Posted on: February 4, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2012 3:21 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
In 1995 the Expos drafted a catcher out of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., the same high school that produced Barry Bonds and Gregg Jeffries. Montreal scout Gary Hughes thought the team got a steal, but knew the catcher lasted until the 18th round because he was a good football player and would be difficult to sign.
In the end, Tom Brady passed on baseball, went to the University of Michigan on a football scholarship and will be playing in a football game this weekend. He made the right choice, but that doesn't mean the Expos scouts were wrong -- Brady was obviously a good athlete with a strong arm and good leadership skills, all things you want in a catcher.
CBSSports.com's Super Bowl Central
Brady's not the only NFL player who flirted with a career in baseball, several current NFL players have a baseball background. While there's no Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan currently playing at the highest level in both sports, there are a variety of NFL-MLB ties, from players who, like Brady, were drafted and didn't sign, to those who played in the minors and even one minor-leaguer who is hoping to be drafted into the NFL this year.
Here's a look at some current NFL players with baseball experience:
Cedric Benson -- The Bengals running back was drafted by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2001 draft and played nine games for the team's Gulf Coast League team, going 5 for 25, with all five of his hits going for extra bases -- three doubles and two triples. While he didn't homer, he walked 10 times in 34 plate appearances and was hit twice for a .412 on-base percentage and an .892 OPS.
Mark Brunell -- The 41-year-old Jets backup was… the lefty was drafted by the Braves in the 44th round of the 1992 draft, but didn't sign.
Kerry Collins -- The Tigers took him in the 26th round of the 1990 draft, the first of three future NFL players drafted, before Greg McMurtry and Rodney Peete. He was drafted again by the Tigers in the 60th round of the 1991 draft and the 48th round of the 1994 draft. He never signed.
Quan Cosby (right) -- The former Broncos and Bengals kick returner was a sixth-round pick by the Angels in 2001 and played four years in the team's minor-league system, spending two seasons with Cedar Rapids in the Class A Midwest League. In four seasons, he hit .260/.330/.321 with 71 stolen bases. In his last season, 2004, he stole 23 bases and hit five homers. After that season he went back to school at Texas and played wide receiver with the Longhorns. Undrafted in football, he signed with the Bengals and played last season with the Broncos before being waived at the end of the season and signed by the Colts.
Eric Decker -- The Broncos wide receiver was drafted in the 39th round by the Brewers in 2008 and in the 27th round by the Twins in 2009.
Dennis Dixon -- Twice drafted, the Steelers' third-string quarterback signed with the Braves after going in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. He played in the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League that year, hitting a combined .176/.322/.216 as an outfielder. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases, but struck out 22 times in 90 plate appearances, while putting up just a .176 average.
Matt Moore -- No, not the Rays' lefty Matt Moore, but the Dolphins quarterback. Moore was taken in the 22nd round of the 2004 draft by the Angels.
Golden Tate -- The Seahawks' wide receiver was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 42nd round of the 2007 draft and the Giants in the 50th round of the 2010 draft. He played two seasons of baseball at Notre Dame, hitting .329 as a sophomore and scoring 45 runs, the third-most in school history.
Michael Vick -- The Rockies drafted Vick in the 30th round of the 2000 draft, but he never signed.
Hines Ward -- The Marlins took Ward in the 73rd round of the 1994 draft, but he never signed.
Brandon Weeden -- CBSSports.com has the Oklahoma State quarterback the fourth-rated QB in the upcoming draft after leading Oklahoma State to an 11-1 record last season as a 28-year-old. The reason Weeden was so advanced in age as a college quarterback was that he spent five seasons in the minor leagues after the Yankees took him in the second round of the 2002 draft. Weeden, a right-handed pitcher, was 19-26 with a 5.02 ERA in 108 games and 65 starts in the minors. He averaged nearly a strikeout an inning, but had a 1.573 WHIP for the Yankees, Dodgers and Royals systems.
Ricky Williams -- The same year the current Ravens running back won the Heisman Trophy at Texas, he hit .283/.309/.283 in 55 plate appearances in the short-season New York-Penn League for the Batavia Muckdogs in the Phillies system. Despite a career .211/.265/.261 line in four years in the Phillies' system, the Expos took him in the 1998 Rule 5 draft before trading him to the Rangers. Williams didn't join the Rangers and never played another professional baseball game.
Russell Wilson -- Wilson is the 10th-ranked quarterback in the upcoming draft, according to CBSSports.com. Wilson, a second baseman, was drafted in 2007 by the Orioles and again in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Rockies. After spurning the Orioles out of high school, Wilson did sign with the Rockies, which led to a rift between him and his college coach at N.C. State, Tom O'Brien. WIlson played baseball each of the last two summers, playing 61 games for the Asheville Tourists of the Class A South Atlantic League last season, hitting .228/.366/.342 with three home runs and 15 stolen bases. He struck out 82 times in 236 plate appearances before heading to Wisconsin for his senior year of college. At Wisconsin, he led the Badgers to the Big 10 title. He recently told the Rockies he won't be reporting to spring training. The Rockies hold his rights for five more years and have said they'd welcome him back.
Of course, there are plenty of guys who went the other way and chose baseball instead of football, players like Todd Helton (who once started ahead of Peyton Manning at Tennessee), Adam Dunn (who was at Texas as a quarterback), Seth Smith (who backed up Eli Manning at Ole Miss), Joe Mauer (who was the nation's top recruit at quarterback and signed with Florida State) and Matt Holliday (who was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at Oklahoma State).
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Tags: Adam Dunn, AL Central, AL West, Athletics, Barry Bonds, Bo Jackson, Brandon Weeden, Brian Jordan, Cardinals, Cedric Benson, Deion Sanders, Dennis Dixon, Eric Decker, Expos, Gary Hguhes, Golden Tate, Gregg Jeffries, Hines Ward, Joe Mauer, Kerry Collins, Mark brunell, Matt Holliday, Matt Moore, Michael Vick, NL Central, NL West, Quan Cosby, Ricky Williams, Rockies, Russell Wilson, Seth Smith, Super Bowl, Todd Helton, Tom Brady, Twins, White Sox
Posted on: February 6, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 6:10 pm
Congratulations to Deion Sanders for his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But it's worth remembering that the guy was a pretty decent major-league baseball player as well. What we'll never know is how good a player he might have been if his loyalties hadn't been divided.
Sanders had tremendous speed -- he stole bases at a rate of 47 per 162 games and covered a lot of ground in center field -- while the knock on him was his failure to master hitting. His .263 career batting average is pretty decent, but his .319 on-base percentage speaks to his lack of plate discipline.
But how could anyone master hitting without being completely committed to it? There might be no skill in sports that is so dependent on repeatability and fine-tuning. If you look at Sanders' career numbers, you see that he performed best in the seasons he played most.
Sanders played 97 games for the Braves in 1992, putting off reporting to the Falcons (and paying back his salary in the form of fines) until they were three games into the season. He had a slash line of .304/.346/.495, all career highs, as the Braves advanced to the World Series. He played for the Falcons on October 11 then flew to Pittsburgh for a Braves playoff game that night, but Bobby Cox, not impressed with the circus, didn't play him.
After that season, Sanders' attention shifted steadily more toward football. He missed the entire 1996 baseball season, returned to play a career-high 115 games with the Reds in 1997 (batting .273) and was out of baseball until 2001, when he was released after 32 games with a .173 average.
If he'd stuck to baseball, could Sanders have been one of the game's all-time great leadoff hitters? No way to know. But considering he's about to have a bust in Canton, he probably doesn't have any regrets.
-- David Andriesen