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Actor JR Lemon went from playing football at Stanford with a stint on the Oakland Raiders to acting. It may not be the most common preparation for playing a male nurse, but he’ll take it.

The Stanford graduate is part of the ensemble cast of the new NBC medical show The Night Shift, which takes place at the fictional San Antonio Memorial on the overnight shift.

“That was about 25 pounds ago, but I guess I’m still bigger than average,” Lemon, an Atlanta native, told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “I played for the Stanford Cardinals and then I played for the Raiders for about five minutes. I had a jersey and a locker. It was either take a left or go into the business world. When I got cut from the Raiders, I went to Los Angeles and started to train to get back into the league. And while I was down here, I fell into commercials and doing print and that just sort of snowballed into me going to acting school. And the rest is history, really.”

Lemon’s big break came in A Madea Christmas where he played Oliver in the seventh film in Tyler Perry’s Madea franchise. Going home to Atlanta was one big plus of making the movie, as well a it putting him on casting director’s radar.

Although it can be hard for an unknown Black actor to get looks, getting a network TV show with only three previous credits is a pretty good start.

But the long hours of TV may pose a bigger problem staying in shape for the self-described Gummi Bears addict.

“I blame my dad,” Lemon says. “When I was young, we bonded over Gummi Bears. Just that fresh pack and that smell when you would open them and that smell would hit you in the face. C’mon now…you try to start off with one because you want to conserve, then you start losing control and the next thing you know, you’ve got a handful.”

The Night Shift debuts tonight at 10 p.m.


Football Player Turned Actor JR Lemon Works ‘The Night Shift’  was originally published on