I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.
What Quarterbacks Played in a Super Bowl And Were Also Good Baseball Players?
To play quarterback in the National Football League, a player must have tremendous athletic gifts. A player with tremendous athletic gifts typically has more than one athletic talent. For the players featured here, they had multiple athletic talents recognized on the professional level.
There have been 15 quarterbacks to start in a Super Bowl who were also selected in the Major League Baseball Draft or offered a Major League contract. In 2014, two of those players faced off the first time—Tom Brady vs. Russell Wilson—and when Super Bowl LV kicks off, Brady will take on Patrick Mahomes for the second such occurrence.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 2001, '03, '04, '07, '11, '14, 2016–18, '20
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Montreal Expos
Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League, but before he ever stepped onto the field with the New England Patriots, he was labeled a future All-Star by scouts for the Montreal Expos. Brady was drafted in the 18th round (No. 507 overall) of the 1995 MLB Draft as a catcher.
"I think he could have been one of the greatest catchers ever," said Kevin Malone, who was Montreal's general manager when Brady was drafted. "I know that's quite a statement, but the projections were based on the fact we had a left-hand-hitting catcher, with arm strength and who was athletic" (Chesterton, 2019).
Brady, of course, continued his football career instead and attended the University of Michigan. He was famously drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Patriots. Brady quarterbacked in the Super Bowl nine times with New England and will make his 10th appearance with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 2019, '20
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Detroit Tigers
It's hard to argue that Patrick Mahomes made a bad decision by choosing football over baseball, considering he signed the richest contract in pro sports history before the 2020 season. The son of a former Major League pitcher, Mahomes made it clear he intended to pursue a football career after high school, but the Detroit Tigers decided to secure the 19-year-old's rights in 2014 with a 37th-round pick.
"He was very up-front about football. That pushed him down the board," said Tim Grieve, the Detroit scout who watched Mahomes pitch. "He was one of the better athletes I've covered in East Texas in my 15 years" (Beck, 2017).
Mahomes went on to a successful college career with Texas Tech and was drafted as the 10th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. By his third season, Mahomes had ascended into elite territory and given the Chiefs a Super Bowl victory, and he followed it up with another AFC championship in 2020.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 2013–14
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies
Russell Wilson certainly had his options coming out of high school. The Baltimore Orioles selected Wilson in the 41st round of the 2007 MLB Draft, and Wilson said he "contemplated" signing because he grew up in nearby Richmond, Virginia (Meoli, 2015). Ultimately, he instead chose to attend North Carolina State to play both football and baseball, and the Colorado Rockies later made the college junior a fourth-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. NC State held reservations about the second baseman playing minor league baseball and remaining with the Wolfpack, which led Wilson to transfer to Wisconsin.
"He wanted to play football and baseball and be the best he could at both," said Rockies scout Jay Matthews. "Years later, he was still that focused, motivated player. We saw him as a Jerry Hairston-type big leaguer—athletic enough to be versatile at multiple positions, possibly second, third, left field and center" (Durrett, 2014).
Wilson played 93 minor league games, and has also been a member of the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees organizations. But his real success has come with the Seattle Seahawks, who he has twice taken to the Super Bowl (winning in 2013). He's made the playoffs in all but one of his nine pro seasons.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1986–87, '89, 1997–98
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees
John Elway was a talented two-sport player in high school, and after he graduated in 1979, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 18th round of the MLB Draft and was flooded with college offers to play quarterback. Elway chose to attend Stanford, where he was able to play both football and baseball. Despite the fact he became a superstar quarterback there, the New York Yankees did what they could to convince Elway to pursue a baseball career.
"He would've been a hero in New York," Yankees owner George Steinnbrenner said of his second-round pick from 1981, who was given a $140,000 contract (Cimini, 2010).
He hit .318 in 42 minor-league games with Oneonta in 1982, but Elway was drafted as the No. 1 selection in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. He used his baseball contract as leverage to have his rights traded to the Denver Broncos, the team with which he became a legend. Elway was twice a Super Bowl champion and is regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1984
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals made Dan Marino their fourth-round pick in the 1979 MLB Draft (they later picked fellow quarterback John Elway in the 18th round that year). But despite their best efforts, the Royals couldn't pluck Marino away from his football desires. To be fair, Marino probably made the right decision in attending the University of Pittsburgh to position himself for an NFL career.
“After we drafted (Marino) I spoke to his dad several times. In those days if you signed a professional baseball contract you couldn’t play another sport," said John Schuerholz, who was then the Kansas City scouting director. "Mr. Marino, rightly as a concerned dad, said: ‘He loves baseball but if he signs with you that will cost him his scholarship.’ I told him: ‘Mr. Marino, I will gladly reimburse the amount if you tell me what it is.’ We were willing to work with him to let him go to college" (Carpenter, 2017).
Marino instead fulfilled his obligations at Pitt and became an All-American quarterback. The Miami Dolphins stole Marino with the 27th overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. He was also the top pick in the inaugural United States Football League Draft, but he opted to sign with the Dolphins. He became the first quarterback to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a season and retired as the all-time passing leader, but never won a Super Bowl championship.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1968
- Baseball Connection: Offered multiple MLB contracts
Joe Namath was a strong pitcher, outfielder and hitter, and he wanted to play baseball.
“Until my senior year, baseball and basketball were my best sports and, even when I was a senior, I still wanted to play baseball professionally," Namath told Playboy in 1969. "I was just a really outstanding power-hitting outfielder. I could throw and I could hit" (Martin, 2020).
But despite contract offers from multiple teams—first the St. Louis Cardinals but also the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Athletics and Chicago Cubs, who offered $50,000—Namath's family persuaded him to attend the University of Alabama. That's where he connected with coach Bear Bryant and became a standout quarterback who received nearly half a million dollars when he signed with the New York Jets as the top pick in 1965. "Broadway Joe" became a legend and famously guaranteed a victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, which he delivered.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1982–83
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins
After playing both baseball and football at Notre Dame, Joe Theismann had an option to play either sport professionally. Theismann was drafted in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins but ended up signing with the Toronto Argonauts of the Candaian Football League. Also in 1971, he was a 39th-round pick of the Minnesota Twins—their final pick of the draft, which was made on the hopes Theismann wouldn't receive a strong offer from the football world.
"They offered me $500," Theismann said. "It was a cursory offer, but they sent me a letter saying, 'If you're serious about playing baseball, we can talk seriously about money.' I still have the contract. It's a nice souvenir" (Miller, 2020).
Theismann led the Argonauts to a CFL title as a rookie, and he came to the NFL with Washington in 1974. He appeared in a pair of Super Bowls with Washington and played until 1985. He was the 1983 NFL MVP.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 2012
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Chicago Cubs
Coming out of high school, the knock on Colin Kaepernick was that his throwing motion was too awkward for him to be a successful quarterback. His 94 mile-per-hour fastball had garnered him partial scholarships to several colleges, but he was determined to play football. So even though the Chicago Cubs drafted him in the 43rd round of the 2007 MLB Draft, he went to play for the University of Nevada—the only school to offer him a football scholarship.
"When we went to our NFL sources, they thought he was just going to be a CFL guy, so I said: 'Hey, let's take a run at (him),'" said Cubs scout Tim Wilken. "Our football guys said that he had a sling in his arm action and they didn't think that was going to work in the NFL. They thought his release was long. This was like three different organizations telling us this.They thought he was going to be more of a CFL guy because he wasn't really big then, either. He's still really thin and they were a little bit worried. You know, they ran that pistol offense at Reno. Even as well as he played the next two years, we thought: 'Hey, maybe we got a shot here'" (NBC Sports, 2012).
Kaepernick had a successful college career with the Wolfpack and was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Kaepernick became the starter in place of the injured Alex Smith in 2012 and led the 49ers into the Super Bowl. He later became more known for his controversial civil rights activism than his play at quarterback. Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1999
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Seattle Mariners
For Steve McNair, it wasn't that he didn't want to play baseball, it was that his football dreams were just much bigger. McNair wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother and play quarterback at Alcorn State. Nevertheless, Seattle Mariners scout Dan Jennings hoped to lure McNair into the baseball world. Jennings knew McNair had talent as soon as he saw him as a high school player, and the Mariners used a 35th-round pick on him in the 1991 MLB Draft. Jennings offered McNair $15,000 and a college scholarship, but his offer was declined.
"Son, you made the right choice," Jennings later told McNair at the 1994 Senior Bowl. "I have no idea if you'd be in the major leagues right now. But if you change your mind, I'm sure we could find a spot for you in Seattle's outfield" (Nelson, 2009).
McNair was picked third overall in the 1995 NFL Draft, and led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl in 2000, when he was the quarterback during the famed "1-yard short" play at the end of the game. He was the 2003 NFL MVP and played for 13 seasons.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1976
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the New York Yankees, New York Mets and Houston Astros
Ken Stabler, a left-handed pitcher and quarterback, was drafted by baseball teams three times: by the New York Yankees in the 10th round in 1966, by the New York Mets in the 11th round in 1967, and by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round in 1968. Prior to that, he was offered $50,000 out of high school to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I had no preference between baseball and football until I heard I was going to the Raiders,” Stabler told the Oakland Tribune in 1968 after he was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. “I’m really happy Oakland got me. In my opinion it’s the best team in the AFL and I like to play on a winning team" (Weir, 2016).
By his sixth NFL season, Stabler was the league MVP, and in 1976, he led the Raiders to a Super Bowl championship. Stabler's Hall of Fame career ended after the 1984 season.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1967
- Baseball Connection: Offered contract from the Chicago Cubs
Baseball provided Daryle Lamonica his first sports memories, but football is what made him famous.
"My first real sports thrill ever was playing in the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania," Lamonica told the Buffalo Bills website in 2013. "Baseball was my first love. I always wanted to play baseball."
Lamonica was offered $50,000 to sign with the Chicago Cubs in 1959, but the recent high school graduate instead went to Notre Dame to play football. He was drafted into the American Football League by the Buffalo Bills and eventually led the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl II.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 2000
- Baseball Connection: Drafted by the Detroit Tigers (twice) and Toronto Blue Jays
Major League teams continued trying to draft Kerry Collins, but Collins consistently declined. Collins was twice drafted by the Detroit Tigers (as a 26th-rounder in 1990 and a 60th-rounder in 1991) and then was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 48th round of the 1994 MLB Draft. As a consensus All-American quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist with Penn State by 1994, it was no wonder he was so focused on football.
Collins became the first draft selection of the expansion Carolina Panthers when he was selected fifth overall in 1995. He was the quarterback for the 2000 New York Giants, who lost the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens. Collins played 17 seasons in the NFL.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1980
- Baseball Connection: Contract offer from St. Louis Cardinals
When Ron Jaworski graduated high school, the St. Louis Cardinals offered him a professional baseball contract. Instead, he attended Youngstown State University and rewrote the school's football record book.
He became a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1973 and continued his career until 1989. Jaworski's best season came in 1980, when he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl, made his only Pro Bowl appearance and was given the Bert Bell Player of the Year Award.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1968
- Baseball Connection: Received contract offers from several clubs
Earl Morrall was a star infielder for Michigan State, and in leading the Spartans to the College World Series, drew plenty of interest from teams. He instead became the No. 2 pick in the 1956 NFL Draft and went to the San Francisco 49ers. Morrall became a journeyman backup quarterback, but did start Super Bowl III for the Baltimore Colts. He was also the starter for most of the season for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, but he did not start that year's Super Bowl. In total, Morrall played for 21 NFL seasons.
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1970, '77
- Baseball Connection: Reportedly received contract offers from several teams
It's said that Craig Morton—the first quarterback to lead different teams to a Super Bowl—received professional baseball offers after his high school pitching career. He instead went to the University of California as a quarterback and later enjoyed an 18-year NFL career, which included Super Bowl appearances with the Broncos and Cowboys.
Beck, Jason. "Former Tigers pick Mahomes talk of NFL Draft." MLB.com. April 27, 2017. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
Carpenter, Jon. "It could have changed NFL forever: the day the Royals drafted Elway and Marino," The Guardian. June 13, 2017. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
Chesterton, Eric. "Before he was a Super Bowl champion, Tom Brady had a bright future in baseball." MLB.com. Feb. 3, 2019. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
Cimini, Rich. "An old conversation with The Boss ... about John Elway." ESPN.com. July 13, 2010. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
Durrett, Richard. "Russell Wilson driven at an early age." ESPN.com. March 3, 2014. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
Martin, Andrew. "NFL Legend Joe Namath’s Brush with Pro Baseball." Medium.com. Sept. 21, 2020. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
Meoli, Jon. "Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson reflects on decision to not sign with Orioles in 2007," Baltimore Sun. Dec. 9, 2015. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
MIller, Paul. " 'I still have the contract:' Joe Theismann was Twins' final pick in the 1971 amateur draft." Star Tribune. June 9, 2020. Retrieved Jan. 29, 2021.
NBC Sports. "The story behind the Cubs drafting 49ers quarterback Kaepernick." NBCSports.com. Dec. 12, 2012. Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.
Weir, Josh. "HOF16: Ken Stabler’s long wait and other notes." Canton Repository. Aug. 2, 2016. Retrieved Jan. 29, 2021.