Terry Crews ‘Survived’ in the NFL By Painting Portraits of His Teammates

Terry Crews is, by all means, better known for his acting career than his NFL career. However, his side hobby during his football days may be the most impressive of his talents. Spending most of his career on practice squads and the bench, Crews passed the time by working on his artistic side and making money to get by on the league minimum salary.

Terry Crews pursued art as well as football

According to IMDb, Crews was born in Flint, Michigan. There, he grew up in a city notorious for its lack of government support as it experiences hard times. From early on, Crews had an interest in both sports and the arts.

According to Crews, that passion for art led the way to his pro football career. While he isn’t known as a painter or a sketch artist, it shows why his entertainment career became his main focus. After all, the football that propelled him into the spotlight is now an afterthought for the Expendables actor. In fact, his first job wasn’t acting or tackling the offense; it was drawing. He spoke about this with Jimmy Kimmel, according to ArtNet

“My first job in entertainment, I drew courtroom sketches for the worst murder case in Flint, Michigan history… I had an art scholarship before I had a football scholarship,” he explained. However, football was a more lucrative option. Crews attended Western Michigan University to pursue football while still allowing time for arts. 

Crews makes it into the NFL

Actor and former NFL player Terry Crews attends Madden NFL 12 Pro-Am in 2011
Former NFL player Terry Crews in 2011 | Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

A journey to his Pro Football Reference shows that Crews was rarely on the field. He played in 32 games from 1991 to 1996. While his 1995 season with Washington saw him play in all 16 games, all of them were off the bench. Crews was a journeyman whose defensive skill set meant he had to stay in shape but often got left out of the fanfare. As such, he decided to use his downtown to hone the art he loved so much. 

Harkening back to his days as a journeyman who played for six football teams in seven years. Crews told Kimmel:

“That’s how I survived. I was always on the end of the roster. I was never a big superstar. I was an 11th round draft pick. Humility gets you far. You gotta make some money, you gotta humble yourself … I would literally take me about two months to do a painting, and they would give me like $5,000, and I would survive off that, my whole family survived off that.”

Art and sports are not the first things people associate. But Crews’ story shows a connection beyond him. 

The art of athletes

Crews is not alone in his art hobby. Former NBA slam dunk champion Desmond Mason has made a successful career as an abstract artist since retiring from the NBA in 2010. Everyone from Serena Williams to retired NFL star Larry Johnson likes to unwind with a little bit of paint on a canvas. Furthermore, big names like Usain Bolt and Tyson Chandler use their cameras to create successful art. 

Athletes need time to unwind just like everybody else, and art is one of the oldest ways people opt to do so. Crews is a man of many talents, but the one that he is best at might be the most unknown. It’s easy to see athletes as the people we watch out on the court or field, but there’s always more to the picture. Sometimes, that picture is in philanthropy or other off-field hobbies. Here, it’s one that the athlete painted himself. 

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