The dumb jock stereotype might be a struggle for athletic students, but it’s even tougher when all-star athletes have to battle dyslexia. The learning disability affects the ability to read and understand texts, making it tough to get good grades, pass important tests, and even read playbooks. Here are also celebrities with dyslexia and athletes with ADHD.
Still, these famous boxers, NBA stars, football players, and other world-class athletes have been able to thrive. Although many were labeled dumb in school, they developed coping mechanisms and other outlets that allowed them to shine.
Some of these athletes were diagnosed with the disorder when they were young, while others did not know that they were dyslexics until adulthood. One famous basketball player says that dyslexia cause him to push harder to prove himself.
Who is the most famous dyslexic athlete? Muhammad Ali tops our list. As a teen, Cassius Clay struggled with high school. “Many of my teachers labeled me dumb,” he said. “I could barely read my textbooks.”
Tim Tebow also has dyslexia. He says, “You can be extremely bright and still have dyslexia. You just have to understand how you learn and how you process information. When you know that, you can overcome a lot of the obstacles that come with dyslexia.”
As a teen, world champion boxer Cassius Clay (aka Muhammed Ali) struggled with high school. “Many of my teachers labeled me dumb,” he said. “I could barely read my textbooks.” He was later found to be dyslexic.
NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has struggled with dyslexia on and off the field. “You can be extremely bright and still have dyslexia. You just have to understand how you learn and how you process information,” he said. “When you know that, you can overcome a lot of the obstacles that come with dyslexia.”
Tebow discovered that he learns best with flash cards. Instead of attempting to read his playbook over and over, he makes the cards as a way to learn and quiz himself.
Baseball Hall-of-Famer Pete Rose overcame dyslexia to win three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, and a Rookie of the Year Award.
“The looks, the stares, the giggles… I wanted to show everybody that I could do better and also that I could read,” said former Laker Magic Johnson said of growing up with dyslexia.
Former all star Texas Ranger Nolan Ryan learned that he had dyslexia as an adult. Spelling was his hardest subject in school.
Jets coach Rex Ryan on school and dyslexia. “I was embarrassed. How come I was struggling? I’d get a spelling test and it was ridiculous. I couldn’t even get in the ballpark. So that was really frustrating.”
He wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood, when his son tested positive for ADHD.
Olympian/Kardashian patriarch, Bruce Jenner, said of his dyslexia… “If I wasn’t dyslexic, I probably wouldn’t have won the Games. If I had been a better reader, then that would have come easily, sports would have come easily… and I never would have realized that the way you get ahead in life is hard work.”
Olympic champion Carl Lewis reportedly has dyslexia and ADHD.
Growing up, Olympic diver Greg Louganis was bullied for his dyslexia. He figured out that his reading problem was actually dyslexia during his freshman year of college.
Now, he’s learned strategies to cope. “When I do public speaking, I have an outline, a list of bullet points. That’s how I manage my public speaking. I always know the stories, so I just want to make sure that I’m guided in such a way that those stories make sense and have logical beginnings, middles, and ends.”
In school, former Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley struggled with reading due to dyslexia.
49ers running back Frank Gore overcame his dyslexia and eventually earned a Super Bowl ring in 2012.
Olympic ice skater Meryl Davis was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in third grade. That didn’t stop her from winning a gold medal and two world championships.
Olympic rower Steve Redgrave struggled with dyslexia when he was in school.
Gold medal-winning British cyclist Chris Boardman is dyslexic and so is his son. He struggled in school, but thanks to advances in learning, his son is able to get special help. “My son Edward is dyslexic, though it’s not a massive problem these days. He goes to a fantastic school 800 metres away, eight or nine children in each class, like a big family.”
Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew has said, “My dyslexia made me feel as if I was drowning in the classroom. Competitive swimming was my lifeline.”
NFL player and actor Mark Schlereth’s dyslexia prevented him from learning to read until he was seven years old.
Former Denver Bronco Neil Smith discussed his childhood issues with dyslexia in the book Yes I Can!: Struggles from Childhood to the NFL.
MLB player Jeremy Bonderman was diagnosed with dyslexia in 1995. The disorder even caused him to repeat the fifth grade.
J. B. Holmes
PGA golfer J. B. Holmes suffered from mild dyslexia when he was in school.
Race car driver Jackie Stewart dictated, rather than wrote, his autobiography due to his dyslexia.
Basketball player Jason Conley struggled with his SAT entrance exam due to his dyslexia. He eventually made it to college and became the only freshman to ever lead NCAA Division I in scoring.
Golfer Tom Lewis’ dyslexia is part of the reason that he decided to drop out of school at age 16.
Rugby player Kenny Logan was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child.
Rugby player Scott Quinnell was not diagnosed with dyslexia until his 30s.