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9 Legendary Athletes & Olympians With Law Degrees

In honor of the Super Bowl and Winter Olympic Games, check out these nine Olympians and athletes who excelled in sports as well as law.

1. Anita DeFrantz: Olympic rower & Penn Law graduate

Anita Lucette DeFrantz participated in her first Olympic games while studying at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Competing in the 1976 Montreal Olympics as a member of the U.S. women’s eight-oared shell, she won a bronze medal and graduated with a J.D. from Penn Law the following year. A member of the USOC since 1976, DeFrantz became the first woman and the first African American to represent the United States on the International Olympic Committee and later was elected to serve as the IOC’s first female vice president. As she continues on the IOC board, her activities include serving as chair of the Commission on Women and Sports.

2. Caitlin Cahow: Olympic ice hockey player & current Boston College Law student

Caitlin Cahow is not only an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and two-time World Champion member of the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team, but a current 3L at Boston College Law. Originally trained as a figure skater before taking up ice hockey, she played four years at Harvard Crimson women’s ice hockey before joining the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team at the 2006 Olympics in Torino and the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Cahow is among America’s presidential delegates attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “Our delegation carries a message and a symbolism, which both includes and extends beyond the LGBT issues highlighted in the headlines,” she stated in an op-ed for USA Today.

3. Byron “Whizzer” White: All-American football halfback & Supreme Court Justice

Byron White was an All-American football halfback for the Colorado Buffaloes of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he acquired the nickname “Whizzer” from a newspaper columnist. He played for NFL’s Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) and the Detroit Lions. White is often cited as one of the first “big money” NFL players, making $15,000 a year. His career was cut short by World War II. After the war, he attended Yale Law School. In 1962 he was appointed to U.S. Supreme Court by President John F. Kennedy. He retired in 1993, being the twelfth longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history.

4. Dick Button: Olympic figure skater & Harvard Law graduate

Richard Totten “Dick” Button is a two-time gold medalist Olympic figure skater and a well-known skating commentator. Button is credited with having been the first skater to successfully land the double axel jump in competition in 1948, as well as the first triple jump of any kind in 1952. After winning gold medals at the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz and the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Button attended Harvard Law School and skated with the Ice Capades during school breaks. He graduated with an LL.B. in 1955.

5. Caryn Davies: Olympic rower & Columbia Law graduate

Caryn Davies juggled law school with her rowing career as a three-time Olympic medalist in Women’s Eight rowing. She won gold medals at the 2012 London and 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. “The two months leading up to the Olympics was the period in time I was supposed to be applying [for clerkships],” she said of her most recent participation in the games. Davies is currently clerking for Judge Richard Clifton, a Honolulu-based member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

6. Ken Dryden: Hockey Hall of Famer & former member of the Canadian Parliment

Ken Dryden was originally drafted to the Boston Bruins in the 1964 NHL amateur draft, but deferred his pro career to study at Cornell University. He returned to hockey in 1971 as goalkeeper for the Montreal Canadiens, and played throughout the ‘70s for the Canadiens and the Montreal Voyageurs. Dryden was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983. During a break from the NHL for the 1973-74 season, Dryden worked for a Montreal law firm and earned a degree in law at McGill University. After he retired, Dryden worked as a sports commentator until 2004, when he was elected to the Canadian Parliament.

7. Ron Mix: NFL Hall of Famer & University of San Diego Law graduate

NFL Hall of Famer Ron Mix made full use of his football scholarship at the University of Southern California. Nicknamed the “intellectual assassin” by teammates for his combination of brains and brawn, Mix was an All-American in 1959, National Jewish College Athlete of the Year, and an original Los Angeles Charger in 1960. While playing for the Chargers, Mix studied law at night and earned his J.D. from the University of San Diego. Mix played for the Oakland Raiders for a year before retiring in 1972, after which he became an attorney.

8. Alan Page: Minnesota Viking & Minnesota Supreme Court Justice

In 1967, Alan Page graduated from the University of Notre Dame and was drafted by the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. A member of the Vikings’ famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line, Page embarked on a successful pro football career while attending the University of Minnesota Law School. In 1978, Page graduated with his J.D. and signed with the Chicago Bears. Working at a Minneapolis law firm during the football off-season, Page retired from football in 1981 and went on to become Special Assistant Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General, and the first African American justice to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

9. John Heisman: Namesake for the Heisman Trophy & Penn Law graduate

John William Heisman began college at Brown University in 1887, where he played football with members of his class. Heisman later enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and played on the 1890 and 1891 varsity football teams as guard, center, tackle, and occasionally, end. Graduating from Penn Law with an LL.B. in 1892, he later came back to Penn as a football coach. Heisman is well-known as the primary shaper of the football rule book, and he is given credit for introducing the vocal “hike” or “hut” signal for snapping the ball. The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually in his memory to the most outstanding player in college football in the United States.

10. Interested in law & sports? Check out the Penn Law Entertainment & Sports Law Society’s inaugural Sports Law Symposium

On February 28, 2014, Penn Law’s Entertainment & Sports Law Society will host their inaugural symposium, “A Blurred Line: Issues Surrounding the Transition from Amateur to Professional Status in Sports,” presented by the Heisman Trust. The day-long event will consist of panels featuring high-level speakers from such organizations as the NCAA and the NFLPA, and a keynote address by Jim Delany, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.

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