COMMENTARY | With the National Football League draft coming up next week, it raised the question of whether or not any New York Yankees might have heard their name called from the podium had they made a different career choice. Here are the top five New York Yankees who could have been NFL draft picks.
Alex Rodriguez has put up legendary numbers and become a lightning rod for baseball fans because of his admitted and recently reported association with performance-enhancing drugs.
But long before he became a teen phenom for the Seattle Mariners in the mid-1990s or a Most Valuable Player with the Texas Rangers and later the Yankees, Rodriguez was a star quarterback at Westminster Christian High School in Palmetto Bay, Fla. According to "Meet Alex Rodriguez: Baseball's Lightning Rod," by John Smithwick, Rodriguez was offered scholarships to play shortstop and quarterback at the University of Miami. However, Rodriguez spurned both offers and instead signed with the Mariners after being taken first overall in the 1993 amateur draft.
4. Jackie Jensen
Jackie Jensen was an All-American in both football and baseball while at the University of California. According to an April 12, 1976, article in Sports Illustrated, Jensen was hailed as the greatest running back in Golden Bear history and the best all-around athlete to attend the Berkeley campus. Jensen rushed for 1,703 yards and averaged six yards a carry in his three seasons as a starter for the Golden Bears, according to the school's official athletic website (calbears.com), and was one of the few athletes to play in both a Rose Bowl and a World Series.
Jensen ultimately chose baseball, signing for an almost unheard of at the time $75,000 to play for the Pacific Coast League's Oakland Oaks in 1949. That fall, the Yankees purchased Jensen and infielder Billy Martin for a reported $100,000. Jensen was traded to the Washington Senators in 1952 and won the American League Most Valuable Player award for the Boston Red Sox in 1958.
3. Mickey Mantle
It's not a surprise that Mickey Mantle would make this list, given that he was such a tremendous athlete before injuries robbed him of his speed. A high-school football standout in Commerce, Okla., Mantle was offered a scholarship to play for the legendary coach Bud Wilkinson at the University of Oklahoma. But he was kicked in the shin during a football practice in 1946, according to ESPN.com, and contracted a bone infection. Until he was treated with penicillin, still new at the time, Mantle nearly had the injured leg amputated.
Of course, Mantle chose to play baseball and became a Hall of Famer, hitting a record 536 home runs as a switch-hitter.
2. Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig starred at both fullback and defensive tackle at Columbia University in the 1920s, according to the school's official athletic website (gocolumbialions.com), but began to attract more attention for his slugging on the baseball diamond.
But after he was spotted by Yankee scout Paul Krichell pitching for Columbia in 1923, striking out 17 batters against Williams (still a record at Columbia), he ultimately signed with the Yankees and was the cleanup hitter for the Murderer's Row team of 1927, considered by some to be the best team in big-league history.
1. Dave Winfield
How certain is it that Dave Winfield would have been an NFL draft pick? He was one. The Minnesota Vikings drafted Winfield in the 17th round of the 1973 draft, even though the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder hadn't played football at the University of Minnesota.
Of course, it wasn't just the NFL that wanted Winfield. The Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association drafted him, as did the American Basketball Association's Utah Stars. Winfield is the only athlete every drafted in three professional sports.
But the San Diego Padres took Winfield fourth overall in the 1973 amateur draft and less than two weeks later, he made the rare leap from college baseball directly to the major leagues. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001 after recording 3,110 hits and 465 home runs over a 22-year career, nine of which he spent as a Yankee.
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo Contributor Network.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- New York Yankees
- Alex Rodriguez
- Jackie Jensen
- Dave Winfield
- Mickey Mantle