sage Kathleen Parker —
Ultimately, parents know best, though they’ll make better decisions if they study the helmet issue and insist on the best for their son’s team. Considerable resources have been dedicated to minimizing injury through improved helmet design.
As for the pros, meanwhile, Obama aptly summarized the only reasonable adult position: “These guys [pro players], they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”
LE Reggie White (92)
Larry Allen may have been the strongest player ever to play in the NFL. But even the strongest can be humbled. “In my rookie year, on Thanksgiving Day, Reggie White just picked me up and threw me,” Allen said. “I’d never been dominated like that.” It never happened again. “My goal was to dominate my guy every play,” Allen said. “I wanted to do to them what Reggie White did to me.” White dominated his share of right tackles on the way to an NFL runner-up 198 career sacks. He went to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls and was a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
T “Mean” Joe Greene (75)
The fourth overall pick of the 1969 NFL draft from North Texas, Greene became the emotional and physical leader of the NFL’s team of the 1970s. He played in 10 Pro Bowls, six AFC title games and four Super Bowls. “He was 275 pounds but had all the moves of a much smaller man,” said Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure. “I used to love playing against guys 275-280 because they couldn’t move. But he could move. And when you did try to move him, he became an immovable object. And, of course, he was mean.”
T Bob Lilly (74)
The first draft pick in the history of the Cowboys, and you can still make the argument he’s the best of all the Cowboys. Only two Cowboys have been two-time NFL all-decade selections — Lilly and Larry Allen. As the backbone of the Doomsday Defense, Lilly went to 11 Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls and was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team.
RE Bruce Smith (78)
The NFL’s all-time leading sacker with 200. Smith was the first overall pick of the 1985 draft and performed beyond even those expectations. He played in four Super Bowls, 11 Pro Bowls and was a two-time all-decade pick (1980s and 1990s). “Bruce was fast, quick, strong and played with great balance,” said Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz. “He was also very smart. He knew how to use your weight when you were leaning. A lot of guys don’t have that feel, but Bruce did. If you leaned one ounce the wrong way, he’d use it against you.”
SLB Jack Ham (59)
The Penn State star was a walk-in starter at Pittsburgh and a defensive cornerstone of the 1970s Steel Curtain. Greene was selected to eight consecutive Pro Bowls and was a member of four Super Bowl champions. “He was the most mentally sound player I’ve ever seen,” said Steelers Hall of Famer Mel Blount, who played behind Ham at cornerback. “His tackling and coverage techniques were perfect. He had all the qualities that make a player a Hall of Famer. That’s why he’s there.”
MLB Dick Butkus (51)
Big, fast, physical and furious. “He played angry,” Hall of Famer middle linebacker Willie Lanier said. “Very hard and very angry.” And angry every day, not just Sunday. “When we practiced, I always buckled my chin strap,” Bears Hall of Fame halfback Gale Sayers said, “because Dick came to play every day. He was always trying to knock your block off. That’s why he was so good on Sundays. He made me a better ball player. He made all of us better players.” Butkus went to eight consecutive Pro Bowls and was a two-time all-decade selection before knee injuries wrecked his career.
WLB Lawrence Taylor (56)
Bill Belichick won his first two Super Bowl rings as a defensive coordinator of the Giants. I remember visiting with Belichick about Taylor after he left the Giants to become the head coach of the Browns in the early 1990s. “When Lawrence Taylor dies,” Belichick said, “they should cut him open and see what the hell’s inside because I can’t imagine there’s another like him. His heart, his mental fortitude, whatever. … It’s second to none. He had great ability, obviously. But there were a lot of guys who were as big and as fast. He just had a competitiveness that was rare.” Taylor was selected the NFL MVP in 1986 — an award no defender has won since then.
CB Deion Sanders (21)
Sanders had his flaws — he was no tackler, by choice. But there has never been a better coverage player. He blanketed receivers. “My approach with corners was this,” Michael Irvin explained. “If he was small, I could out-physical him. If he was big, then he probably wasn’t very good laterally so I could out-quick him. But Deion was a combination — big, quick, fast and smart. He played the game from the shoulders up. It was never a physical game with him. It was a mental game. When you have to play a corner mentally as well as physically, that makes for a tough day. He’s the most gifted corner I ever played against.”
CB Dick “Night Train” Lane (81)
You’ve got to have swagger to wear No. 81 and succeed at cornerback. And is there a better nickname in football than Night Train? Deion talked a great game. Night Train played a great game. His 68 career interceptions are the NFL record for cornerbacks, as are his 14 interceptions in 1952.
SS Ken Houston (27)
The Hall of Fame does not embrace safeties. There are only seven pure safeties in Canton, including just two strong safeties. Ken Houston retired after the 1980 season — and not a single safety who played after him has been enshrined. Houston went to 10 Pro Bowls and intercepted 49 passes. He was traded mid-career from the Oilers to the Redskins for five players. “I never thought I’d be a Hall of Famer,” Houston said. “It never crossed my mind. I remember there was a newspaper article one time listing my name as one of the 30 under consideration. I clipped that article so that I could show my kids that I was once mentioned for the Hall of Fame. Then I got inducted the same year.”
FS Ronnie Lott (42)
Lott was a first-round pick of the 49ers in 1981 and a walk-in starter on a Super Bowl championship team. He would go on to win three more Super Bowls and be voted to the Pro Bowl at three positions — cornerback, strong safety and free safety. All demanded different skills — coverage (CB), run support (SS) and ballhawking (FS). Lott mastered them all in his 14-year career. He led the NFL in interceptions twice as a free safety.
SE Jerry Rice (80)
A two-time all-decade selection (1980s and 1990s), Rice caught more passes for more yards and more touchdowns than any other player in NFL history. I remember talking with all-decade cornerback and Hall of Fame finalist Aeneas Williams about Rice one summer when I passed through the Arizona Cardinals training camp in Flagstaff. “I saw him play in college,” said Williams, who played at Southern. “Whew … unbelievable. He was the best in college and now he’s the best in the pros. Unbelievable. Jerry Rice inspires me every time I think about him. I’ve got to work harder.”
FL Lance Alworth (19)
The stat that matters most to me at the wide receiver position is average yards per catch. Alworth averaged 18.9 yards with 85 touchdowns in his 542 career receptions. “He went full speed every play, run or pass,” said Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown, who squared off against Alworth in the AFL. “He never took a play off. Whether it was blocking linebackers or running go routes. He made all the hard things look easy. He was just a tremendous combination of athleticism and speed.” Alworth played in seven consecutive AFL all-star games before finishing up his career post-merger with the Cowboys, catching a touchdown in a victorious Super Bowl VI.
TE John Mackey (88)
Tight ends were considered extra blockers until Mackey came along in the 1960s. He became one of the most dangerous seam receivers in the game’s history. He averaged 15.8 yards per career catch with touchdowns of 89, 75 (Super Bowl), 68, 62 and 61 yards. “After the catch, there were none better,” said Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome. “When he got the ball in his hands, he was similar to Jim Brown and Walter Payton. That’s what made him special.”
RT Forrest Gregg (75)
Vince Lombardi coached Green Bay to five NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowl championships, during his nine-year career with the Packers. He coached 11 Hall of Famers on those teams but labeled Gregg as “the finest player I’ve ever coached.” That’s good enough for me. Gregg is from Birthright, Texas, and played his college ball at SMU. He later coached there. Gregg was a second-round draft pick of the Packers in 1956 and went to nine Pro Bowls in his 16-year career. He played one final season with the Cowboys in 1971 and picked up his final Super Bowl ring.
LT Anthony Munoz (78)
The left tackle on my team, ironically, was drafted and developed by my right tackle. Forrest Gregg became head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1980 and used his very first draft pick on Munoz, who would play in 11 Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls. Like Gregg, he was selected to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team.
G John Hannah (73 in red)
There are two two-time all-decade selections at guard in NFL history — Hannah and Larry Allen. Hannah came from college football royalty, Allen from obscurity. Hannah started three seasons at Alabama; Allen two seasons at Sonoma State. Hannah was a two-time All-American and called by Bear Bryant the greatest lineman he ever coached. Hannah became even better in the NFL. He went to nine Pro Bowls and was selected to the all-decade teams for the 1970s and 1980s, plus the NFL’s 75th anniversary team.
G Larry Allen (73 in white)
Bill Parcells coached with the Hannah Patriots and the Allen Cowboys. He was an assistant with the Patriots in 1980 and head coach of the Cowboys in 2003-05. He saw both guards up close. “Allen was much bigger and a more powerful man,” Parcells said. “Hannah was thicker on the bottom with better balance and a little better in the open field. Both were good in different eras, but I probably like Allen by a nose.”
C Dwight Stephenson (57)
The game changed in the 1980s and so did the center position. The center always had been a traffic cop and helper against the four-man defensive fronts of the 1960s and 1970s. But with the explosion of 3-4 defenses in the 1980s, centers suddenly had to block defenders directly across from them. So they had to become bigger, stronger and more athletic. Stephenson was among the first and best of that new wave of centers. A knee injury ended his career at seven seasons but he packed a lot in, playing in five Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls. Hall of Fame center Dermontti Dawson wore No. 57 in college because that was Stephenson’s number.
QB Johnny Unitas (19)
Unitas put the NFL on the sporting map with his performance on national TV in the 1958 title game. Unitas also invented the two-minute drill. He called his own plays and was a two-time NFL MVP. “John had all the tangibles and intangibles: leader, strategist, play-caller and passer,” said Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry. “But mental toughness and competitiveness were his strongest traits. And he was so football instinctive. Combine that with a powerful arm. His job was to win the game and that’s what he did. He could throw it short and long and everything in between. He was the complete package.”
HB Barry Sanders (20)
Of the top 20 rushers in NFL history, only two averaged 5 yards per carry — Sanders and Jim Brown. Sanders rushed for 1,000 yards in all 10 of his NFL seasons, went to 10 Pro Bowls, won four rushing titles and finished second on four other occasions. “Barry was the ultimate running back,” Hall of Famer Curtis Martin said. “His ability to change directions and make big plays was beyond Emmitt [Smith] or anyone else. He’s the best by far. He’s a running back’s running back. He had all the moves the rest of us only dream about.”
FB Jim Brown (32)
Eight rushing titles in a nine-year career, three MVP awards and three NFL title game appearances. And Brown walked away from the NFL at 29. This was the first and easiest pick on my team. Jim Brown was the best and most dominant player the NFL has ever seen. Make him the captain of this team.
K Jan Stenerud (3)
P Yale Lary (28)
KR Gale Sayers (40)
These were easy choices. Stenerud is the only kicker in the Hall of Fame; there are no true punters and Gale Sayers had to be on this team somewhere. Lary was a Hall of Fame safety who won three NFL punting crowns with a career average of 44.3. Sayers still holds the NFL record for career kickoff return average at 30.6 yards.
alltime NFL team ending in 1994 20 years ago —
|Position||Player||Team(s) played for||College|
|Punter||Ray Guy||Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1973–1986)||Southern Mississippi|
|Placekicker||Jan Stenerud||Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) (1967–1969) Kansas City Chiefs (1970–1979) Green Bay Packers (1980–1983) Minnesota Vikings (1984–1985)||Montana State|
|Punt returner||Billy “White Shoes” Johnson||Houston Oilers (1974–1980) Atlanta Falcons (1982–1987) Washington Redskins (1988)||Widener|
|Kick returner||Gale Sayers||Chicago Bears (1965–1971)||Kansas|
75th Anniversary All-Time Two Way Team