'Game of Thrones' giant was once a McDonald's All-American

Jeff Eisenberg
Neil Fingleton in Sunday's Game of Thrones episode
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Neil Fingleton in Sunday's Game of Thrones episode (via SportingNews.com)

From Renardo Sidney, to Lenny Cooke, to Chris Burgess, most highly recruited basketball prospects who fall well short of expectations quickly fade from the public eye .

Neil Fingleton strolls through Times Square and meets tourists in 2007 (Getty Images)
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Neil Fingleton strolls through Times Square and meets tourists in 2007 (Getty Images)

Ex-North Carolina center Neil Fingleton is an exception. The British-born former McDonald's All-American has remained in the spotlight by reinventing himself as one of the world's tallest actors.

Fingleton, measured at 7 feet, 7.5 inches, appeared as one of the giants attacking the inner gate of the wall in Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones," the popular fantasy drama series on HBO. Previously, Fingleton has also has made cameo appearances as a giant, warrior or body guard in a handful of movies and TV shows including one of the X-Men movies and a 2011 Keanu Reeves flick called, "47 Ronin."

Embarking on a second career became necessary for Fingleton after his basketball career did not progress as far as many once expected.

A native of Durham, England who attended high school in Massachusetts, Fingleton earned a spot on the 2000 McDonald's All-American team and eventually signed with North Carolina after an intense recruiting battle. Back surgery pushed back Fingleton's Tar Heels debut for a year and he only ever saw playing time in one game in Chapel Hill before eventually transferring to Holy Cross.

Upon graduating from Holy Cross in 2004 after a couple of years as a reserve center, Fingleton played pro basketball overseas for three years before embarking on a new career path. Not only does he dabble in acting, he also owns a clothing business catering to big and tall men.

In 2011, Fingleton told Holy Cross magazine that his "ultimate goal" is to be able to work full-time as an actor, though the scope of his roles are limited by his height.

A 'Game of Thrones' cameo is step in that direction. And the publicity he has received for it should only help too.

(Thanks, SportingNews.com)

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!