The newest exhibition at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center in Worthington is designed to show off athletes' skills beyond their physical prowess.

"Varsity Arts: The Creative Side of Athletes from the Ohio State University" brings the work of seven former Ohio State University athletes to the MAC to showcase a variety of artistic mediums.

Participants include Rick Borg, a golfer and painter; Bruce Hanners, a wrestler and sculptor; Bruce Kerns, a member of the rifle team and wood-turner; Percy King, a football player and woodworker; Rod and Raul Sanchez, tennis players and digital animators; and Jeffrey Sparr, a tennis player and painter.

Jon Cook, executive director of the MAC, said he sees "an intriguing correlation" between athletics and art and he immediately was interested in the exhibition when he heard it was a possibility.

"Especially in the fall, people think of football as sort of the ultimate entertainment in Columbus," he said. "One of the things I've always been intrigued by is the connection between sports and art or athletics and creativity. I think this starts to touch on that idea that those things do cross over."

King is an example of that connection and the unique routes artists take to arrive at their craft.

A defensive back at Ohio State, King, 41, went into medical sales after graduation. He said he never loved the job and stopped in 2015 to assess what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, King, a Columbus resident, said he had become a woodworker, building furniture and other household items in his spare time.

One day, he was attempting to inlay an image of Bob Marley into an armoire.

Halfway through, he realized he "was doing it all wrong, but liked what (he) was creating.'"

"I'm the kind of guy that if I make a wrong turn, I'm going to keep following the road just to see where it goes," he said.

By the time he was finished, he had discovered his style – layered wood portraits that go from darkness to light as they rise out of the frame.

"I was like, 'Oh, this is a piece of art,' " he said with a laugh.

That realization is one that Cook said is not unique to King. He said he has found many artistically talented athletes don't realize how good their work is.

"He didn't think of himself as an artist until someone said, 'Hey, you are. This is good work,' " Cook said.

Now, King's work is among the most striking in the gallery. And although his work speaks for itself, he said, people often still are surprised when they hear he's a former Ohio State football player.

He said he's proud to be a part of an athlete-oriented exhibition, because even he thought "when guys were done (with sports) they just moved on with their careers."

"Athletes are artists, too, and we're creative," he said. "It's the physical discipline of your craft that makes you a great artist, and as an athlete you're used to striving for perfection."

"Varsity Arts" is on display in the MAC's main gallery through Oct. 14.

Admission is free.

For more information on the McConnell Arts Center, 777 Evening St., go to mcconnellarts.org.

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