They were bad boys on the field, but beloved by their teams fans. They made big plays, big hits, and are the highlight films that we as fans all love to watch. Today we throw out there our list of the ‘Top 10 All-Time Most Vicious NFL Players,’ guys that were known for their hits as much as they were known for their hard nosed ability to make big plays.
Feel free to comment to agree or disagree, or add names that you think should make the list.
10. Ray Lewis – The Ravens linebacker has been the heart and soul of the Ravens for the past 13 seasons, making big hits and inspiring teammates to do the same. Lewis was Baltimore’s first round pick back in 1996, and he’s been worth every penny. 36.5 career sacks, 28 picks and some of the most memorable defensive plays in NFL history. A sure first ballot Hall of Famer once he hangs up the cleats.
9 – Ronnie Lott – In some eyes the best defensive back in the history of the NFL, Lott is known for his ability to dish out pain, but also to take it. When you think of Lott, you think of the time he cut off a portion of his pinkie in order to return to a game, not wanting to let his team down. He laid out plenty of wide outs, tight ends and running backs in his time, and was rewarded for it with a bust in the Hall of Fame.
8. “Mean” Joe Greene – The leader of the famed ‘Steel Curtain,’ Greene was a menace to offensive players throughout his 13-year career. He was a four-time Super Bowl Champion, had 78.5 sacks, and had to be double or triple teamed almost every play. He had a mean attitude on Sundays, and it showed on the field with his Hall of Fame play. Greene was the foundation behind Pittsburgh’s four Super Bowls.
7. Steve Atwater – An eight-time Pro Bowler for the Broncos, Atwater played week in and week out more like a linebacker than a safety. He laid out players with punishing hits and leading one of the best defenses in the NFL. Also known as “Assassin,” one of the most famous hits Atwater made was on former Chiefs RB Christian Okoye, laying him out. Atwater returned 24 interceptions for 408 yards and a touchdown, but will probably never see a bust in the Hall of Fame.
6. Mike Curtis – You know you have a rep when you have not one, but two nicknames. Mike Curtis, a flat out mean Colts linebacker, was known as both the “Animal,” as well as “Mad Dog.” Curtis recorded 22 sacks, picked off 25 passes and was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1970. The four-time Pro Bowler once threatened his own teammates once when they were not playing up to par, and made no bones about not liking players on opposing teams. Curtis had a look that just struck fear when he took the field, making him one of the best of all-time.
5. Jack Tatum – He was a hitter among hitters, and playing in Oakland he was one of the members of one of the best defensive backfields of all-time. He was a great tackler, maybe dirty at times, but by the way he laid out players, he earned his nickname – “The Assassin.” He had the ability to explode when a ball carrier would show up in his area, and was not afraid to put his body on the line every time he took the field. He remains best known for a hit he made against former Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 pre-season game. The hit paralyzed Stingley from the chest down.
4. Jack Lambert – “Count Dracula in Cleats,” Lambert was a monster that was a master of intimating players each time he took the field. While Joe Greene was the foundation of the ‘Steel Curtain,’ Lambert’s attitude and play made the Steelers defense as a unit the greatest of all-time, and pushed them to four Super Bowls in six seasons. A defensive player of the year and a 9-time Pro Bowler, there will never be a player that could intimate like Lambert.
3. Ray Nitschke – Off the field, Ray Nitschke wore glasses that made him look like a high school science teacher. On the field, Nitschke was an animal, making plays that knocked out players and struck fear into the hearts of players during the great Packers era. #66 played 15 seasons for the Pack, and picked off 25 passes and was an All-Pro three consecutive seasons. He was the core of the Packers D, and earned every honor that was bestowed upon him.
2. Lawrence Taylor – No player of the modern era scared offensive players as much as L.T. did. He was dominant, and from his rookie year till the day he retired Taylor made life tough for anyone that had the football. “Defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen. He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers,” Hall of Fame coach John Madden said of Taylor. He broke Joe Theismann’s leg, a famous play that only cemented his legacy as the 2nd most vicious NFL player ever.
1. Dick Butkus – The greatest linebacker of his generation and of all time. He laid out players with a style that offensive players feared. No one made plays the way Butkus did, and he used his speed and strength to lay out players every week. “When I went out on the field to warm up, I would manufacture things to make me mad,” he once said. “If someone on the other team was laughing, I’d pretend he was laughing at me or the Bears. It always worked for me.” And it is clearly what makes him #1 on this list.