Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The iconic #3 car returned to NASCAR last week driven by up and coming racer Austin Dillon, but it seems as if Jr.’s legendary father was looking out from above as the young Earnhardt took home his second Daytona 500 win of his career. After a 6-hour rain delay, Jr. and teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson all finished in the top 5 to open the 2014 season.
Jason Collins: After SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam’s recent admission to the public about his sexuality, more boundaries have been broken as the Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract. Jason becomes the first openly gay player to play in any of the four major U.S. professional sports after Sunday’s game and played 11 minutes. Teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce helped lead the team to a 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sage Kotsenburg: Sipping from his cup till it runneth over, Holy Crail. This 20 year old snowboard phenom patented the 3-4 spin and grab trick called the Holy Crail which helped him capture the first Gold Medal awarded at the Winter Olympics in Sochi this year. The U.S. performed a sweep of snowboard slopestyle in its inaugural year as an Olympic event when Jamie Anderson also won Gold for the women’s team. With a disappointing performance from Shaun White in the halfpipe event, Sage instantly has become one of the U.S.’s most popular snowboarders.
Kaitlyn Farrington: Winning an Olympic Gold Medal at 18 is probably surreal enough, but couple that with a New York City media tour that includes interviews with Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman and you’ve got yourself a dream world. That’s the world Kaitlyn is living in after an Olympic Gold in snowboard halfpipe that saw her beat out her idols and women’s snowboard icons Kelly Clark who took Bronze and Hannah Teter just off the podium in 4th. Kaitlyn’s win brought the U.S. snowboard team medal count to 5 after Alex Diebold clinched Bronze in the snowboard cross final.
Derek Jeter: It’s hard to imagine a Yankees team without their fearless captain providing fancy glove work at shortstop and always seeming to grind out the clutch hit to win ball games. Derek has officially announced 2014 will be his last year as an MLB player following suit with fellow Yankee greats Mariano Rivera and skipper Joe Torre who recently retired from the game. He leaves a legacy as one of the most consistent players baseball has ever seen and a 5-time World Series champion.
Russell Wilson: With his courageous spirit and commitment to impacting lives off the field, Russell makes it pretty hard for NFL fans and others to cheer against him. At just 5’11, Russell follows in the footsteps of small quarterbacks such as Drew Brees and Doug Flutie who have answered the naysayers to prove their medal in the NFL. After a 15-1 home record in 2 seasons and the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory, I’d say Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin and the gang are plenty happy with the production of their superstar quarterback.
Richard Sherman: Some weren’t familiar with Richard and his impressive football skills before the now infamous post game interview with Erin Andrews after breaking up a pass that sealed the NFC Championship victory for the Seahawks. His passion was mistaken as taunting and yet the incident allowed for a closer look into Richard’s life and his many off field philanthropic endeavors he supports all on an NFL base salary. He recently surprised a few of his supporters on Queen Latifah’s show including the young 6 year-old whose handwritten letter of support was reposted by Richard on Twitter.
Danica Patrick: In the days leading up to the Daytona 500 many a mention was made of Richard Petty’s recent comments about Danica’s inability to win the big race. She was caught up in a major wreck on lap 145 that took out 9 drivers including Kasey Kahne and pole-sitter Austin Dillon. Yet even the sports most popular drivers like back-flipping Carl Edwards are getting left in the social media dust as Danica recently became the first NASCAR driver to reach a million followers on Twitter.
Johnny Manziel: Johnny Football recently ran the fastest 40 yard dash in the first group of quarterbacks to run at the NFL combine. At his stature Johnny’s no Peyton Manning, but the recent success of fellow sub 6-foot Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson proves anyone can succeed at the position. Johnny’s hometown Houston Texans have the first pick in this year’s draft and rumors have swirled they could take the young prospect.
David Beckham: The international soccer icon is invading the U.S. and he’s doing it in part in his underwear in his newest TV commercial for H&M. He is also making major moves in the business world when it was recently announced he is starting a MLS team in Miami. Look out Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, looks like a new star is taking over Miami this year.