Burt Reynolds Played College Football, BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS: ACTORS WHO PLAYED COLLEGE FOOTBALL No. 3 – Burt “Buddy” Reynolds Not many athletes who play in just four career games make it to their university’s hall of fame, but Burt Reynolds was the exception.
Reynolds was a promising young halfback at Florida State in 1954, but suffered a knee injury during his freshman season and missed the 1955 season after surgery. He returned to Florida State in 1957, but a car accident reaggrevated his knee injury and his college football career was over before it ever started.
Reynolds managed 19 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns, six catches for 76 yards and a handful of kick and punt returns.
Still, that was enough for Florida State to induct him into its Hall of Fame in 1977.
Or perhaps it’s because he’s one of the nation’s most successful actors.
When Reynolds was recovering from his injuries, he was taking classes at Palm Beach Junior College and met an acting teach named Watson B. Duncan III, who cast him as the lead in his production of “Outward Bound.” Reynolds was so good in the production, he won the Florida State Drama Award in 1956, which included a summer scholarship to the Hyde Park Playhouse in New York. After taking a few classes, and a brief flirtation with moving back to Florida, Reynolds was advised to move to Hollywood where his acting career would ultimately begin.
He booked his first NBC series, Riverboat, in 1959 and did his first movie, Angel Baby, in 1961.
Reynolds has 171 acting credits to his name, but is probably best known for his roles in Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, White Lightning, The Longest Yard and Boogie Nights. But he’s also known for the roles he turned down – Han Solo in Star Wars, and James Bond after Sean Connery left the franchise.
Despite his football background, Reynolds’ role in the Longest Yard, which he starred in in 1974 and reprised with Adam Sandler in 2005, was one of the few football roles he took during his illustrious career.
Like many of the actors on our list this week, a setback in football pushed Reynolds into his ultimate calling. Even though many believed Reynolds could have blossomed into a professional football player, his acting career made a lasting impression on American cinema.
And it was enough to get him a spot in the half of fame.