When it comes to athletes and nerds, the line was drawn years ago. The athletes were the popular ones -- the cool kids who got invited to all the parties, had all the best-looking dates and received special treatment every step of the way. The nerds, on the other hand, were the outcasts. They were smart kids who either excelled in education or had geeky interests like comic books, video games, and less cool hobbies, primarily non-sports activities in high school. However, over the years, the line between athlete and nerd grew blurry and more athletes became nerds.
The outward appearance that separated many athletes from nerds has also started to diminish. In the old days, the athletes were good looking and in great shape compared to the nerds, with their horn-rimmed glasses, pocket protectors and often pimply complexions. While there are still those discrepancies in high schools, many of those popular athletes have developed nerdy tendencies. Some of today’s top athletes have grown to love video games, comic books, and have outside interests that used to only exist in the nerd community. While they remain popular and attractive, here is a look at 20 gorgeous athletes who are secretly huge nerds in real life.
20 RONDA ROUSEY
Ronda Rousey is not just a gorgeous athlete, she is also someone who could beat up most people up at the drop of a hat. Maybe the fact that she is so powerful makes her someone who feels comfortable with letting her nerd-side out more often. Rousey has a lot of geek love, including a massive obsession with Pokemon, calling Mew her favorite. She even admitted to moderating a Pokemon forum when she was a child.
Rousey also loves to play MMORPGs and said that she loves World of Warcraft, where she plays mostly as a Night Elf Hunter. Add in love for Mortal Kombat, where she plays as Princess Kitana, and you have a seriously gorgeous athletic nerd. Rousey is also rumored to be joining the WWE, for the professional wrestling geeks out there!
19 XAVIER WOODS
In the old days of professional wrestling, athletes would spend most of their off hours at bars and be partying every night they were not in the ring wrestling. For Xavier Woods, he has other ways he would rather spend his time: playing video games. Woods even has his own YouTube show called UpUpDownDown where he invites other wrestlers and celebrities to try their hand at beating him in just about any game.
That is no surprise because Woods is also not a typical professional wrestler. He has a master’s degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Furman University in South Carolina. He didn’t stop there. While he was getting his start in professional wrestling, he received his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Capella University. On a side note, Woods is also a self-proclaimed Brony.
18 GINA CARANO
Maybe it is just the case of being a woman who knows she can win any fight against a man or another woman, but it seems like a lot of UFC stars don’t mind letting people know that they love the geekier side of life. Gina Carano has done a lot over the past few years to let her geek flag fly, including fighting superheroes on the big screen and dating them in real life.
Of course, Carano was a mutant in Deadpool, who was so powerful that only Colossus could stand up to her and even he lost. In real life, Carano dated none other than Henry Cavil, the man who plays Superman. Carano even joked that she never had to worry about people following her around until she started dating Superman. She is also a movie geek and has admitted to being able to quote Cry Baby, the 1990 cult film by John Waters.
17 KEVIN DURANT
It is never a surprise to learn that athletes love video games, and there are a lot of NBA and NFL stars who openly profess their love for the activity. When it comes to Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant, it goes a lot deeper than just loving to play video games. Durant has admitted to having an obsession with video games that might make many other athletes take a second look at the former NBA MVP.
Durant has an entire kit that he takes on the road with him so that he can play video games everywhere he goes. In an interview with ESPN, Durant said that all he ever does is play video games and owns both an Xbox and PlayStation system. After getting his face on the cover of the EA Sports NCAA game back in 2008 and then the NBA cover two years later, he said it was cool to know that kids were playing his games now.
16 JESSICA MENDOZA
It might be cool to get to appear in a Marvel or DC Comics movie, but imagine how someone would feel if Marvel Comics commissioned an artist to turn them into an original superhero. That is what happened to softball star Jessica Mendoza. The gold medal-winning athlete played on the U.S. national team for six years after a standout career in college. Together with espnW, Marvel Comics turned gorgeous athletes into superheroes and named Mendoza’s character Major Leap.
Mendoza also pulled off an impressive post-career feat with the ultimate nerd job after her athletic career ended. She became a sports journalist for Major League Baseball. Mendoza worked for ESPN and was both the first woman ever to call an MLB game and the first to ever work a playoff game.
15 CM PUNK
CM Punk was one of the top stars in the WWE when he decided to walk away from the squared circle when he disagreed with the direction of his career. After leaving professional wrestling, Punk never looked back. He started out his post-wrestling career by trying to become a UFC star, although he was brutally beaten in his only fight. However, it was his secondary dream that allowed him to let his geek flag fly.
CM Punk wanted to write his own comic books and thanks to his fame as a WWE superstar. Marvel Comics gave him that chance. Punk wrote the introduction to the hardcover Avengers vs. X-Men comic book miniseries. In 2015, he wrote a story in Thor Annual #1 and co-wrote the Drax ongoing series from 2015 to 2016. Ironically, it was a CM Punk WWE rival in Batista who played Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
14 AJ LEE
Much like her husband CM Punk, former WWE women’s superstar AJ Lee is also a proud nerd. The earliest known video of AJ Lee was when she was a young girl and met her hero, WWE legend Lita, with Lee in tears as they hugged. As a child, Lee suffered from bipolar disorder, and her awkwardness made her a target of bullies. She was able to use those instances to push herself to achieve her dreams.
AJ Lee said that she is a tomboy and loves comic books, anime and video games. She also has a tattoo on the back of her neck with tally marks that indicates how many times she held the WWE women’s title. Since she retired from professional wrestling, Lee became an author, penning a memoir titled Crazy is My Superpower. For fans of AJ Lee, there is also a television series in the works based on her memoir.
13 RUSSELL WESTBROOK
When one looks at Russell Westbrook away from the Oklahoma City Thunder and NBA basketball courts, it is easy to mistake the man for a nerd. One thing that Westbrook is dedicated to other than being the best basketball player in the world is designing his fashion line, which is interesting to put it lightly.
There was a funny moment back in 2012 when Westbrook took credit for starting the nerd glasses trend. Even LeBron James began to wear them, saying it was a fashion trend but didn’t credit Westbrook with starting it. However, Westbrook has taken it upon himself to try to make geek chic. It did start with Westbrook, though, as the athletic nerd look began when he began wearing button-up shirts, bow ties and plaid slacks to interviews and special events.
12 HOPE SOLO
Hope Solo was one of the top soccer stars in the United States for many years, but most of her publicity has centered on controversy. Despite all the tabloid headlines that Solo finds her name drifting through, she seems to have a level head when it comes to who she sees herself as in her life. After sitting out six months with a suspension, Solo realized she would never return to the soccer field.
In an interview when responding to the fact she might never play soccer again, Solo said in December that she was going to run for president of the US Soccer Federation. She also made a fun comment where she said that she is a “nerd at heart,” choosing Harry Potter over Twilight when asked. However, despite that, Solo did say that she had a crush on both Edward and Jacob, adding to her nerd status.
11 RYAN BABEL
Ryan Babel is a Dutch soccer player who plays for teams in the Netherlands and Turkey. Before anyone thinks that video game addiction is something that just affects American kids, Babel has admitted that he has a one, but shows no signs of slowing down. There are a lot of soccer players who love their video games, including Pirio, who calls the PlayStation the world’s greatest invention and says that he has played four-times more matches on the console than in real life.
However, the most prominent video game nerd in soccer is easily Ryan Babel. He not only plays video games all the time, but also hosts his own tournaments. Fans of soccer and video games can even catch him online, where he records and posts himself playing video games against other athletes.
10 MICHELLE JENNEKE
For something completely different, Michelle Jenneke is not a nerd because she spends all her time playing video games or reading comics. Instead, the Olympic medal winner might be smarter than all of us. She remains best-known for her track career, where she won the silver medal at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and will compete in Rio. She also has a lot of fans thanks to her pre-race warm-up dance that is both scintillating and nerdy on its own.
However, she also goes to Sydney University, and it isn’t an athletic degree she is interested in. Jenneke is studying mechatronics, which is a mixture of mechanical and electric engineering. For anyone who wonders what that is all about, Jenneke has a strong affinity for robotics and autonomous systems. When asked, she said it isn’t an easy degree but is challenging, and she enjoys it.
9 RYAN BADER
When it comes to the UFC, there are a lot of nerds among the men and women who can also beat up anyone in a bar fight. While the women seem to outnumber the men when it comes to nerd love, there is a pair of men’s fighters who have no problem with whipping out their nerd credentials. One of these men is Georges St-Pierre, who is a self-proclaimed dinosaur expert, loves the Discovery Channel and even fought Captain America in a Marvel movie.
However, it is also hard to beat Ryan Bader. The ruggedly handsome ultimate fighter has no problem embarrassing himself in the nerdiest of fashions. One example is a photo that he published that showed him and fellow UFC fighter C.B. Dollaway in blue and yellow body paint dressed as male Care Bears.
8 EUGENIE BOUCHARD
Eugenie Bouchard is one of the most gorgeous tennis players in the world and for those nerds looking for the next big thing to cheer for, look no further than the Canadian sensation. When asked about what she is like off the court, Bouchard said that she is a nerd. Her favorite class in school was math. She collects teddy bears. She also has a massive fan in Jim Parsons, who television audiences know as Sheldon in Big Bang Theory.
Bouchard even returned the love, saying that Big Bang Theory was her favorite television show and she would rather laugh at its jokes than watch a movie about “war or something.” She also claims that Sheldon is her favorite character since he is nerdy and reminds her of herself. She became friends with Parsons and exchanges emails with the actor, talking about the mental aspects of tennis.
7 MIESHA TATE
How about another UFC fighter? In a long line of butt-kicking women, Miesha Tate stood on top of the world of ultimate fighting for a short time in 2016 when she won the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship from Holly Holm. While she retired at the end of that year, she did what she needed to do to cement her place in UFC history. Once she retired, she made a big move and chose the career of an analyst for the UFC on Fox Sports 1.
However, what pushes Tate to the realm of geekdom is her love of cosplay. Check online to see some great photos of Tate dressed up as Wonder Woman and another instance where she dressed up as a sexy Batman. Tate might be finished fighting, but she left her more nerdy fans with something to always remember her by.
6 JENNY PACEY
For many comic book fans, getting a chance to appear in a comic book movie adaptation would be something they could only dream of. For UK Olympic pentathlete and long-jumper Jenny Pacey, it was a dream come true. When casting directors were looking at casting Amazonian warriors for the DC Comics movie Wonder Woman, they decided they wanted more than just actors. They then started looking for athletes.
That is where Pacey came into the situation. They found Swedish kickboxer Madeleine Vall Beijner among others in different sports. They also found Pacey, who was so excited to get a chance to star in a comic book movie that she spent weeks training and packed on so much muscle that it took 12 months to shed it from her shoulders.
5 ROB GRONKOWSKI
When looking at New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski, most people will see someone with the appearance of a big athletic frat boy. At the end of the day, that might be a completely accurate sentiment, as his various activities outside of football has proven. However, there is also another side to Gronk that seems like he is living a geek’s dream.
WWE superstar Mojo Rawley was a football star at the University of Maryland where he played every position on the defensive line. While there, Rawley grew close to teammate Dan Gronkowski and quickly became friends with the entire Gronkowski family. As a result, when the WWE signed Rawley, Gronkowski perked up and wanted to be involved with the company as well. That paid off last year when Rob Gronkowski appeared at WrestleMania and even got into action during a match.
4 LINDSEY VONN
Lindsey Vonn is known for many things. The gorgeous athlete is a world-class skier and is one of only two female skiers in history to win four World Cup championships. She is also a gold medal winner and holds 20 World Cup crystal globe titles, more than any other skier, man or woman. Vonn also picked up notoriety for dating Tiger Woods around the time his promiscuity allegations rose up.
Want to know how Vonn loves to show her love of all things geek? She has some new ski gear that she displayed this year. That gear is none other than a Captain America body suit and helmet. She then posted images of her new outfit on Twitter and asked why Captain America had to be a man. This also isn’t the first time she has gone superhero themed as she wore a Captain Marvel speed suit in 2017.
3 DWYANE JOHNSON
The most successful Hollywood actor to go from the WWE to movies is easily Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He has made more money in his films than almost anyone in Hollywood the last decade with films from the G.I. Joe and The Fast and the Furious franchises mixed in. He also has a role coming in the DC Comics Extended Universe where he will play Black Adam, the main villain of Shazam.
What is cool is that The Rock wanted to play Black Adam specifically, and spoke about his extensive knowledge of the DC Comics supervillain. Add in his openness to star in video game movies (Rampage) as well, and it is clear that Johnson has a vast love of everything geek. Check out his YouTube page as well to see how open he is to fans and feel the love.
2 CHRIS KLUWE
Possibly the biggest male geek athlete in history is none other than Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. You may not know the name, but the retired NFL star was a lot more successful in the world of video games than he was on the football field, although he wasn’t that bad there either. While he is no longer playing football, he remains an active voice on social media, especially when he is tackling social issues.
However, he is also known for something very nerdy. Kluwe was one of the top World of Warcraft players in the world, and possibly the best athlete who ever played the game. He quit playing when he said that he grew bored after getting so good, but still plays other video games all the time, saying he has played every Blizzard game ever released.
1 ALEXA BLISS
One of the hottest WWE superstars competing today is Monday Night Raw women’s champion, Alexa Bliss. She is the first WWE superstar to hold both the Raw and SmackDown women’s titles and is a perfect villain in the professional wrestling promotion. However, get her away from the wrestling ring, and she is a very different personality, a total and complete pop culture geek.
Ever since Bliss debuted in the WWE, she has tried to bring her love of cosplay into her character. She has come to the ring with makeup and costume designs that play on her cosplay skills, with a Harley Quinn inspired wrestling outfit as the highlight. Bliss also has a love of video games and often challenges fans at comic conventions to try to beat her at a game of her choice.