Top 15 Pro Athletes from Ohio

News May 2, 2022

Who’s the GOAT?

Cy Young. Jesse Owens. Jack Nicklaus.

Sports history is littered with Hall of Famers across various sports who honed their trade in the state of Ohio. Today, however, we’re focusing on those Buckeye State natives who are currently active in their respective sports.

Here are the top 15 active pro athletes from the state of Ohio. See whether you agree with the rankings:

15. Josh Harrison.

The Cincinnati-born second baseman hasn’t had the fortune of playing for successful teams over his decade-plus Major League career, and thus remains one of the game’s underrated infielders.

But while in Pittsburgh, Harrison routinely found himself near the .300 mark, finishing second in hitting in the National League in 2015 and twice making the MLB All-Star Game. He currently plays for the Oakland Athletics.

14. Matt Prater.

Currently kicking for the Arizona Cardinals, Prater was born in Mayfield Heights and is the NFL’s all-time leader in successful field goal of 50 yards or longer.

Still going strong at age 37, Prater is about to enter his 17th NFL season at a position notorious for short careers. He’s been to two Pro Bowls and made an All-Pro team over his long career.

13. Kelsey Mitchell.

Mitchell, a guard with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, has emerged as one of the league’s top three-point shooters during her brief pro career.

But it’s what she accomplished at Ohio State that earns her sport on this list. An All-American in all four years of her college career, Mitchell won Big Ten Player of the Year in her freshman, junior, and senior seasons, and left Columbus as the second-leading all-time scorer in women’s college basketball history with 3,402 points.

12. Ben Roethlisberger.

Technically, we’re stretching the rules with this pick.

As of last month, Big Ben is a retired athlete, but the two-time Super Bowl champion’s career deserves recognition. Roethlisberger starred at Findlay High School and at Miami University before enjoying a long career with the Steelers and is among the top 10 quarterbacks of all time in passing yards, yards per attempt, and career winning percentage.

Roethlisberger holds NFL records for completions in a game (47) and career games with 500-plus passing yards (4).

11. LeVeon Bell.

Big Ben’s running mate for several seasons with the Steelers, this Reynoldsburg native was a three-time All-Pro between 2014 and 2017 and led the NFL in both rushing and running back receiving yards in 2014.

Bell’s success was easy to see coming for those who followed his All-American college career at Michigan State.

Like so many NFL running backs, Bell’s productivity took a nosedive after five seasons – but he continues to fight for playing time in the league, most recently with the Baltimore Ravens.

10. Antoine Winfield Jr.

From a couple guys at or near the end of their careers to a rising star – Winfield Jr., son of Ohio State legend Antoine Winfield, is following in his father’s footsteps with a Pro Bowl nomination and Super Bowl title in his first two pro seasons.

Winfield Jr., a safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just celebrated his 23rd birthday, but has also added a spot on the All-Rookie Team (2020) and a unanimous All-American selection at the University of Minnesota to the above accolades. With 11 caused turnovers in his first two NFL seasons, Winfield Jr. figures to be a dominant safety throughout the 2020s.

9. Jason Kelce.

“Philadelphia’s Favorite Son” actually got his start in Cleveland Heights and at the University of Cincinnati!

The elder of the brothers Kelce (more on Travis later), Jason has made five Pro Bowls at center over an 11-year career and was named a first team All-Pro in four of the past five seasons.

But Eagles fans will always remember him for his wardrobe and fiery speech at the Super Bowl 52 celebration parade. (warning: some possible NSFW language.)

8. CJ McCollum.

McCollum, originally from Canton, may be the best non-All-Star player in the NBA.

Over his nine-year career, CJ’s averaged 21 points per game with the Portland Trail Blazers alongside Damien Lillard in one of the NBA’s best backcourts. Traded to New Orleans last month, CJ figures prominently into the Pelicans’ plans to build around Zion Williamson for the future.

McCollum’s No. 3 is retired at Lehigh University, where he helped engineer one of the most famous March Madness upsets in 2013 when No. 15 Lehigh upset “Coach K” and No. 2 Duke.

7. Marshon Lattimore.

Now we get into the NFL-heavy portion of the rankings, as producing top football players is a major source of Ohio pride.

Starting with Lattimore, the former Ohio State Buckeye who’s been to four Pro Bowls at the tender age of 25. Even among a loaded 2017 draft class that featured Myles Garrett, Patrick Mahomes, and DeShaun Watson among others, Lattimore stands out as an especially savvy pick for the New Orleans Saints, who’ve used him to lock up rival receivers including Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley.

Lattimore’s caused 23 turnovers in his five seasons – and it would certainly be even more, except that opposing offenses have learned to largely stay away from him by now.

6. Russell Wilson.

Part of this article is education – did you know Wilson was born in Cincinnati?

He moved to Virginia at a young age, but the Buckeye State is proud to claim this Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowler who, for some time, was thought to be an even better baseball player than he was a quarterback.

Before gaining fame at NC State, Wisconsin, and later with the Seattle Seahawks, Wilson was twice drafted by Major League Baseball, first by the Baltimore Orioles and years later by the Colorado Rockies.

It’s safe to say he made the right choice going to the NFL – he’s approaching 300 career touchdown passes, and figures to challenge Mike Vick’s career record for rushing yards by a quarterback over the next several seasons.

5. Travis Kelce.

One of the hottest debates among NFL fans: “Who’s the better tight end – Kelce or Rob Gronkowski?”

Doesn’t matter to us. Gronk’s not from Ohio, and Kelce’s accumulation of tight end-related NFL records – most 1,000-yard receiving seasons (six), most 100-catch seasons (two), and most yards in a season (1,416) more than fulfill the promise he showed at the University of Cincinnati, which led to the Chiefs drafting him in round three in 2013.

The surefire future Hall of Famer eclipsed 700 career catches and 9,000 receiving yards during the 2021 season and may actually be able to challenge Chiefs legend Tony Gonzalez’s career achievements when all is said and done, which would launch Kelce into “greatest tight end ever” conversations.

4. Joe Burrow.

Born in Iowa, Burrow moved to Ohio in his formative years and is viewed as a native son by the locals in Athens.

If you weren’t already familiar with the young quarterback from his record-setting career at LSU, he burst onto the national scene in this year’s playoffs, ending the Cincinnati Bengals’ 30-year playoff victory drought and leading the franchise within a whisker of their first Super Bowl championship.

Only 25 years old, Burrow figures to have several more chances at the big prize and climb even higher in our rankings.

3. Stephen Curry.

These next two (three?) athletes figure to be the most controversial portion of our rankings. Here we go…

Curry, the two-time NBA MVP and all-time leader in three pointers, was born in Akron in 1988 while his father Dell was playing for the Cavaliers. (Little-known fact: Steph was born in the same hospital as LeBron James, who might show up again on this list…)

He spent much of his childhood in North Carolina as his father moved around the NBA, but after eight all-star appearances, three NBA titles, and closing in on 20,000 career points scored, Ohio fans will happily add Curry to the list of Hall of Fame basketball players who’ve called the state home.

2. Simone Biles.

The Columbus-born gymnast is certainly the most decorated athlete in her sport’s history with 19 World championship gold medals, and four Olympic golds earned in 2016. In all, she’s won 32 medals in the World Championships or Olympics, and her seven Olympic medals tie her with Shannon Miller as the United States’ most successful Olympic gymnast (male or female.)

Not yet 25, Biles has time to add to her already historical accomplishments and may be motivated to do just that after a challenging campaign last year at the Tokyo Olympics.  

1. LeBron James.

You’ve probably been waiting for this one from the beginning of the list.

Already famous at age 16, LeBron has referred to himself throughout his career as “just a kid from Akron.” He figures to break the NBA’s all-time record for points scored in a career sometime during the 2022-2023 season, and speculation is increasing that he could do so in a third stint with his hometown Cavaliers, if the L.A. Lakers are inspired to make a blockbuster move after this season.

For all LeBron has done and accomplished, The King’s ‘crowning’ achievement may have been bringing an NBA championship to Cleveland in 2016, toppling the Golden State Warriors and our No. 3 Ohio athlete Steph Curry while bringing Cleveland its first major pro sports championship in 52 years. His postgame interview after winning the title is a cornerstone moment of Cleveland sports history.

To paraphrase The King – “OHIO, THIS IS FOR YOU!” … your top 15 active athletes from the Buckeye State.

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