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You can't have a discussion about the greatest football players of all time without having Tom Brady's name mentioned various times. He certainly wasn't a sure thing coming out of college like the other players on this list. Drafted 199th overall by the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL draft, Brady was supposed to be a backup in the NFL. If you told the Patriots they were getting a Future Hall of famer and 6x super bowl winning quarterback as a result of drafting Brady, they would have laughed in your face. Anyone would have apart from Tom himself. He certainly got the last laugh however. Brady has defied odds and went on to have one of the most illustrious careers the sport has ever seen. During his 20 seasons and counting, he has obtained almost every accolade possible while competing for a super bowl year in and year out. On route to his 6 super bowl rings, he has had the highest win percentage amongst quarterbacks who have played over 100 games with a 77% clip. His unfathomable brilliance is shown by many metrics. As his storybook career appears to be coming to an end shortly, is there still enough time for another chapter of the book to be written? We will find out soon. Regardless, he has done more than enough to acquire the number one position on this list. Anything he does from here on out is a bonus.
Jerry Rice holds the record for the three most important statistical categories used to analyze wide receivers: yards, receptions, and touchdowns. Not to mention, he holds 33 other all time records as a result of his extraordinary success over his 21 year career. Although the statistics are an obvious reason as to why he belongs on this list, his style of play revolutionized the way the receiver position is played today. His flashy and energetic style of play is mimicked by many young receivers in the modern game. Rice was selected 16th overall in the 1985 NFL draft out of Mississippi Valley State where he thrived. He struggled however during his first season in the league, but that would be the only hiccup year of his career. He would eclipse 1,000 receiving yards each year over the next 11 seasons setting record after record. In 1987, Rice Set what was at the time the single season record for touchdowns in a season with 22, in just 12 games due to a strike in the NFL that year. Randy Moss currently holds the record with 23, but he had 16 games to do so. If you do some simple math, 22/12=1.8, Rice was scoring an average of about 2 touchdowns per game that year. That is out of this world. He was an outstanding route runner and thrived in San Francisco's Air Raid style offense with Joe Montana and Steve Young where he won 3 super bowls earning himself a spot on the top 5 football players of all time list.
Jim Brown was one of the best athletes of his time. Before reaching the NFL, he was an All-American in lacrosse and football, as well as a letterman in basketball at Syracuse University. After being drafted first overall by the Cleveland Browns in 1957, he dominated from the first snap. An unstoppable force out of the backfield, he was nearly impossible to put on the ground. He managed to make the Pro-Bowl every year of his career and was unanimously deemed the best running back in the NFL during the time he played. He led the NFL in rushing yards 8 out of his 9 NFL seasons and led the Cleveland Browns to what was called an NFL Championship at the time (equivalent of today's super bowl). Defenders feared meeting up with him on the field as he plowed over/through them with ease. He surprised everyone in 1966 when he decided to cut his career short and retire leaving many questioning what could have been had he continued his career. Would he be #1 on this list? Unfortunately we will never know the answer to that, but we do know how extraordinary of a talent he was earning him a spot on the top 5 greatest football players ever list.
'Joe cool' Montana is famously known for his posie late in games when the lights were shining brightest on him. The legend not only handled these moments, he dominated them. Leading comeback drive after comeback drive (47 to be exact), he led the 49ers to 4 super bowls while receiving accolades and recognition left and right. Montana was drafted 82nd overall in the 3rd round of the 1979 NFL draft out of Notre Dame. He had to wait patiently for two years to officially become the starting quarterback for the 49ers in 1981. That season he led the 49ers to a 13-3 record in the regular season and a super bowl trophy in the playoffs. As mentioned, he would go on to win 3 more. Montana always appeared to play his best in the Super Bowl. He holds the record to this day of highest passer rating in the big game with a 127.8 average rating over the 4 super bowls he played in. His superbowl stat line stat line (over the 4 games he played in) reads: 11 passing touchdowns, 1,142 yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He didn't turn the ball over once and efficiently scored every time he was on the big stage with an average of 3.25 touchdowns accountable for per super bowl game he competed in. He was as cool as can be under pressure and performed at his best when it mattered most. This is why he earns a spot on the greatest football players of all time list.
Known as "L.T." by man, Lawrence Taylor was a man amongst boys on the football field. Drafted second overall in the 1981 NFL draft out of North Carolina, he hit the ground running immediately with a superb rookie season in which he had a career high 133 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception. He was named first-team All-Pro in each of his first 9 seasons in the NFL. Along the way, he helped the Giants create a winning culture with his fiery passion and incredible ability on defense. Apart from his jaw dropping athletic ability, he had a brilliant football mind. He was always able to find a way to effect the play regardless of whether he was hitting the quarterback or not. Most of the time however, he was terrorizing quarterbacks accumulating 132.5 sacks throughout his career. He dominated on the defensive side of the ball like no other. Lawrence is one of two players to ever win the NFL MVP award as a defensive player along with Allan Page who won the award in 1971. During his MVP season in 1986-87, he recorded 20.5 sacks and led the New York Giants to their first ever Super Bowl. Defensive players model their game after him to this day. The way he attacked the line of scrimmage and rushed the passer with such power and determination is second to none. This is why Lawrence Taylor earns a spot on the top 5 football players of all time.