Friday night the NFL Network selected 14 Defensive Lineman and 12 Linebackers to their NFL 100 team- 100 years of the NFL- 100 players. Narrowing it down to a dozen linebackers- a difficult task. 25 Linebackers made the finalist list- the 13 who didn’t make the cut- all outstanding players- Harry Carson, Bill George, Kevin Greene, Clarke Hinkle, Sam Huff, Luke Kuechly, Van Miller, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson, Mike Singletary, Derrick Thomas, Brian Urlacher and Dave Wilcox.
Two who I wish they had room for on the all-time team- Singletary and Thomas but it’s hard to argue with the dozen that they chose. I think as with the Defensive Lineman- the selection committee nailed it. Coming up on Friday they will announce the Defensive Backs and Special Team players who will be part of the NFL 100.
Chuck Bednarik (1949-1962)
1967 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Eight-time Pro Bowler… Six-time 1st-team All-Pro, including five straight seasons, 1950-1954… Renowned as NFL’s last “Iron Man” to play both offense and defense full-time… Known as rugged, durable, bulldozing blocker, bone-jarring tackler… Played 58 minutes, made game-saving tackle on final play of 1960 NFL title game versus the Green Bay Packers… Missed only three games in 14 seasons… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1950s… Selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 1 overall pick in 1949 NFL Draft… Two-time All-American at Penn, 1947-1948… Born May 1, 1925, in Bethlehem, PA.
Bobby Bell (1963-1974)
1983 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Played in the final six AFL All-Star Games and first three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls… Extremely versatile, determined, rugged, fast, smart… Played DE in first two seasons before converting to LB… Scored nine career touchdowns, six on INT returns, two on fumble returns and one on onside kickoff return… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1970s… Selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 7th round of the 1963 NFL Draft… Two-time All-American tackle at Minnesota, 1961-1962, and Outland Trophy winner as best interior lineman, 1962… Born June 17, 1940, in Shelby, NC.
Derrick Brooks (1995-2008)
2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Super Bowl XXXVII Champion… Named 2002 NFL Defensive Player of Year… Elected to 11 Pro Bowls, T-3rd-most among linebackers in NFL history… 1st-team All-Pro five times in seven-year span, 1999-2005… Never missed game in career, starting 221 of 224 games… Led Buccaneers to eight winning records in 14 seasons… Heart of NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense two times in 2002 and 2005… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 2000s… Selected by Buccaneers in the first round (28th overall pick) of the 1995 NFL Draft… Born April 18, 1973 in Pensacola, FL.
Lewis: Derrick is so calmly spoken but when he gets on the field, it’s a different mentality. Sideline to sideline was what I was in awe with him about. From a weakside backer, the way Derrick Brooks scans the field, some of his interceptions were on the opposite side of the hash, places that you don’t supposed to come from if you’re a weakside backer.
Jack Ham (1971-1982)
1988 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Four-time Super Bowl Champion… 1975 NFL Defensive of the Year… Elected to eight straight Pro Bowls, 1973-1980… Earned 1st-team All-Pro honors in six straight seasons, 1974-1979… Known for elite speed, intelligence, exceptional ability to diagnose plays… Gained reputation as big-play defender… Recorded 32 career INT, T-3rd-most among LB in NFL history… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1970s… Won starting left LB job as rookie… Selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2nd round (34th overall pick) in the 1971 NFL Draft… Born December 23, 1948, in Johnstown, PA.
Greene: Ham was just a special player. Very good athlete. Outstanding in pass coverage.
Ted Hendricks (1969-1983)
1990 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Played in four Super Bowls, winning three championships with the Raiders… Elected to eight Pro Bowls… Strong, fast, devastating tackler who used 6-foot-7 height to great advantage… Played in 215 straight games… Posted unofficial total of 25 blocked FG/PAT… Named 1st-team All-Pro four times, twice with Colts, twice with Raiders… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1970s and 1980s… Selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 2nd round (33rd overall pick) in the 1969 NFL Draft… Two-time All-American at Miami (Fla.), 1967-1968… Born November 1, 1947, in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Greene: What I recall Ted is doing is dropping into coverage and really stretching the middle of that field, you couldn’t get a ball over top of him. I mean, he could get to the deep middle and he could get to the hashes.
Lawrence Taylor (1981-1993)
1999 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Two-time Super Bowl Champion… Redefined the way OLB position was played… One of only two defensive players ever to win NFL MVP award when he led NFL with career-high 20.5 sacks in 1986… Three-time NFL Defensive Player of Year, 1981-1982, 1986… Made Pro Bowl in each of 1st 10 NFL seasons, 1981-1990… 1st-team All-Pro in eight of 1st nine seasons… Great intensity, speed, strength fueled attack style… Posted 132.5 career sacks, 2nd-most in NFL at time of retirement… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1980s… Selected by the New York Giants as the 1st round pick (2nd overall) in the 1981 NFL Draft… Born February 4, 1959, in Williamsburg, VA.
Belichick: Well, I think I had the honor of coaching the greatest defensive football player in the history of the game. He helped make me a great coach. …LT’s rookie year, I mean, this guy could do it all, OK? Offense, defense, special teams, wherever you wanted him to play, he would have been a great two-way player if he had played in the two-way era.
Lewis: In 1986, I was 11 years old and my grandfather said, I want you to watch somebody, and I’m sitting there, and this TV comes on and it’s LT. It was a stream of four, five, six plays where I didn’t care about watching nobody else but actually watching his impact on hitting other men. And I’m watching this time after time again and now because I understand the science of it I’m watching you do this and I’m like they don’t want this fight.
Taylor: I got that mentality from my father. My father used to tell me, ‘You have to be better than the next man just to be equal.’ I’m proud, I’m happy, I’m content with the actions that I had on the football field. …I’ve been very fortunate to have some great coaching and even though I may not listen in meetings, I do listen on game day.
Dick Butkus (1965-1973)
1979 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Named 1st-team All-Pro five times… Selected to Pro Bowl in eight of nine NFL seasons… Exceptional defensive star who became the gold standard for all MLBs… Skilled in creating turnovers, had 22 career INT, 27 fumble recoveries — an NFL record at time of retirement… Known as arguably the most feared and intimidating tackler in NFL history… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1960s and 1970s… Selected by the Chicago Bears in 1st round (3rd overall) of the 1965 NFL Draft… Two-time All-American at Illinois, 1963-1964… Born December 9, 1942, in Chicago, IL.
Belichick: Butkus in the middle really was a very physical linebacker. I mean, he was probably as big as the offensive linemen he was playing against then. Played with a lot of power and physicality …he was a big presence in the middle and a big personality, too.
Lewis: Butkus created why you don’t come in the middle of the field. He played the game the way a linebacker is always supposed to play the game. He’s that icon that every kid needs to research. Just go back and if you want to play the linebacker position, just go see why it was started. I think Dick Butkus is a big reason.
Jack Lambert (1974-1984)
Played in six AFC championship games and won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers… Named 1976 NFL Defensive Player of Year. Nine-time Pro Bowler, 1975-1983… 1st-team All-Pro six times, including five straight seasons, 1979-1983… Prototypical middle linebacker, intense, intelligent, fast, quick, durable… Noted for vicious tackling, great range, superior pass defense… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1970s and 1980s… Selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2nd round (46th overall pick) in the 1974 NFL Draft… Born July 8, 1952, in Mantua, OH.
Greene: Jack was quick, fast, very bright. We’d call him “Jack Splat”; he helped bring the personality. And Jack’s power, not only in the running game, in the middle, on the inside, his ability to cover, he could get very deep.
Willie Lanier (1967-1977)
1986 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Starred in Chiefs‘ Super Bowl IV upset victory… Elected to two AFL All-Star Games and six AFC-NFC Pro Bowls over eight consecutive seasons, 1968-1975… Intercepted two or more passes in nine consecutive seasons, 1968-1976… Fast, agile, quick-thinking, anchor of Kansas City’s vaunted defense… Nicknamed “Contact” because of ferocious tackling… Missed only one game over his final 10 seasons… Named 1972 NFL Man of the Year… Selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2nd round pick (50th overall pick) of the 1967 NFL Draft… Born August 21, 1945, in Clover, VA.
Collinsworth: Inside, Willie Lanier looked like a guard. It looked like there was no way you could run through a hole because he was that wide to start with and if you tried to get through there, there was just no gap in there.
Ray Lewis (1996-2012)
Two-time Super Bowl Champion… Started at MLB in four AFC Championship games… Hard-hitting LB and team leader on perennially punishing defense… Two-time NFL Defensive Player of Year in 2000 and 2003… Only player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in a career… Earned seven 1st-team All-Pro selections… Elected to 13 Pro Bowls, most ever among linebackers… Named to NFL All-Decade Team for 2000s… Selected by the Baltimore Ravens in 1st round (26th overall pick) in 1996 NFL Draft… Two-time All-American at Miami (FL), 1994-1995… Born May 15, 1975 in Bartow, FL.
Belichick: You deserve it, you had 17 great years, you might have been the smartest. Seemed like you were always two steps ahead of the play that we were trying to run. Saw you do that against a lot of other people too. Ray, you’re one of the most complete players that ever played the game …hated playing against you. You could play the run, you could play the pass, you could blitz. You had great instincts, could handle the defense, you knew your team well, you knew what they could do and you certainly knew the opponent well and you know how to defend what they tried to do. So it’s obvious that your preparation paid off. I told Brady if you throw that Y shape on Ray Lewis, I’m gonna cut you. And Brady said ‘You know what if I throw that Y hook route on Ray Lewis, you deserve to cut me.’ You picked that off I don’t know how many times. Like, I’m sick of seeing it.
Joe Schmidt (1953-1965)
1973 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Helped Lions win NFL titles in two of his first five NFL seasons, 1953, 1957… Eight-time 1st-team All-Pro, including six straight seasons, 1954-1959… Elected to Pro Bowl for 10 straight years, 1954-1963… Mastered new middle linebacker position, which evolved in 1950s… Known as superb field leader, exceptional at diagnosing opposing plays… Lions team captains for nine straight seasons, 1956-1964… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1950s… Selected by the Detroit Lions in the 7th round of the 1953 NFL Draft… Born January 19, 1932, in Pittsburgh, PA.
Belichick: Joe Schmidt had an immediate impact in the league. Very instinctive player. Joe ran well and just really had a knack for the ball …good all-around football player that just continued to make big plays on a very good defense.
Junior Seau (1990-2009)
2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee… Six-time 1st-team All-Pro… Named to 12 Pro Bowls, T-4th-most among defensive players… Played a remarkable 20 NFL seasons… Led Chargers to only Super Bowl trip in club history in 1994… Made 16 tackles in heroic AFC title game performance while playing with pinched nerve in neck… 1994 NFL Man of Year… Named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for 1990s… Selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 1st round (5th overall pick) in the 1990 NFL Draft… Born January 19, 1969 in Oceanside, CA.
Belichick: Junior Seau, in a lot of ways, reminds me of Ray [Lewis]. He had that same kind of passion every day, every minute. Football was fun for Junior Seau, it was work but it was fun …everybody loved Junior and Junior loved everybody but he worked very hard, extremely hard …when he stepped on the field, he was just one of those guys that just had an energy and had a vigor for the game that was truly unique and special. It was contagious, he was a great, great teammate.