Since it’s the start of the NFL season I wanted to intertwine football and the Yankees. Let’s take a look at some professional athletes with ties to the Yankees and the NFL. Which ones made the right choice?
Pat White- As has been discussed here, White was recently cut from the Miami Dolphins after being a 2nd round pick just last year. His football prospects are not looking great right now (there are rumors he received zero phone calls once cut), so it would be interesting to see if he has considered heading back to the diamond and soon after writing that White signed a deal with the Royals to return to baseball, though he may not be completely done on the gridiron. As we know, the Yankees drafted him in the 48th round of the 2009 draft, but he was also drafted three other times, in the 49th round in 2008 by the Reds, in the 27th round in 2007 by the Angels and in the 4th round in 2004 by the Angels (passing up 6 figures). He got a college education and $2.4 million guaranteed so despite his recent axing, he likely made the right choice.
John Elway- It’s pretty easy to say John Elway made the right choice, but he was a good baseball player as well. Two years before he was drafted in the NFL, the Yankees spent their 1981 2nd round pick on Elway. In 1982 he played 42 games for Oneonta and put up an impressive .318/.432/.464 line. If the Baltimore Colts didn’t cede to his trade demand, maybe he would have actually stuck with baseball. Who knows if he ever would have made it to Yankee Stadium.
Drew Henson- Drew Henson turned out to be the anti-Elway. He did stick with baseball but wasn’t quite good enough and went back to football. That didn’t work out so well either as he has appeared in just 9 NFL games with one start. Had he stuck to one sport or the other coming out of High School he definitely would have had a better chance, but we’ll never know if stepping away from the football field would have allowed him to learn how to hit a curveball.
Daunte Culpepper- Culpepper’s struggles with academics almost led him down the baseball path. While he was recruited by big schools like The U and Florida out of high school, he didn’t have the test scores to get in (seriously the couldn’t sneak him into The U?). He did find a home at the University of Central Florida where he committed to playing quarterback. Had he never found a college to call home, he just may have joined the Yankees, who drafted him in the 26th round in 1995. Culpepper must have been a pretty menacing dude on the mound at 6’4 and 250+ pounds with a great arm. There is no doubt Culpepper made the right call as he has earned a ton of money in the NFL.
Deion Sanders- Deion primarily went the football route where he became a Hall of Famer and one of the best cornerbacks of all time. He did stick around baseball long enough to play in 641 games and put up a .263/.319/.392 line, that’s not too shabby considering his two sport status. Deion was terrible as a Yankee with a 55 OPS+, and his most famous Yankee moment is probably pissing off Carlton Fisk which almost led to a brawl.
Bo Jackson- Deion and Bo were undoubtedly the biggest two sport athletes in the past 25+ years. Bo, who went on to have very successful, but injury shortened careers in both MLB and the NFL was originally drafted out of high school by the Yankees in the 2nd round in 1982 (a year after taking Elway in the 2nd round). Jackson went unsigned and chose to go to Auburn to play both football and baseball. Jackson had Hall of Fame talent in both sports, and had he stuck to one sport and avoided injury he likely would have made it. He’ll have to settle for being in the Tecmo Bowl Hall of Fame.
Dave Winfield- Mr. May definitely made the right choice in sticking to baseball and spent 9+ years with the Yankees. Along with being a first round pick in baseball (as a pitcher, no less) he was drafted in the 17th round of the NFL draft despite never playing college football. Winfield was also drafted in the both the NBA and ABA drafts. While football was probably never a serious choice he likely could have made it in pro basketball, but not with the success he enjoyed in baseball. Despite being drafted in several sports, in the recent Baseball Analysts draft, Winfield waited by the phone but never got the call. (that last sentence might not be entirely true).
Others of note: Brandon Jones of the Seattle Seahawks was drafted by the Yankees in 2001. World Cup goalie Tony Meola (ok, that’s futbol not football but he did try out for the Jets) was drafted by the Yankees.