NFL Athlete Number 19 - Johnny Unitas

The greatest quarterback of all-time? Maybe. The greatest athlete to ever wear the NFL jersey number 19? Definitely. Johnny Unitas is our choice as the best NFL athlete to ever wear number 19.

The Pittsburgh, PA native, who played his college ball at Louisville, was drafted by his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955. The Steelers decided to cut Unitas that year. Not the organization's best personnel move.

Weeb Ewbank, the coach of the Baltimore Colts, decided to give this youngster out of Louisville a try. This may have been the best personnel move ever by the Colts. Unitas was not the chosen starter as a rookie, however he did get playing time. In the fourth game of the 1956 season, starting QB George Shaw went down with an injury, and Unitas was given the ball. His pro career started with an interception which was returned for a touchdown. It was not an indication of things to come.

Unitas went on to throw nine touchdown passes as a rookie. In his last game of the 1956 season, he threw a TD pass that started a record 47 game consecutive streak of touchdowns thrown.

What else did Unitas accomplish in his NFL career?

  • AP NFL MVP twice (1964 and 1967)
  • 10-time Pro Bowl Selection
  • 1979 Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection
  • 290 Career Touchdowns
  • 40,239 Career Passing Yards
  • 78.2 Career QB Rating
  • Super Bowl Champion Quarterback (Super Bowl V)

Did you know......Unitas worked at Bethlehem Steel in the off-season in addition to playing pro football for the Colts?

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NFL Athlete Number 18 - Peyton Manning

His father and brother are both professional quarterbacks, however he is the best NFL athlete to ever wear the uniform number 18. He is Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning became a household name when he was playing quarterback for Tennessee, with Todd Helton backing him up, and a debate ongoing as to whether he or Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf would be taken with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. Ultimately, Manning was selected first overall, and has gone on to a stellar, some would say already a Hall of Fame caliber, career as an NFL quarterback.

Some of Peyton Manning's accomplishments to date:

  • Twice the AP NFL MVP (2003 and 2004)
  • Eight time Pro Bowl selection
  • Super Bowl Champion (XLI)
  • Super Bowl MVP (XLI)
  • 303 Career TDs (through 14 games in the 2007 season)
  • 41,220 Career Passing Yards (through 14 games in the 2007 season)
  • Pro Bowl MVP (2005)
  • Best NFL Player - ESPY (2004)
  • 2005 Walter Payton Man of the Year

Did you know......he has started at quarterback in every Colts game since his rookie season? (Through 14 games in the 2007 season.)

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NFL Athlete Number 17 - Red Badgro

He played for the New York Yankees, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. He also played professional baseball though. Yes, he played professional football for the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers. He played professional baseball for the Browns. The St. Louis Browns that is. How times have changed? In any case, Morris "Red" Badgro is the best NFL athlete to ever wear the uniform number 17.

Badgro, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, played in the NFL between the years of 1927 and 1936. He spent two of the years in that time span playing pro baseball with the Browns. During his time in the NFL, Badgro was well regarded as a defensive end, and also played on offense as an end in the "pre-modern" era. He was a superb receiver, in fact, he tied for the NFL lead in 1934 with 16 TD receptions.

Red was a first or second team All-NFL selection in 1930, 1931, 1933 and 1934. In 1933, he became the first player to score a TD in the NFL championship series.

Did you know.....Red Badgro batted .284 for the Browns in 148 at-bats in 1929?

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Rams Retiring Faulk's Jersey Number 28

The best professional athlete to ever wear the uniform number 28 will have his number retired tonight by the St. Louis Rams. Marshall Faulk, the longtime Colt and Ram will have his number put up on the shelves by the Rams, for whom he played running back as a member of the "Greatest Show on Turf." He deserves it. See his credentials here.

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NFL Athlete Number 16 - Joe Montana

Joe Montana. What did he ever do on the gridiron in the NFL? Why does he deserve to be nominated as the best athlete to ever wear the NFL uniform number 16, not to mention the best professional athlete to ever wear the uniform number 16? Well, we could probably fill up half the pages on the internet with all of the reasons he deserves this accolade. Here are just a few of the reasons, and a few of his accomplishments:

  • 40,551 Career Passing Yards
  • 273 Career Touchdowns
  • 63.2% Career Completion Rate
  • 4 Super Bowl Championships (XVI, XIX, XXIII, and XXIV)
  • 3-time Super Bowl MVP (XVI, XIX and XXIV
  • 1989 AP NFL MVP
  • 1990 AP NFL MVP
  • 92.3 Career QB Rating
  • 8-time Pro Bowler
  • 7-time All Pro

Joe twice led the NFL in passing touchdowns (1982 - 17 and 1987 - 31,) and once in yards per pass attempt (1989 at 9.1 yds/att.) What really tells the story of how good a quarterback and true passer Joe Montana was, is the fact that he led the NFL in pass completion percentage five times (1980 at 64.5%, 1981 at 63.7%, 1985 at 61.3%, 1987 at 66.8%, and 1989 at an amazing 70.2%.)

Quite simply, you can certainly make an argument for Joe Montana being the best NFL quarterback ever.

Do you remember......that Joe finished his NFL career playing two years as quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, wearing number 19?

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NFL Athlete Number 15 - Bart Starr

Also our nominee for the best professional athlete to ever wear the number 15, Bart Starr is obviously the best NFL athlete to ever wear the NFL jersey number 15.

Drafted out of Alabama with the 200th overall pick in the 1956 NFL draft, Starr went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers, between the years of 1956 to 1971. He led the NFL in passing three times, and was the NFL MVP in 1966.

Starr remained in a supporting role at quarterback until Vince Lombardi took over as head coach of the Packers in 1959, when Lombardi made Starr the starter at QB. In a short period of time, Starr was leading the Packers to greatness. He captained the Packers to the NFL Championship in 1961 and 1962.

Starr was a four time Pro Bowler, MVP of Super Bowls I and II, threw 152 career touchdowns, is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and his jersey number 15 is retired by the Green Bay Packers.

Did you know.....Starr was a Packers coach between the years 1975 and 1983?

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NFL Athlete Number 14 - Dan Fouts

There were several choices for the best NFL athlete to wear jersey number 14. Y.A. Tittle, Don Hutson, and Otto Graham were all in the running, and would all be very good choices. The choice made here however, is Dan Fouts, as the best NFL athlete to wear jersey number 14.

Fouts played his entire NFL career with the San Diego Chargers, between the years of 1973 to 1987. A third round selection in the 1973 NFL draft, out of the University of Oregon, Fouts played in ten games in his rookie year of 1973. He threw for 1,126 yards that year, although he had only six touchdowns and 13 INTs.

He had moderate success for the next four years, until his breakout season of 1978. In 1978, Fouts threw for 24 TDs and 2,999 yards. His finest year statistically was in 1981 when he threw 33 TDs and 4,802 yards. Fouts led the NFL in passing yardage four times over his career.

Fouts was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and the 1982 AP Offensive Player of the Year. For his 15 year career, he threw for 43,040 yards, 254 TDs, and had an 80.2 passer rating. His jersey number 14 is retired by the San Diego Chargers.

Did you know......Dan Fouts was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993?

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NFL Athlete Number 13 - Dan Marino

Some consider Dan Marino to be the best NFL quarterback ever. He is certainly the best athlete to wear the NFL jersey number 13.

Like several of our other quarterbacks on this list, Dan Marino was drafted to play professional baseball. The Kansas City Royals took Marino in 1979. Luckily for us, after a stellar college football campaign with the University of Pittsburgh, Marino was drafted by the Miami Dolphins (27th overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft,) and chose to play professional football, rather than baseball.

Marino burst onto the NFL scene in 1983, playing in 11 games and totalling 2,210 passing yards and twenty touchdowns with only 6 INTs. (He also rushed for two touchdowns that season.) Although Marino had a excellent rookie campaign, he lost the NFL Rookie of the Year award to another future Hall of Famer by the name of Eric Dickerson.

In Marino's sophomore NFL year, he had the most prolific passing year of his 17 year career. He threw for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns in 1984. He set an NFL record for the most passing yards in an NFL season that year. His 48 passing touchdowns that season was also an NFL record that stood until 2004 when Peyton Manning surpassed it.

Over his seventeen year career, Marino passed for 61,361 yards; an NFL record for a career. His 420 career passing touchdowns was also an NFL record until Brett Favre surpassed it in 2007.

In 1984, with the support of his stellar passing statistics that year, Marino was named the NFL MVP. Over his career, he was a nine-time Pro Bowler. He led the Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX, after the 1984 regular season (in which he was matched against the great Joe Montana.) He is also our pick for the best professional athlete to wear the number 13.

Did you know.....Dan's NFL jersey number 13 was retired by the Miami Dolphins in 2000?

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NFL Athlete Number 12 - Terry Bradshaw

Roger Staubach was one of the best. Tom Brady is one of the best. Terry Bradshaw is the best NFL athlete to ever wear the jersey number 12.

Terry Bradshaw, simply put, can be considered one of the best quarterbacks to ever take to an NFL field. He led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four, yes four, Super Bowl Championships. Unmatched by any NFL quarterback ever. Unmatched.

He was twice a Super Bowl MVP (XIII and XIV) and once an NFL MVP (1978.) Drafted first overall out of Louisiana Tech in 1970, he wound up playing his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers (from 1970 through 1983.)

Over his career with the Steelers, Bradshaw threw for 212 TDs, 27,989 yards, ran for 32 TDs and 2,257 yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

Did you know......Terry Bradshaw and Eric Dickerson were both born on September 2nd?

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NFL Athlete Number 11 - Norm Van Brocklin

With one of the coolest names in NFL history, Norm Van Brocklin is the best NFL athlete to ever wear the jersey number 11. What did Norm Van Brocklin ever do in the NFL you ask? Here is just a bit of what he accomplished:

  • 9 time Pro Bowler
  • 1960 UPI NFL MVP
  • 554 Passing Yards in one game (1951, NFL Record)
  • 23,611 Career Passing Yards
  • 173 Career Passing TDs
  • 11 Career Rushing TDs
  • 22,413 Career Punting Yards
  • 42.9 Yard Average Punt for Career
  • 3-Time NFL Passing Leader
  • 2-Time NFL Punting Leader
  • 1971 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee

Van Brocklin was twice a member of an NFL Championship team (in 1951 with the Rams and in 1960 with the Eagles.) He played nine years with the Rams and 3 with the Eagles.

Did you know......Van Brocklin also coached the Vikings and Falcons?

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NFL Athlete Number 10 - Fran Tarkenton

Playing in the NFL between the years of 1961 to 1978 for two franchises, the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, former quarterback Fran Tarkenton is the best NFL athlete to ever wear the jersey number 10.

Known for his scrambling, Fran earned the nickname of "Scramblin' Fran." He was also referred to by the moniker of "Sir Francis." Fran was one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. As a matter of fact, he was the all-time leader in passing touchdowns before Dan Marino, and then Brett Favre passed him. He remains third on the all-time list with 342 passing TDs. He is also fifth on the all-time passing list with 47,003 passing yards, being eclipsed only by these great quarterbacks in passing yardage (in ascending order of yardage): Moon, Elway, Favre and Marino.

In line with his nickname, Tarkenton also rushed for quite a bit. He gathered 3674 yards and 32 TDs rushing the ball over his career in the NFL.

Fran was a nine time Pro Bowl invitee and the 1964 Pro Bowl MVP. He was twice an All-NFL player, and led his Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls. In 1986 the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Fran Tarkenton.

Did you know.....Fran's jersey number 10 has been retired by the Minnesota Vikings?

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NFL Athlete Number 9 - Sonny Jurgensen

Vince Lombardi once stated of Sonny Jurgensen: "Jurgensen is a great quarterback. He hangs in there under adverse conditions. He may be the best the league has ever seen. He is the best I have ever seen."* Sonny Jurgensen is also the best athlete to wear the NFL jersey number 9.

Sonny played seven years with the Philadelphia Eagles and eleven years with the Washington Redskins. (NFL career spanned the years 1957 to 1974.) He was a five time Pro Bowl selection, once while an Eagle and four times while a Redskin (1961, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969.)

He was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1983, after amassing 255 career touchdown passes, 32,224 career passing yards, and a QB rating of 82.6, while winning the NFL passing title three times (once as a 40 year old.)

Did you know......Jurgensen was coached by Vince Lombardi as a member of the 1969 Redskins?

* source:

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NFL Athlete Number 8 - Troy Aikman

Troy Aikman led the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl Championships in a four year span, and in the process became one of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks. A 2006 Professional Football Hall of Fame inductee, he is also the best NFL athlete to wear the jersey number 8.

Did you know....Troy is one of four NFL quarterbacks to be selected first overall in the draft and to win the Super Bowl in their first appearance? (The other three are Jim Plunkett, Terry Bradshaw and Peyton Manning.)

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NFL Athlete Number 7 - John Elway

Simply put, he's one of the best quarterbacks ever. You could make an argument that he is the best quarterback ever. John Elway is the best athlete to ever wear the NFL jersey number 7.

Elway, who has the added distinction of playing his entire career with one team, the Denver Broncos, was almost a Baltimore Colt. He was drafted to play baseball and football. When picked by the Colts, Elway had indicated he would play baseball (he was selected in a draft by the New York Yankees also,) unless traded. The Colts conceded and traded Elway to the Denver Broncos. The rest is history. Over a career that spanned the years 1983 through 1998 he achieved the following.

  • 51,475 career (regular season) yards passing (3rd all-time)

  • 300 career (regular season) touchdowns (4th all-time)

  • 3,407 career (regular season) rushing yards

  • 33 career (regular season) rushing touchdowns

  • 4,964 playoff passing yards

  • 27 playoff touchdowns

  • 461 rushing yards

  • 6 rushing touchdowns

  • 2-time Super Bowl winner

  • Pro Hall of Fame inductee (2004)

  • Super Bowl XXXIII MVP

  • 5-time Super Bowl quarterback

  • 1987 AP NFL MVP

  • Jersey number 7 retired by the Broncos

Did you know.....John Elway played for the Oneonta Yankees in the New York Yankees minor league system?

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NFL Athlete Number 6 - Bubby Brister

Walter "Bubby" Brister is the best NFL athlete to have worn the jersey number 6 for his career. He may not have been a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he sure could sling the ball, and he has two Super Bowl rings to prove it.

Over an NFL career spanning the years of 1986 to 2000, Bubby Brister played behind center primarily for the Steelers, but picked up Super Bowl rings filling in admirably for the Denver Broncos. In fact, in 1998, when John Elway went down with an injury, Brister went 5-0 as the Broncos starting QB, finishing the season with a higher QB rating than Elway.*

Brister amassed some quality stats over his NFL career:

  • 14,445 passing yards in the regular season
  • 81 passing TDs
  • 1,207 completions
  • 54.6 career completion percentage
  • 546 rushing yards
  • 8 rushing TDs

Did you know........Bubby Brister was drafted by the Detroit Tigers to play pro baseball in 1981, before being drafted by the Steelers in 1986?

(* source: wikipedia)

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NFL Athlete Number 5 - Paul Hornung

Although Donovan McNabb is a serious consideration here, and may eventually be considered the best to wear jersey number 5 in the NFL, Paul Hornung is the best athlete to have ever worn the NFL jersey number 5.

Paul Hornung, "The Golden Boy" of Notre Dame University fame, wore the jersey number 5 in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers between the years 1957 to 1962 and 1964-1966. Hornung, a superb athlete, excelled at more than one position in the NFL. Primarily a halfback, Hornung also played quarterback and kicker. In fact, as a placekicker, he made 12 field goals and 41 extra points in 1964.

Over nine NFL seasons, Hornung rushed for 3,711 yards and fifty touchdowns, threw for 383 yards and five touchdowns, and made 66 field goals and 190 extra points. He also caught 130 passes for 1,480 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Did you know.......Paul Hornung was twice the NFL Player of the Year? (1960 and 1961)

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NFL Athlete Number 4 - Brett Favre

One of the best NFL athletes to ever grace the gridiron, Brett Favre is by far the best athlete to ever wear the NFL jersey number 4. Many may consider Favre the best professional athlete overall to wear the number 4, although we give that honor to another athlete.

Favre plays with a ferocity nearly unmatched by any NFL athlete. His durability speaks to his athleticism and commitment to the game. His numbers speak to how great a player he is.

  • Most career touchdowns - 436 (as of November 24, 2007)
  • Most career completions - 5312 (as of November 24, 2007)
  • NFL MVP (A.P.) three times - (1995, 1996, and 1997)
  • Second in career passing yards - 60,856 (as of November 24, 2007)
  • Eight time Pro-Bowler

Did you know......Brett Favre began his career as an Atlanta Falcon?

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NFL Athlete Number 3 - Bronko Nagurski

With a name like Bronko, you know he had to be tough. He was tough. He is also the best NFL athlete to ever wear the jersey number 3.

Playing fullback for the Chicago Bears, Nagurski was a threat to plow over the defenders, or to throw a pass. He had a move where he would fake a plunge into the line, and then step pack for a jump pass. Yes, a jump pass.

Playing for the Chicago Bears during the years of 1930 to 1937, as well as another year in 1943, Nagurski gained 4,301 yards and scored 242 points.

Nagurski was inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 and his jersey number 3 has been retired by the Chicago Bears.

Did you know....Bronko was also a professional wrestler?

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NFL Athlete Number 2 - Charley Trippi

There is only one NFL athlete, as listed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to wear the number 2 as his primary uniform number, and to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. That player is Charley Trippi.

Ironically, Trippi may be more known for wearing the number 62 as a standout college football player for the University of Georgia. He has been inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame, in addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He won the 1946 Maxwell Award for college football's Most Outstanding player, and was recently ranked number 20 out of ESPN's list of Top 25 College Football Players in History.

Taken first overall by the Chicago Cardinals in the 1945 NFL draft, Trippi went on to have an excellent NFL career. He was a two-time Pro Bowler, and played primarily as a halfback for the Cardinals, before switching to quarterback (what an athlete!) In 1954 and 1955, Charley even played defense, and he also played on special teams as a punter and punt returner!

Trippi was a key member of the Cardinals 1947 NFL Championship team, scoring two touchdowns (a 44-yard run, and a 75-yard punt return,) to lead his team past the Philadelphia Eagles.

Did you know......Charley Trippi played in five college all-star classics?

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NFL Athlete Number 1 - Warren Moon

Who was the best NFL athlete to ever wear the uniform number 1? This one is fairly easy. Warren Moon, the longtime NFL and CFL quarterback, who is now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the best NFL athlete to ever wear the jersey number 1.

Warren was best known for quarterbacking the Houston Oilers from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s. He also lined up under center for Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City.

Some of Warren's credentials:

  • 291 regular season touchdown passes
  • Nine time Pro Bowl selection
  • 80.9 regular season passer rating (85.8 in playoffs)
  • 49,325 passing yards (regular season)
  • Hall of Famer

Warren Moon had his best regular season in 1990 when he threw 33 touchdowns with only 13 INTs for a 96.8 passer rating. He also threw for 4,689 yards to go along with a .620 completion percentage that year.

Did you know......Warren Moon was the Grey Cup (CFL equivalent of the Super Bowl) MVP in 1980 and 1982?

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NFL Wide Receiver Jersey Numbers

Moving on to the wide receivers, let's take a look at which NFL wide receiver jersey numbers are the most recognizable as belonging to a specific player.

80 - Jerry Rice
81 - Terrell Owens
82 - John Stallworth
83 - Andre Reed
84 - Randy Moss
85 - Chad Johnson
86 - Hines Ward
87 - Dwight Clark
88 - Marvin Harrison
89 - Steve Smith

Keep in mind that these are the most recognizable names associated with these wide receiver numbers. It is not necessarily the best athletes to wear these numbers. For example, although Dwight Clark is the most recognizable wide receiver associated with the jersey number 87, we've chosen Dave Casper as the best professional athlete to wear the jersey number 87.

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NFL Running Back Jersey Numbers

Which NFL running back numbers are the most recognizable, all-time? If I said number 22, who immediately comes to mind? Emmitt Smith, right? 21? LaDanian Tomlinson. Let's take a look at them all.

20 - Barry Sanders
21 - LaDanian Tomlinson
22 - Emmitt Smith
23 - Ronnie Brown
24 - Marion Barber
25 - Reggie Bush
26 - Clinton Portis
27 - Larry Johnson
28 - Marshall Faulk
29 - Eric Dickerson
30 - Terrell Davis
31 - Priest Holmes
32 - Jim Brown
33 - Tony Dorsett
34 - Walter Payton
35 - Anthony Thomas
36 - Jerome Bettis
37 - Shaun Alexander
38 - George Rogers
39 - Willie Parker
40 - Gale Sayers

It's interesting to take a look at this list and see which of these numbers are really the most recognizable. Jersey numbers 20 t0 22 are very recognizable, with three of the best running backs ever wearing these numbers. The same can be said for numbers 32 to 34, with three more of the best running backs ever wearing those numbers. The two outstanding numbers, which you don't see worn tremendously by running backs today, but have been worn by superstars here, are numbers 29 and 40. Eric Dickerson and Gale Sayers are easily two of the best running backs ever. You don't see the number 40 worn by halfbacks too often today, and the number 29, although worn, isn't as prominent as some of the other jersey numbers.

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NFL Quarterback Jersey Numbers

Now that the best professional athletes to wear the numbers 1 through 99 have been laid out, the next project is being contemplated. Maybe the best NFL athletes to wear the numbers 1 through 99? In the meantime, let's take a look at some of the most recognizable jersey numbers to be worn at each major position in the NFL. Remember, this is the most recognizable jersey numbers. We'll interpret recognizable as the average NFL fan (regardless of which team they might root or have rooted for,) recognizing a particular number as being associated with a particular athlete.

To start, let's tackle the quarterbacks of all-time in the NFL, by jersey number. Generally, quarterbacks have worn jersey numbers between 1 and 19, so we will limit list to those particular jersey numbers.

Number 1 - Warren Moon
Number 2 - Charlie Trippi
Number 3 - Jeff George
Number 4 - Brett Favre
Number 5 - Donovan McNabb (also considered:  Paul Hornung)
Number 6 - Jay Cutler
Number 7 - John Elway
Number 8 - Troy Aikman
Number 9 - Sonny Jurgensen
Number 10 - Fran Tarkenton
Number 11 - Phil Simms
Number 12 - Terry Bradshaw (also considered:  Roger Staubach, Joe Namath, Bob Griese and Tom Brady)
Number 13 - Dan Marino
Number 14 - Dan Fouts
Number 15 - Bart Starr
Number 16 - Joe Montana
Number 17 - Steve DeBerg
Number 18 - Peyton Manning
Number 19 - Johnny Unitas

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Athlete Number 99 - Wayne Gretzky

Is there really any argument here for the best professional athlete to wear jersey number 99? Yes, you might say, Mark Gastineau should be considered. No, I might say, there is no argument. Okay, we all knew who the pick for best 99 would be. It is indeed, "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky.

Not only is Wayne Gretzky the greatest pro athlete to wear jersey number 99, he is also the greatest to ever lace up a pair of skates on NHL ice. When Gretzky finally decided to hang 'em up, he was the owner or tied for sixty-one National Hockey League records. Amazing. We won't list them all here, but some of the most impressive records are:

  • Most NHL regular season points, 2,857 in 1,487 games (894 goals, 1,963 assists)
  • Most NHL goals, including playoffs, 1,016 in 1,487 regular season and 208 playoff games
  • Most assists, including playoffs, 2,223
  • Most goals, one period, 4, tied with 10 other players
  • Most 100 or more point seasons, 15
  • Longest consecutive point-scoring streak, 51 games
  • Most career game winning goals in playoffs, 24
  • Most points, one season, 215
  • Most points, including playoffs, 3,239

Gretzky, of course, played for four NHL teams: Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. He had is most prolific years offensively, while with the Oilers. He teamed up with Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Grant Fuhr to create an NHL dynasty in the early 1980s. Gretzky was part of a team that won four NHL Stanley Cups in a five year span.

Did you know......that in 1999 Gretzky had the three-year waiting period for entrance into the NHL Hall of Fame, waived by the Selection Committee, due to Gretzky's "outstanding pre-eminence and skill?"

Buy a Wayne Gretzky 99 Oilers Jersey on eBay

Best Number 99 in Other Pro Sports
NFL Number 99

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Athlete Number 98 - Tony Siragusa

The best athlete to wear the jersey number 98 professionally is Tony Siragusa, the NFL defensive lineman. Siragusa split his twelve-year NFL playing career between the Colts (1990 - 1996) and the Ravens (1997 - 2001.) He was a behemoth on the defensive line, coming in at 6'3" and 340 lbs.

Siragusa, who was a key member of the Ravens 2000 Super Bowl Championship team, was a prolific tackler during his time with both the Colts and Ravens. Over twelve years, "Goose" accumulated 562 total tackles (416 of them solo tackles,) and 22 sacks. His finest year on the gridiron was in 1994, while wearing a Colts jersey, when he tallied 88 total tackles (64 solo,) 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

Did you know.......Siragusa has a food product line that goes by the name "Goose's Baby Back Ribs"?

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Athlete Number 97 - Jeremy Roenick

J.R., Jeremy Roenick, is the best professional athlete to ever wear the number 97. (Nice to get a few hockey guys in here with all the NFL guys wearing these high numbers!) Roenick has had a long and very productive career in the NHL. He began in 1988 with the Chicago Blackhawks (where he wore number 27,) after being taken eighth overall in the NHL draft.

Roenick played eight years for the Blackhawks, before moving over to the Phoenix Coyotes, and wearing number 97, in 1996. Roenick stayed with the Coyotes for five years before moving to the East Coast with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2000. He bounced out to L.A. with the Kings in 2005 and was back in Phoenix as of 2006-2007.

In Roenick's NHL career through the end of the 2006-2007 season, he has posted 1,170 points, 495 goals and 675 assists. He's also been a very physical player over his career as evidenced by his career penalty minutes total of 1,413. He has also been productive in the post-season, totalling 116 points in the playoffs. Jeremy Roenick is hands-down the best athlete to lace up a pair of hockey skates and an NHL jersey with the number 97 on it.

Did you know.....Roenick is originally from Boston, Mass.?

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Athlete Number 96 - Cortez Kennedy

Cortez Kennedy, the NFL defensive tackle who played with the Seattle Seahawks for eleven seasons, is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 96. Kennedy was snagged with the third overall draft pick by the Seahawks, out of Miami, in the 1990 NFL draft.

Statistics may not be the primary indicator of talent and effectiveness for defensive tackles in the NFL, however, Kennedy's statistics were not too shabby. Over his eleven years wearing an NFL jersey, he tallied 667 total tackles (522 solo tackles,) 58 sacks, and eleven forced fumbles. His best year statistically was in 1992 when he recorded 92 total tackles and a hefty 14 sacks, with four forced fumbles.

Cortez Kennedy is a member of the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor and the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s.

Did you know.......Kennedy was selected to eight Pro Bowls in his eleven year career?

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Athlete Number 95 - Richard Dent

Richard Dent, the renowned Chicago Bears defensive end, is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 95. Although Dent made his professional mark with the Chicago Bears (spanning the years 1983 to 1993, and then again in 1995) he also played football for the 49ers (1994,) Colts (1996,) and Eagles (1997.)

It isn't extremely often that an eigth round draft pick goes on to become one of the best athletes to ever play their position professionally. In Dent's case, it happened. Dent was a four time pro-bowler (1985, 1986, 1991 and 1994.) He also has the honor of being the MVP of Super Bowl XX held in 1986 (for the 1985 NFL season.)

When Richard Dent retired after the 1997 season, his 137.5 sacks for his NFL career was third overall behind the legendary Reggie White and Bruce Smith. For five consecutive years during Dent's NFL career, he logged double-digit sack totals (1984-1988.) This was part of a span of ten years where Dent had double-digit sacks in eight of those ten years. Dent also recorded 4.5 sacks in a game twice (in 1984 and 1987, both against the Los Angeles Raiders.)

Did you know.....despite Richard Dent's stupendous NFL career, he is not yet enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame(as of 1997)?

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Athlete Number 94 - Charles Haley

He was a defensive force for two of the NFL's fiercest rivals during the 1990s. He accumulated 100.5 sacks as a defensive end over his twelve year National Football League career. He was the UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year in both 1990 and 1994. He is also the best professional athlete to wear the jersey number 94. He is Charles Haley.

Charles Lewis Haley was drafted out of James Madison University in the fourth round of the 1986 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Haley would play his first six years in the NFL wearing a 49ers jersey as a dominant pass rusher. Charles then went on to play with the Dallas Cowboys, a five-year stint that started in 1992. Charles Haley was a key member of that 1992 Dallas Cowboy defense that helped propel them to a Super Bowl Championship, the first for the Cowboys since the 1970s.

Haley has the distinction of being a Super Bowl champion five times, with two different teams (twice with San Francisco and three times with Dallas.) He was also a five time pro-bowler (1988, 1990, 1991, 1994, and 1995.) His best year statistically, was as a 26-year old with San Francisco in 1990 when he racked up 16 sacks.

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Athlete Number 93 - Doug Gilmour

The best athlete to wear number 93 is the longtime NHL forward, Doug Gilmour. Over Gilmour's extensive career, spanning the 1983-1984 through 2002-2003 seasons, Doug played for seven different NHL teams. In doing so, Doug tallied 450 goals and 964 assists. He was also a very physical hockey player, as he racked up 1299 penalty minutes for his career, with a high of 142 in the 1990-1991 season while with the Calgary Flames.

Doug Gilmour had his best offensive season with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1992-1993. That season Doug scored 127 points, netting 32 goals, with an astounding 95 assists. In 21 games, Doug also scored 35 points during the playoffs for the 1992-1993 season (10 goals and 25 assists.)

Gilmour was a captain for two teams during his career. He wore the C on his NHL jersey for the Maple Leafs between the years of 1994 and 1997, and for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1999-2000 season. Over his twenty year career, Doug played for the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens.

Did you know......Gilmour won the Frank J. Selke award for the NHLs best defensive forward during the 1992-1993 NHL season?

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Athlete Number 92 - Reggie White

Reggie White, "the Minister of Defense," is the best professional athlete to ever wear jersey number 92. Reggie was posthumously enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, being justly awarded for his stellar NFL career spanning 1985 through 2000. He was known predominantly as a star defensive end with both the Eagles (1985 - 1992,) and the Packers (1993 - 1998) although he also played with the Carolina Panthers in 2000.

Some of Reggie White's NFL accolades:

  • Selected to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls (1986-1998)
  • 198 career NFL sacks (2nd all-time behind Bruce Smith)
  • 21 sacks in 12-game, strike shortened 1987 season (2nd all-time behind Michael Strahan's 22 in 2001)
  • Only player ever to be selected to Pro Football Weekly's 1980s and 1990s All-Decade teams (according to
  • Member of the NFLs 75th anniversary all-time team
  • Led the NFL in sacks for two seasons
  • Ten or more sacks in nine consecutive seasons
  • Double-digit sack numbers in 12 seasons

Reggie's jersey number 92 was retired by the Eagles, Packers and the University of Tennessee in 2005.

Did you know......Reggie White started his Pro Football career in the USFL with the Memphis Showboats?

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Athlete Number 91 - Sergei Fedorov

The "Russian Rocket," Sergei Fedorov is the best professional athlete to wear jersey number 91. Sergei blasted onto the NHL scene after being taken number 74 overall in the NHL entry draft by the Detroit Red Wings. Fedorov spent thirteen years wearing a Red Wings jersey (1990-91 season to 2002-03 season,) and currently ranks fourth all-time in points for the Wings. After making his mark with the Wings, Sergei spent two brief years with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and is now with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The 1993-94 season was Sergei's most prolific, as he tallied 120 total points on the ice (56 goals and 64 assists.) Also known for his defensive prowess, Fedorov has twice won the Frank J. Selke award given to the NHL forward who displays the most defensive skill (1994 and 1996.) 1994 was a banner year for Sergei as he also took home the Hart Memorial Trophy given to the MVP of the NHL, as well as winning the Lester B. Pearson award given to the regular season's most outstanding player as judged by the NHLPA.

Did you know.....Sergei scored 79 points in his rookie season with the Red Wings?

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Athlete Number 90 - Neil Smith

A force at defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, and San Diego Chargers, Neil Smith is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 90.

Selected second overall by the Chiefs in the 1988 NFL Draft out of the University of Nebraska, Smith played in only thirteen games, accumulating 2.5 sacks in his rookie year. His numbers dramatically increased from there. He recorded 7.5 sacks in his sophomore season, and 9.5 sacks one year later. Smith peaked in sack totals with 15 in 1993. All told, he went on to accumulate 105.5 sacks over a thirteen year career.

Smith played the majority of his NFL career wearing a Kansas City Chiefs' jersey, from 1988 to 1996. However, after departing K.C. for Denver in 1997, Smith became a member of a team that won two Super Bowls (XXXII and XXXIII.) He also played one year with the Chargers. He is most notably linked with the Chiefs, and has been inducted into their Hall of Fame as of 2006.

Did you know.....Smith is a co-owner of the Kansas City Brigade in the Arena Football League?

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Athlete Number 89 - Mike Ditka

Who was the first tight end elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Yes, it was "Iron" Mike Ditka, the best professional athlete to ever wear the uniform number 89.

In 1961, Mike Ditka was honored as the Rookie of the Year with an astonishing twelve touchdown receptions, with 56 catches overall for 1,076 yards. Not too shabby for a rookie. Ditka, of course, was drafted by the Chicago Bears, but also played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.

He played in five straight Pro Bowls (1961-1965,) and was an NFL All-Pro four times (1961-1964.) He was a member of the Chicago Bears 1963 NFL Championship team, and was the coach of the Bears 1985 Super Bowl Championship team.

Mike had his most prolific single season for receptions in 1964 with 75 grabs. Over a twelve year career, Mike amassed 5,812 yards receiving, 427 receptions and 43 touchdowns.

Did you know......Mike scored the last touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI?

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Athlete Number 88 - Marvin Harrison

Lynn Swann was great, as was Michael Irvin, however Marvin Harrison is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 88.

He's not flashy and you don't hear about him off the field. He just plays the game, plays all-out, catches the ball and finds the endzone. In his twelve-year career wearing an NFL jersey, Harrison has been selected to the Pro Bowl eight times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.) According to, Harrison is currently third on the NFL's all-time list for receiving touchdowns with 123 (as of Sept. 14, 2007,) fourth on the list for receptions with 1,026, and fifth in receiving yards with 13,780. These numbers are over a twelve year span including 2007(he has only played one game so far in 2007.)

Harrison had a stellar year in 2002, setting the NFL record for most pass receptions in a season with 143. He also finished that year second on the all-time list for most single season games with 100 or more yards receiving, with 10 such games (behind only Michael Irvin with 11.)

Did you know......Harrison played his college ball at Syracuse University?

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Athlete Number 87 - Dave Casper

An NFL veteran of the Raiders, Oilers and Vikings, as well as a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Dave "The Ghost" Casper is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 87. Dave Casper's first three years of college at Notre Dame, he played football as a lineman. In fact, in 1972, Casper was honorable All-American at the tackle position. His senior year, "The Ghost" converted to a tight end and was selected as an All-American.

Drafted in the second round of the 1974 NFL Draft, Casper played as a backup tight end for Oakland. During the offseason, John Madden reportedly thought of converting Casper to an offensive lineman. However, after Casper came into training camp a little trimmer than the previous season, he was kept at the tight end position.

Dave was a five time pro-bowler in his NFL career (1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981,) and four time all-pro (1976-1979.) He was a key member of the Raiders Super Bowl XI championship team, where the Raiders beat the Vikings 32-14. Over his eleven year career, Dave Casper had 378 receptions for 5,216 yards and 52 touchdowns as a tight end.

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Athlete Number 86 - Hines Ward

Hines Ward, the veteran wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 86. Hines, appropriately named for a Pittsburgh athlete - even if spelled a little different than the ketchup company from the same city, has been to four Pro Bowls (2001-2004,) in his career. He was the MVP of Super Bowl XL. Three times, he was a Pittsburgh Steeler MVP. Ward had four consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons, and is currently the Steelers all-time leader in receptions.

Did you know.....Hines owns a bar in Pittsburgh named "The Locker Room?"

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Athlete Number 85 - Jack Youngblood

What a great name for an athlete. Especially for a football player. Jack Youngblood is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 85. A 2001 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Youngblood played his entire NFL career, spanning the years of 1971 through 1984, wearing a Los Angeles Rams jersey.

Following the 1979 NFL season, the Los Angeles Rams advanced to the NFC title game. In a first-round playoff game, prior to that NFC title game, Youngblood fractured his leg (fibula.) Youngblood was fitted with a brace and subsequently played with the broken leg in both the NFC title game and Super Bowl XIV that year.

Some of Jack Youngblood's accomplishments:

  • All-Pro five times

  • Seven-time Pro Bowler

  • Played in 201 consecutive games

  • 1975 NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year

  • NFL Hall of Famer (Class of 2001)

  • Rams Ring of Fame member

According to, "Roger Staubach said Youngblood was the toughest defensive lineman that he ever faced."

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Athlete Number 84 - Shannon Sharpe

Shannon Sharpe, who played the majority of his NFL career with the Denver Broncos, is the best professional athlete to wear the jersey number 84. One of the premier tight ends ever in the NFL, Sharpe was elected to eight Pro Bowls over his fourteen year career. Sharpe's career, spanning 1990 to 2003, was bookended by stints with the Broncos, filled by a two-year service for the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and 2001. For his career, Sharpe amassed 62 touchdowns and 10,060 receiving yards; not bad for a tight end. Sharpe wasn't originally projected to have the type of career he wound up having, as he wasn't taken until the seventh round of the 1990 NFL draft, where he was slotted as a wide receiver. Sharpe was quickly converted to a tight end, thus beginning a Hall of Fame caliber career. Sharpe will be Hall-eligible in 2009.

Did you know......Sharpe participated in the 2005 World Series of Poker?

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Athlete Number 83 - Andre Reed

The longtime Buffalo Bill wide receiver from Allentown, PA, and potential Pro Football Hall of Famer, Andre Reed is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 83.

Reed currently ranks fifth in receptions all-time with 951, behind only such great names as Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, and current Colt, Marvin Harrison. He was elected to seven Pro Bowls (1989-1995,) and played in four Super Bowls (1991-1994.) Only Jerry Rice has more receptions in Super Bowls, and only Rice and Lynn Swann have more receiving yards in Super Bowls. In Super Bowl XXVII, Andre Reed caught eight passes for 152 yards during the Dallas Cowboys 52-17 trouncing of the Buffalo Bills.

Did you know.....Andre set nine school receiving records playing college football at Kutztown University?

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Athlete Number 82 - Ozzie Newsome

A Cleveland Browns fixture at tight-end from 1978 through 1990, and a 1999 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Ozzie Newsome is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 82. Ozzie, who some called the "Wizard of Oz," (although Ozzie Smith might lay a claim to that nickname first,) played in 198 consecutive games for the Browns, a feat of endurance in professional football. Over a thirteen year career, Newsome amassed 47 TDs, 662 receptions and 7,980 yards. Not too shabby, for a tight end.

In 1978, Ozzie earned Offensive Player of the Year honors for the Browns, as a rookie. After the 1981, 1984 and 1985 NFL seasons, Newsome was chosen for the Pro Bowl. He was All-Pro in 1979 and 1984, and caught at least one pass in 150 consecutive games.

Did you know......Ozzie Newsome is currently general manager of the Baltimore Ravens (the original Cleveland Browns?)

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Athlete Number 81 - Dick (Night Train) Lane

So nicknamed because of his affinity for Buddy Morrow's hit record, Dick "Night Train" Lane is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 81. A 1974 enshrinee into the Professional Football Hall of Fame, Lane came to be an NFL player by asking the Los Angeles Rams for a tryout, at the age of 24, after dissatisfaction with his occupation at an aircraft factory.

That request for a tryout with the Rams proved to be an excellent career move for Dick Lane. He parlayed that tryout to a starting position with the Rams' defense. He subsequently went on to set a record in his rookie season with fourteen interceptions. Initially sloted to become an end, Lane was given the jersey number 81, which he continued to wear in his eventual position of defensive back.

Although he began his career with the Rams, Lane was traded to the Chicago Cardinals soon after, and then went on to the Detroit Lions, where he enjoyed much of his success. He was so successful in fact, that in 1999, The Sporting News named Lane number 19 on the list of the NFL's 100 greatest players.

Did you know..........Dick Lane spent four years in the United States Army?

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Athlete Number 80 - Jerry Rice

The best wide receiver in NFL history. Hands down. Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver ever, and also the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 80. Yes, you may know Mr. Rice from that dancing show, where he moved his feet fairly well. You should know him from moving his feet well on the gridiron. In fact, Jerry danced his way into a sure Pro Football Hall of Fame selection. A unanimous selection without question.

Jerry holds numerous NFL statistical records. A few of the more impressive records are:

  • 1st in career touchdowns - 207
  • 1st in touchdown receptions - 197
  • 1st in career yards gained - 23,546
  • 1st in career receptions - 1,549
  • 1st in 1,000+ yards receiving seasons - 14
  • 1st in 100+ yards receiving games - 76

Jerry is also a thirteen time Pro Bowl selection and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXIII.

Did you know.....Jerry Rice played his college ball at Mississippi Valley State?

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Athlete Number 79 - Roosevelt Brown

A thirteen year starter at offensive tackle, drafted in 1953 by the New York Giants, and a Pro Football Hall of Famer, Roosevelt Brown is the best professional athlete to wear the jersey number 79. "Rosey," as he was affectionately known, was an agile blocker who helped lead the Giants against the Bears in the 1956 NFL Championship game (pre-SuperBowl days.) He was so effective in fact that he was honored as the Lineman of the Game. A few more of Mr. Brown's accolades:

  • Eight straight All-NFL years (1956-1963)

  • Played in nine Pro Bowls

  • 1956 NFL lineman of the year

  • Won six divisional titles and one NFL title with the Giants

  • 1975 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Did you know.......when Roosevelt Brown started out with the Giants he had a 29 inch waist!?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 78 - Bruce Smith

As a lock to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame, when he becomes eligible in 2009, Bruce Smith is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 78. Bruce currently holds the career record for quarterback sacks with an amazing 200. Although he finished up his career with the Redskins, Bruce Smith is recognized as a longtime feared defender for the Buffalo Bills. He was the number 1 draft pick overall in the 1985 NFL draft and quickly established himself as deserving of that high pick. In 1986 Bruce put up a gaudy 15 sacks. Only a few years later in 1990, he went on to his best season ever with 19 sacks. He kept up a fairly good pace, racking up double-digit sack years several times. The man was the sack machine of the NFL. Here are some of his creds:

  • All-time NFL Sack Leader (200)
  • 11-time Pro-Bowler (
  • Buffalo Bills Sack Leader (171)
  • 1987 Pro Bowl MVP
  • AFC Defensive Player of the Year four times (1987, 1988, 1990, 1996)

Did you know......Bruce Smith is a 2006 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame?

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Athlete Number 77 - Ray Bourque

It really is kind of a shame that he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, and not as a member of the team he spent most of his career with, the Boston Bruins. Nevertheless, Ray Bourque is our choice for the best professional athlete to wear the number 77. Some of Ray's accomplishments include:

  • Calder Memorial Trophy Winner (1978-79)
  • Frank J. Selke Award Winner (1978-79)
  • The Sporting News NHL Rookie of the Year (1978-79)
  • Set NHL record for most goals by a defenseman at 410
  • Five-time Norris Trophy Winner (1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994)
  • 1579 career points

Did you know.....Ray's NHL jersey number 77 is retired by both the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 76 - Lou Groza

An offensive lineman who placekicks? No way, not in this day and age. However.....Lou Groza, the best professional athlete to wear the jersey number 76, did just that in the 40s and 50s, while becoming a kicking specialist in the 60s.
  • Six-time All-NFL tackle

  • 1954 NFL Player of The Year

  • Nine-time Pro-Bowler

  • Participated in nine NFL Title Games and four AAFC title games

  • 1974 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

  • Last of the "original" 1946 Browns to retire

Did you know......Lou's nickname was "The Toe?"

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 75 - Howie Long

The Villanova University alumnus and longtime Oakland and Los Angeles Raider, Howie Long, is the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 75. Howie, who was drafted in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft, went on to an illustrious career as a defensive end with the Raiders, spanning the years 1981 to 1993.

Howie was selected to eight Pro Bowls, four All-AFC teams and was named an All-Pro in 1983, 1984 and 1985. According to, Howie had a career mark of 84 sacks which does not include 7.5 sacks made in 1981 because it was not an official statistic at that time.
Long was named the 1985 co-NFL defensive player of the year. He is also a member of the NFL's 1980s all-decade team. As a young member of the Raiders, Howie helped the team capture the Super Bowl title during the 1983 season with a 38-9 victory of the Washington Redskins.

Did you know.....Howie had five sacks in one game in 1983?
(image courtesy of

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Athlete Number 74 - Bob Lilly

"Mr. Cowboy," Bob Lilly, is the best pro athlete to wear the jersey number 74. The first ever draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, Lilly went on to a Hall of Fame career in fourteen season with the Cowboys. In 1961, Lilly started his career as a defensive end for Dallas. In his third season with the 'Boys, coach Tom Landry moved him over to defensive tackle, where he would go on to dominate the league. In fact, the Sporting News had named Lilly the "best defensive tackle in NFL history."

  • 1980 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee

  • Named to eleven Pro Bowls

  • Two-time participant in Super Bowl
  • Five-time participant in NFL/NFC title games

  • Only missed one game in fourteen seasons (all played with the Cowboys)

  • Number 10 on Sporting News list of 100 greatest NFL players (1999)

  • Played in 196 consecutive regular season games

Did you know......Bob Lilly is an avid photographer?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 73 - John Hannah

The New England Patriot who played from 1973 to 1985, John Hannah, is the best professional athlete to wear the jersey number 73. Like Dan Dierdorf, John Hannah must have been destined for the Hall of Fame as he was born in Canton as well. Canton, Georgia, actually.

John, who anchored the offensive line for the Pats at the guard position was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in 1973 and quickly became a mainstay on the line. John went on to a Hall of Fame career playing out his entire tenure with the Patriots.

  • 10-time All-Pro (1976-1985)
  • 9-time Pro Bowl selection
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 1991
  • Four-time NFLPA Offensive Lineman of the Year
  • NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team Member NFL 1980s All-Decade Team

Did you know......John's father, Herbert Hannah, played in the NFL for the New York Giants, and John's brother, Charley Hannah, played for Tampa Bay and the Raiders?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 72 - Dan Dierdorf

Although we considered both Ed "Too Tall" Jones, and Carlton "Pudge" Fisk for number 72 (Pudge was discounted because he also wore 27 for much of his career,) the best pro athlete to wear the jersey number 72 is Dan Dierdorf.

Many of us know Dan from his stint as the Monday Night Football Announcer, along with Al Michaels and Frank Gifford. However, he was also a pro football player, and a pretty good one at that. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.

  • 6-time Pro Bowler

  • 3-time NFLPA NFC Offensive Lineman of the year (1976, 1977, 1978)

  • 5-time All-Pro (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980)

Did you know......Dan was born in Canton, OH (and his bust now resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame there?)

You can read Dan's introduction to the sports book Heroes of the Hall.

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 71 - George Connor

Although many younger sports fans may have never heard his name, George Connor is the best athlete to ever wear the jersey number 71. Some of Mr. Connor's accomplishments:

  • Five times All-NFL
  • All-NFL at three positions (linebacker, offensive tackle and defensive tackle)
  • Played both ways throughout playing career
  • 1950-1953 Pro-Bowler
  • Pro Football Hall of Famer (1975 Inductee)

He was a quick, large and hard-working linebacker for the Bears, who helped to end the Eagles dominance with their sweep play. He was so strong that sportswriter Grantland Rice once said that he was "the closest thing to a Greek God since Apollo." (source:

Did you know......George Connor was the first winner of the Outland Trophy in 1946?

(photo courtesy

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Athlete Number 70 - Rayfield Wright

The "Big Cat," Rayfield Wright, former Dallas Cowboy and Pro Football Hall of Famer, is the best athlete to wear the jersey number 70. Rayfield Wright played offensive tackle, tight end and defensive end in his first three seasons with the Cowboys. He finally settled in at the right tackle position, achieving first or second All-NFL honors for six consecutive seasons (1971-1976.) According to the Minnesota Vikings Carl Eller, "An all-day fight with Rayfield Wright definitely is not my idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon. I think he is pretty much of a composite of an all-pro tackle. He has size, strength, and quickness. The big thing in Rayfield's favor is that he has a lot of range. He moves faster than most tackles. He's just difficult to play against." (source: Rayfield played his entire career with the Dallas Cowboys from 1967-1979 and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2004. If you'd like to learn more about Rayfield, you can request the sports book Wright Up Front.

Did you know.....Rayfield played basketball at Fort Valley State University?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 69 - Mark Schlereth

The man they affectionately call "Stink," Mark Schlereth, is the best professional athlete to sport the jersey number 69. Over 12 seasons split between the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos, Schlereth was nominated to two Pro Bowls (1992 and 1999,) was named an All-Pro (1997,) and garnered three Super Bowl rings (one with the 'Skins and two with the Broncos.) Schlereth's path to the NFL took him from his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, to the University of Idaho where he played his college ball. You may have heard him speak recently as an analyst on the Mike and Mike radio show on ESPN radio, NFL Live, or SportsCenter.

Did you know......Schlereth purportedly had 29 knee surgeries?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 68 - Jaromir Jagr

The best athlete to ever wear the jersey number 68 is NHL superstar Jaromir Jagr. It is rumored that Jagr sports the number 68 on his hockey jersey in memory of the Prague Spring Rebellion that occured in Czechoslovakia in the year 1968. Whatever the actual reason, there is no dispute that he's the best to ever wear the number. Some of his career accomplishments include:
  • Five time NHL points leader (Art Ross Trophy) - 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
  • Three time players' MVP (Lester B. Pearson Award) - 1999, 2000, 2006
  • NHL MVP (Hart Trophy) - 1999
  • Two time NHL Stanley Cup Champion - 1991, 1992
  • Seven time All-Star
  • Most regular season points by a right wing (149 in 1995-96)
  • Former Pittsburgh Penguins captain
  • Former New York Rangers captain

Did you know......Jaromir Jagr supposedly kept a picture of Ronald Reagan in a school textbook in Czechoslovakia?
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Athlete Number 67 - Bob Kuechenberg

The story of the best athlete to wear the jersey number 67 is an interesting one. Bob Kuechenberg was drafted out of Notre Dame by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL draft. He was subsequently cut by the Eagles and picked up by the Atlanta Falcons whereby he was immediately released. After working as a salesman for a period of time, Kuechenberg was picked up as a free agent by the Miami Dolphins. He went on to play fourteen seasons as a guard with the Miami Dolphins, being named to six Pro Bowls.

Kuechenberg was a part of the Dolphins championship teams in Super Bowls VII and VIII. Bob was extremely durable as an NFL lineman, with consecutive start streaks of 53, 42 and 49 games. He also fractured his back in August of 1977 and was still able to come back as a starter that season after missing only two regular season games.

Did you know.....that only Dan Marino has played in more Dolphins games than Bob Kuechenberg?

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Athlete Number 66 - Mario Lemieux

The Great One. Oh wait, that's the other hockey player with the famous number. Although Mario doesn't own the moniker given to Mr. Gretzky (they called Mario "Super Mario,") Lemieux can be considered one of the best, if not THE best, hockey players ever to pull on an NHL jersey. His jersey number 66 is synonymous with greatness for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only was Mario a great player in the NHL, he is also a great executive and owner. As stated in the summary of the sports book, "Mario Lemieux: Over Time", written by Chrys Goyens and Frank Orr, which features Mario's famous jersey number 66 on the cover, "By age thirty-four, he was president of the Pittsburgh Penguins, once again resurrecting a foundering franchise, this time in a suit." We could write an entire sports book about Mario's accomplishments here. But we won't. Here are some of Mario's career hockey highlights:

  • Drafted 1st overall by Pittsburgh in 1984
  • Six Art Ross Trophies, (1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997)
  • Ranked number 4 on The Hockey News' 1998 list of 100 greatest players
  • Three Hart Memorial Trophy Awards (1988, 1993, 1996)
  • 1997 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee (yes he came back to play while he was a Hall of Famer!)
  • 199 Points in 1988-1989 season
  • 12 game goal scoring streak (NHL record)

Did you know.......Mario Lemieux currently owns the Pittsburgh Penguins?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 65 - Elvin Bethea

Elvin Bethea, the 6'2" Defensive End who played for the Houston Oilers, might not be a household name, but if you're a football fanatic you better recognize him as one of the best ever to play the game of football because the Pro Football Hall of Fame does. He's also the best professional athlete to ever wear the jersey number 65. Some of his creds:

  • 210 regular season games played

  • 16 seasons with the Oilers

  • 105 unofficial career sacks (record not officially kept until 1982)

  • 16 unofficial sacks in 1973

  • Selected to eight Pro Bowls

  • All-AFC four times

  • 135 consecutive regular season games played

Elvin was a three-time All-American in college at NCA&T State University.

Did you know......Elvin was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003?

(photo courtesy of

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Athlete Number 64 - Randall McDaniel

At number 64, we have few "flashy" options for the best athlete. However, considering the large amount of NFL lineman who have covered their shoulderpads with the tackle and twill number 64, Randall McDaniel stands out above them all. After all, the man was a twelve time pro-bowler which is impressive for any player at any position (including punter!) Randall wore purple and yellow for the majority of his career with the Minnesota Vikings (1988-1999.) He also spent two years down in the heat of Tampa Bay (2000-2001,) with the Bucaneers. Randall played college ball at Arizona State University.

A 2006 inductee into the Minnesota Viking's "Ring of Honor," McDaniel can be considered among the elite to ever play on the offensive line in the NFL. In fact, regarding the left guard position, Brad Johnson was quoted in the December 15, 2006 edition of the Star Tribune, saying that "he's the best to ever play that position."

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Athlete Number 63 - Gene Upshaw

The best athlete to wear jersey number 63 is Gene Upshaw of Oakland Raider fame. Upshaw played his entire career from 1967 through 1981 wearing a Raiders jersey. He was a first round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders' and was a six-time Pro-Bowler. As an offensive lineman, he was a stalwart of the Raiders' championship teams, playing a position without glamor. A 1987 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Upshaw was ranked number 62 on the Sporting News 1999 list of the NFL's 100 Greatest Players.

Did you know.....Upshaw is the only player to play in three Super Bowls for the same team in three different decades?

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Athlete Number 62 - Jim Langer

The best athlete to wear the jersey number 62 is the offensive center for the Miami Dolphins 1972 perfect season team, Jim Langer. Langer, who played for the Fins from 1970 through 1979 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. He's a six-time Pro-Bowler and a member of the NFL's 1970's All-Decade Team. One of the testaments to Jim Langer's durability was the fact that he played in 141 consecutive games over eight seasons. Langer also played two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings in 1980 and 1981.

Did you know...."The Jim Langer Award is presented to the nation's top Division II lineman each year in his honor?" (wikipedia) (photo courtesy

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Athlete Number 61 - Bill George

Though you may be familiar with the great Chicago Bear linebackers Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus, you may not be familiar with the first great middle linebacker for the Bears. Bill George was the first start at the middle linebacker position, not only for the Bears, but for the NFL. He is also the best NFL athlete to wear the jersey number 61.

He was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Bears in the 1951 NFL draft out of Wake Forest. Bill was an eight time consecutive Pro Bowler (1954 to 1961). He started his career as middle defensive guard, but then switched to middle linebacker, becoming the first great one at that position.

He played with the Bears between the years of 1952 to 1965, and with the Rams in 1966. He is a member of the 1950s All-Decade team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

Did you know.......The Sporting News named Bill George number 49 on it's 1999 list of the NFL's 100 greatest players?

Additional Considerations: Curley Culp, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers

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Athlete Number 60 - Chuck Bednarik

In a photo finish, Chuck Bednarik beats out Otto Graham, as the best athlete to wear the number 60. The last great two-way player in the NFL, Chuck Bednarik's number 60 has been retired by the Philadelphia Eagles (one of only seven retired numbers by that franchise,) where he played his entire NFL career from 1949 through 1962. He played both offensively as a center and defensively as a linebacker for the Eagles. The 1949 first round draft pick, originally from Bethlehem, PA, was selected to eight Pro Bowls. Bednarik was as tough as they come, playing sixty minutes a game and missing only three games in fourteen years. In 1999, The Sporting News named Chuck number 54 on it's list of the Top 100 Greatest Football Players. Chuck was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1967.

Did you know.......Chuck sold concrete for the Warner Company in the off-season, and was nicknamed "Concrete Charlie?"

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