It’s not something we’ve seen too often; but every now and then a famous athlete takes up photography. Known as second-career photographers, these former professional athletes bring a unique perspective to the craft. They tend to have a deeper understanding of sports that helps them capture moments more effectively. they “understand” the rhythm of the game better than most. Their acumen as sports photographers might, in fact, even be more insightful than that of people who have been photographing sports their entire careers.
Pro Athletes Turned Pro Sports Photographers
Former pros like Walter Jones, Ken Griffey Jr. and even Randy Johnson (what is it about Seattle that makes pro athletes turn pro photographers?) have captured some inspiring shots.
Former Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Walter Jones is the biggest man you’re ever going to see behind a camera on the sidelines. At 6’5″ and 300 pounds, he’s the sort of beast we tend to associate with dominant football teams. And indeed, he was just that in his prime. Jones was a nine time Pro Bowl player; a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s; and also a Hall of Fame inductee in 2014.
Jones’s love of photography was kindled when he started taking pictures of his twin children as they were growing up. Moreover, he can now be found snapping shots of the Seattle Sounders soccer team at his CenturyLink Field. It is his own old stomping ground, where the Sounders and Seahawks now share the field.
“I’m putting in the work,” Jones said of his photography. “This is something I really want to craft.”
One of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of Major League Baseball, Ken Griffey Jr. may still be the best player the Seattle Mariners ever had. In fact, that’s probably clearer than ever right now, with the Mariners in the tank in 2019. Seattle is in last place in the AL West. Moreover, with new U.S.-based sports book sites now including baseball among the sports they cover, you can look at the future and see that things aren’t going to get better. No one, oddsmaker or otherwise, expects the Mariners to contend anytime soon. So it’s likely Seattle is missing Griffey more than ever.
They won’t see him on the field again, but Griffey actually does remain in the public eye. And that’s thanks to the fact he’s been shooting photos for some big media outlets like ESPN. The former slugger has been serious about his photography ever since he retired from the MLB. He was seen in 2015 covering his son, University of Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey, at the Fiesta Bowl.
He has also photographed for the NFL and covered major teams like the Green Bay Packers during Monday Night Football. In addition, earlier this very year, he was among the cadre of photographers at the Tokyo Dome, down the third base line.
Again, there’s just something about those glory-days Seattle athletes! Granted, Randy Johnson also made his mark with other franchises—namely the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees. However, he’s probably best remembered as a dominant starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners.
For a time in Seattle, in fact—even as Griffey was in his prime mashing home runs—Johnson may well have been baseball’s best pitcher. Now, however, he too is a legitimate pro photographer.
Having actually studied photojournalism at USC before his illustrious career took off, Johnson is now a virtuoso photographer. In fact, sports photography is just one of his specialties. Johnson has also captured dramatic scenes in the African Savannah; taken photos of rock star friends (Ozzy Osbourne among them); and has taken his cameras on USO tours to military installations around the world.
For his part, Johnson sees a link between his two pro-level skills. He’s compared the tunnel vision he gets when looking through the camera’s lens to looking at the catcher’s glove. “I was extremely focused,” he said. And just as his unmatched intensity from the mound produced results, his photography benefits from this focus.