The original. Dreams of playing professional baseball were diverted with a high school knee injury which resulted in his scholarship being rescinded from Washington State. Finished fourth in Heisman voting at TCU, drafted 6th overall. Though the forward pass had been legalized thirty years prior to his arrival, Baugh was the first major passing threat in pro football. Set completions record, led league in passing yards, and his led his Washington professional football team to an NFL Championship during rookie campaign in 1937. Once threw four touchdown passes, and intercepted four more, in a single game. In 1943, led NFL in passing, interceptions (also played safety), and punting average (still holds NFL record for single-season punting average). Two-time MVP. Charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Named Most Versatile Player (NFL Network), and 3rd Greatest Player of 20th Century (Associated Press).
Johnny U was deemed too skinny for Notre Dame, was injured during his senior season at Louisville, and cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers without the virtue of a single practice snap before playing semi-pro ball for $6 a game. Quarterbacked the Baltimore Colts to the 1958 NFL championship (one of three) in Greatest Game Ever Played (the first televised, and first overtime, NFL contest) victory over Frank Gifford-led New York Giants. Four-time NFL MVP. Considered the best quarterback for decades following his retirement.
Received basketball scholarship to Northwestern where he was spotted playing intramural football on campus. Played another season of basketball at Colgate, served a brief time in the military, and won the 1946 title with the Rochester Royals of the NBL, before Paul Brown offered Graham a contract to play for the Cleveland Browns. Most dominant player of his time – led Browns to championship game each of his 10 seasons, including seven titles, during which Graham was awarded five MVPs (two AAFC, three NFL). Still holds NFL records for win percentage & yards per passing attempt.
Though Joe Cool began playing football at age eight (parents forged papers to get him on the nine-year old team), his favorite sport was basketball. He was named to the all-state team as a senior, and received a basketball scholarship to North Carolina State. Third-round pick out of Notre Dame for Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense. Threw touchdown pass that became “The Catch” to Dwight Clark – effectively ending the dynasty of America’s Team, and birthing that of the San Francisco 49ers. Two-time MVP, three-time Super Bowl MVP, four-time NFL Champion (including 11 Super Bowl TDs & 0 INT). Named #4 All Time Player by NFL Network, and Most Clutch QB by Sports Illustrated.
Married to a super model and currently suspended by the NFL… Tom Terrific: four-time NFL Champion, three-time Super Bowl MVP. Still going strong.
Perhaps the best athlete – with unquestionably the best arm – on the list. Highest rated quarterback prospect in history. Threatened to play baseball rather than with the Baltimore Colts (who held first pick in NFL Draft following career at Stanford). Carried bad teams on his back to title games against superior opponents during his prime, before finally winning back-to-back Super Bowls on the legs of Terrell Davis following his final seasons.
Never beat Florida. Greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. Bested Rex Grossman for a title (carried by all-time defense for another in final season). Returned to football following neck surgery and nerve damage. Changed the way position was played: coach on the field, embodiment of Signal Caller. Most passing yards in a season and career; most touchdowns in a game, season, and career. Real jerk of a guy despite commercial persona.
Retired with virtually every NFL passing record. Led Minnesota Vikings to three championship games. 1975 NFL MVP, 1986 HOF inductee, Monday Night Football commentator. Modern equivalent = Russell Wilson.
Captain Comeback was the Joe DiMaggio of American football. Won the Heisman trophy quarterbacking the Midshipmen before serving four years in the Navy (including a voluntary tour in Vietnam). Finally earned starting quarterback position for Dallas Cowboys at nearly 29. Won two NFL Championships. Threw original Hail Mary to Drew Pearson in 1975 playoff game. Eventually sold his real estate company for over $600m.
Best pure passer. Passed over by hometown Steelers in draft. Named to Pro Bowl as rookie. Set single-season record for touchdown passes and yards in first full year as starter, which culminated in MVP honors and Super Bowl loss to Joe Montana & the 49ers. Retired with a then-record 420 career passing touchdowns.
The first deep passing threat. First to throw for 400 yards in a game. Record of 28 passing TDs stood for 15 years before being broken by Unitas (32, 1959). Four-time champion. MVP of 1943 season when he set the NFL record for TD pct (13.9), and his 10.9 ypa remains second best in NFL history. 1965 HOF inductee.
Nearly the athlete as Elway, nearly the scrambling ability of Tarkenton. Fought out of shadow of Montana. Three-time champion (MVP of Super Bowl XXIX) & two-time NFL MVP. Incredibly bright. Mormon.
Incredibly narcissistic. Incredibly tough. Three-time NFL MVP, one-time Super Bowl champion (Desmond Howard MVP). Retired with most attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions in NFL history. 321 consecutive starts (including post-season) a seemingly-unbreakable record.