Football field to political arena

The rigors of playing professional football certainly seem ideal to condition an individual to compete in political circles. Several former National Football League players have dabbled in politics. Such examples include Pro Football Hall of Famers like Bill Dudley, who served in the Virginia General Assembly; Yale Lary who was a Texas legislator and Bob St. Clair who was elected as the Mayor of Daly City, Calif.

Longtime Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent was sworn in as a member of the United States Congress just weeks before being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

Here is a look at the eight former NFL players and one player who played pro football before the NFL was formed who served on the federal level of government.

Chet Chesney - U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois

Chesney was born in Chicago, Ill. and played his college football at DePaul University. He was then signed by his hometown Chicago Bears to play center. The 6-2, 227-pound Chesney saw action in 10 games over two seasons (1939-1940) with the Bears before embarking on his political career.

Winifred Denton - U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana

Winnie, as he was known, went to DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. He later played one game for the Evansville Crimson Giants of the NFL. The Crimson Giants were one of 18 NFL teams during the 1922 season but folded after just three games.

Lavern Dilweg - U.S. House of Representatives from Wisconsin

“Lavvie” played end for one season with the NFL’s Milwaukee Badgers in 1926 before starring for eight seasons (1927-1934) with the Green Bay Packers. He was a part of three consecutive championships with the Pack and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1920s.

Jack Kemp - U.S. House of Representatives from New York;

(also ran for U.S. President in 1988; served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush; and ran for Vice President of the United States in 1996.)

Kemp was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 17th round of the 1957 NFL Draft out of Occidental College. He played one season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL before playing three seasons with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers of the American Football League and then the final seven seasons of his career with the Buffalo Bills. He threw for more yards than any other quarterback in the 10-year history of the AFL. In all, he passed for 21,218 yards and 114 TDs during his pro football career.

Steve Largent - U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma

Largent was selected by the Houston Oilers in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL Draft. He was placed on revocable waivers by the Oilers after the preseason and was then traded to the Seahawks. Largent rewarded Seattle by embarking on a Hall of Fame career that saw him catch 819 passes for 13,089 yards and 100 touchdowns.

Tom Osborne - U.S. House as a Republican from Nebraska

Osborne, who is most well known as the head coach of Nebraska from 1973-1997, attended Hastings College where he played quarterback. He was selected in the 19th round by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1959 NFL Draft before catching on with the Washington Redskins for two seasons as a wide receiver.

Jon Runyan - U.S. House of Representative from New Jersey

Runyan was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1996 and helped the Tennessee Titans reach Super Bowl XXXIV. He then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2000 where he enjoyed a successful nine-year stint and was a member of the Eagles Super Bowl team in 2004. The 6-7, 330-pound tackle finished his career with one last season for the San Diego Chargers. In all, Runyan played in 207 games with 192 starts.

Heath Shuler - U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina

Schuler was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the third pick in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft. He was the first quarterback selected overall and spent three seasons with the Redskins before finishing his career playing two seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

Adam Martin Wyant – U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania

Wyant played collegiate football for Bucknell and the University of Chicago from 1890 through 1893. He then joined the Greensburg (Pa.) Athletic Association as a paid professional from 1895 through 1897.


Dudley, Bill, Largent, Steve, Lary, Yale, St. Clair, Bob
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