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Not Just Nick Foles: Pro Athletes Flock to Pickleball

Former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles Made Waves at the PPA Tour; See who Else is Joining the Pickleball

December 12 2023


Nick Foles takes his skills to the pickleball court; competes at pickleball tournaments in California

Nick Foles has a Super Bowl MVP award under his belt and co-owns the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a game. As of last week, he can add a new accomplishment to his resume: Pickleball Champion. 

Foles participated in the of the men’s and mixed doubles competitions at last week’s Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) finals, winning both, competing at the 3.0 level in both events. In mixed doubles, he lined up alongside his wife Tori, while he teamed with his friend Jim Davenport on the men’s doubles side.

Foles is best known for that Super Bowl performance with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he stepped in for the injured Carson Wentz to stun the New England Patriots. He played in the league for 11 years across six teams, most recently for the Indianapolis Colts in 2022.

Foles isn’t the only notable professional athlete to take their talents to the pickleball court. Here are some of the others:

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Tyler Herro; Avid Pickleball Player; takes his skills from one court to another

NBA player Tyler Herro took home the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2022 and is already a Miami Heat legend for his playoff heroics. But the $130-million man said in an interview earlier this year that he was even better at pickleball than his primary sport. Herro called himself “ the best pickleball player in the world,” a claim Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters would certainly like to have a word with him about. Maybe we’ll get that matchup somewhere down the line – in the same interview, Herro said he’d consider playing pickleball professionally somewhere down the line.

Golden Tate, Retired NFL Player

Golden Tate; PPA Tour; Pickleball; 4.5 Skill Level

Competing at the same PPA Tour event as Foles was former NFL wide receiver Golden Tate. Tate didn’t win his competition, but he was playing in the 4.5 rating crowd. The Super Bowl 48 Champion and 2014 Pro Bowler has posted on social media about Pickleball and has been a guest on fan favorite Tyson McGuffin’s pickleball show on YouTube to discuss his love of the sport.

Larry Fitzgerald, Retired NFL Player 

Larry Fitzgerald; NFL leading receiver; Pickleball court and pickleball tournaments; high skill levels

Arizona Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald has over twice as many career receptions as Tate’s impressive tally of 695 – his 1432 catches are the second most in NFL history. Fitzgerald picked up pickleball as a hobby during the pandemic, according to an interview with Arizona’s NBC12 News. Since then, Fitzgerald has gone on to buy a stake in MLP's Arizona Drive team. Fitzgerald can hold his own the court, but maybe not quite at a pro level. At a 2022 PPA event, he took on world-No. 1 Anna Leigh Waters. Despite being given a nine-point head start in the first-to-11 match, Fitzgerald couldn't seal the win.

Drew Brees, Retired NFL Player

Drew Brees is a fan of the popular sport

The NFL's second-leading passer, meanwhile, calls himself "an avid pickleball player, fan and student of the game." Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints legend and Super Bowl 44 MVP, is a part owner of the MLP's Mad Drops Pickleball Club. He also hosts an annual pickleball festival in New Orleans, with proceeds benefiting his Brees Dream Foundation.

Tom Brady, Retired NFL Player

Tom Brady; Pickleball; MLP owner and investor

The only player in NFL history to throw for more yards than Brees also plays pickleball. Seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady isn't quite as good at pickleball as he was at football. Speaking at a press conference after investing in MLP, Brady called himself a "decent" player. "I'm alright for a 45-year-old with average athleticism," he said.

Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns

Kevin Durant; Pickleball; Fastest Growing Sport; Major League Pickleball owner

At nearly seven feet tall, Kevin Durant stands out an the pickleball court. The 13-time NBA all-star got a crash course in the sport from the good folks over at The Dink. A month later, he invested in MLP, becoming an owner of the Brooklyn Aces. Durant also plans to help build pickleball courts in underserved communities.

Scottie Scheffler, Golfer

Scottie Scheffler; PPA tour; takes his skills to the court

Some call him the Ben Johns of golf. Scottie Scheffler, the world's No. 1-ranked professional golfer and the 2022 Masters champion, is a part owner of MLP's Texas Ranchers and is a skilled pickleball player too. At a PPA pro-am event in Texas last year, he was one of the standouts among some of the best athletes in the world. Then, in Novermber of this year, Scheffler took on Johns and former tennis player John Isner, with Waters as his partner. At one point, he and Johns traded volleys in an 11-hit rally, and Scheffler won the point. Not bad at all.

PBX Creates Entire Pickleball Circuit for Retired Athletes 

PBX Pickleball sign Retired Athletes; Pickleball tournaments; players signed to PBX

So many professional athletes are taking an interest in pickleball that an entire tour, run by PBX Pickleball, has sprung up specifically for retired athletes. Their roster already includes basketball hall of famer Rick Berry, three-time gold medalist swimmer Brooke Bennet, seven-time MLB all-star Matt Holliday, four-time NFL all-pro Jared Allen and two-time MLB World Series Champion, the Greek God of Walks himself, Kevin Youkilis. In addition to their pro-vs.-pro matchups, PBX will offer chances for amateur pickleballers to play with their favorite pros, either in pro-am tournaments or weekend getaways.

According to Barry, pickleball can help former pro athletes tap into their competitive side once again.

"PBX Pickleball allows [retired pro athletes] to reignite that competitive spirit and camaraderie that we all experienced at the highest level,” Barry said in a statement released by PBX.



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