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Katherine Wright | | January 28, 2021

Former NCAA student-athletes who have been on 'The Bachelor' or 'Bachelorette'

Season 25 Bachelor Matt James of Wake Forest football Season 25 Bachelor Matt James played football at Wake Forest from 2010-14.

Who's more qualified to compete in the game of love than the 33 former NCAA athletes who've appeared on "The Bachelor" or "Bachelorette?" We profiled 11 of the most famous contestants from the ABC hit franchise and you can also click or tap here to jump to the full list below. 

Spoiler alert: Many of these former athletes did not find love on the show.

Matt James — Wake Forest football (2010-14)

Wake Forest Athletics Bachelor Matt James of Wake Forest Bachelor Matt James played wide receiver at Wake Forest, recording 48 catches for 458 yards in his college career.

Football achievements (2010-14): Recorded 48 catches for 458 yards through an injury-riddled career.
Bachelor achievements: First Black male lead in the "Bachelor" franchise; season premieres in 2021.

The 25th Bachelor Matt James took the unconventional route to the helm. After being named a prospective suitor for Clare Crawley's season, "thousands of fans swooned," according to "The Bachelor" website. The franchise took the response as a reason to name him the next Bachelor. Not to mention, his best friend is Tyler Cameron, the fan-favorite, runner-up in Hannah Brown's season. "He is the total package," "The Bachelor" website explains.

NICKNAME: How Wake Forest got the nickname Demon Deacons

Before becoming a pop culture trend, Matt James was a wide receiver at Wake Forest with Cameron. Over his four-year career, which included a redshirt, James recorded 48 catches for 458 yards and zero touchdowns in 23 games. James caught 40 passes for 401 yards in his senior season.

James joined the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints practice squads before switching his career path after being cut.

Tyler Cameron — FAU football (2012-16)

Florida Atlantic Athletics Bachelorette contestant Tyler Cameron of FAU football Bachelorette contestant Tyler Cameron played college football at Wake Forest and FAU.

Football achievements (2012-16): Averaged 12.4 yards per catch at FAU.
Bachelorette achievements: Bachelorette Season 15 runner-up.

Before Matt James, there was Tyler Cameron — at least that's how "Bachelor" fans see it. Cameron entered the scene on Hannah Brown's season. After getting rejected on the final episode, Cameron returned to normal life — or what was left of it. Brown ended her relationship with "winner" Jed Wyatt. Shortly after, Brown and Cameron went on a date but are currently just friends.

Relationships are complicated, even more so when you've become a member of the "Bachelor" franchise. And so is changing football positions. Cameron began his college football career at Wake Forest as a quarterback. Much of his time was spent on the bench. After earning his bachelor's degree from Wake Forest, he transferred to Florida Atlantic and began practicing as a tight end. In 24 games, Cameron caught 41 passes for 509 yards and one touchdown, averaging 12.4 yards per catch.

Michelle Young — Bradley women's basketball (2011-15)

Bradley Athletics Season 25 Bachelor contestant Michelle Young played college basketball at Bradley. Bachelor season 25 contestant Michelle Young played college basketball at Bradley.

Basketball achievements (2011-15): Shares Bradley record for most points scored in a single game (38).
Bachelor achievements: Bachelor season 25 contestant; fate to be determined.

Michelle Young swept Bachelor Matt James of his feet immediately. In unorthodox Bachelor fashion, producers introduced five new women in Week 3, with Young being one of them. Shortly after, James asked her to a one-on-one date. A zip-line race and hot-air balloon flight led to a romantic dinner, where Young and James bonded over American poet Maya Angelou. Sounds like the pair is off to a dazzling start. 

Back at Bradley, Young was a First-Team MVC Scholar-Athlete her junior and senior year. She led Bradley with 14.3 points per game her senior year, which was the highest school average since 2001-02. Her 276 career made free throws tied her for sixth in school history, and her 189 career steal tied her at ninth. Young's 38-point overtime performance against Colombia in 2014 tied the Bradley single-game scoring record.

As a junior, Young led the team with 14.3 points per game for the highest scoring average at Bradley since 2001-02, and she became the fifth player in Brave to score 400 or more points and force 55 or more steals in a season. Her achievements did not stop there. Young scored 20 or more points eight times for the most in program history since 2001-02. 

Zac Clark — York College baseball (2003-06)

Baseball achievements (2003-06): Ranks third in York College history with most career saves (8), fifth in most strikeouts (17).
Bachelorette achievements: Bachelorette Season 16 "winner."

Thanks for the adorable picture, NCAA DIII Twitter.

Zac Clark, a former pitcher of York College, "won" season 16 of "The Bachelorette," becoming engaged to Tayshia Adams. Clark shared much of his past on the show, including struggles with drug addiction and family life, but his baseball accomplishments at York College took a backseat. Rightfully so. Let's explore those achievements and celebrate his dedication to the game of baseball. 

In York College career history, Clark ranks ninth in lowest earned run average (3.66) and ninth in most innings pitched (145.0). He's tied for second with most combined shutouts (4) and third for most appearance (61) and most saves (8).

He currently ranks fifth in most strikeouts (17) and twelfth in lowest opponent's batting average (.276).

Dale Moss — South Dakota State basketball (2007-11)

South Dakota State Athletics Bachelorette contestant Dale Moss played basketball and football at South Dakota State. Season 16 Bachelorette contestant Dale Moss played basketball and football at South Dakota State from 2007-2011.

Basketball achievements (2007-11): Averaged 5.6 PPG, 3.6 REB, 50% FG in 19 minutes per game (121 GP, 57 GS).
Football achievements (2011): Averaged 15.6 yards per reception and 86.3 yards per game over 11 games.
Bachelorette achievements: Dale and Clare got engaged in Week 3 of the Bachelorette season 16. 

After a little over two months since the unprecedented engagement on Nov. 5, 2020, Dale and Clare announced their split over Instagram. At least for a second, fans thought Clare might've actually found her guy.

We may never truly know why the couple called it quits, so let's talk about the achievements Moss secured with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in 2007-11. Moss spent four years on the court, where he played 121 games and started 57. He averaged 7.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game his senior year.

The transition from basketball to football in 2011 did not seem to faze the 6-foot-4 guard/wide receiver, whose uncle, Johnny Rodgers, won the 1972 Heisman Trophy. Moss played one season and earned the Jim Langer Award for the most valuable player of the South Dakota State football team. The Missouri Valley named Moss second-team all conference after nabbing a team-high 61 receptions for a team-high 949 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games.

The Green Bay Packers signed Moss as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He then grabbed a cup of coffee with six different NFL practice squads from 2012-14.

Jesse Palmer — Florida football (1997-2000)

Florida Athletics Jesse Palmer returns to his alma mater, Florida. Bachelor season 5 starred former Florida Gator quarterback Jessie Palmer.

Football achievements (1997-2000): Led Florida in the game-winning drive over No. 11 Tennessee in 2000; ranks top 15 in career passing yards at Florida.
Bachelor achievements: First professional athlete and first non-American (he was born in Canada) to star on the show.

The ending to Jesse Palmer's season of "The Bachelor" has become an all too familiar conclusion to so many Bachelors and Bachelorettes that have proceeded him. He chose Jessica Bowlin in the final episode but did not propose. They broke up shortly after.

Palmer's relationship with Steve Spurrier and Florida football, on the other hand, fulfilled its four-year relationship, propelling him to the NFL. Through 27 regular season games with the Gators, Jessie Palmer completed 254 of 479 passes for 3,755 yards, 31 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He won the Fergie Ferguson Award, as voted by his teammates, in 2000 for the senior who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.

Palmer's stint on "The Bachelor" led him to success as an analyst with ESPN and host on the Food Network. 

Jordan Rodgers — Vanderbilt football (2011-12)

USA TODAY Sports Jordan Rodgers of the Bachelorette and Vanderbilt football. Former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers "won" season 12 of the Bachelorette, starring JoJo Fletcher.

Football achievements (2011-12): Quarterbacked Vanderbilt to the postseason in back-to-back seasons (2011-12).
Bachelorette achievements: Engaged to Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher since 2016.

"Bachelor" franchise success stories cannot be mentioned without including season 12 of "The Bachelorette." It seemed like Jordan Rodgers and JoJo Fletcher were meant to be together from the start. On the first night, Fletcher gave Rodgers her first-impression rose. Fast-forward 10 episodes and the former quarterback was the one kneeling to propose. She said yes and the pair have been together ever since. This, however, was not Rodgers' first time in front of the camera.

Like his brother Aaron Rodgers, Jordan began his college football career at Butte Community College. He then transferred to Vanderbilt for his final two years, completing 299 of 535 passes for 4,063 yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, ultimately leading the Commodores to bowl games in 2011 and 2012. Watch some of his career highlights below.

Rodgers parlayed his "Bachelorette" fame into becoming an SEC Network analyst. Like many in 2020, he and Fletcher had planned to marry, but COVID-19 forced the pair to reschedule to a later date.

Juan Pablo Galavis — Roberts Wesleyan soccer (1998-2002)

Soccer achievements (1998-2002): Tied for most men's soccer assists (25) in Roberts Wesleyan College history.
Bachelor/Bachelorette achievements: First Hispanic Bachelor.

Juan Pablo Galavis is one of the most controversial figures in franchise history. As a contestant during Season 9 of the Bachelorette, fans took to Galavis' charm. Bachelorette Desiree Hartsock rejected him, but the franchise had a plan.

Galavis was named the next Bachelor and the franchise's first Hispanic lead. He picked, but did not propose to Nikki Ferrell after sending home season 16 Bachelorette Clare Crawley. The outspoken Crawley became a household name after calling him out for using inappropriate language. His actions are still heavily criticized today.

As for his college soccer career at Roberts Wesleyan College, not much can be found. What stands true is his tie for most soccer assists (25) in school history. He played in the Venezuelan professional league thereafter.

Colton Underwood — Illinois State football (2010-13)

Football achievements (2010-13): Ranks No. 3 in career tackles-for-loss (44) and No. 4  in career sacks (21.5) in Illinois State history.
Bachelor/Bachelorette achievements: First Bachelor to leap over a fence in the name of love.

Underwood's athleticism was put on full display while on the show (see GIF below) but it was at Illinois State, his father's alma mater, where it shined. As a defensive end, he played in 45 games and recorded 215 tackles. He ended his career third in career tackles for loss (44) and fourth in career sacks (21.5). A two-time Buck Buchanan Award finalist, Underwood was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers. Stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, Chargers and the Oakland Raiders followed.

"Bachelor" history was never the same after Colton Underwood leapt over a fence for "winner" Cassie Rudolph. Since then, his relationship with Rudolph has ended.

Sean Lowe — Kansas State football (2002-06)

Football achievements (2002-06): Played in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game.
Bachelor achievements: Married Season 17 "Bachelor" "winner" Catherine Giudici; they have three children together.

Sean Lowe, one of the most beloved Bachelors, began his journey on the eighth season of "The Bachelorette." After being sent home by Emily Maynard, the franchise named him the new Bachelor. He fell in love with future wife Catherine Giudici on the show and a nationally broadcast wedding followed — a quintessential love story.

Through a more conventional lens, Lowe's dream of entering the NFL ended during his sophomore year at Kansas State. In an interview with ESPN, Lowe labels his first game in 2004 as the breaking point. "I had a terrible game. It was topsy-turvy from there," but he remains grateful for his time on the team. He credits former Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder for his work ethic, saying "playing for Coach Snyder helped me tremendously with self-discipline, leadership and understanding the meaning of hard work."

Ryan Sutter — Colorado football (1993-97)

Ryan Sutter proposes to Bachelorette Trista. Ryan Sutter proposes to Season 1 Bachelorette Trista.

Football achievements (1993-97): Scored 53 points on Colorado's special teams in 1996, a school record.
Bachelor achievements: "Won" the first "Bachelorette" season; remains married to Bachelorette Trista Sutter.

Ryan and Trista Sutter made TV weddings cool. They were the franchise's first success story and first to be married on national television. So how did Ryan Sutter find his way onto "The Bachelorette?" Let's begin with college. Colorado football coach Bill McCartney asked Sutter to join the team as a walk-on in 1993. After earning a scholarship in 1996, Sutter scored 53 points on special teams, a school record. He earned the starting free safety position in 1997, his senior year, and led the team in tackles (170), a school record for defensive backs.

The Baltimore Ravens drafted Sutter in the fifth round during the 1998 NFL draft. The Carolina Panthers picked him up after the Ravens cut him. He suffered a serious shoulder injury during the first game of the year and never played again.

Mandy Clemens — Santa Clara women's soccer (1996-2000)

Santa Clara Athletics Mandy Clemens of the Bachelor and Santa Clara women's soccer team. Bachelor contestant Mandy Clemens was a two-time First-Team All-American and NCAA Player of the Year award winner at Santa Clara.

Soccer achievements (1996-2000): Two-time First-Team All-American (1998-99); Hermann Trophy winner (1999); College Cup All-Tournament team 1996-97; WCC Player of the Year 1997-99.
Bachelor achievements: Rejected by fellow former NCAA student-athlete Jesse Palmer.

Mandy Clemens' time on "The Bachelor" Season 5 was short lived after Jesse Palmer axed her during the second episode. Yet, in a sea of male athletes, Mandy Clemens remains the only female "Bachelor" contestant who played an NCAA sport. She may also be the only former "Bachelor" franchise contestant who's more famous for her professional athletic achievements than her short "Bachelor" stint.

In the early 2000s, she played for the U.S. National Team and is one of the founding members of the Women's United Soccer Association, the first women's professional soccer league in the United States.

Clemens' college soccer career at Santa Clara is even more impressive:

  • 2x First-Team All-American
  • 3x WCC Player of the Year
  • 1999 Hermann Trophy Winner
  • 1999 NCAA Division I Player of the Year
  • School retired her No. 5 jersey in 2013

Other Santa Clara achievements include: Most career goals (67), assists (65) and points (199) in school history; won Santa Clara's most outstanding offensive player in 1998; member of the 25 goals, 25 assists club (67, 65), equating to 199 points; owns the second quickest goal (0:16) in school history; tied for second in most career postseason goals (8); tied for third in most career postseason assists (7); tied for second in total postseason points (25).

Robby Hayes — Florida State swimming (2007-11)

Swimming achievements (2007-11): All-American honorable mention in 2009; All-ACC team in 2011.
Bachelorette achievements: Runner-up on Jojo Fletcher's season.

Mr. Robby Hayes nearly had it all — suave personality, sparkling smile, college athletics experience — but Fletcher gave her final rose to another handsome, charming former NCAA athlete, Jordan Rodgers.

His success at Florida State includes breaking the school record in 200 individual medley in 2008, after swimming a collegiate best in the fly (48.49).

Hayes' allegiance to the "Bachelor" franchise spread to the spinoff show "Bachelor in Paradise," where he tried to cultivate a trusting relationship with former "Bachelor" contestant Amanda Stanton. Their fling soon disintegrated after infidelity rumors churned through the internet.

Hayes still openly roots for Florida State and even participated in the Homecoming Parade in 2016.

NCAA student-athletes who've been on 'The Bachelor' or 'Bachelorette'

Athlete School Sport Series (season)
Adam Gottschalk Arizona Football Bachelorette (13)
Bachelor in Paradise (4)
Andy Leroy Colorado
Alpine Coach at Denver
Skiing Bachelorette (3)
Bob Guiney Michigan State Football Bachelorette (1)
Bachelor (4)
Chase Vergason South Carolina Baseball Bachelorette (14)
Clay Harbor Missouri State Football Bachelorette (14)
Bachelor in Paradise (6)
Colton Underwood Illinois State Football Bachelorette (14)
Bachelor in Paradise (5)
Bachelor (23)
Connor Obrochta Tampa University Baseball Bachelorette (14)
Bachelor in Paradise (5)
Dale Moss South Dakota State Football, Basketball Bachelorette (16)
Damon Bowers San Jose State Football Bachelorette (2)
Daron Blaylock Kentucky Football Bachelorette (15)
Graham Bunn App State Basketball Bachelorette (4)
Bachelor Pad (2)
Bachelor in Paradise (1)
Jason Foster Rhode Island Football Bachelorette (16)
Jeff Popovich Miami (FL) Football Bachelorette (1)
Jesse Palmer Florida Football Bachelor (5)
Jordan Rodgers Butte College
Football Bachelorette (12)
Josh Cox Liberty Track and field Bachelorette (3)
Josh Murray Georgia Baseball, Football Bachelorette (10)
Bachelor in Paradise (3)
Juan Pablo Galavis Roberts Wesleyan Soccer Bachelorette (9)
Bachelor (18)
Justin Sherrod Rollins College Baseball Bachelorette (2)
Kenny Layne (King) Florida State
South Florida
Football Bachelorette (13)
Mandy Clemens Santa Clara Women's Soccer Bachelor (5)
Matt Hickl Texas A&M-Kingsville Track and field Bachelorette (2)
Matt James Wake Forest Football Bachelor (25)
Michelle Young Bradley Women's Basketball Bachelor (25)
Mike Black Albany Basketball Bachelorette (13)
Nick Sutter Illinois-Chicago
Soccer Bachelorette (10)
Robby Hayes Florida State Swimming and Diving Bachelorette (12)
Bachelor in Paradise (5)
Ryan Bowers Presbyterian Football Bachelorette (8)
Ryan Hoag Wake Forest
Gustavus Adolphus
DIII football, T&F
Bachelorette (4)
Bachelor Pad (3)
Ryan Sutter Colorado Football Bachelorette (1)
Sean Lowe TAMU
Kansas State
Football Bachelorette (8)
Bachelor (17)
Tyler Cameron Wake Forest
Florida Atlantic
Football Bachelorette (15)
Uzoma "Easy" Nwachukwu TAMU Football Bachelorette (16)
Zac Clark York College Baseball Bachelorette (16)

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