Greatest American Football Names of All Time

I’ve assembled a team of the greatest football player names of all time.  The criteria for making the team is to have a name that fits the actual position played.  In a few rare exceptions the name simply suggests a toughness (Conrad Dobler) or flare (Elvis Peacock) fitting of a professional football player.  Like my baseball player name selections in a previous post, my methodology was simply to scour the names of football players on for the best candidates and jot down statistical highlights.  This useful website has a list of all players by position so it made it easier for me to assemble a team.


Quarterback:  Johnny Unitas. The quality of a great quarterback is leadership and the ability to unite the team.  I could think of no better candidate than Johnny U, the NFL MVP in 1967 who threw for 290 touchdowns and over 40,000 yards in a productive career with the Baltimore Colts.

QB Reserves:  Bart Starr, Sid Luckman

Running Backs.  Larry Csonka.  The ultimate punishing runner who csonked would be tacklers.  The Hall of Famer was the 1973 Super Bowl MVP.  In his career as a Miami Dolphin, Csonka scored 68 touchdowns and rushed for over 8,000 yards.  The halfback position was a tough one – there are some great ones I put on reserve, but I went with Frank Gore because I like the idea of a runner with a name that inspires toughness – a runner who might gore a disrespecting linebacker.  Frank Gore, while not the highest profile runner, has been one of the more productive backs in the last few years.  He was a 2006 Pro Bowler and has an impressive 4.7 yard average per rush as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

RB Reserves:  Sneeze Achiu, Bronco Nagurski, Ronnie Bull, Billy Cannon, Sam Gash, Joey Goodspeed, Harry Hopp, Jim Kiick, Bam Morris, Mercury Morris, Mack Strong and Elvis Peacock

Center: Napolean Barrel.  Just a great name.  In 1923, playing for the Oorang Indians, Barrel created holes for the Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe.

Guards.  Speaking of holes, Ernie Hole is one of my Guard selections.  Hole played for the Muncie Flyers in the early 20’s.  The other Guard, none other than the feared Conrad Dobler who cleared holes for St. Louis runners in the 70’s.  Dobler was a Pro Bowler in 75, 76 and 77.

TacklesBruce Armstrong.  A six time Pro Bowler for the Patriots, Armstrong started in every game he played and he played in quite a few – 212 to be exact.  Another imposing name who played Center and Right Tackle is the inimitable Jug Earp.  Any relation to Wyatt I wonder?  Jug was a durable blocker during a 11 year career for the Green Bay Packers in the 20’s and 30’s.

Tight End:  Alge Crumpler.  Small DBs watch out.  Crumpler was a Pro Bowler from 2003-2006 and has scored 36 TDs in his career with both Atlanta and Tennessee.

TE Reserves:  Jeremy Shockey and Ken Barefoot

Wideouts:  Lance Alworth.  Certainly worth all the money San Diego invested in this former Arkansas Razorback standout.  The Hall of Famer caught 87 TD passes, made the Pro Bowl team from 1963-1969 and averaged 18 yards per catch.  Johnny U will have another great receiver to throw to in fellow Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Swann, a Superbowl MVP for the Pittsburg Steelers, made some of the greatest and most graceful catches I’ve ever seen – almost as if he could fly.

WR Reserves:  Golden Richards, Hank Baskett and Flipper Anderson.

Kicker:  Ryan Longwell.  For Green Bay and Minnesota, Longwell has converted 20 field goals of 50+ yards.

Punter:  Ray Guy.  Because when I  think of a punter, I think Ray Guy.  Kind of like calling a tissue Kleenex or a photocopy a Xerox.   Selected for the Pro Bowl 7 times.

On the defensive side I assembled the following squad, one that I would field against any modern offense.

Defensive Line:  Tackles:  Mean Joe Greene and Tank Johnson.  Two formidable names and players. Greene, another Hall of Famer on the squad was the defensive player of the year in 72 and 74.   Tank Johnson, while not as well-known as the anchor of the Steel Curtain, the 300 pound Tank has had some good years with the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys.  To date, he has 5 sacks and a safety to his credit. Ends: Jumpy Geathers.  Jumpy jumped quarterbacks 62 times in his career with New Orleans, always getting a good jump off the line.  Marcus Spears another current 300 pound Cowboy lineman has 5.5 sacks in his young career.  Nose Tackle:  the nod goes to Bucko Kilroy, a Pro Bowler for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 50’s.

DL Reserves:  Jabar Threats, Jerry Rush, Henry Slay, Charlie Toogood and Tom Wham

Linebackers:  Takeo Spikes.  Pro Bowler in 2002-03 seasons.  He’s run back 3 interceptions for TDs and one fumble recovery for a TD.  Drafted by Cincinnati, Spikes currently plays for San Francisco.  Couldn’t have  Kilroy without a Slaughter.  TJ Slaughter.  Drafted by Jacksonville, Slaughter had 174 tackles in a 6 year career with various teams.

LB Reserves:  Paul Butcher

Defensive Backs:  Melvin Bullitt.  For Indianapolis, Bullitt had 5 interceptions and 53 tackles in the 2008 regular season.  Reggie Corner. 17 tackles and 1 fumble recovery in his rookie season with the Bills. Richard “Night Trane” Lane.  Hall of Famer who played for Detroit and other teams.  68 career interceptions.  And Carl “Spider” Lockhart.  Spider, a teammate of Mean Joe Greene’s at North Texas State, had 41 career interceptions for the New York Giants.

DB Reserves:  Earthwind Moreland, Chris Gamble and Quentin Jammer