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Most Dominating NFL Players Of All Time



These NFL players from throughout time have completely messed with the psyche of the opposing team. From defensive tackles to linebackers that installed the most fear into wide receivers crossing the field.
These players were true showmen who delivered hard hits and plenty of entertainment to all NFL fans throughout time. See if your favorite made the list.

Jerome Bettis

What would you do if you saw this behemoth of a man barreling towards you? For opposing players, they simply prayed they’d live to play another day. The Steelers running back was a force to be reckoned with on the field, crushing offensive plays and stealing yards at every chance he could get. It’s little wonder why he was known as “The Bus.”

Walter Payton

Even with linebackers larger than himself standing formidably in front of him, Payton never stood down. It only pushed him to fight harder and glide across the field once he got the ball in his gloves.

Jim Brown

James Nathaniel Brown was a fullback for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. He was invited to the Pro Bowl every season he was in the league and was recognized as the AP NFL Most Valuable Player three times. In 2002, he was called “the greatest professional football player ever” by The Sporting News.

Mike Singletary

Born in 1958, Mike Singletary was known as “The Heart of the Defense” for the Chicago Bears in the ‘80s. A tackling machine, Singletary was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998. He later pursued a career as a linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, then the San Francisco 49ers, then the head coach for the 49ers.

Barry Sanders

Sanders had ridiculous leg strength, and was one of the fastest and strongest runners to ever touch the football field. He was a running back for the Detroit Lions in the ‘90s. A two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Barry Sanders was ranked by NFL Network’s NFL Top 10 as the most elusive runner in NFL history and of greatest players who never played in a Super Bowl.

Lawrence Taylor

There isn’t enough evidence to prove that everyone was afraid of linebacker Lawrence Taylor. “I’ve seen quarterbacks look at Lawrence and forget the snap count,” Beasley Reece told The New York Times. Moreover, Jerry Sisemore of the Philadelphia Eagles admitted he would experience cold sweats during the week, nervous about facing Taylor at the Sunday night game.

Jerry Rice

A wide receiver primarily with the San Francisco 49ers, Rice is widely considered the greatest wide receiver in NFL history and the best route runner. He won an AFC Championship with the Oakland Raiders and three Super Bowls with the 49ers. His unfaltering work ethic led him to hold over 100 NFL records, the most of any player.

Randy Moss

Randy Gene Moss was an NFL wide receiver of multiple teams who played 14 seasons and held the single-season touchdown reception record (23 in 2007) and the single-season touchdown reception record for a rookie (17 in 1998). He is also second on the NFL all-time regular season touchdown reception list with 156.

Ray Lewis

Raymond Anthony Lewis Jr. played all of his 17-year professional career for the Baltimore Ravens. Lewis played middle linebacker for his entire career, and is considered to be one of the greatest ever to play that position, as well as the greatest Baltimore Raven of all time. He was a 13-time Pro Bowler. In 2000, Lewis pled guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men. Scared, yet?

Bruce Smith

“There are good players, very good players, great players, exceptional players and ridiculous players. Bruce is a ridiculous player,” said Fred Smerlas, a teammate and Buffalo Bills player. Smith was the gem of the Bills defense in the early ’90s. He hunted the quarterback down like a vicious dog, and ended his career with over 200 sacks, more than any other NFL career player in history.

Dick Butkus

“If you can get someone who you’re competing against either fearful or intimidated, it’s going to make my job easier,” said Butkus. His technique was to pick players up and slam them to the ground, causing the player to let go of the ball. It was a new age way of tackling, forcing the players to fumble rather than going straight for their legs.

James Harrison

Despite being a two-time Super Bowl champ and five-time Pro Bowler, Harrison is best known for his superhuman strength and incredible work ethic. Some of his workout moves include hip thrusts with 675-pound weights, 130-pound overhead presses, and 1,120-pound leg presses. He is a freaking monster.

Reggie White

Reggie White was nicknamed the “Minister of Defense” and still has the second most career sacks in NFL history. He is also considered to be the greatest defensive end of all time.

Derrick Thomas

Thomas racked up 126.5 career sacks and finished 16th on the NFL’s all-time list. His record was a whopping seven sacks in one game! Coach Marty Schottenheimer built a great line of defense around him as the center of strength and perseverance.

Emmitt Smith

Born in 1969, running back Emmitt Smith was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher during his fifteen seasons in the 1990s and 2000s. He was a small, shifty runner, and part of the Dallas Cowboys for three Super Bowl wins. In 1993, Smith was the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl championship, the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award all in the same season.

John Randle

John Randle scared off every lineman on the offensive side, and was named a Hall of Fame player. Coach John Teerlinck claimed Randle would practice his moves on doorways, and work his spin move on random people in grocery stores. Points for creativity.

Warren Sapp

Hall of Famer Warren Sapp played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders from ‘95 to ‘07. He made 96.5 sacks, the second highest career sacks for a defensive tackle. His 77 sacks for the Bucs alone are the second highest in the team’s history. Unblockable, Sapp was known for his nose tackle, a move later adopted by most NFL teams. His verbal outbursts and brutal hits caused controversy for him during his career.

Brian Dawkins

Bearing the stance of a Roman gladiator, Dawkins made the Philadelphia Eagles a top-contending team during the height of his career. He intimidated by talking trash and then backing it up with defensive playing that made opponents wish his bark was worse than his bite!

Charles Haley

Haley is the only other NFL player to achieve five Super Bowl titles other than Tom Brady, and he did so in dominant fashion. He transitioned from outside linebacker to defensive end, making him a versatile pass rusher for the Cowboys. His ferocious temperament made him a scary adversary to line up against on a weekly basis, even causing the 49ers to trade him to Dallas which turned out to be a career-defining moment.

Earl Campbell

Earl Campbell is considered one of the best power running backs in NFL history, known for his aggressive, punishing running style and his ability to break tackles. Redskins linebacker Pete Wysocki claimed, “Every time you hit him you lower your own IQ.”

Ronnie Lott

Former defensive coordinator, Ray Rhodes, said that Lott struck a player in a Bowl with such force that “it just knocked Ickey’s spark right out of him. The game turned right then because Ickey just didn’t run with the same authority after that.” One of his most famous stories? He had his broken pinkie finger amputated in April of ‘86, so that he could keep off the bench.

Brian Urlacher

Standing at 6’4” with a staggering weight of 268 pounds, Urlacher leads the Chicago Bears at defense with more ferocity than an actual bear! Every player who looks into his eyes before the snap feels an overwhelming sense of dread as they know that they’re about to be smashed by a bulldozer.

Ed Reed

Referred to as a “ball hawk”, Reed used to memorize the moves of opposing team’s players on film to better predict what they would do on the field. He spent most of his career with the Baltimore Ravens and was named the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Easily considered as one of the greatest safeties in history, he holds the records for the two longest interception returns (106 and 108 yards).

John Lynch

Originally playing defense for Tampa Bay, Lynch later signed on with the Denver Broncos. Tight end Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers admitted to his quarterback that he refused to go to certain parts of the field, because John Lynch might be there, waiting to attack.

Rodney Harrison

Rodney Scott Harrison played safety for the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots and wears two Super Bowl rings. Known for his big plays and fierce leadership, he finished his career as the first NFL player with 30 sacks and 30 interceptions.

Troy Polamalu

Originating from Samoan descent, Polamalu played his whole 12-year career for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. Known for big interceptions and vicious hits, Polamalu was one of those players who was just impossible to slow down.

Alan Page

Page is proof that they just don’t make them like they used to! He was the center of the Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters,” and was even a Pro Bowler nine times during his career. There was no one nastier than he was at the time.

Deacon Jones

Jones coined the term “sack” and “head slap,” and was one of the greatest pass rushers in the game. He would place metal disks in his hands and tape around them to keep them unseen. He would slap his hands hard over the ears of offensive linemen as a defensive tactic. For one game, Bob Brown replaced the short screws in his helmet with long ones that he filed off. Jones impaled his hand on the screws, leaving him with a nasty injury and a scar.

Jack Youngblood

Youngblood famously played in the 1979 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XIV with a broken leg! He did serious damage to his body during those games, and his sports doctor was outraged. Now, that’s dedication.

Jack Tatum

“I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault,” Tatum once said, after earning the nickname, “The Assassin.” He was known for laying brutal hits on wide receivers, often times to the point of injury. He left player Darryl Stingley paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

John Matuszak

As a World’s Strongest Man competitor, actor, and beast of a defensive end, John Matuszak could do it all. Spending the majority of his career as an Oakland Raider, he won two Super Bowls before retiring in 1982. He was also notorious for his drug usage, which made him a menace to teammates and opponents alike.

Sam Huff

Linebacker Sam Huff of the New York Giants was one of the most feared players of all time. Huff was the first rookie middle linebacker to start an NFL championship game, which took place in 1956 and ended in a victory for the Giants. In 1982, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Steve Atwater

Atwater quickly became known as one of the most ferocious hitters of all time, landing a name on the 1990’s All-Decade first team. His most famous hit ever? Christian Okoye of the Kansas City Chiefs, in the third down.

Ted Hendricks

Former NFL linebacker for the Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers, and the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, Ted Hendricks boasts 60.5 quarterback sacks in the NFL and 26 interceptions. Standing at a towering 6’7″, the tall, thin Hendricks gained the nickname “The Mad Stork” while in college at the University of Miami. He earned another famous nickname while with the Raiders: “Kick ‘em in the Head Ted.” He used to routinely jump over blockers in games, and one day in practice he knocked out fullback Marv Hubbard with an attempted blocker hurdle.

Lyle Alzado

Defensive end Lyle Alzado was famous for his intense and intimidating style of play. Alzado actually inspired the league’s rule against throwing a helmet after he did so himself — at an opponent’s head! ESPN described him as a “violent, combative player known for his short temper.” At 6’3″ and 255 pounds, a bad temper is not what you want to go up against on the field.

Sean Taylor

Remember when Sean Taylor hit wide receiver P.K. Sam so furiously that he rotated a full 360 degrees? Not to mention, he laid out Brian Moorman in the 2006 Pro Bowl and forced Terrell Owens onto the trainer’s bench. Former coach Gregg Williams said Taylor was “the greatest player he ever coached.” Taylor was murdered in 2007 by home intruders.

Kevin Greene

The Steelers linebacker may have had one of the best smiles in the entire NFL, but on the field that warm grin turned into a serious grimace. He had size and speed on his side, a winning combination that — combined with his long hair — made him absolutely terrorizing on the field.

Mark Gastineau

Part of the famed “New York Sack Exchange,” Mark Gastineau was one of the most-feared pass rushers of his era. A five-time Pro Bowler, Gastineau tallied 107 and a half sacks over the span of his career, which was an NFL record at the time, and is a New York Jets record today. He remains one of the most prolific at his position.

Carl Eller

Eller was another prominent member of the Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters,” a 6’6” giant that was about as mean as they come. If you were a quarterback during the 1960s and learned you were playing the Minnesota Vikings, you either got down on your knees to pray or you got down on your knees to train hard!

Chuck Bednarik

Known as “Concrete Charlie,” Bednarik played for both offense and defense and was one of the most violent tacklers in the history of the game. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the very first year he was eligible.

Jack Lambert

John Harold Lambert, “The Toothless Assassin,was recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 as “the premier linebacker of his era.” He had an 11-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and is known for his toothless grin and assassin mentality on the field. Even fans were too frightened to approach him.

Dick Lane

Nicknamed the “Night Train,” Dick Lane ranked number two on the NFL Network’s “Most Feared Tacklers” in history. He was the best hitting corner of his time. One reporter said, “Night Train’s signature move was to take your head off.” He would hurt a player almost every single time he tackled.

Ray Nitschke

Raymond Ernest Nitschke was a middle linebacker who spent his 15-year career entirely with the Green Bay Packers. He led the Packers to five NFL championships and two Super Bowl wins. Known for his intensity and toughness, Nitschke was struck by a steel tower on the Packers practice field due to a strong gust of wind, driving a spike into his helmet. And he was fine.

Randy White

Missing only one game over 14 professional seasons, Randy White displayed a physical presence at the middle linebacker position for the Dallas Cowboys. White accumulated over 1,100 tackles and 111 sacks during his career, adding another three Super Bowl rings to his resume as well.

John Riggins

This Redskins player was nicknamed “The Diesel,” and it’s pretty evident where that name came from. The 230-pound hulk plowed through linebackers with ease, suffering less injuries along the way than the average football player due to his brutish size.

Bill Romanowski

In 2015, Romanowski said, “The way I saw it, the more violence and nastiness I played with out on the field, the more I was feared and hated by opponents — and loved by my coaches, teammates and fans.” He also took performance enhancing drugs to achieve his physical goals.

Larry Csonka

At 6’3”, the Miami Dolphins fullback was a tank on the playing field. Rare was the time when he was taken down. In fact, a collision with him was often the thing that opposing teams avoided, as it hardly ever ended well for the person on the receiving end of his 235-pound body.

Donnie Shell

An 11-year starter in Pittsburgh, Donnie Shell was yet another force for the Steelers in the ‘70s. Shell notched 51 interceptions over his career, which was a record for strong safeties at the time. He won four titles with Pittsburgh, and made the Pro Bowl an impressive five times during his playing days.

Ernie Holmes

Ernie Holmes was another piece of the iconic “Steel Curtain” in Pittsburgh, playing alongside Joe Greene and co. His playing style was notably fierce at the time, and chairman Dan Rooney called him one of the most intimidating opponents to line up against. Holmes also helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls during his tenure.

Alonzo “Skip” Thomas

With a nickname like “Dr. Death,” it’s pretty apparent that Thomas was no average NFL player. He was very well known for his ferocity behind his tackling maneuvers during his ‘70s career, and the Oakland Raiders were simply glad to have such a tenacious player on their team.

Conrad Dobler

Though our list mostly consists of defensive players, Dobler was dubbed “Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player” by Sports Illustrated. He had bad reputation, and did very little to change that. “Conrad Dobler was mean dirty. He tried to hurt people in a bad way…he made teams that he played on better. He played hurt, didn’t complain, but he was a filthy, filthy player,” said sportswriter Paul Zimmerman.

Joe Greene

“Mean” Joe Greene was one of the most feared players of all time, and had the toughest attitude by far on the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line. No player could ever block him while one on one, and he even caused Dick Butkus to back down.

Greg Lloyd Sr.

At 6’2″ and 234 pounds, this Steelers linebacker was named to five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. If his ferocity on the field doesn’t mean much, then perhaps the fact that he has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do will simply solidify how badass he truly is!

Leonard Davis

Davis played offensive lineman for 12 seasons in the NFL. He had a great year in 2007, when he received Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Since 2005, Davis was the fifth most penalized player in history, with 42 penalties overall.

Lester Hayes

Hayes was one of the fiercest cornerbacks of his time, often being referred to as “The Judge” and “Lester the Molester” due to his solid bump-and-run coverage skills. A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl winner in Oakland, Hayes utilized an iconic stance to intimidate the opposing wideout, predating a generation of fast and physical corners. He’s considered one of the best shutdown players ever at the position.

John Hannah

John “Hog” Hannah was one of the fiercest offensive lineman in NFL history. Missing only 5 games over his 191-game career, Hannah was well-known for his commitment to football, even getting angry with teammates when they didn’t cooperate. He played the entirety of his career in New England, allowing him to make numerous “all-time” lists.

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