BIGPLAY’s NFL 100: 100 Personalities From the NFL’s First 100 Years: 100 – 91

The BIGPLAY countdown of 100 personalities from the NFL.

Photo Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports (via NFL)

The 2019 season is the NFL’s 100th season. There is a lot of pomp and circumstance associated with this upcoming season and at BIGPLAY we will be counting down 100 personalities from NFL history. These are not necessarily the best players/coaches, although many of the greatest in NFL history are on the list. This is a list of 100 people who have done something interesting, either in the NFL or in their post-NFL careers. Our first article will feature numbers 100 – 91, we hope you will enjoy the list and comment on who you feel should be higher or lower.

100 – Dante Lavelli

Dante Lavelli played wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns from 1946 – 1956. Before joining the Browns, Lavelli was a member of the US Army in WWII. He was part of the Normandy Invasion as well as the Battle of the Bulge, two of the more famous battles from the war. Once joining the Browns, he garnered the reputation of being a big-play receiver and acquired the nicknames “Mr. Clutch” and “Gluefingers”. Dante Lavelli was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.

99 – Korey Stringer

Photo Courtesy of Tom Olmscheid, AP file photo

Korey Stringer’s story is a sad one but has been at the forefront of many decisions that have affected the NFL since his death. Coming off a Pro Bowl season for the Vikings, a lot was expected out of Stringer in 2001. Sadly on August 1, 2001, Stringer died from complications brought on by heatstroke at training camp. In an attempt to make sure nothing like this happens again, the NFL has put some safeguards in place including but not limited to having a team doctor at practice sessions, no more two-a-day practices and many teams train in lighter-colored uniforms as to not attract so much heat.

98 – Randy White

Randy White played defensive tackle and linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys from 1975 – 1988. He was a ferocious defender, garnering the nickname “The Manster” because he was half-man, half-monster. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and White, along with teammate Harvey Martin have the distinction of the players to share a Super Bowl MVP for Super Bowl XII. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

97 – Joe Gibbs

Photo Courtesy of John Gaps III, AP Photo

Joe Gibbs was a great head coach. Think about the teams that have won multiple Super Bowls under one head coach, most, if not all of those teams had Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks. Vince Lombardi had Bart Starr, Chuck Noll had Terry Bradshaw, Bill Walsh had Joe Montana and Bill Belichick has Tom Brady. Who did Joe Gibbs have? Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien, all good players but without being in the Joe Gibbs system they would not have been as successful.

Before becoming the head coach of the Redskins, Gibbs worked under Don Coryell with the St. Louis Cardinals (1973 – 1977) and the San Diego Chargers (1979 – 1980). Together with the Chargers, Coryell and Gibbs set up the high powered offense that allowed Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts to accumulate many offensive records.

96 – Bill Willis

Bill Willis became one of the first African American players of the modern era when he joined the Browns in 1946. Unfortunately, players like Willis do not garner the attention they deserve for playing at a time in American History that was not open to African American athletes as they are today. As a player, he was a disruptive force as he combined power and speed on the defensive line. He won five consecutive Championships with the Browns from 1946-1950. He was a three-time Pro Bowler, a member of both the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame.

95 – Art Donovan

Art Donovan was affectionately known as “Fatso.” He was a great defensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts in the 1950s and he helped lead the Colts to two NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959. Like many players of his generation, Donovan was a member of the Armed Forces before his playing career began. He was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and was part of the Battle of Iwo Jima, which was one of the most brutal in the Pacific. After his playing career was over, Donovan stayed in the limelight with television appearances most notably as a guest commentator at the WWF King of the Ring tournament and as a member of ESPN’s NFL coverage.

94 – Julius Peppers

Recently retired Julius Peppers had an amazing NFL career. He was the #2 overall pick in 2002 and went on to be named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl player and has many accolades in his illustrious career, which will no doubt end with his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What makes his career most interesting is that it almost didn’t happen. While in college at UNC he played both basketball and football. Had he wanted to pursue an NBA career he had the abilities to do so. Fortunately for NFL fans, he decided to focus on football only during his final year of college.

93 – Randall Cunningham

Are you familiar with the opening for the television show Law & Order? You know how it starts with “There are two separate, yet equally important groups…” That in many ways is the career of Randall Cunningham. The first part was as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and the second part was as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. While with the Eagles from 1985 – 1995 Cunningham, who was an excellent passer, would rely a lot on his running abilities to get out of jams. While with the Vikings, he would rely on his arm and run much less. In 1998 he helped lead the explosive Vikings offense all the way to the NFC Championship Game which the Vikings lost to the Atlanta Falcons.

Cunningham was, in many ways, ahead of his time. Had Cunningham been playing in a time when RPOs were more common his career could have been even better than it was.

92 – Steve Largent

Photo Courtesy of Betty Udesen, The Seattle Times

Steve Largent was a 5’11” wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks from 1976 – 1989. He was an undersized player with a big heart and great hands. In his Hall of Fame career, he had 819 receptions for 13,089 yards and 100 touchdowns. He was the first great player the Seahawks ever had and one of the few who have had their numbers retired.

After his NFL career, Largent ran for Congress and was in office from 1994 – 2002, when he resigned to run for Governor of Oklahoma and lost.

91 – George Allen

Some of the most memorable NFL Films moments include coaches being “mic’d up” and George Allen was no exception. He was an energetic head coach for the Rams and Redskins. His Redskins teams were known as the “Over The Hill Gang” because Allen preferred veteran players over younger ones. The legacy that Allen had on the field as a head coach is immortalized by the fact that he is a member of the Washington Redskins Ring of Honor. Additionally, his four children have gone on to lead interesting lives as well. His oldest son, George was a politician from Virginia, His next son, Bruce has been an executive in the NFL since 1995 and his youngest son Gregory is a sports psychologist. Finally, his daughter, Jennifer is a writer and has appeared on the NFL Network.

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