The Dodgers have an interesting history of players that were also drafted in the NFL.
On Thursday night, the NFL held its annual draft, virtually. As the first real sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down, it felt like an even bigger event than usual. Maybe that’s because in normal conditions we would have been watching the Dodgers last night. They were originally scheduled to be playing in DC against the Nationals.
Without Dodger baseball to keep me company during the NFL Draft, I decided to come up with a list of Dodger players who were once drafted in the NFL. One player is obvious, but you might not have known about the rest.
Before Brandon Weeden was drafted as the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he was a pitcher in the Dodgers farm system for two seasons. Between 2004-2005, he went 9-18, mostly as a starter, with a 5.52 ERA. No wonder he chose football over baseball.
Weeden was originally a second round pick by the Yankees in 2002. He was traded to Los Angeles, as some fans might remember, in the deal that sent Kevin Brown to New York.
After delaying the start of his football career to try baseball, Weeden eventually went to Oklahoma State where he became a star during the 2011 season that sent the school to the Fiesta Bowl. He was drafted by the Browns the following year, jumping around the NFL, playing for five teams over the next six seasons.
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Running back Cedric Benson was selected fourth overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. But before that, he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2001 MLB Draft. The Texas native never found his way to the Major Leagues in a Dodgers uniform, limited to 25 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League.
Benson ended up attending the University of Texas as a football player where he was a two-time All-Big 12 player. He spent eight seasons in the NFL, rushing for over 6,000 yards and scoring 32 touchdowns.
A sixth round selection in the 2003 NFL Draft, quarterback Brooks Bollinger was actually drafted twice by the Dodgers before embarking on his football career. While Bollinger hadn’t played baseball since high school, Tommy Lasorda got a tip from Wisconsin’s football coach that his quarterback was a good baseball player, so the Dodgers took a flyer on him in the 50th round in 2001, and again in the 50th round in 2002. Bollinger stuck with his football career, playing for four different teams before retiring from the NFL and spending two seasons in the UFL with the Florida Tuskers.
The most famous home run in Dodgers history might not have ever happened had Kirk Gibson decided to play football instead of baseball. The Michigan native was an All-American wide receiver at Michigan State before deciding to try out baseball. Good for the Dodgers that he did. In just one season of college baseball, he was a hitting machine, batting .390 and connecting on a then-school record 16 home runs and 48 RBIs.
For his impressive play in both sports, Gibson was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals football team. As a first round pick for the Tigers, versus seventh round selection for the Cardinals, he chose to play baseball. And the rest is history.