11 Really Smart Athletes

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Fitness doesn’t only apply to the body. Mental fitness is just as important, and while the world’s elite athletes are certainly physical specimens, many are elite brainiacs, as well. Here is a list of some of the smartest athletes out there, from the NFL to Ultimate Frisbee. 

1. Marion Bartoli, Tennis

Marion Bartoli isn’t just a Wimbledon champion—she’s a genius. It has been reported that the French-born tennis ace has an IQ of 175, which is higher than Albert Einstein’s, but below Bobby Fischer’s, and her interests include classical ballet and art. But Bartoli isn’t the only well-rounded tennis player: Daniela Hantuchova is a classically trained pianist and speaks four languages, while Roger Federer speaks five.

2. and 3. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Myron Rolle, Football

Ryan Fitzpatrick is not only quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, he’s also a Harvard graduate. Upon joining the NFL, Fitzpatrick scored a 48 on the Wonderlic test, the exam the league uses to evaluate its players’ ability to comprehend and process information. The QB’s score was the third highest in NFL history. Oh, and he also had a 1580 on the SATs (out of 1600, the old-school SATs).

Former Tennessee Titan Myron Rolle might have Fitzpatrick beat, though. Rolle, who played college ball at Florida State, earned a bachelor’s degree in 2.5 years. He then studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and earned a master’s degree in medical anthropology from the English university in 2010. He now serves as chairman of the Myron L. Rolle Foundation, a nonprofit benefitting children and families in need.

4. Joe Ogilvie, Golf

Joe Ogilvie graduated from Duke with a degree in economics in 1996. During his time on the PGA Tour, he has become the go-to guy for other players’ business questions. He is the founder and CEO of Ogilvie Capital, an investment firm, in addition to serving on the tour’s player advisory council and policy board. Many tout Ogilvie as a future commissioner of the tour. “I'm a policy guy,” he told ESPN in 2011. “I study it a lot and while that may make me a nerd, I like coming up with ideas. I continually want to find ways to make things more efficient. I try to do that with my golf game and I try to do it in other aspects of my life.”

5. Craig Breslow, Baseball

Craig Breslow, a pitcher for the Red Sox, graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He was accepted to medical school at NYU, and also scored a 34 on the MCAT. According to Yale Alumni Magazine, Breslow used to have a picture of Albert Einstein above his locker. Or was that just a mirror?

6. Sarah Hughes, Figure Skating

After extraordinary triumphs, most athletes say they're going to Disneyland. But shortly after Sarah Hughes came from behind to win gold at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, the figure skater went to Yale University. After graduating with a degree in American studies, Hughes worked in the nonprofit sector, largely focused on organizations that promote female involvement in sports.

7. Shannon Miller, Gymnastics

As the most decorated American gymnast of all time, Shannon Miller was always working to master the uneven bars. Now, as a lawyer, she is a master of the legal bar. After her gymnastics career was over, Miller studied marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of Houston. She then went on to Boston College Law School, graduating in 2007. Unfortunately, her professional life was put on hold in 2011, when Miller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but she responded well to treatment and has been healthy since.

8. Sócrates, Soccer

Brazilian soccer player Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, who passed away in 2011, would have to be smart just to remember his long name. To simplify, he was known around the world as Sócrates, and he was a doctor, a political activist and a philosopher, just like his namesake. According to his BBC obituary, Sócrates refused to dedicate himself entirely to soccer until he had finished earning his medical degree. After retiring from the sport, he practiced medicine in Brazil. He’s also credited with starting a political movement called the Corinthians Democracy.

9. Shane Battier, Basketball

Shane Battier has had a smarty-pants reputation since his days playing for Duke. But the Miami Heat forward does truly have a good head on his shoulders. According to Sporting News, Battier graduated from college with a degree in religion, he speaks German, and his off-court interests include sabermetrics, or the statistical analysis of baseball data. He also runs the Battier Take Charge Foundation, which focuses on education for underserved youth and teens.

10. Ryan Newman, NASCAR

Racecar driver Ryan Newman graduated from Purdue University with a degree in vehicle structure engineering (obviously). Newman says his education helps make him a better driver, since he can clearly articulate his needs and questions to race engineers. Newman was NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year in 2002, and he currently ranks seventh in the Sprint Cup Series.

11. All Players, Ultimate Frisbee

In a 2006 study, the University of Washington found that participating in Ultimate Frisbee was an indicator of academic success. The decade-long study showed that, among all 86 private national universities, those ranking in the top half for Ultimate Frisbee have a graduation rate of over 85 percent, compared to a graduation rate of 60 percent among schools in the bottom half. The top half schools also had 208 Rhodes and Marshall scholars, versus 15 from schools in the bottom half. Thank you, University of Washington. 

In sports and in life, it's helpful to have a brain that can process things quickly. As a part of our Let's Get Neurological! initiative, we recommend games and puzzles as a fun form of brain exercise. Get smart like these athletes with games like Smart Mouth; the bioengineering-based strategy game, Strain; Wordie Wars; and Distraction.

And make sure to shop our online store for lots of other ways to pump (clap) your brain up! PLUS, this week in the mental_floss store, 10% off all games and puzzles for FUNdamental brain training!


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October 25, 2013 - 1:34am
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