Athletes Reveal Who They Idolized Growing Up

Athletes | 4/17/19

Young athletes with high aspirations live their lives a particular type of way. Sure, you can achieve greatness on your own or with little help from others, but there’s one crucial aspect you can’t forget about the journey to the top. Everyone needs a jolt of inspiration now and then. That helps explain why many of the best professional athletes idolized some equally sensational players while they were growing up. Read on to learn who your favorite athletes admire the most.

Troy Tulowitzki Admired Derek Jeter

jeter
Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

While Derek Jeter undoubtedly looked up to players while grew up, he now has many fans that admire him. Someone who definitely does is Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop admitted Jeter was his hero while he played with the Colorado Rockies.

“Ever since I’ve known this game from a kid, Derek was always in it,” Tulowitzki said. “Watching him, playing against him, trying to be like him, it’s always been in the game for me.” He also wears number two, thanks to you know who.

LeBron has fans in high places

LeBron Is Odell’s Favorite Player

beckham lebron
Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Remy Martin
Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Remy Martin

When Odell Beckham was a rookie, he made possibly the greatest catch in NFL history. The play was so special, it caught the attention of LeBron James who then tweeted about it. Soon after, Beckham met James as they caught dinner together and Beckham couldn’t believe it.

“That’s my favorite athlete,” the Cleveland Browns receiver said. “To be able to meet him and be able to talk to him and be able to share some words, it was a good time. It was very surreal to be able to meet LeBron, period.”

Stafford Looked At The Best

stafford
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Many players grew up in different eras, which translates to different athletes hanging on their bedroom walls as inspiration. For Matthew Stafford, he admired the greatness of several stars, not just one. That isn’t all the way out of the norm.

“Obviously a Dallas kid, I really, really liked [Troy] Aikman, liked [John] Elway, liked [Brett] Favre, liked all of those guys,” Stafford said. “They were true professionals, man.” That is an astounding group of guys to idolize.

Evans Fell In Love With This Player’s Game

evans
Will Vragovic/Getty Images
Will Vragovic/Getty Images

The star product from Texas A&M University, Mike Evans grew up idolizing one of the best NBA players to ever walk the court. Evans says he used to play travel basketball as a kid for a team called the Hornets and one day after catching an NBA playoff game, one player stood out from the rest.

“I used to always try to watch the Hornets but I didn’t really know much — I was like in fourth or fifth grade,” Evans started. “And then I [saw] D-Wade cross over Baron Davis and make the game-winner. I just fell in love with his game ever since.”

Who does Ben Roethlisberger idolize?

Big Ben Wears His Number Seven For A Reason

Ben Roethlisberger
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

As one of the best quarterbacks to sling the pigskin, Ben Roethlisberger idolized one of the greatest on his rise to the top. That should come as no surprise coming from a Super Bowl champion with a lengthy career. When he almost switched his jersey number, he had to stop.

Big Ben told USA Today, “That got brought up, and I thought about it for about five seconds and said, ‘No way.’ Because I wear it because that’s me, that’s who I am. One of the main reasons I wear it is because of John Elway, one of my idols. He’s still one of my idols.”

Up next, who does one of the greatest NBA three-point shooters ever look up to?…

A Dream Come True For Klay Thompson

kobe klay
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

NBA champion and sharpshooter Klay Thompson went to high school in Southern California, and during that time, Kobe Bryant was the bringing pain to every opponent he played against. It was hard for Thompson not to look up to Bryant. Then, they finally played against each other.

Thompson told the Bay Area News Group, “It’s almost like a dream come true when I’m playing against him. Kobe’s still one of the best in the game.”

Serena didn’t have to travel far to find her greatest inspiration

Serena Has Someone Close To Her To Thank

serena
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Arguably the best tennis player for both genders, Serena Williams had someone close to her help achieve greatness. Sometimes, those we love can serve as some of the greatest inspiration outside of former players.

“I grew up watching Monica Seles and Steffi Graf,” Williams said. “They inspired me a lot because they were champions,” she started. “But without any doubt, my true inspiration has been Venus. She pushed me to keep going and to give my best every day.”

A Pitcher’s Inspiration

masahiro
Rob Foldy/Getty Images
Rob Foldy/Getty Images

In 2014, if there were a pitcher’s sweepstakes in the MLB, then the New York Yankees won when they signed the Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year deal. That same season, Tanaka had the pleasure of playing with his idol before getting traded the year after.

As a result of the trade, Tanaka was beyond thrilled to pitch against his childhood hero, Ichiro Suzuki. Tanaka said, “I’ve been looking forward to this, I followed him since I was little when he was at the Orix BlueWave.”

Jack Doyle Admires A Legend From His Hometown

jack doyle
Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

Tight end for the Indianapolis Colts, Jack Doyle is from Indiana. It must be nice that he gets to score touchdowns in front of the people he grew up with during home games. Someone from that area also inspired him when he was younger.

“As a young kid and being from right here in Indy, it was Reggie Miller, being a ’90s baby and the heydays of that,” Doyle said. It’s not often players admire athletes outside of their sport!

Who Did The King Look Up To?

bron jordan
Linda Spillers/WireImage
Linda Spillers/WireImage

LeBron James (seated far right) came into the NBA as an 18-year-old with the title of “king.” Some called him the next Michael Jordan, so you can imagine the type of pressure he faced. Thankfully, he navigated through all of that noise with ease. Could it be thanks to those he looked up to?

“I watch Jordan more than anybody for sure, but I’ll watch tapes of A.I. [Allen Iverson], too,” James said. “He gave it his all. A.I. was like my second-favorite player growing up, after MJ.”

Von Miller Had A Thing For Cowboys

von
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller is a nightmare for opposing offenses. With a unique blend of size and speed, he’s quick to get to the ball and bring you down no matter who you are. Miller grew up in Dallas, so his inspiration came in the form of Cowboys.

“When I was really young, probably it was Emmitt Smith,” Miller said. “They were Cowboys and when you grow up around Dallas, in Texas, Cowboys are going to be your heroes.” Smith might have been a running back, but that probably only fueled Miller to become as fast as he is now.

Inspired By Greatness

tiger
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

For many years, Tiger Woods wasn’t relevant in golf. It almost felt unreal to watch as he fell from grace and allowed others to come and try for his throne. One of those attempts came from Rory Mcllroy. It would make sense that you would want to pass someone you admired growing up.

“To think that not too long ago I was that little boy watching him on TV to where I am now,” McIlroy revealed. “It’s been a cool journey and I’m very lucky I get to compete with and against him because he inspired me as a kid and he inspires me now.”

Ever wondered who inspired the greatest quarterback ever?…

The New G.O.A.T. Watched A Past Great

brady
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

There isn’t much left to debate about who’s the greatest quarterback to ever throw the ball in the NFL. The general consensus is that number 12 from the New England Patriots holds that crown. The man Tom Brady idolized played a part in helping him reach the top.

Brady grew up idolizing the amazing Joe Montana. “I mean, nothing fazed him,” Brady revealed. “There was a certain calmness in watching him. I always remember that when you watch him drop back, you knew he was just going to get it done.”

Bryce Harper Models His Game After This Legend

Harper
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Pitchers take matters a little more seriously after the second batter on the Phillies is done swinging. On his way to go down as a great, Bryce Harper models his game after one of the game’s legends, Mickey Mantle.

“I’ve always tried to (model) my game after his—how he played, what he accomplished,” Harper said while visiting Monument Park. “What better player to put a number on for.” What’s not to respect about that?

Neymar And Robinho

Neymar
ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images

Neymar’s rise to superstardom is inspiring on its own. He’s now one of the top five footballers in the world and could be top three depending on who you ask. He’s humble in interviews but on the field, his immense talent makes you think he’s always been special at the sport.

But not even Neymar is above looking to someone else as an idol. “Living with Robinho has been wonderful—you all know he’s been an idol since my childhood,” the PSG star said.

This Packer’s Receiver Knows Who The Best Is

adams
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The wide receivers over in Green Bay have got to be thankful every season due to their quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He makes the game easier for his wideouts, including one Davante Adams. Adams admired someone who made the game look easy on his own.

“Randy Moss,” Adams stated. “He’s the best receiver to do it, from an athletic standpoint, and God blessed him to be superior.” Adams continued talking about how Moss was on a different level. “You could just tell from his speed and the way he went and got the ball, everything was effortless in the way he played,” he said.

The Greek Freak’s Idol Might Surprise You…

greek
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Standing at 6’11’ with a 7’3 wingspan, Giannis Antetokounmpo aka “The Greek Freak” has the right to own that nickname. He led the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record for the 2018-19 NBA season thanks to being pretty much unstoppable on the court.

Due to his immense size and the position he plays, a likely source of inspiration growing up would be a player like Tim Duncan. On the contrary, the foreigner had someone else he watched. The Greek Freak says, “My idol was Allen Iverson.” It looks like he and LeBron James have something in common.

A Pass Rusher Idolized A Quarterback… What Are The Odds?

ryan
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

A veteran of the NFL, Ryan Kerrigan’s career hasn’t been that bad. The pass rusher makes a living making the jobs of quarterbacks much harder than they should be. How is it he idolized one growing up?

“If I had to say one it would be Peyton Manning,” he said. “Growing up in Indiana, my grandpa had season tickets to the Colts. Peyton made football a big thing in Indiana.” That makes sense as it’s hard to ignore a special talent from your own city.

Zach Ertz Was A Cali Kid Who Looked Up To…

Zach
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Growing up in Southern California between 1996 and 2016 certainly had its advantages. Not only did you get great weather, but you also got to witness a top player on television practically all the time. That player was Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba had an impact on all athletes, not just basketball players.

“I was born in Southern California so the Lakers were obviously on TV often,” Ertz said. “If you were in California, Kobe was kind of your guy. the way he acted and the way he demanded of his teammates and the way he approached the game really had an impact on me.”

From One Fighter To Another

paige
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

One of MMA’s leading ladies, Paige VanZant doesn’t take any prisoners while she’s competing. If she did, she might lose every fight she participates in for sure. Thankfully, she idolized one of the best to do it before her, Ronda Rousey. Rousey was the absolute best in her prime and her opponents weren’t even close. When these two met, VanZant had to hold it together.

“When I met Ronda I became a little fangirl, I was a little nervous but she was awesome and so nice,” said VanZant. “I definitely look up to her, she paved the way for all of us female athletes.”