By Michael Terrill @MichaelTerrill on August 12, 2014
Rory McIlroy has set the golf world on fire in 2014 due to his various accomplishments, which includes winning The Open Championship and the PGA Championship. There’s no question the “McIlroy Era” has begun, as he’s certainly the face of golf going forward. Like McIlroy, there are plenty of other young athletes who are making a name for themselves. Here’s a look at the top 15 rising stars in professional sports.
Bryce Harper is struggling this season due to injuries, but the Washington Nationals outfielder has certainly made a name for himself in nearly three seasons in the big leagues. In his first two years, he recorded a combined 42 home runs, 117 RBI, 50 doubles, 12 triples and 29 stolen bases. At only 21 years old, there’s certainly a bright future ahead for Harper.
At just 18 years old, center Nathan Mackinnon became the youngest player ever to play for the Colorado Avalanche. His NHL debut last season is one of the best in recent memory as his 63 points ranked 34th in the league. He also became the third player in NHL history to record seven points in his first two playoff games. Mackinnon became the youngest player ever to be awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year), rightfully so.
Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond stepped up his game greatly last season. In his second year in the NBA, he posted 13.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while averaging 32.3 minutes per contest. Drummond clearly has what it takes to be one of the best centers in the league. This is especially true because of his outstanding talent on offense and defense.
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy had a season to remember in 2013. With Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers missing half of the season due to injury, Lacy stepped up and kept the team in playoff contention by rushing for 1,178 yards. With Rodgers healthy and ready for action, the one-two punch he will combine with Lacy could make the Packers the most dangerous team in the NFL in 2014. Lacy is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving has the potential to become the best point guard in the NBA. In fact, that theory could become a reality within two years with the help of LeBron James and Kevin Love. The former Rookie of the Year is by far and away the top rising star in the NBA. The addition of James and Love next season will make his stock increase tenfold.
If it weren’t for McIlroy this season, Rickie Fowler would be the toast of the town. The 25-year-old has set career-high finishes in all four majors, including second in the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, third in the PGA Championship and fifth at The Masters. In his 22 events in 2014, he has made the cut 15 times, which includes a top-10 finish seven times. There’s no question Fowler’s day is coming as he’s a rising star in the golf world.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene in his rookie season by batting .319 with 19 home runs. He has followed that up nicely this year with a .313 batting average, 13 homers, 55 RBI and 31 doubles in 409 at-bats. It was known that the 2014 All-Star had potential to be great, but no one could have predicted he would be this good so early in his career. Puig’s cannon for an arm is also very entertaining to watch.
Tight end Julius Thomas is a big reason why the Denver Broncos were so successful last season. Anytime the team’s talented wide receivers were covered, quarterback Peyton Manning could fall back on Thomas to deliver a big gain. His rookie season was a dud, but Thomas busted out of the seams in his second year in the league. The 26-year-old hauled in 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.
The very gifted Andrew Luck has quickly made a name for himself in the NFL. Taking over for a football legend is never easy, but Luck has made the transition easy due to the outstanding talent under center. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons, but that’s only the beginning of his stardom. His performance in the playoffs against the Chiefs earlier this year was unbelievable. Clearly, Luck has what it takes to be great.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is the very definition of a fierce defensive stud. In his rookie season, the 23-year-old recorded a league-high 164 combined tackles. In his second year in the league in 2013, he posted 156 combined tackles, four interceptions and two sacks. Those numbers were good enough for him to be awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Kuechly is the type of player every team wishes they had on defense.
No player rushed for more yards last season than Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy did. His great performance is why he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Pro. McCoy has set six Eagles records, including single-game rushing yards (217). At 26 years old, McCoy is quickly becoming one of the most feared running backs in the league, which makes Philadelphia favorites in the NFC East in 2014.
Baseball stud Mike Trout has been dominating in the majors for the past three seasons. The 23-year-old has been in contention for American League MVP the past two seasons, and if it weren’t for Miguel Cabrera, he would have won the award. Trout’s numbers on offense are out of this world, but what most people may not fully realize is that he’s a beast on defense in the outfield as well.
Anyone who followed football last season had to know Richard Sherman would find his way on this list. Sherman is a rare type of player in which he actually can back up his on-the-field trash talk with his stellar play. The Seattle Seahawks cornerback has recorded a total of 16 interceptions and 40 passes defended in his last two seasons. More importantly, his performance directly resulted in the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has proven that he rightfully deserved to start under center as a rookie in 2012. In two short years, he has led the team to their first Super Bowl in franchise history, been named to the Pro Bowl twice and he has won the hearts of many through his generous work in the community. A case could be made that he has already risen to the top, but it has to be assumed that he’s going to accomplish plenty more.
McIlroy has become only the fourth golfer in the last century to win four majors prior to his 26th birthday. In 2014, he has made the cut at all 13 events he attended on the PGA Tour, including three straight victories to finish the season. As long as McIlroy keeps his head on straight, the sky is the limit, which has to be music to the ears of the golf world.
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