Having the skills required to become a professional athlete in any sport involves countless hours of practice and a strict diet and fitness regimen. That doesn’t leave much time for hobbies.
However, despite having one of the world’s most demanding professions, there are plenty of top athletes who also excel in something away from the field of play. Whether it’s a passion for the arts, a game they enjoy playing or something more practical, these athletes who are some of the best in their field also have a secret talent.
Secret Talent: Ballet
Arguably the ultimate hidden talent among pro athletes, NFL rusher Herschel Walker could run over you before dazzling you with an arabesque. The legendary running back admitted his secret talent to The New York Times in 1988 and even performed with the Fort Worth Ballet once. Walker told the newspaper that his dance regiment helped him build strength, making him an even better football player.
Secret Talent: Coding
In addition to being one of the best NBA players of his generation, Chris Bosh is an interesting guy off the court. He has a well-documented gift for craft brewing, but his true hidden talent lies behind the computer monitor. Bosh knows how to code and has recommended it as a skill that all kids pick up. It should come as no surprise that Bosh went to college at Georgia Tech, where he majored in graphic design and computer imaging.
Secret Talent: Bowling
Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts was named the American League MVP in 2018, but he could also win some hardware in another sport: bowling. Betts has demonstrated his gifts on the lanes many times over the years, especially in 2016, when he bowled two perfect games in a span of a few weeks. Before ever winning a World Series in baseball, Betts competed in the 2015 World Series of Bowling, where he averaged a score of 196.3 over nine games.
Secret Talent: Brewing
Another former Red Sox star who has a secret talent is Kevin Youkilis. “The Greek God of Walks” not only excels at snagging free bases, but also at brewing his own beer. Since retiring from baseball, Youkilis has opened a craft brewery and restaurant in Los Gatos, California. In 2018, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Youkilis spends at least five days a week at his brewery, showing he takes his other skill as seriously as he took the one he most known for.
Secret Talent: Sewing
If Serena Williams tears a hole in her gear during a tough tennis match, she’s more than capable of fixing it herself. The legendary athlete has been sewing since she was 2 or 3 years old, telling DuJour that’s when her mother taught her how to handle a needle and thread. She told the outlet she ripped an outfit during a photoshoot and took care of it herself after asking for a sewing kit, much to everyone’s amazement. Williams also knows how to paint.
Secret Talent: Drums
Veteran NHL goaltender Tukka Rask can handle drumsticks almost as well as he handles a hockey stick. The Finnish stopper, who helped the Boston Bruins win a Stanley Cup in 2011, has been playing drums since he was 10 years old. During a road trip to Buffalo in the 2014 season, Rask even joined a local band on stage to play a song by Phish. He’s also revealed that he is a good tennis player, which seems a bit more comfortable than having pucks smacked toward you at 100 miles per hour while you freeze.
Secret Talent: Billiards
Not only can Bobby Wagner wreck an NFL quarterback’s day on the field, he could probably also wreck it in a pool hall. The five-time Pro Bowler and former Super Bowl champ with the Seattle Seahawks is dangerous with a pool cue. In 2016, he told the Seahawks’ website that he thinks he’s good enough at billiards to compete with professional players. That sounds like a viral YouTube video waiting to happen.
Secret Talent: Origami
Irish fighter Conor McGregor’s ability to crack skulls in the Octagon is well documented, but did you know he’s also adept at a much gentler artform? He showed off his uncanny ability to make origami in a 2014 beer commercial and it was almost as impressive as his knockouts. If you’ve got a problem with crafting little swans out of folded paper, you’d probably be better off holding your tongue around McGregor.
Secret Talent: Beatboxing
Before Patrick Patterson even made his name at basketball’s highest level, he showed off his secret skill to a reporter at the NBA Combine in 2010. The former All-SEC player at Kentucky knows how to beatbox pretty well, which is quite impressive if you’ve ever tried to do it yourself. Patterson joined the Los Angeles Clipper in 2019, so maybe he can put that talent to use at one of the city’s many recording studios.
Secret Talent: Baking
Baking cookies isn’t something you’d typically assume a Pro Bowl running back is great at, but Matt Forte is a surprising guy. The former NFL star isn’t starting his own bakery any time soon, but he put his baking skills on full display in 2014. He spent some time making cookies for kids at a Ronald McDonald House location in Hawaii and even did some coloring with them. The pictures of the treats captured by the Hawaii Reporter show he’s almost as good with an oven as he is with a stiff arm.
Secret Talent: Needlepoint
Unquestionably one of the most interesting men in NFL history, feared defensive lineman Rosey Grier counts singing, writing and acting as three of his many talents. But his most unique secret skill is needlepoint. The two-time Pro Bowler took up the hobby as a way to calm his nerves during flights as a football player. In 1973, he actually wrote a book on it called “Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men.” If you need a nice afghan, Grier might be the only former pro football player to call.
Secret Talent: Magic
Some of the athletes on this list are just good at their secret talents, but Jon Dorenbos is legitimately great enough at his to be a professional. The former NFL long snapper is a gifted magician, who has now arguably become more famous for that skill than for his long football career. In 2016, Dorenbos competed on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and finished third on the show after dazzling the show’s judges and viewers with his magic skills for weeks. In November 2019, his autobiography, “Life is Magic,” will hit shelves.
Secret Talent: Piano
Another renaissance man to come from the world of pro sports is Kobe Bryant. The NBA legend has not only won an Oscar for writing and producing a short film, he has also been known to put on quite a show behind the ivories. In 2011, he learned how to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on piano by ear as a grand gesture to his wife, Vanessa. In 2014, he showed off an extravagant custom-made piano he had built in the shape of his own logo.
Secret Talent: Rapping
If you’re into the hip-hop community and the NBA, you probably already know about this secret talent, but many people don’t realize the type of skills Damian Lillard has with a microphone. In 2019, Lillard, who performs under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A., released his third album and has been working hard to get people to take him seriously as an artist, rather than just a moonlighting athlete. He’s already worked in the studio with Lil Wayne, but if rap doesn’t pan out, Lillard can lean on his status as a four-time NBA All-Star.
Secret Talent: Juggling
Olympic medalist Gracie Gold can do things on ice that most mere mortals can’t do on dry land, and she also has another impressive talent. The elite skater can juggle, and she has a great reason for picking up the hobby, aside from mere boredom. In 2014, Gold revealed that she juggles before big skating events to steady her nerves and occupy her mind. She told USA Today that she learned the skill from a teacher in elementary school.
Brook and Robin Lopez
Secret Talent: Drawing
Twin NBA stars Brook and Robin Lopez were raised to be creative thinkers, and both share the secret skill of creating artwork with just a pencil. A 2017 Chicago Tribune story revealed that the brothers always carried notebooks around as kids, for writing and drawing. Fellow NBA player Quincy Pondexter told the newspaper, “They know how to draw. They know about art. They know everything about Disney.” That’s another hidden talent in itself!
Secret Talent: Comedy
Former defensive tackle Anthony “Spice” Adams has become as big a star off the field as he was on it since his retirement from football. The former NFL player has racked up nearly 300,000 subscribers on YouTube by tapping into his comedic muscle. Adams produces funny videos in which he plays a revolving cast of characters that he’s dreamt up in his free time away from the game. At first, he told Forbes he was a little shy to show his funny side to the world but he got over that and quickly became a viral superstar.
Secret Talent: Cooking
When Terry Rozier first came into the NBA in 2015, he raised some eyebrows by showing off his … um, creativity in the kitchen. Plenty of people know how to cook, but Rozier has a very strange culinary style, as he showed off on NBA TV during his rookie season. Rozier showed the network how to make one of his favorite dishes: a sandwich that contained spaghetti, ranch dressing and sugar all on uncrusted white bread. You’ve got to give him points for originality.
Secret Talent: Singing
Two-time NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo has proven to have a singing voice that’s as silky smooth as his jumper. He has proudly displayed his musical talents several times over the years, including in 2017, when he sang “I Believe I Can Fly” during an NBA talent show that aired on TNT. In 2019, rumors have swirled that he’s a competitor on Fox’s “The Masked Singer,” but he’s denied them and there’s no way to find out until the singers on the show are all revealed.
Secret Talent: Photography
Another baller with an artistic side is former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. In addition to being gifted on the court, Chandler has a great eye for photography, which he’s been showing off for years. In 2012, he debuted his first photography exhibition at a gallery in New York. Chandler’s photos cover a range of styles, including intense portraits of his teammates and nature shots he’s taken during his travels.
Secret Talent: Bass
Former NBA power forward Wayman Tisdale was almost as noted in music as he was in basketball — and that’s saying something. He was a three-time consensus first-team All American during college at Oklahoma before spending more than 10 years at the game’s top level, but he finished his life with a great career as a jazz bassist. He put out 12 jazz albums in his short life, which ended after a battle with cancer in 2009 when he was just 44 years old.
Secret Talent: Guitar
Like Wayman Tisdale, MLB great Bernie Williams has been able to transcend his sports career with an outstanding career in music, making his talent not so hidden anymore. In addition to spending 16 years with the New York Yankees and helping the team win four World Series as an outfielder, Williams is a classically trained guitar player. He’s released a pair of jazz albums, one of which was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award in 2009. That same year, the Puerto Rico-born slugger also got to jam on stage with Bruce Springsteen!
Secret Talent: Dramatic Writing
Plenty of former athletes try their hand at acting, but ex-NFL rusher Rashard Mendenhall prefers to work behind the scenes in Hollywood. The former Super Bowl champion as been working as a writer and producer on HBO’s “Ballers” since 2015. Mendenhall has written three episodes himself and has worked as a story editor on 10 episodes so far. He has called his writing gig a dream job — which is what many people would’ve guessed playing professional football was.
Secret Talent: Crochet
Another athlete who is dangerous with a needle and thread is former MLS player Steven Lenhart. When he wasn’t busy scoring goals with his feet while playing for the Columbus Crew, Lenhart could be found at a local retirement village, doing great work with his hands. In 2010, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Lenhart would get together with retired people every week to crochet hats for needy people. He told the newspaper he had fun doing and it felt like he had “20 grandmothers.”
Secret Talent: Violin
When speed skater Carlijn Schoutens isn’t zipping around an ice rink at ridiculous speeds, she can often be found doing something much more peaceful. The bronze-medal winning Olympic athlete plays violin in her spare time. She hasn’t put her fiddle-playing skills on display for the world yet, so we don’t know if she’ll be joining a symphony any time soon, but told NBC about her secret talent during the 2018 Winter Olympics. She also likes to play board games and cards.