Athlete Number 57 - Tom Jackson

We all know him now as Chris Berman's counterpart on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, but he also played in the NFL. The best professional athlete to don the number 57 is Thomas Jackson of Denver Bronco fame. Jackson, who is a member of the Bronocs Ring of Fame, was a three-time pro-bowler in his fourteen year career in Denver. Only John Elway has played more games in a Broncos uniform than Mr. Jackson. For an interesting look at Tom Jackson, check out this article from The News Tribune of Tacoma, WA.

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Athlete Number 56 - Lawrence Taylor

Guessing who was going be the best athlete to wear number 56 is like guessing who the best athlete to ever wear number 99 is. Still, let's take a look at that athlete, L.T., Lawrence Taylor. Taylor, who played his entire career with the New York Football Giants, was a fierce, intense, talented linebacker. He may be the best to ever play the position. He had such speed when he lined up outside the defensive tackle that blocking backs often had trouble picking him up. In fact, he even made the 49ers change the way linebackers were usually picked up on blitzes, by forcing them to have an offensive lineman pick Taylor up. L.T. is also credited with Joe Gibbs' utilization of the two tight end offense. Taylor was ranked as the number four linebacker of all-time by the Sporting News in 1999. He is a Hall of Famer and his number 56 has been retired by the Giants. A few more of L.T.s accomplishments:

  • 10-time Pro Bowler

  • 1986 NFL MVP

  • NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1981)

  • Two-time Super Bowl Champion (1986 and 1990)

  • NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1981 and 1982)

  • 1983 and 1986 UPI NFC Player of the Year

  • 132.5 "official" career sacks

  • 1,088 career tackles

  • Member of NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team

Did you know.......L.T. would have 141.5 sacks if the statistic was officially recorded in his rookie year?
(photo courtesy of newsday.com)

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Athlete Number 55 - Junior Seau

Junior "hit you make you say OW!" Junior Seau is our choice for the best athlete to don the number 55 on a professional field of play. Known for his ferocious linebacker play for the Chargers, Seau also played linebacker briefly for the Dolphins and Patriots. Some of Junior's credentials are:

  • 12 consecutive Pro Bowl trips (only fourth player since 1970 to be elected to 10 or more consecutive Pro Bowls)

  • 1990s All-Decade Team

  • Led the Chargers in tackles for eight seasons

  • 60 games with 10 or more tackles

  • Led team in tackles for 90 regular season career games

  • Chargers' MVP for five straight season (1997-01)

  • 47 sacks in career with Chargers (third on Chargers' all-time list)

Did you know.....Junior owns a restaurant in San Diego called Seau's?

(photo courtesy of trojanwire.c0m)

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Athlete Number 54 - Randy White

Randy White was drafted No.2 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1975 NFL Draft, formerly a product of the University of Maryland. At Maryland, Randy earned distinctions as a Consensus All-American, the ACC Player of the Year and won the Outland Trophy as well as the coveted Lombardi Trophy. As a highly sought after draft pick, the Cowboys struck gold with this beast from the east in the first round. What set White apart from his teammates was not his ability to make big plays, but his durability, intelligence and toughness (White missed only one game in 14 seasons). In his regular season career, White was credited with 1,104 tackles, 701 solo tackles and 111 sacks.

NFL Highlights:
• Selected for the Pro Bowl Nine Times
• Named All-Pro Eight Times
• Named Super Bowl Co-MVP (XII)
• NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1978)
• NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year (1982)
• Won One Super Bowl Title (XII)
• Won three NFC Titles
• Won Five Division Titles
• Inducted into the Dallas Cowboy's Ring of Honor (1994)
• Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1994)

Best Season: Randy White's best season was probably in 1978 when he recorded 123 tackles and 16 sacks.
Best Nickname of all time: Manster (half man, half monster)
Did you know......that Randy started out as a linebacker his first two seasons before being moved to defensive tackle, where he spent the remainder of his career?
(photo courtesy of students.stedwards.edu)

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Athlete Number 53 - Harry Carson

This was the toughest choice yet. In the end, Harry Carson gets the nod over fellow 53er Don Drysdale. Harry Carson was a dominating linebacker for the Giants during his thirteen year career spanning the 1970s and 1980s. He had an intensity that has been matched by few. Harry, who became a starting linebacker in his rookie season (1976,) was the New York Giants captain for ten years and led the team in tackles for five years. Harry played in pro bowls for 69% of his career playing time (9 out of 13 years.) Teaming with Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks in the 1980s, Harry was a key part of one of the best defenses to ever grace an NFL gridiron. This defense was a primary reason for the Giants Super Bowl Championship in 1986.

Did you know.....Harry was "rated the #1 'Inside Linebacker' in NFL history according to Pro Football Weekly, Carson was named to the All-Rookie Team after his first NFL season." (source: harrycarson.com.)

(photo courtesy of harrycarson.com)

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Athlete Number 52 - Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis, number 52, of the Baltimore Ravens, is the best professional athlete to wear the number. Lewis was a dominant linebacker and force on one of the best defenses ever in the NFL. He also has a really unique (and entertaining,) dance he does when entering the stadium field. Here are some of Ray's credentials:

  • Super Bowl MVP in 2000

  • 4-time NFL tackle leader

  • 7-time All-Pro

  • 2-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year

  • Led Ravens in tackles for 8 out of 10 years

Did you know......Ray donates a tractor-trailer load of food and personal care boxes annually to 440 of Baltimore's neediest families to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal in the privacy of their homes?

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Athlete Number 51 - Randy Johnson

Wow, this was a close one. Feasibly, any one of the following athletes could have received this one: Randy Johnson, Dick Butkus, Ichiro Suzuki, or Trevor Hoffman. In the end, the Big Unit gets the nod due to his impressive numbers and lengthy career. Randy has worn the number 51 for the majority of his major league career. He wore the number 41 with the New York Yankees because his teammate Bernie Williams had the number 51 before he got there. (Bernie could have been considered for best athlete to wear this number also.) Here is Randy's long list of credentials:

  • 2015 Pro Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 4,875career strikeouts
  • 4-time NL Cy Young Winner (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002)
  • 1-time AL Cy Young Winner (1995)
  • C0-World Series MVP in 2001
  • 4-time League Leader in ERA (1995, 1999, 2001, 2002)
  • 5 consecutive 300 strikeout seasons (1996-2002,) and MLB record
  • Perfect game thrown on May 18, 2004
  • .646 career winning percentage
  • 37 career shutouts
  • 303 career wins
Did you know......Randy was originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1982 but did not sign, according to baseball-reference.com?

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Athlete Number 50 - Mike Singletary

The longtime Chicago Bear linebacker, Mike Singletary or "Samurai Mike," as he was sometimes known, is the best professional athlete to wear the number 50. According to profootballhof.com, "The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1988, Mike was the cornerstone of the Bears’ innovative 46-defense. In 1985, he led a Bears’ defense that allowed fewer than 11 points per game, as the team posted an impressive 15-1 record. He had 13 tackles and a sack in the playoffs leading up to the Bears’ 46-10 defeat of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Bears’ league-leading defense held the Patriots to a record low seven yards rushing, while the hard-charging Singletary contributed with two fumble recoveries."

The NFL 1980s All-Decade linebacker was extremely intense in both games and practice. When you watched him play, his eyes would seem to be open a little further than everyone else's. It was as if he was trying to take everything on the field in at once.

Mike finished his career with some excellent numbers:
  • 1,488 career tackles
  • 885 solo tackles
  • 10-time Pro-Bowl nominee
  • 179 games played
  • AP NFL Defensive MVP two times (1985, 1988)
  • UPI NFC MVP three times (1984, 1985, 1988)
  • 1998 Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Number 56 on the Sporting News List of 100 Greatest Football Players (as of 1999)
Did you know....Mike Singletary was the San Franciso 49ers assistant head coach and linebackers coach?

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Athlete Number 49 - Ron Guidry

The "gator" is the best athlete to wear the number 49 in professional sports. Also known as "Louisiana Lightning," this lefty spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, from 1975 through 1988. Gator put up 170 wins and a .651 winning percentage in his 14 years with the bombers. He had a career 3.29 ERA. Not too shabby for a starting pitcher. He also had 1778 strikeouts. He is currently the New York Yankees pitching coach. The Gators credentials:

  • 1978 AL Cy Young Award winner

  • 1978 MLB Player of the Year

  • Gold Glove Award Winner (1982-1986)

  • AL ERA leader in 1978 and 1979

  • 1.69 ERA in three World Series

  • All-Star in 1978, 1979, 1982 and 1983

Did you know.......Ron's number 49 was retired by the Yankees on August 23rd, 2003?

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Athlete Number 48 - Daryl "Moose" Johnston

If you didn't know better, every time he touched the ball you'd think the fans in Texas stadium were booing. They certainly weren't. The chants were going up for "Moooose!" Daryl "Moose" Johnston would rarely carry the ball for the Dallas Cowboys, but when he did you knew it from the sounds in the crowd. Daryl spent the majority of his Dallas Cowboy career leading the way for Emmitt Smith. He also excelled at catching the ball out of the backfield. Here are some of Moose's creds:

  • Three-time Super Bowl Champ (1992, 1993, 1995)
  • Two-time Pro-Bowler (1993, 1994)
  • 22 career touchdowns
  • 2,227 career receiving yards

Did you know......Moose has his own blog?

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