In honor of the NFL’s 100th season, we’ve compiled the 101 greatest players by uniform number. At the end of each year, we add a new entry to the list, so the list of players will never be perfect, but it’s our best attempt at determining the greatest players to wear each number. Based on accomplishments, accolades, and overall on-field performance, each player has been scored based on a weighted formula to determine where they rank on the list.
The NFL’s all-time uniform number list is a favorite of football fans and the uniforms themselves are a favorite of collectors, but we rarely look at the players who wore each number.
With the 2018 NFL draft just days away, we’re excited to announce the launch of our annual list of the Top 101 Greatest NFL Players by Uniform Number: 30-39 of all time. That’s right, we’re counting down the former NFL players with the greatest uniform numbers, and each day we’ll provide a brief introduction to one of the Top 101 Greatest NFL Players by Uniform Number: 30-39.. Read more about current nfl players by jersey number and let us know what you think.
The fourth episode of Sportscasting’s 10-part series “The 101 Greatest NFL Players by Uniform Number” is now available.
For those who haven’t seen the previous three installments of the series, we’re doing exactly what the title implies. We’re just identifying the greatest player to wear each number, since there have been 101 different numbers (0, 00, 1-99) worn throughout the span of the 101 NFL seasons played. From now until the start of the 2021 NFL season, which begins on September 9, we’ll release a new section of the list every Thursday. Isn’t that simple?
We started with a list of 11 players who wore Nos. 00-9, and we’ve now moved on to the finest players who wore Nos. 10-19 and Nos. 20-29. And, of course, we’ll continue with the best to wear Nos. 30-39 today.
Terrell Davis, No. 30
We start with Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis, who played for the Denver Broncos for his entire seven-year professional career. While Davis’ NFL career was cut short due to injuries, he made the most of his time in the league. He ran for 7,607 yards and 60 touchdowns in only 78 regular-season games, with 56 of them coming in his first four seasons, the most in NFL history.
He was even better in the playoffs, running for 1,140 yards and a dozen touchdowns, eight of which came after the 1997 season, including three in Super Bowl 32, for which he was voted MVP. In 1998, Davis was named NFL MVP after rushing for 2,008 yards, the sixth-most in league history.
Jim Taylor (No. 31)
No. 31 is Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor, who spent nine of his ten NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He was the first running back in NFL history to carry for 1,000 yards in five consecutive seasons, and it’s no surprise that he was named to the Pro Bowl five times between 1960 and 1964.
Taylor was also the only running back to defeat Jim Brown for the rushing championship during Brown’s career, doing it in 1962, when he rushed for 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns in his NFL MVP season. He ended his career with 8,597 running yards and 83 rushing touchdowns, enough for 17th all-time in the NFL. Taylor was a six-time All-Pro selection, a four-time NFL champion, and a Super Bowl winner with the Green Bay Packers. He finished his career with the New Orleans Saints in his tenth and final season.
Jim Brown (no. 32)
With the data we provided above, it should come as no surprise that Jim Brown is our No. 32 pick, but we did take a brief look at a few other Hall of Famers who wore the number, including O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, and Marcus Allen. Brown’s domination, though, made the decision simple.
Brown earned eight rushing championships in nine NFL seasons, all with the Cleveland Browns, and was also a nine-time Pro Bowler, nine-time All-Pro pick, and helped the Browns win the NFL title in 1965. With 12,312 running yards and 106 rushing touchdowns, he remains in 11th place on the NFL’s all-time rushing yards record.
Sammy Baugh, No. 33
Sammy Baugh is an obvious choice at No. 33 since he is still widely regarded as the best all-around athlete in NFL history. Baugh was the epitome of an ironman player, having spent his whole 16-year career in Washington.
When he retired after the 1952 season, he had thrown for 21,886 yards and 187 touchdowns and owned every major throwing record. He has 31 interceptions as a defensive back, including a league-high 11 in 1943 alone. Baugh also topped the NFL in punting average five times, including once with a 51.4-yard average that is still an NFL record. He was a two-time NFL champion, two-time NFL Player of the Year, six-time Pro Bowler, and eight-time All-Pro.
Walter Payton, No. 34
In 1987, Walter Payton poses before a Bears-Raiders game | Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images
Our choice at No. 34, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, who spent his entire 13-year career with the Chicago Bears, is another easy decision. Payton ran for at least 1,000 yards in ten of those 13 seasons, finishing with 16,726 yards, the highest in NFL history at the time. Sweetness is still second all-time in NFL running yards, behind only Emmitt Smith. He also has the fifth-best single-game running total with a 275-yard effort against the Minnesota Vikings in 1977, and is sixth on the all-time rushing touchdowns record with 110.
Payton was a nine-time Pro Bowler, an eight-time All-Pro pick, the 1977 NFL MVP, and a Super Bowl champion with the Bears after their legendary 15-1 season in 1985. While Payton was the obvious choice, Earl Campbell and Thurman Thomas must also be included.
Pete Pihos (no. 35)
The decision to place Aeneas Williams, an eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro defensive back, at No. 35 was the most difficult on this section of the list. However, after much deliberation, we chose Pete Pihos, who was the greatest wide receiver of his day and spent his entire NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pihos was a six-time Pro Bowler, a six-time All-Pro selection, a three-time receptions leader, a two-time receiving yards leader, a one-time receiving touchdowns leader, a two-time NFL champion, and a two-time NFL champion from 1947 to 1955, missing just one game throughout his whole career.
Jerome Bettis, No. 36
The obvious choice at No. 36 is Jerome Bettis, who spent the first three years of his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams before spending a decade with the Pittsburgh Steelers. “The Bus” carried the ball 3,479 times in his career, which is the fifth-most in NFL history, and finished with 13,662 yards, which ranks seventh all-time.
He was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro pick, and in his last game, he helped the Steelers win Super Bowl 40 in his birthplace of Detroit.
Rodney Harrison (#37)
We considered Detroit Lions great Doak Walker for No. 37, but we ultimately chose safety Rodney Harrison, who spent 15 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots. Harrison was the only player in NFL history to have 30 sacks and 30 interceptions, as well as seven picks in nine playoff games, including two for the Patriots in Super Bowl 39 against the Philadelphia Eagles, which was one of Harrison’s two Super Bowl victories.
He was a two-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and a member of the Chargers’ and Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Teams.
Arnie Herber, No. 38
Arnie Herber, regarded by many as one of the first great quarterbacks in NFL history, is our pick at No. 38. Herber played with the Green Bay Packers for the first 11 years of his career, from 1930 to 1940, before joining the New York Giants in 1944 and 1945. He was a four-time NFL champion, three-time All-Pro selection, three-time leading passer in passing yards, and three-time leading passer in passing touchdowns.
Larry Csonka, No. 39
To round off this section of the list, we have one more Hall of Fame running back in Larry Csonka, who spent eight seasons with the Miami Dolphins and three with the New York Giants. Csonka was a powerful running back who led the Dolphins to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, the first of which came after an undefeated season in 1972. After running for 145 yards and two scores against the Vikings in Super Bowl 8, he was voted MVP of the second half. Csonka was also a three-time All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler.
We’ll be back with Nos. 40-49 next week.
Pro Football Reference provided the statistics.
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The NFL has some of the greatest athletes in the world. The league has featured some of the greatest legends of all time in their uniforms, and this list is my way of recognizing and honoring those individuals who have worn each uniform number at least once in the NFL. It’s taken some time to do this as I’ve been lazy the last couple of weeks but I finally got around to it. I’ve done my best to stick to the uniform numbers that have been worn at least once in the NFL.. Read more about nfl players who wore number 97 and let us know what you think.
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