Pro Athletes Who Struggled With Weight As Kids: Tom Brady, Pete Alonso

Tom Brady ate donuts, hot dogs, and nachos every day as a kid.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Tom Brady walks off the field during the regular season game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady

Getty/Cliff Welch

These days, Tom Brady is known as one of the fittest and most health-conscious athletes in all of the pro sports. 

The 44-year-old quarterback is on pace to lead the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns in his 22nd NFL season this year, and his health and wellness program TB12 may be one reason why he’s continued to play at such a high level. 

But Brady’s childhood was a different story.

Speaking on the Armchair Expert podcast, Brady said he regularly ate bacon cheeseburgers and root beer floats as a kid.

For a young Brady, a typical day started with “a big muffin with butter” and donuts for breakfast. For lunch, he’d have a hot dog and clam chowder with a bread bowl, and then he’d have “nachos with tub o’ cheese” after school. He struggled with his weight and body image as a result, he told Armchair Expert.


Jerome Bettis embraced his weight to become one of the biggest running backs in NFL history.

Jerome Bettis

George Gojkovich/Getty Images

NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis was nicknamed “The Bus” because of his larger frame, which allowed him to run with more power and strength than speed. 

But he said his size didn’t work to his advantage as a child. Bettis said that he had the nickname “fat kid” earlier in life because of his size, according to The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Bettis said that while he never tried to

lose weight

, he did work to build muscle and lose fat throughout his football career, according to The Washington Post. He established himself as a unique running back talent en route to his Hall of Fame induction in 2015. 

Pete Alonso said he was bullied for being overweight, but used it as motivation to get in shape and become an MLB All-Star.

Pete Alonso celebrates winning the 2021 Home Run Derby.

Pete Alonso.

David Zalubowski/AP Images

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso broke the record for most home runs hit by a rookie in 2019, which he said capped off a lifelong “prove them wrong” story. 

Alonso told ESPN he was constantly bullied for his weight as a child. He said he was called nicknames like “fatso,” “fatty,” and “fat boy,” but he used those insults as motivation.  

Alonso went on to play college baseball for The University of Florida, make it to the major leagues, and win National League Rookie of The Year in 2019.

This past season he became the second-fastest player in MLB history to hit 100 home runs, only second to Ryan Howard. 

Caleb Swanigan weighed over 400 pounds in eighth grade, but he says a basketball coach helped change his body and life.

Caleb Swanigan

Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Portland Trailblazers forward Caleb Swanigan said he weighed over 400 lbs when he was in eighth grade, according to ESPN

Swanigan, 24, told ESPN that he didn’t have access to healthy foods while growing up, so he and his siblings regularly ate sugary cereal, ice cream, and pizza. Because his family couldn’t afford to feed him regularly, he said he tended to overeat whenever he had food in front of him.

“It’s a lot more expensive to eat healthy than it is to eat unhealthy,” Swanigan told ESPN.

Then he was adopted at age 13 by Roosevelt Barnes, a youth basketball coach and former NFL linebacker. Barnes helped Swanigan channel his love for basketball into regular exercise and healthy eating habits.

Swanigan was so committed that he eventually earned a scholarship to play at Purdue University and was later drafted by the Trailblazers in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft. 

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