Professional American football has been played for a hundred years. The NFL was formed on August 20th, 1920, and has continued to grow and achieve impressive success.
In its history, there have been poor players, mediocre players, and the champions: the best-of-the-best. If you are wondering who the best NFL football players of all time are, here are our choices.
Barry Sanders was a former running back for the Detroit Lions. He played college football for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and attained amazing results: he rushed for 2,850 yards and made 42 touchdowns in the span of twelve games.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his career, he ran 15,262 rushing yards, and was the first player to rush for over 1,000 yards in his first 10 seasons. He is regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
Jerry Rice, a former wide receiver, played in the NFL for 20 long seasons. He spent much of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, but had brief stints with the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, and Denver Broncos. He was known for his impressive ability to catch anything.
He is a three-time Super Bowl champion, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He leads the NFL in all-purpose touchdowns, receiving yards, total receptions, all-purpose yards, and more. In all, he holds 36 total NFL records.
Jim Brown is not just a well-known running back, but also a sports analyst and actor. In primary school and college, he was a successful multi-sport athlete. He began his professional career in 1957 with the Cleveland Browns.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a proud NFL champion. He is a four-time MVP. He has the 10th most touchdowns in the NFL, the fifth most rushing touchdowns, and leads the NFL in average rushing yards per game.
Joe Greene is a former defensive tackler for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is better known as ‘Mean Greene,’ a nickname that references the North Texas athletics team.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was a four-time Super Bowl champion, won NFL Defensive of the Year twice, in 1972 and 1974. He was also NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Joe Montana was a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and later, the Kansas City Chiefs. In his younger years, he was a competitive football and basketball player.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a four-time Super Bowl champion. Twice, the Associated Press named him the NFL Most Valuable Player. They also awarded him their NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. In 1990, Montana was named "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated.
Another one of the best NFL football players of all time is Johnny Unitas.
Johnny Unitas played for eighteen seasons as a quarterback. His career began in 1955 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he signed to the Baltimore Colts a year later.
During his first attempt to join a college football team, he was deemed too skinny. However, he persevered, and enjoyed an impressive career at the University of Louisville.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is a three-time NFL champion, and has the third-longest touchdown streak in NFL history.
Lawrence Taylor was a former linebacker for the New York Giants. Shortly after his career at the University of North Carolina, he was drafted as the Giants’ second pick.
He won several awards in his rookie season, including the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, which he went on to win two more times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a two-time champion of the Super Bowl.
His retirement was and continues to be controversial, but this does not erase his contributions to the sport.
Peyton Manning was, as many claim, born into the sport. His father, Archie Manning, and older brother, Eli Manning, are both former quarterbacks. Following in their footsteps, Peyton also became a quarterback. He began his career in 1998 with the Indianapolis Colts, and later transferred to the Denver Broncos.
He is a two-time Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl MVP, and a five-time NFL MVP. He holds the NFL records for most passing yards in a single season, the most passing yards in the NFL, and the third most passes.
Reggie White played the defensive end for fifteen seasons, for teams like the Memphis Showboats, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and Carolina Panthers. When he was twelve, he aspired to become a football player and a minister.
He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagle's Hall of Fame, was a Super Bowl champion, and earned the title of NFL Defensive Player of the Year not just once, but twice. He once held the record for the most passes defended in a single season by a defensive lineman.
Tom Brady is an active quarterback. He began his professional career in 2000 with the New England Patriots, and in 2020, he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He is a six-time Super Bowl Champion—and, at the age of 41, he was the oldest quarterback to have ever won the Super Bowl. Brady holds multiple Super Bowl records, including the most touchdown passes, the most passing yards, the most completed passes, the most passing attempts, and more.
Walter Payton played for twelve years as a running back. He began his career in 1975 with the Chicago Bears. He was an outstanding college football player, and later in his career, was praised for his skills as a rusher.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was a Super Bowl champion, was an NFL MVP, and once held records for career rushing yards, touchdowns, carries, all-purpose yards, and more.
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