Top baseball and football two sport stars of modern era

  • David Whitlock

This is the definitive list of baseball-football, two-sport athletes of the “modern” era.  “Modern” is defined in the so called “division” era of pro sports (1970 – present, so no Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Bob Hayes, etc.).

Criteria are as follows:
1) Playing a high level at both.  Not included are going to be people who were good as prepsters but chose one sports over the other and never competed in college or beyond.

2) Accolades at the higher levels: Halls of Fame, All Stars, playing on title teams, big games, achievement over just playing

Two are fairly obvious, the debate begins after that.

#1 – Bo Jackson
College: Auburn
Highest Football: NFL (RB, 4 seasons)
Highest Baseball: MLB (OF, 8 seasons)
All Star season (Pro): 1x Pro Bowl (1990), 1x All Star Game (1989)
Honors: UPI Player of the Year, Walter Camp, Chic Harley, and Heisman (college football, 1985), All American (football, 1983&1985), College Football Hall of Fame, 1st overall NFL Pick (1986), 1989 All Star Game MVP (baseball), 1993 AL Comeback Player of the Year (baseball)
Records: None
Championships: None
Comments: Pro careers were cut short by that devastating hip injury, also ran track and field at Auburn, Ran a 4.12 40 yard dash at the NFL combine (hand timed).

#2 – Deion Sanders
College: Florida State
Highest Football: NFL (CB/S/KR/PR, 14 seasons)
Highest Baseball: MLB (OF, 9 seasons)
All Star season (Pro): 8x Pro Bowl, 8x All Pro (both football)
Honors: Pro Football Hall of Fame (2011), College Football Hall of Fame (2011), NFL All Decade team (1990’s), AP Defensive Player of the Year (1994), 2x NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1993, 1994), Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor, 1st Round NFL Draft Pick (5th overall, 1989), Consensus All American (college football 1986, 1987), Jim Thorpe Award (1988)
Records: Pro Bowl Interceptions Career (4), Florida State career punt return yards, Longest Interception Return in a Bowl Game (100 yards)
Championships: 2x Super Bowl Champ (XXIX, XXX), NL Champions (1992)
Comments: In college, once played both games of a baseball doubleheader while running a leg of the 4×100 in between.  Batted .533 in the World Series.  By accomplishment, better than Bo, but nobody was better than Bo in terms of athleticism.

#3 – Brian Jordan
College: Richmond
Highest Football: NFL (SS, 3 seasons)
Highest Baseball: MLB (OF, 15 seasons)
All Star season (Pro): All Star (1999, baseball)
Honors: 1st round MLB Draft pick (1988), Top 10 MVP vote (baseball, 1996), appeared on 2012 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot (0 votes) 
Records: None
Championships: 1999 NL Pennant
Comments: A solid player in both sports, with the All Star appearance in baseball, gave up football after two seasons as a full time starter to sign a more lucrative MLB contract than he would have received otherwise.  Because his college was not nationally renown, lacks some of the honors we see in above and below players.

#4 – Todd Helton
College: Tennessee
Highest Football: College (QB, 3 seasons)
Highest Baseball: MLB (1B, 16 seasons, still active)
All Star season (Pro): 5x All Star (2000 – 2004)
Honors: Gatorade Player of the Year (high school) for football and baseball at Tennessee, Regional baseball player of the year (high school), Baseball America High School All American, Dick Howser trophy (college baseball), 2nd in MLB Rookie of the year (1998), 3 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, 3x Top 10 MVP vote, 2000 Hank Aaron Award, 2000 Batting/Hits/Doubles/Total Bases/RBI Champ, First round (8th overall) pick in MLB draft.
Records: Rockies records for hits (2,407), home runs (354), doubles (566), walks (1,283), runs scored (1,355), RBIs (1,340), games played (2,105), and total bases (4,107), NCAA record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched (47), Tennessee saves record (11).
Championships: 2007 NL Pennant
Comments: Was backup QB to (now congressman) Heath Shuler, was ahead of Peyton Manning on depth chart and started for 3 weeks until injured (Peyton took over for like 4 years).  Also pitched in college (see records, posted 0.89 ERA during saves record).

#5 – John Elway
College: Stanford
Highest Football: NFL (QB, 16 seasons)
Highest Baseball: Minor Leagues (OF, 1 season)
All Star season (Pro): 9x Pro Bowl
Honors: Pro Football Hall of Fame (2004), Super Bowl XXXIII MVP, 1987 NFL MVP, 1st overall NFL Pick (1983), Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, NFL All Decade team (1990’s), 2x UPI AFC Player of the year (1987, 1993), College Football Hall of Fame (2000), Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, 2nd round pick in the 1981 MLB Draft.
Records: All the Broncos records (yards, tds, completions, TDs, etc.), oldest QB to win a Super Bowl (38)
Championships: 2x Super Bowl Champ (XXXII, XXXIII), 5x AFC Champion
Comments: Baseball exploits are muted, but good stats in college and in the minors (which started before his NFL days).  Football exploits are legendary.

– Dave (@lhd_on_sports) (Originally posted in Longhorndave On Sports Blog)

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About The Author

David Whitlock

David Whitlock - manager

David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

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