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Political Aspirations Among Super Bowl Champions

February 1st 2015

Peyton Manning for president?

While it might seem far-fetched, a number of former NFL players have parlayed their fame on the gridiron into support at the ballot box.

Former NFL players who have been elected to Congress include Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent, Washington Redskins quarterback Health Shuler and Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle John Runyan, to name just a few.

With the Super Bowl dominating America’s attention this weekend, here’s a look at five players who could seek public office once they hang up their cleats.

Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos

A lock for the Hall of Fame, Manning seems to have the perfect platform for entering politics thanks to his affable personality, visibility and history of donating to charities.

His “Peyback Foundation” gives grants and hosts programs for at risk youth in Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee. The organization’s website says it’s raised more than $10 million and that Manning is “active in all major decisions.”

His charity work spawned one of the more memorable athlete appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” with Manning teaming up with the United Way to teach kids to break into cars and throws footballs at kids who aren’t playing well in a pickup football game.

He has also shown a strong interest in politics by donating to a slew of Republican campaigns, including those of former Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) President George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and former Sen. Fred Thompson.

Manning’s appeal seems to cross party lines, as a national poll from Public Policy Polling survey found that he has majority favorability ratings with very liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative and very conservative voters.

“Wouldn’t these numbers make a political operative drool?” Professor Stephen Dubner wrote on his Freakonomics blog in 2011.

Tom Brady, quarterback, New England Patriots

As the meme goes, “Don’t count out Touchdown Tom.”

Brady, who is looking for his fourth Super Bowl victory on Sunday, has said he’s a political junkie, but told Westwood One radio right after the 2012 election that he wouldn’t run.

“I enjoy watching, kind of, the banter that goes back and forth. I don’t think I’ll ever get into politics,” he said.

“Maybe at one point I thought that might be something I want to do, but I think you take a step back and you realize the impact that you can have as a citizen.”

Still, Brady has said he’s frustrated with the level of polarization in government, which he believes leads lawmakers to not always think of the country’s best interests. Should he decide to tackle the problem from the inside, it’s hard to imagine Boston-area voters voting against their favorite son.

Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle, Detroit Lions

Sure, Suh is considered one of the league’s dirtiest players. He’s been fined more than $216,000 in his four-year career, according to The Washington Post, for stomping on players and other controversial violations.

But he’s also given freely from his multi-million dollar salary. His $2.6 million donation to the University of Nebraska made him the most generous athlete in 2011, according to The Giving Back Fund. Suh played at the school and graduated in 2009.

His foundation has given backpacks and school supplies to students, donated $250,000 to help his high school build a new turf field and track and hosted a wheelchair basketball tournament

Suh’s reputation on the field might make him a bit of a long shot, but he might have what it takes to thrive in the cutthroat world of politics.

Richard Sherman, cornerback, Seattle Seahawks

Sherman is one of the most outspoken players in the league, and his willingness to answer a tough question could serve him well on a program like NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The Seahawks star has a foundation called Blanket Coverage, which gives low-income students school supplies and clothing. A graduate of Stanford, Sherman could try to follow in the footsteps of another famous alumni, Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.).

Still, Sherman said he was not interested in running for office after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl last year.

“People have asked me about a life after football, and more than once I’ve been asked about a life in politics. Sorry, but it’s not for me,” he wrote.

Should the Seahawks win back-to-back titles, don't be surprised if "Sherman 2016" begins to ring out in Seattle.

Tim Tebow, former quarterback, ESPN analyst

Tebow remains one of the faces of the game despite his absence from the NFL for the past two seasons.

The former Florida Gator’s devout Christian faith has made him a hero among conservatives, and he knows how to draw a crowd: more than 10,000 people attended an Easter sermon he delivered at a Texas megachurch in 2012.

He also has experience in political advertising, having appeared in a 2010 Super Bowl commercial that alluded to his mother’s decision not to have an abortion while pregnant with him.

Tebow came out on top in PPP’s 2011 poll of favorite NFL quarterbacks, with 15 percent of the vote, receiving a favorable rating from almost two-thirds of conservative voters and 43 percent of moderates.

Unlike other prominent players, Tebow has openly entertained the option of running for office. Back in 2012, he told the Golf Channel that a political career “could be something in my future.”

“It’s something I’ll have to think about and pray about. I have no idea right now, but possibly,” he said.

If Tebow is serious about a political career, he might soon have his chance: a Florida Senate seat will be up for grabs in 2016 if Marco Rubio (R) runs for president.

Ben Kamisar writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.


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