The National Football League began in 1920- this year they are celebrating their 100th Anniversary season. One of the big events they are doing in celebration is the NFL 100- the 100 Greatest Players in NFL history. That is quite a task to narrow it down to 100 players. Starting last Friday night on the NFL Network they are revealing the list by position- the first edition was running backs- they had a finalist list of 24 to pick from and took 12 running backs for their NFL 100.
I have been a sports fan since I was a Little Hans- and from a young age was always as interested in the history of the sports I followed [mainly Major League Baseball and the NFL -but also College Football- the NBA and NHL to some degree} When I heard the NFL was doing this- loving lists also I worked on who I would select for the NFL 100. Its probably safe to assume that no one has seen every great player in NFL history- I began watching in the late 60’s- so I have witnessed a little more than half the leagues history but I have studied up on the leagues history- I will first list the 24 finalist and the 12 they selected from that group and then my selections. If you are an NFL fan and get the NFL Network I would suggest watching these programs. Hosted by Rich Eisen- with Chris Collingsworth and the GOAT Bill Belichick- plus some appearances from some of the players on the list- it is a great watch- especially for Bill Belichick’s contributions. I would suggest when he retires from coaching- which is hopefully a while off- that someone hire him to do a series on NFL history- the man knows his football history.
The 24 Finalists at Running Back- the 12 who were not selected were all outstanding backs and worthy of consideration- Marcus Allen, Jerome Bettis, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, Red Grange, Franco Harris, Hugh McElhenny, Bronko Nagurski, Adrian Peterson, Jim Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Thurman Thomas.
The 12 who were selected– I agree with 10 of the 12- I would drop Dutch Clark and as much a fan of his as I am – the most exciting running back to watch- Gale Sayers- too short of a career- and add- Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson- I can’t believe those two didn’t make the list. The Greatest Running Back ever? Jim Brown!
Jim Brown (1957-1965)
1971 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… 1964 NFL Champion… Three-time NFL MVP… Eight-time NFL rushing champion… Eight-time All-NFL… Nine-time Pro Bowler… Career marks: 12,312 rush yards, 262 receptions, 15,459 combined scrimmage yards, 756 points scored… 1957 Rookie of the Year… Selected No. 6 overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1957 NFL Draft… 1956 All-American at Syracuse University… Born February 17, 1936, in St. Simons, GA.
Bill Belichick: Jim, I’ve admired you for my entire life. When I was head coach of the Cleveland Browns, it was such a blessing to get to know you. … You were certainly the greatest player. You could’ve played anything and did. There’s nobody other than you that should be the first person in this group. … I’d put him in there right now on third-and-1.
Cris Collinsworth: If this show was called the NFL 1, we might have the same guest. … It looks like a dad playing in the backyard with his kids and the kids are wrapped around his legs and you’re sort of dragging them and you don’t want to hurt the poor little kids. That’s what it looked like, like a different sort of being was playing football with some kids out there on the field. … It didn’t matter who he was playing against, he would’ve been the best in the history of the game.
Earl Campbell (1978-1985)
1991 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Three-time consecutive Player of the Year, NFL rushing champion, All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection… Career-high 1,934 rush yards, including four games with 200 rush yards… Career stats: 9,407 rush yards, 74 rush TD, 121 receptions, 806 receiving yards… Selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Oilers in the 1978 NFL Draft… 1977 Heisman Trophy winner… Two-time All-American at the University of Texas-Austin… Born March 29, 1955, in Tyler, TX.
Belichick: You had to get him before he got going, because once he got going, he was like a truck … and fast. This guy was one of the toughest football players who ever played.
Earl “Dutch” Clark (1931-1932; 1934-1938)
1963 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… 1935 NFL Champion… Three-time NFL scoring champion… Named All-NFL in six of seven seasons… Scored 354 points on 42 TDs, 72 PATs, 10 FGs… NFL’s last dropkicking specialist… Player-coach final two seasons… Born October 11, 1906 in Fowler, CO.
Belichick: Dutch was one of the great two-way players and one of the most versatile players to ever play the game. … He was a very elusive runner and could also run with power. A hard guy to tackle.
Eric Dickerson (1983-1993)
1999 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Five-time All-Pro… Six-time Pro Bowlers… Led league in rushing three times with Rams, once with Colts… Rushed for NFL-record 2,105 yards in 1984… Gained 1,800+ rush yards in three of his first four season… Retired as the 2nd all-time leading rusher with 13,259 yards on 2,996 carries… Selected No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1983 NFL Draft… Born September 2, 1960, in Sealy, TX.
Emmitt Smith: I could never run as pretty as Eric, I could never fall as gracefully as Eric but I loved watching him run.
Lenny Moore (1956-1967)
1975 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Two-time NFL Champion… Seven-time Pro Bowler… five-time All-Pro… Named NFL Player of the Year and Comeback Player of Year in 1964… Amassed 12,451 scrimmage yards, 5,174 rush yards, 363 receptions for 6,039 yards… Scored 113 TDs, 678 points… Scored touchdowns in record 18 straight games from 1963-1965… 1956 Rookie of the Year… Selected No. 9 overall by the Baltimore Colts in the 1956 NFL Draft… Born November 25, 1933, in Reading, PA.
Belichick: The versatility of this player is just remarkable. He’s the only player in the NFL in the 40-40 club: 48 touchdowns receiving, 63 touchdowns rushing. … He could’ve played in any era at either spot (RB or WR). … Nobody catches this guy. I wouldn’t call him a power runner but he runs with good power. … I think he’s a little bit underrated.
Marion Motley (1946-1953; 1955)
1968 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Four-time AAFC Champion… NFL Champion… Two-time All-Pro… 1951 Pro Bowl selection… 1950 All-NFL selection… All-time AAFC rushing champion… 1950 NFL rushing champion… Career record: 828 carries, 4,720 rush yards… Caught 85 passes and scored 234 points in nine seasons… Also played linebacker early in career… Born June 5, 1920, in Leesburg, GA.
Collinsworth: The tape is so stunning. It looked like somebody messed up and put a guard in the backfield. … There were people finding a reason not to go tackle this big guy.
Belichick: Motley was a very unselfish player. He started as atwo-way player. Defensively, he played linebacker. Offensively, he was a blocker as much as he was a runner.
Walter Payton (1975-1987)
1993 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Super Bowl XX Champion… 1977 NFL MVP… Nine-time Pro Bowler… Seven-time All-Pro… Retired as all-time leader in rushing, combined scrimmage yards (including kick/punt returns)… Career stats: 16,726 rush yards, 110 rush TDs; 492 receptions for 4,538 yards; 21,803 combined scrimmage yards; 125 touchdowns… Held single-game rushing record of 275 yards… Had 77 games over 100 rush yards… Selected No. 4 overall by the Chicago Bears in the 1975 NFL Draft… Born July 25, 1954, in Columbia, Mississippi.
Jim Brown: The first time I saw him on television, I almost jumped out of my seat because I saw the greatness in his play. … I always said no one had a bigger heart than Walter.
Smith: Work ethic was paramount for him. He was definitely driven. he wanted to work out everybody and anybody. … His heart was as big as the Grand Canyon.
Barry Sanders: For a lot of my great games against the Bears, you can blame Walter Payton because it was such great motivation for me.
Barry Sanders (1989-1998)
2004 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… 1997 NFL MVP… 10-time Pro Bowler… Six-time All-Pro… Career rushing record: 15,269 yards, 99 rush TDs… First player to rush for 1,000 yards his first 10 seasons… Led NFL in rushing four times… Gained 2,053 yards, including record 14 straight 100-yard games in 1997… First or second-team All-NFL each of his 10 seasons… Selected No. 3 overall by the Detroit Lions in the 1989 NFL Draft… Born July 16, 1968, in Wichita, KS.
Belichick: When Barry Sanders gets the ball, everyone’s at the point of the attack … because he could hit every spot on the field. I don’t care where he started. That didn’t mean anything either. When he got there, you better be ready to tackle.
Collinsworth: Out of my entire experience, the one guy who led the league in “Oooooo”, that sound, right? It just comes out of you. I don’t know what it is. When you’re in an NFL room, and somebody does something that’s just off the charts, you start hearing guys go, “Oooooo.” It just comes. Barry Sanders led the league in that sound.
Smith: If this guy had not retired, he probably would’ve been the first 20,000-yard running back in the National Football League.
Gale Sayers (1965-1971)
1977 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Four-time Pro Bowler… Three-time Pro Bowl Player of the Game… Five-time All-NFL… Named All-Time NFL Halfback in 1969… Career totals: 9,435 combined scrimmage yards, 4,956 rush yards, 336 points… Led NFL rushers in 1966 and 1969… NFL lifetime leader in kickoff return yard average (30.6)… Scored rookie record 22 TDs, 132 points in 1965… In 1965, was selected No. 4 overall by the Chicago Bears in the NFL Draft and No. 5 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL Draft… Born May 30, 1943, in Wichita, KS.
Collinsworth: Out of all the running backs on the pretty list, it may well be Gale Sayers that struck you first.
Sanders: To me, he seems like one of those guys that we often say is before his time, the kind of athlete he was, the cuts he made. … It’s almost like ballet because it’s so graceful the way it catches your eye.
O.J. Simpson (1969-1979)
1985 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Six-time Pro Bowler… 1973 Pro Bowl Player of the Game… Five-time unanimous All-Pro from 1972-1976, topping 1,000 rush yards… Won four NFL rushing titles… Career record: 11,236 rush yards, 203 receptions, 990 kickoff return yards, 14,368 combined scrimmage yards… Career highlighted by 2,003 rush yards in 1973… Selected No. 1 overall in the 1969 AFL-NFL Common Draft… 1968 Heisman Trophy winner… Born July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, CA.
Collinsworth: He was America’s hero. He was on all the commercials, he was the guy that was front-and-center for the National Football League, but this was a pretty stunning fall from grace. But I’m going to talk just about football for a minute. His 2,000 yards in a 14-game season is off the charts, and in my mind there was really only one player that you could compare to. Someone that size with that amount of wiggle, with those moves and that speed, and it’s Jim Brown.
Emmitt Smith (1990-2004)
2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Three-time Super Bowl Champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)… 1993 NFL and Super Bowl XXVIII MVP… Won NFL rushing crowns in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995… Led NFL in rush TDs 3 times… Named first-team All-Pro 1992-1995… 11 straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons… Became NFL’s all-time rushing leader in 2002… Career totals: 18,355 rush yards and 164 rush TDs; also had 515 receptions… Selected No. 17 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990 NFL Draft… Born May 15, 1969, in Pensacola, FL.
Belichick: I’m just absolutely flabbergasted at the way you consistently can run the ball for positive yards. I’ve never seen so many people take so many two-yard gains and turn them into eight-yard plays. … I’m completely enamored by the way you can set a block and run the football on such a consistent basis.
Brown: This guy’s a warrior, man. That attitude, that mental attitude that you must have to be really great, he was the epitome of that. … He’s always got a move, some kind of a move to continue the play.
Steve Van Buren (1944-1951)
1965 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Two-time NFL Champion… All-NFL six straight seasons… Won NFL rushing title four times… Surpassed 1,000 yards in rushing twice… Scored only TD in 7-0 NFL Championship game in 1948… Career mark: 5,860 rush yards, 464 points scored… 1944 punt return, 1945 kickoff return champion… Rushed for then-record 196 yards in 1949 finale… Selected No. 5 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1944 NFL Draft… Born December 28, 1920, in La Ceiba, Honduras.
Belichick: Steve Van Buren was another versatile player. … This guy was hard to tackle. He ran with a lot of power. These outside plays, he’d start them outside but once there was some daylight he could turn up. … Good straight-ahead inside runner. Ran with good pad level. He was a mudder. … As soon as there’s room to turn up, he’d turn up. I don’t think you’d want to play against Steve Van Buren.
Bill Belichick (1991-1995; 2000-current)
Six-time Super Bowl Champion… Won more Super Bowls than anyone in NFL history, also appearing in more Super Bowls (9) than any head coach… Three-time NFL Coach of the Year (2003, 2007, 2010)… Overall record of 292-134-0, including playoffs (entering 2019 season)… 31 wins in postseason, most in NFL history… Ranks 3rd all-time in coaching wins… Has posted winning seasons in every year since 2001… Born April 16, 1952, in Nashville, TN.
Belichick: It’s an incredible honor. It’s incredibly flattering. … We know this is the ultimate team sport, and I’ve had the great fortune to coach so many great players and have so many great coaches and scouts, it’s really an honor to all the people that I’ve worked with and been able to coach. … I really believe there is a way to win and you just have to figure it out. … Fundamentally, it really comes back to, you can go back to a few 100 years B.C., Sun Tzu, The Art of War. Attack weaknesses, utilize strengths and figure out what the strengths are on your team. There are some things you have to protect, find the weaknesses of your opponent and attack. You can’t win a war by digging a hole. You have to attack.
Paul Brown (1946-1962; 1968-1975)
1967 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Organized Cleveland Browns in AAFC in 1946… Built Cleveland dynasty with 222-112-9 record (including playoffs), four AAFC titles, three NFL crowns, only one losing season in 17 years… Exceptionally successful coach at all levels of football. A revolutionary innovator with many coaching “firsts” to his credit… Born September 7, 1908 in Norwalk, OH.
Belichick: He’s the greatest coach in the history of professional football, clear and simple. Everything that we do today, everything that I do today, Paul Brown did. It all started with Paul Brown. He took football from being a sport to being a profession.