelda” old school.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Athlete/Team: Chad Brown, Retired
Secret Talent: Breeding snakes
Retired NFL player Chad Brown is a reptile enthusiast who has been breeding snakes for years. So I guess his secret talent could most aptly be described as “animal husbandry.”
Athlete/Team: Jody Craddock, Retired
Secret Talent: Art
Former footballer Jody Craddock has been enjoying a second successful career as an artist in the years since his retirement.
Athlete/Team: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Secret Talent: Cooking
In addition to knowing his way around the ice, Bruins forward Brad Marchand also knows his way around a kitchen. He enjoys cooking and his favorite dish is salmon with crab stuffing.
Athlete/Team: Grant Hill, Retired
Secret Talent: Piano
Retired baller Grant Hill is a talented piano player. In the past he’s tickled the ivories on a SportsCenter commercial and Late Night with David Letterman. More recently, Hill posted a video of his wife Tamia singing a Frank Ocean song while he accompanied her on piano.
Athlete/Team: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Secret Talent: Drums, tennis
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is also an accomplished tennis player and has been playing drums since he was 10 years old.
Athlete/Team: Lolo Jones, American Olympian
Secret Talent: Winning dance battles
American bobsledder/sprint hurdler Lolo Jones is a pretty good dancer—recently she won an international dance-off against the Jamaican bobsled team at the Sochi Olympics—and loves playing Dance Dance Revolution. Jones is also a skilled rock climber.
Athlete/Team: Bronson Arroyo, Arizona Diamondbacks
Secret Talent: Guitar
Diamondbacks pitcher Bronson Arroyo didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 22, but 15 years later, he’s done an awful lot with it. According to a 2012 profile by ESPN, “Arroyo has recorded an album, walked the Grammy red carpet and played with Miley Cyrus’ guitarist.”
Athlete/Team: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Secret Talent: Ice hockey
Arizona basketball player Aaron Gordon is a college hoops star, but he actually played another sport as a child. According to an interview with ESPN, Gordon was a talented ice hockey player as a youth.
Athlete/Team: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Secret Talent: Connect Four, roller skating
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo would definitely beat you at a game of one-on-one hoops and almost definitely beat you at a game of Connect Four. Apparently he’s a big fan of the classic game and quite good at it. Oh, and Rondo can roller skate too!
Athlete/Team: Shane Byrne, Retired
Secret Talent: Drums
Retired Irish rugby union player James Byrne showed off his talent on drums recently for a Heineken commercial. He was one of a few famous faces in the spot demonstrating what makes them legendary.
Athlete/Team: Ryan Lochte, Olympic Swimmer
Secret Talent: Drawing
American Olympian Ryan Lochte is known for being a great swimmer and about as deep as a puddle, but that’s not all there is to him. In 2012 Lochte discussed his artistic side in an interview with Rolling Stone—a drawing of “a mushroom with a crying eyeball in it” is one thing they touched on.
Athlete/Team: Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Secret Talent: Baking
Bears running back Matt Forte may look big and bad on the football field while running over the opposition, but off the field he’s more domestic than you may imagine. According to the Hawaii Reporter, Forte is quite the baker and his chocolate chip cookies will knock your socks off.
Athlete/Team: Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
Secret Talent: Saxophone, singing
According to an interview NESN conducted with teammate Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic can play the saxophone and fancies himself a bit of a singer.
Athlete/Team: Daniel Agger, Liverpool
Secret Talent: Tattooing
Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is, according to a report by a British tabloid in 2009, a tattoo artist who “vowed to tattoo the entire Anfield squad if the club land[ed] their first league title in 19 years.”
Athlete/Team: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
Secret Talent: Basketball, pool
In addition to playing football, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner also knows his way around a basketball court and could probably kick your ass at pool.
Athlete/Team: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Secret Talent: Checkers
Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin speaks three languages and, according to former teammate Matt Cooke, is quite the checkers players. He enjoys playing the game so much that he actually searched out a group online and frequently plays against them to improve his skills.
Athlete/Team: Thomas DeCoud, Atlanta Falcons
Secret Talent: Singing, impressions
Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud does a pretty impressive Louis Armstrong impression. Click on the link to see him sing “What A Wonderful World” for the fine folks at NFL Films.
Athlete/Team: Dion Dublin, Retired
Secret Talent: Creating musical instruments
Retired English footballer Dion Dublin is, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports, “an accomplished amateur percussionist” who “invented an instrument he labelled ‘The Dube.’” Dublin’s creation is “essentially a wooden box with holes in it.”
Athlete/Team: Chad Ochoocinco/Johnson, Free Agent
Secret Talent: Weird sex stuff
In a May 2011 interview with Cosmopolitan, Johnson revealed his hidden talent. And I quote: “I can detach my waist from the rest of my body during sex. It allows me a free range of motion, and I can move like no other can.”
Athlete/Team: Jay Harrison, Carolina Hurricanes
Secret Talent: Guitar
Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison has been playing the guitar since he was about 10 years old. His uncle and grandfather both played the instrument as well. Harrison came of age in the grunge era, so he has a soft spot for '90s alt rock and not a lot of new music gets him excited these days.
Athlete/Team: Jerry Rice, Retired
Secret Talent: Golf
Unlike Charles Barkley, NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice is actually pretty good at golf. His team won the Golf Network’s "Big Break: NFL Puerto Rico" series, earning $50,000 for his charity foundation. According to an interview with Golf Digest, Rice's game is currently a plus-1, but he's working on his short game.
Athlete/Team: Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles
Secret Talent: Balancing a folding chair on his chin
Back in 2009 Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis was photographed balancing a folding chair on his chin for ESPN The Magazine.
Athlete/Team: Rob Sims, Detroit Lions
Secret Talent: Debating
According to an interview with M Live in 2010, Lions left guard Rob Sims hidden talent is debating. Said Sims, “I think I’d be good on the debate team. I’d be really good at debating. I’ll maybe be a lawyer when I’m done. I can argue with anybody. That’s got to be a hidden talent, right?”
Athlete/Team: Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls
Secret Talent: Chess, drawing
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer has been playing chess since his dad taught him as an eight-year-old—their games have been known to last for weeks, if not months. He also enjoys drawing and has a few interesting characters that he’s mastered.
Athlete/Team: Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
Secret Talent: Backflips
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has the always impressive ability to do a backflip. And not just one or two backflips, JPP did 13 in a row back in 2009.
Athlete/Team: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain
Secret Talent: Taekwondo
Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic isn’t just a world class footballer, he’s also trained in martial arts. Ibrahimovic has been a black belt in taekwondo since the age of 17.
Athlete/Team: Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Secret Talent: Geography
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin does all Americans a favor by being particularly learned in geography. A former member of his school’s World Geography Olympiad Team, Tomlin told NFL Films he’d be dangerous on Jeopardy—at at least one category.
Athlete/Team: Eve Muirhead, Olympic Curler
Secret Talent: Bagpipes
Scottish curler Eve Muirhead recently won the bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics. After winning the medal Muirhead could have played the British national anthem on the bagpipes had she been asked…which she wasn’t.
Athlete/Team: Calvin Murphy, Retired
Secret Talent: Baton twirling
Retired basketball star Calvin Murphy played his college ball at Nutmeg State where he developed and honed another talent—baton twirling. Murphy actually picked up a baton well before picking up a basketball.
Athlete/Team: Conor McGregor, MMA
Secret Talent: Origami
Of those who displayed their talents in the Heineken legendary spot, Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor was definitely the biggest surprise. He may be a beast inside the octagon, but he’s also got the delicate touch necessary to create origami.
Athlete/Team: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Secret Talent: Bookmaking
According to an interview with ESPN, Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer is an accomplished bookmaker. He keeps an 18-inch ruler in his locker because he runs all the clubhouse betting pools.
Athlete/Team: Eli Manning, New York Giants
Secret Talent: Juggling
Giants quarterback Eli Manning is actually a talented multi-tasker. Not only can he juggle pretty darn well, he can do so while answering trivia questions lobbed at him from NFL Films producers.
Athlete/Team: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Secret Talent: Gleeking
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is one of the most serious and intense players in the NFL, but when it comes to revealing his hidden talent, he reveals a much different side of himself. Manning told NFL Films his hidden talent is “gleeking,” which I’m pleased to note has absolutely nothing to do with that singsongy show on Fox.