American football continues to grow in popularity worldwide as international audiences fall in love with the Gridiron. Household names in the USA are now part of the sporting conversation across the pond and further, bringing in a new era of fans who enjoy the strategy, intensity and skill of the game, not to mention the incredible athleticism of the top players. Some of the greatest of all time have hung up their cleats for good, whilst others continue to show their dominance on the field. We take a look at five of those who will be remembered long after they’re done playing with the pigskin.
1. Tom Brady
Start at the top! Probably the greatest quarterback of all time, Brady has already gone down in history… although his seeming unwillingness to age defies historic precedent. Now over 40, you can still bet on a Brady team to come through big in prime time. Brady has only ever played for the New England Patriots, and will surely go down as the greatest franchise legend of all time. Interestingly, despite his prowess, Brady doesn’t make the Forbes Top 10 Highest Paid Athletes 2019. Whether this is Head Coach Bell Belichick playing hardball or Brady realising that his reduced wage cap hit allows the team to get better elsewhere, it’s striking that Brady is not amongst the elite earners, whilst less storied QBs such as the Falcons’ Matt Ryan and Lions’ Matthew Stafford are included in the top 10 ahead of him.
2. Randy Moss
When your name becomes a verb – “to Moss” – you know you’ve made it. The ‘can’t be covered’ wide receiver was in a league of his own, making NFL defensive backs look silly. Moss was probably most recognised for his time with the Minnesota Vikings who drafted him in the first round of the 1998 draft, though he also enjoyed an extremely productive spell in… yep, New England. Moss racked up over 15,000 receiving yards and 150 touchdowns in his time on the field, cementing his place amongst the gridiron greats.
3. Aaron Donald
The youngest of the five on our list – he was born in 1991 – the LA Rams defensive tackle has done enough already to enter the Hall of Fame and is going to be recognised as one of the all-time greats in the history books. Donald racked up almost 30 sacks in his college career, though was arguably still underrated come draft time. A disruptive presence requiring coaches to plan around him, the former first-round pick will become one of the NFL’s most coveted assets if he ever decides to move on from Los Angeles.
4. Rob Gronkowski
Another New England Patriot, this infamous Tight End achieved a lot of success with Brady. The big-bodied party boy, known to most as ‘Gronk’, was notoriously difficult to deal with for opposing defences due to his combination of size, speed and deceptive agility. Gronk was also recognised as one of the most proficient Tight End blockers ever to play football, essentially operating as another lineman in the run game. He retired after the 2019 season having collected almost 8,000 yards and 79 touchdowns before leaving the sport to enjoy the party lifestyle… for now.
5. Adrian Peterson
Arguably the biggest product ever to come out of the Big 12, AP was the most impressive running back of his generation. A 7-time Pro Bowler, AP is still going as of now with the Washington Redskins, though his prime was during the nine years he spent with the Minnesota Vikings as a feature back known for his extremely aggressive running style combined with rare speed. Peterson currently holds the NFL single-game rushing record, racking up 296 yards during a 2007 game against the San Diego Chargers.