Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 9/24/12

Tonight will see the beginning of the college football season and the official beginning of the presidential general election campaign, when the first of two major party candidates accepts his party’s nomination.

College football and major elections have a lot in common. Both take in place in the fall; and both are the subject of impassioned, but often fruitless and childish, debates in workplaces and on Internet forums.

So maybe it should be no surprise that so many college football players make their way into politics.

In this election season we’ve seen former SMU star and ESPN College Football Analyst (and Mike Leach antagonist) Craig James fail in his bid to win the Republican nomination for Texas’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Former Montana Grizzly Jimmy Farris, on the other hand, won the Democratic nomination to represent Idaho’s First Congressional District. Farris, a wide receiver who played five seasons in the NFL, was part of a Grizzlies team that went to the 2000 Division I-AA National Championship Game. He’ll enter November as a major underdog against incumbent Raúl Labrador.

Even if Farris joins James on the sidelines, current members of the Congressional Gridiron Caucus will likely retain their seats, continuing a long tradition of football players at the highest levels of government.

Here’s a look at nine former college football players who have won election or appointment to major government offices.

New Jersey Congressman Jon Runyan (Michigan)

As a freshman at the University of Michigan in 1992, offensive tackle Jon Runyan was part of a team that went undefeated (albeit with three ties) and won the Rose Bowl. In each of his remaining seasons, the Wolverines would lose four games and finish third or worse in the Big Ten.

But by his senior year, Runyan was an All-Big Ten performer. The Houston Oilers took him in the fourth round of the 1996 Draft.

New Jersey Republicans and/or Michigan Wolverines fans can buy this autographed Jon Runyan rookie card on eBay for $24.99.

Runyan played an impressive 13 NFL seasons with the Oilers/Titans and Eagles. After retiring, he wasted no time getting into politics.

In 2010 Runyan, who had moved to the Garden State during his tenure with the Eagles, narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent John Adler for a House seat in New Jersey’s third congressional district.

Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts (Oklahoma)

J.C. Watts endeared himself to the people of Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District by leading the Oklahoma Sooners to back-to-back Orange Bowl victories.

Watts began his college career buried on the depth chart and twice left school in frustration. But he worked his way into the starting quarterback job, and his Sooners posted a 21-3 record during Watts’ junior and senior years.

Future Congressman J.C. Watts ran the wishbone for the Oklahoma Sooners in the late 1970s. (AP Photo)

After five seasons in the Canadian Football League and six years on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Watts ran for Congress in 1994. He narrowly defeated opponent Ed Apple to become the South’s first black Republican member of Congress since Reconstruction.

He served as House Republican Conference Chair before deciding not to seek reelection in 2002 (though no less than Rosa Parks had asked him to stay in Congress).

Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Jack Mildren (Oklahoma)

If you want to get into politics in Oklahoma, it wouldn’t hurt to first play quarterback for the Sooners. It worked for J.C. Watts, and it worked for one of his predecessors, Jack Mildren.

Future Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Jack Mildren takes off against Kansas on his way to All-America honors for the University of Oklahoma. (AP Photo)

While Watts ran the wishbone offense successfully in two consecutive Orange Bowls, Mildren is known as the “Godfather of the Wishbone.”

Sooners coach Chuck Fairbanks introduced the offense in 1970, Mildren’s junior year. Oklahoma went 7-4-1 that year but improved to 11-1 and won the Sugar Bowl during Mildren’s senior season. That year Mildren earned All-American and Academic All-American honors.

The Baltimore Colts took Mildren in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft, and he played three NFL seasons as a defensive back. In 1990 the people of Oklahoma elected Mildren Lieutenant Governor.

After one term, Mildren won the Democratic nomination for the 1994 Oklahoma gubernatorial election. He lost to Frank Keating and retired from politics to a career in the private sector.

Oklahoma Congressman Steve Largent (Tulsa)

Oklahomans love to elect football players.

Exhibit C is Steve Largent, best known as a hall-of-fame wide receiver for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

This Upper Deck football card shows future Congressman Steve Largent during his playing days at Tulsa.

When Largent retired from pro football in 1989 he held the all-time NFL records for receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions (all of which Jerry Rice would eventually break). But before he was an All-Pro receiver, Largent was an All-American at the University of Tulsa.

After seeing limited action during his first two seasons with the Golden Hurricane, Largent posted 884 receiving yards as a junior and an even 1,000 as a senior. He caught 14 touchdown passes both seasons.

The Oilers drafted Largent in the fourth round of the 1976 Draft but traded him to the Seahawks before the start of the regular season.

After 13 years in the NFL, Largent ran for Congress in Oklahoma’s First District in 1994. He served four terms in the U.S. House before running for Oklahoma Governor in 2002. He lost a close race to Democrat Brad Henry.


Four down, five to go!

Click to continue and learn about:

  • The top-5 pick who went bust…before going after Nancy Pelosi.
  • The quarterback who was too short…but ended up as a potential vice president.
  • The college football Hall of Fame member…who ended up as a Supreme Court Justice.
  • Amry’s one-year wonder…who later became a D-Day hero (and president!).
  • The Michigan Man…who took the most unlikely path to the White House in U.S. history.

The post 9 Prominent Political Figures Who Played College Football appeared first on Midwest Sports Fans.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Adam Schefter: Richard Sherman blocked me on Twitter

Martellus Bennett compared Jay Cutler to Jesus

Jimmy Johnson thinks 49ers need to move on from Colin Kaepernick

Pat Murphy won't be back as Padres manager next year

Brian Cushing's wife gets upset with Houston talk show host

Marshawn Lynch won't play against Lions on MNF


DeMarco Murray unhappy with role in Eagles' offense

Big 12 admits officiating error in Oklah St-K State game

George Karl apologized to DeMarcus Cousins for trade comment

Jason Whitlock, ESPN part ways again

Devonta Freeman is scoring touchdowns at a historic rate

Joe Philbin not worried about being fired

Eight notable NFL Week 4 winners and losers

Professor moves student’s exam to accommodate Cubs playoff game

WATCH: Adrian Peterson torches Broncos for marathon touchdown

Don Orsillo gives moving farewell to Red Sox fans on NESN

WATCH: Ichiro Suzuki takes the mound for the Marlins

Clay Matthews taunts Kaepernick with Russell Wilson line

Jay Feely shares thoughts on why NFL kickers are struggling

Female reporters blocked from entering NFL locker room

Pierre Garcon makes awesome game-winning TD catch

WATCH: Mario Williams obliterates Rashad Jennings

WATCH: Ed Dickson scores TD on crazy fumble recovery

WATCH: Nelson Agholor makes incredible one-handed catch

London PR guy has hilarious reaction to angry Suh

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Eight notable NFL Week 4 winners and losers

Jimmy Johnson: Move on from Kaepernick

WATCH: Ichiro Suzuki pitches for the Marlins

Philbin not worried about job status

London PR guy trolls Suh

10 takeaways from Week 5 of the college football season

Rick Pitino and the shadows that never leave

Chad Johnson ... Steelers kicker?

Flacco deserves more from the Ravens

Time for Neymar's Barcelona

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker