Seven professional athletes who grew up on a farm

Purple People Eaters

For many small towns and rural communities, sporting events are a great source of entertainment and serve as a distraction from farm work. Many young people take up baseball, basketball, or football as a hobby; some take the hard work they learned on the farm and take it to the big leagues. Here is a list of 7 athletes that grew up on a farm before being called up to the big leagues.

Jordy Nelson


Nelson was a premier NFL player who caught passes from Aaron Rodgers while on the Green Bay Packers. Before scoring touchdowns was his career, he spent many long hours working on his family farm in Riley, Kansas. He credits his work ethic and discipline to growing up on the farm.

Carl Yastrzemski


Captain Carl grew up on a potato farm in New York. His entire career was spent playing for the Boston Red Sox. During his career he had more than 450 home runs and earned 7 Golden Gloves.

Chad Greenway


Drafted in 2006 in the first round, Greenway spent his entire career playing linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. He grew up on a farm in South Dakota. While speaking for the America Needs Farmers Initiative, he stated, “I’ve used all the principles I gained growing up on a farm to really push me in the profession that I’m in now.”

Gary Larsen


Another Viking that started out on the farm. Larsen joined the Minnesota Vikings one year after he was drafted. He grew up on his family’s wheat and sugar beet farm in North Dakota, where he spent a lot of time feeding animals. He would go on to become a two-time Pro Bowler and be named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings. He was also part of the legendary “Purple People Eaters”.

Ross Ohlendorf


Ohlendorf grew up in Texas on his family’s ranch which held 250-head of Texas longhors. He would go on to pitch for the Pirates, Reds, Rangers, Nationals, Yankees and Padres. After his time at Princeton University, and before being called up to the majors, he interned for eight weeks at the Department of Agriculture in D.C.

Bill Baber

Barber grew up on a farm in Virginia. His career saw him play for the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I grew up on a farm and I could never quit,” he stated while talking to a high school football team. “I threw hay bales every day, all day.”

Denton True “Cy” Young


Young had a 21-year career in the Major Leagues, where he played for five different teams. He grew up on a family farm in Ohio and when he was not working, he would throw a ball at a barn door, which must have paid off because a “greatest pitcher in the league” award would be named after him.