Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A ‘Dream Team’ of Former NFL, NHL and MMA Athletes headed to Congress

By Joe Hammond
November 28, 2018

The annual congressional softball game just got a lot more interesting.

Voters are sent a dream team of former professional football and hockey players along with a former female Mixed Martial Arts fighter to Congress in the midterm elections.

Sharice Davids, a Democrat who will represent Kansas’ 3rd district, won national attention when she became the first lesbian from Kansas and the first Native American woman elected to Congress; a second Native American, Debra Haaland (D-NM), also won election in November.

But Davids first rose to prominence in the ring, where she sported a 5-1-1 as a MMA amateur before turning professional in 2013. She won her first fight via a triangle choke but lost her next bout. After a failed tryout for an MMA reality TV, Davids, a proud member of the Ho-Chunk Nation who also excelled at soccer, basketball, and tennis, hung-up her gloves to focus on her legal career and eventually politics.

“Being a mixed martial artist has helped me developed a sense of discipline that served me well during the campaign,” Davids told the AMI Newswire, “and will be an asset when we set out to do the hard work necessary to make meaningful change in Congress.”

Davids is the second former MMA fighter to be elected to Congress. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) was elected to Congress in 2012 after compiling a 3-0 record as an MMA fighter.

The Republican can counter her with Pete Stauber (R-MN), a former professional hockey player. Signed by the Detroit Red Wings in 1990 after helping his lead his college Lake Superior State University in Michigan to a national championship.

“When LSSU went to the White House, Stauber personally met President Reagan,” a spokesperson with the Stauber campaign told AMI newswire. After college he played four years in the minor leagues. After retiring from the sport, he became a decorated police officer.

Stauber’s brother, Robb, coached the USA Women’s hockey team to a gold medal in 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Stauber, whose campaign got a boost when President Trump campaigned for him, defeated Democratic incumbent Rick Nolan to represent Minnesota’s 8th district.

This year’s class also included two former NFL players – one Democrat and one Republican.

Colin Allred (D-TX), who defeated Republican incumbent Pete Sessions in Texas’ 32nd district, spent four years as a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, after starring at Baylor University.

The athletic standout this year might be Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), who won Ohio’s 16th district in his first-ever political campaign. Gonzalez, a receiver at Ohio State, was a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2007 NFL draft. He caught 37 passes for 576 yards and three touchdowns his rookie season. The next year he caught 57 passes for 664 yards and four touchdowns. He was seriously injured in the 2009 season opener and though he returned to action in 2010 and 2011 he played sporadically. After retiring he earned a business degree at Stanford University.

Gonzalez’s parents fled Communist Cuba whose then dictator, Fidel Castro, once tried out as a pitcher with the Washington Senators.
Gonzalez and his Democratic colleagues will likely find inspiration in other star athletes who became members of Congress. These include several NFL players, such as Steve Largent (R-OK), Heath Shuler (D-NC), Jack Kemp (R-NY), as well as the baseball pitch, Sen Jim Bunning (R-KY) and the basketball hall of famer, Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ).

If the newcomers really dream big, they might try to follow in the footsteps of another former congressman who, in 1935, turned down offers from both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Instead, the former college football star at the University of Michigan became a boxing and football coach at Yale University while he applied to law school. Fourteen years later the Republican was elected to Congress to represent Michigan’s 5th district; a quarter century later, in 1974, Gerald R. Ford became president when Richard Nixon resigned the office in 1974.

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