Herschel Walker isn't the only pro-footballer-turned-politician. Here are 16 others who've tossed the pigskin into the political arena.

Herschel Walker isn't the only pro-footballer-turned-politician. Here are 16 others who've tossed the pigskin into the political arena.
  • Georgia's upcoming runoff election will determine whether GOP candidate Herschel Walker will enter the US Senate.
  • Walker was a notable college and professional football player.

On December 6, Republican US Senate candidate Herschel Walker and Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock will face-off in their highly anticipated runoff election in Georgia.

This race — one of the most expensive in US history — has garnered national media attention from start to end.

For voters in the Peach State, its a choice between Warnock, a senior pastor at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, versus Walker, a former college football star and ex-NFL player.

Walker's football career made him a celebrity not only in Georgia where he was a standout running back, but nationwide, making his campaign launch exciting for fans of America's favorite pasttime.

But the pro-baller-to-politician pipeline hardly begins with Walker.

Meet 16 other political and governmental figures who played or otherwise participated in pro football before entering public office:

Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker
In 1982, Herschel Walker was awarded a Heisman Trophy for being the top player in college football. He'd go on to play professional football until 1997. In 2022, Walker launched a campaign to run for US Senate in Georgia as a Republican.Bettman/Getty Images, Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Walker was the star running back for the University of Georgia, where he won his Heisman Trophy in 1982. He went on to play professional football for the New Jersey Generals of the US Football League, which was partially owned by Donald Trump at the time, for three years before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

Walker also played for the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and the New York Giants.

"He had what they call straight-ahead skills, which is he was fast and he was strong. And you weren't going to bring him down on your own," author Jeff Pearlman who covered much of Walker's football career told Vox's Ben Jacobs in October. "It doesn't mean he was going to juke you but he was a great athlete.

As of this year, Walker is ranked in the all-time top-12 in the NFL for all-purpose yardage, according to Pro Football reference. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Walker also competed on the US Olympic two-man bobsled team in 1992.

Colin Allred

Colin Allred
Before being elected to the House of Representatives, Colin Allred was a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans.Nick Laham/Getty Images, Emil Lippe/Getty Images

Before embarking on his political journey, Rep. Colin Allred, a Democrat from Texas, was a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, playing from 2006 to 2010.

Allred attended Baylor University on a full-ride football scholarship and was accepted to play in the NFL immediately after graduating, leading him to defer his acceptance to law school.

After five seasons in the NFL, Allred sustained a career-ending injury, bringing him back to pursuing a career as a civil rights attorney, according to Allred's official House of Representatives page.

Today, he represents Texas' 32nd District, having first been elected to Congress in 2018.


Tommy Tuberville

Tommy Tuberville
Sen. Tommy Tuberville is ranked as one of the top 50 most winning football coaches of all time.Chris Graythen/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville was once known as Coach Tuberville when he lead Auburn University's football team from 1999 to 2008.

Tuberville is the only coach in Auburn's history to defeat their in-state rival, the University of Alabama, six consecutive times.

He also served stints as assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the University of Miami and Texas A&M, before being named the head coach at the University of Mississippi, according to his website.

Tuberville has also coached at Arkansas State, Texas Tech, and the University of Cincinnati. While coaching the Cinncinnati Bearcats, Tuberville earned $2.2 million a year, ranking him as the second highest in the American Athletic Conference's (AAC) pay ranks at the time, according to The Enquirer.

In 2004, Tuberville was named national coach of the year.

He retired from coaching the sport as one of top 50 most winningest football coaches of all time.

He has been serving as a US senator from Alabama since 2021.

Steve Largent

Steve Largent
During his time as a House representative, Largent was considered highly conservative, even by other Republicans.Focus on Sport/Getty Images, LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images

Former US Rep. Steve Largent was a wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks for 14 seasons.

Largent played college ball at the University of Tulsa. The Houston Oilers drafted Largent in 1976 but traded him to the Seahawks before he ever played a regular season game for the Texas team.

An NFL Man of the Year winner in 1988 and Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1995, Largent only ever missed four games in his whole career because of injuries, according to the Football Hall of Fame.

The Republican represented Oklahoma's 1st district from 1994 to 2002. Largent resigned from Congress to run for governor of Oklahoma in 2002 but lost in a close race.

Largest later served as president of CTIA-The Wireless Association, a top Washington, D.C., trade and lobbying association, before retiring in 2014.


Heath Shuler

Heath Shuler
Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler began his political career in 2006, following his retirement from the NFL.Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT, David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images

After leading his high school football team to three state championships, Joseph Heath Shuler went on to play quarterback for the University of Tennessee.

Shuler's pro career began in 1994, when he was a first-round draft pick for the Washington Redskins, now known as the Washington Commanders. He received a 7-year, $19.25 million contract.

But his career never really took flight.

After three middling years in Washington, Shuler was traded to the New Orleans Saints. He started nine forgettable games and suffered a serious foot injury that took two surgeries to correct. He signed a contract with the Oakland Raiders, but re-injured his foot during training camp, so he was cut and later retired.

In all, Shuler threw 15 touchdowns against 33 interceptions as a professional, according to Pro Football Reference.

Shuler, a Democrat, was elected to represent North Carolina's 11th District in 2007. He did not seek re-election in 2012 and served in Congress until 2013.

Since then, he's worked as a lobbyist and is now a senior advisor at law firm BakerHostetler.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump
In 1983, Donald Trump bought the United States Football League's New Jersey Generals. He purchased the team for around $20 million, in today's dollars.Circa Images/GHI/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Even former President Donald Trump had a brief stint with professional football — although not with the NFL.

In 1983, the then-business tycoon bought the United States Football League's (USFL) New Jersey Generals. He purchased the team for around $20 million, in today's dollars.

Trump's running back for the Generals was none-other than Herschel Walker. However, Trump was widely cited for the failure of the USFL because he cared too much about merging with the NFL than he did about the team he owned.

"I think it was a big mistake," Dr. Ted Diethrich, one of the league's original owners, told USA Today at the time. "When that decision was made, the course for this was charted, and it was going to be a wreck."

In 2014, Trump re-entered the football realm when he faced off with Jon Bon Jovi and the Pegula family to purchase the Buffalo Bills. But Trump underbid, and the Pegula family ultimately purchased the team.

Less than a year later, Trump announced a bid for the presidency, ultimately winning the Republican Party nomination and defeating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in one of the biggest political upsets in modern American history.

Trump served as president from 2017 to 2021. He lost his bid for a second presidential term to current President Joe Biden. He has refused to accept the results of the 2020 election, claiming it was riddled with fraud. And in November, Trump officially announced he will run for president in 2024.

Trump, who himself played football at the New York Military Academy as a youth, has long been in what Insider dubs "The Pigskin War" over players, team ownership, coaches, social injustice, Deflategate, and safety issues with the NFL.


Jon Runyan

Jon Runyan
Republican Rep. Jon Runyan was elected to represent New Jersey after he retired from playing professional football.Joseph Labolito/Getty Images, Tom Williams/Roll Call

Republican Rep. Jon Runyan was elected to represent New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District in 2011, serving until 2015 after deciding not to seek a third term.

Before entering politics, Runyan Sports Illustrated labeled him one of the "dirtiest players in the NFL" in its October 2006 issue.

Most notably, Runyan, known as "The Enforcer," was an offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles where he signed a $30 million contract, making him the highest paid offensive lineman at the time.

He also had a stint with the Tennessee Titans from from 1996 to 1999. After a micro-fracture surgery on his knee and his Eagles contract expired in 2009, Runyan played five games with the San Diego Chargers before retiring later that year.

Runyan's son, Jon Runyan Jr., is following in his father's footsteps and is currently a football guard for the Green Bay Packers.

Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp
The late Jack Kemp served as a Republican on the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1989.Focus on Sport/Getty Images, Cynthia Johnson/Getty Images

Pre-politics, Jack Kemp played professional football as one of the most notable quarterbacks of his era.

Kemp played from 1957 to 1969 across three pro leagues — the NFL, the Canadian Football League, and the American Football League.

Kemp was captain of both the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills. In 1965, he received the AFL Most Valuable Player award after leading the Bills to their second consecutive AFL championship.

Kemp quickly entered politics after retiring from football.

He served not only as a member of the US House of Representatives for New York from 1971 to 1989, but also as secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the George H. W. Bush Administration.

In 1996, Kemp was the Republican vice presidential pick for presidential candidate Bob Dole, who lost to the Democratic ticket of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Kemp, who died in 2009, also made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988.


J.C. Watts

J.C. Watts
Rep. Julius Ceasar "J.C." Watts Jr. attended the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship and then went on to play professional in the Canadian Football League.Mark Perlstein/Getty Images, © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Julius Caesar Jr. "J.C." Watts started his football career in high school where he was the star quarterback, leading him to receive a football scholarship to the University of Oklahoma.

Watts was originally drafted by the NFL's New York Jets, but they weren't able to guarantee him a position as quarterback, so he opted to play professionally in the Canadian Football League during the early- and mid-1980s, mostly with the Ottawa Rough Riders.

He retired from football in 1986 and became a Baptist minister. Watts served in Congress starting in 1995 and represented Okalahoma's 3rd District until 2003.

Watts then became a lobbyist.

Anthony Gonzalez

Anthony Gonzalez
Anthony Gonzalez was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 after playing college football at Ohio State University.G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images, Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Voters elected Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez to the House of Representatives in for the first time in 2018.

He won re-election in 2020 but did not seek a third term in 2022 after voting to impeach Trump and otherwise running afoul of the former president. Gonzalez will exit Congress in January.

"While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our party, is a significant factor in my decision," Gonzalez said in 2021 when announcing his decision.

Before he began his political career, Gonzalez played wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts from 2007 to 2011, catching 99 passes and seven touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. He also had a brief stint with the New England Patriots before retiring from the sport in 2012.

Before being drafted into the NFL, Gonzalez played college ball for Ohio State University.


Burgess Owens

Burgess Owens
GOP Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah, played professional football for the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets.Focus on Sport/Getty Images, Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

After graduating from the University of Miami, Burgess Owens was drafted by the New York Jets in 1973.

He played safety for the Jets until moving to the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Raiders. In 1980, he played for the Raiders' Super Bowl XV championship team.

During his career, he notched 30 interceptions, returning four of them for touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference.

When he played college football for the University of Miami, Owens was one of only four Black athletes recruited that year and one of three to receive a scholarship.

A Republican, Owens assumed political office in 2021 to represent Utah's 4th District. Owens is a frequent contributor for Fox News and has been endorsed by Donald Trump.

Tom Osborne

Tom Osborne
Tom Osborne won the ESPN Coach of the Decade award in 1999.John D. Hanlon/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images, Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images

In the early 1960s, Tom Osborne played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins — now known as the Washington Commanders — after the San Francisco 49ers initially drafted him in 1959.

But Osborne is most remembered for his 25 seasons coaching the University of Nebraska's Cornhuskers.

During this time, Osborne's teams never won fewer than nine games in a single season, and he posted three undefeated seasons.

Nebraska renamed their Memorial Stadium in 1998, calling it "Tom Osborne Field." In 1999, Osborne was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and was named ESPN's "Coach of the Decade" for the 1990s.

He represented Nebraska's 3rd district as a Republican from 2001 to 2007. Osborne ran for governor of Nebraska in 2006 but lost in a Republican primary to then-incumbent Gov. Dave Heineman.


Clint Didier

Clint Didier
Clint Didier was elected to public office in 2018 as a Franklin County Commissioner.Focus on Sport/Getty Images, AP Photo/Gene Johnson

Clint Didier is a two-time Super Bowl Champion. He played tight end for what was then the Washington Redskins (now the Washington Commanders) from 1981 to 1987. During that time, the team won Super Bowls XVII and XXII.

Didier went on to play for the NFL's Green Bay Packers for one year before retiring from professional football.

He unsuccessfully sought public office on four separate occasions as a Republican — including two attempts to win a US House seat — and was finally elected as a Franklin County commissioner in Washington in 2018.

Alan Page

Alan Page
In 2018, Justice Alan Page was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump.Bettman/Getty Images, Calla Kessler/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Associate Justice Alan Page received national recognition as a defensive tackle in the NFL during his 15 season with the Minnesota Viking and Chicago Bears. He was the first defensive player in NFL history to win the league MVP award and is considered one of the greatest defensive lineman of all time.

Following his football career, Page pursued a legal career and was elected as the first African-American to the Minnesota Supreme Court in in 1993. He served until 2015.

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump awarded Page the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Byron White

Byron White
The late Byron "Whizzer" White served as a United States Supreme Court Justice from 1962-1993.Bettman/Getty Images, New York Times Co./Getty Images

An all-American halfback at the University of Colorado, Byron "Whizzer" White originally had no intention of playing pro football and was set to attend the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. But, in 1938, he was drafted to the NFL by the Pittsburgh Pirates, now Steelers.

Oxford allowed him to defer his acceptance and White played for Pittsburgh for one year. White also played for the Detroit Lions from 1940 to 1941.

His football career was cut short, however, when he joined the Navy to fight in World War II. After the war, he finished law school and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.

In 1962, then-President John F. Kennedy nominated him to serve on the United States Supreme Court where he was confirmed and presided until 1993.

Jay Riemersma

Jay Riemersma
In 2009, former tight end for the Buffalo Bills, Jay Riemersma launched an unsuccessful campaign for Congress.George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In 2009, Jay Riemersma, a former tight end for the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers, launched an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in Michigan.

The race was decided by fewer than 700 votes and it is believed that last-minute campaign violations may have been the cause of his political failure.

Riemersma's opponent at the time claimed that Riemersma illegally coordinated his campaign strategy with a political action committee that paid for attack ads against him. Riemersma, however, called it a "last minute PR trick."

It was also rumored that Riemersma used false smear tactics against his opponent, Republican Bill Cooper, who later sued Riemersma over their differences.

During his time with the Bills, Riemersma showed flashes of brilliance but was plagued with injuries. He underwent eight surgeries throughout the course of his NFL career. He played six seasons for the Bills and another two with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Although Riemersma had signed a three-year contract with the Steelers, he ruptured his Achilles tendon on a 26-yard touchdown play, ending his football playing career in 2004.

He ended his career with 221 receptions and 23 touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference.


Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford was the 38th president of the United States.Bettman/Getty Images

Republican President Gerald Ford is the only president who was never elected as president or vice president, although he served in both capacities. He was serving in the House of Representatives when then-President Richard Nixon appointed him as his vice president in 1973. When Nixon resigned the next year, Ford became president.

Before his political career took off, Ford played center, linebacker, and long snapper for the University of Michigan's football team.

Although Ford never played professional football, he received offers from the NFL's Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. He turned them down to be a boxing and assistant varsity football coach at Yale University.