Olympians in the Super Bowl: Very Rarified Air

rings and nflSunday, February 7 is Super Bowl Sunday – half of America will be watching the Carolina Panthers battle the Denver Broncos for supremacy at the 50th iteration of this quintessential American experience, while the other half will enjoy comfortable seating at movie theaters, as well as restaurants not showing the game.

As you are aware, American football, the version with the oval, rugby-like ball, is not an Olympic sport. So unlike basketball, or soccer or tennis or ice hockey, there are not so many Olympians who have played in the NFL, let alone win a Super Bowl.

Irvin Bo Roberson was the silver medalist at the 1960 Rome Games in the long jump, and had a distinguished career as a wide receiver for several NFL teams. In fact, he is the only person to be an Olympic medalist, an NFL player, an Ivy Leaguer and a PhD, but he never went to the Super Bowl.jim thorpe card

The legendary Jim Thorpe, who was essentially brilliant at any sport he played, was the gold medalist for the pentathlon and the decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and was actually the first president of the American Professional Football Association in 1922, so of course, never went to the Super Bowl.

In fact, there are only two people in the world who were Olympians, and who played in a Super Bowl.

Willie James Gault was on the US track and field team as a sprinter in 1980. Unfortunately, that was the year the US boycotted the Moscow Summer Games. Gault would go on to become a star wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Raiders, and was on the Bears team that won Super Bowl XX in 1986.

willie gault bears

Bullet Bob Hayes won two gold medals in the 100 meter and 4×100 relay at the 1964 Tokyo Games, and had a hall of fame career as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. In 1972, he became the first Olympian to win a Super Bowl, contributing with a 16-yard run and two catches for 23 yards in Super Bowl VI against the Miami Dolphons.

Michael D’Andrea Carter took the silver medal in the shot put at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. He was then drafted by the San Francisco 49ers where he played one of the more violent positions on the field, nose tackle, better than anyone else in the game. And he played on a 49ers team that won the Super Bowl three times, in 1985, 1989 and 1990. Carter is only the second person to have won an Olympic medal and a Super Bowl ring ever, let alone in the same year.

michael carter card