Famous 20th Century American Football Players

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century American Football Players, including Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, O. J. Simpson, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite American Football Players

 1 Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning
19
Famous As: American Football Quarterback
Birthdate: March 24, 1976
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

American football quarterback Peyton Manning played 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and four with the Denver Broncos, winning a Super Bowl with each, thus becoming the only person to achieve the feat. Also known as “The Sheriff,” the talented player has NFL records for passing yards and touchdowns.

 2 Brett Favre

Brett Favre
16
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: October 10, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gulfport, Mississippi, United States

Brett Favre is a former American football player who spent the majority of his National Football League career with the Green Bay Packers. Apart from being a retired player with several achievements and records under his belt, Favre is also a philanthropist; in 1996, he set up the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, which has donated over $2 million to charities.

 3 Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders
12
Famous As: American Football player, Baseball Player
Birthdate: August 9, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Fort Myers, Florida, United States

American football player Deion Sanders is considered one of the strongest pass defenders of the game. He was an electrifying athlete and played in the National Football League for 14 seasons. He played for teams like Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. He is now a coach and a sports analyst. He’s also a rapper.

 

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 4 Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw
16
Famous As: Former NFL Star & TV Analyst
Birthdate: September 2, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Shreveport
Drafted by Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970, Terry Bradshaw went on to become a dominant NFL quarterback and led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships. His career halted after an injury, but Bradshaw soon established himself as a prominent television football analyst for Fox NFL Sunday. Later, he ventured into acting, writing and music.

 5 Randy Moss

Randy Moss
15
Birthdate: February 13, 1977
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rand, West Virginia
NFL wide receiver Randy Moss set a record for the highest number of receiving touchdowns in a season. The Minnesota Vikings player became the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1998 and retired after playing with the San Francisco 49ers. He gave rise to the term “getting mossed.”

 6 Joe Montana

Joe Montana
9
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: June 11, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New Eagle, Pennsylvania, United States
Former NFL quarterback Joe Montana, nicknamed Joe Cool, mostly played for the San Francisco 49ers, winning four Super Bowls with them. ESPN’s 25th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, Montana was the first player to be Super Bowl MVP thrice and was part of the Pro Bowl eight times.

 7 Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice
10
Famous As: Former NFL Star
Birthdate: October 13, 1962
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Starkville

Jerry Rice is a former American footballer. He played primarily for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League. Thanks to his several records and accomplishments, Rice is considered one of the greatest players and the greatest wide receiver in the history of NFL. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked him second on its Football's 100 Greatest Players list.

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 8 Walter Payton

Walter Payton
8
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: July 25, 1954
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Columbia, Mississippi
Died: November 1, 1999
NFL running back Walter Payton, nicknamed "Sweetness,” played for the Chicago Bears for 13 seasons, winning titles such as the Super Bowl. He was named the NFL MVP in 1977 and was a nine-time Pro Bowl. Before dying of bile duct cancer, he became an advocate for organ donations. 

 9 Troy Aikman

Troy Aikman
14
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: November 21, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: West Covina, California, United States

 10 Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens
11
Famous As: American Footballer
Birthdate: December 7, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Alexander City

Terrell Owens is a former American football player who played for popular teams like San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL) in a career spanning 16 years. Considered one of the greatest American footballers of his generation, Terrell Owens was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

 11 Jim Brown

Jim Brown
10
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: February 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: St. Simons, Georgia, United States

 12 Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe
8
Famous As: Athlete
Birthdate: May 28, 1887
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lincoln County, Oklahoma, United States
Died: March 28, 1953

Jim Thorpe was an American athlete who was counted among the most versatile athletes of the modern era. Jim Thorpe won two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics and became the first Native American to give the United States an Olympic gold. He also played American football, professional baseball, and basketball. He was memorialized in the 1951 film Jim Thorpe – All-American.

 13 Dan Marino

Dan Marino
8
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: September 15, 1961
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Quarterback Dan Marino had a successful stint with the Miami Dolphins, leading them to 10 playoffs and the Super Bowl XIX. However, he never won a title. Named to Pro Bowl nine times, he was also the 1984 NFL MVP and part of the 2019 NFL 100 All-Time Team.

 14 Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders
6
Famous As: American football running back
Birthdate: July 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wichita

Barry Sanders is a former professional American footballer who spent all his playing years with the Detroit Lions of NFL. Widely considered one of the greatest running backs in the history of National Football League, Barry Sanders has been made an inductee to Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

 15 Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith
6
Famous As: NFL Star
Birthdate: May 15, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pensacola

Emmitt Smith is a former American footballer who helped the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League win three Super Bowl championships between 1993 and 1996. He remains NFL's all-time leading rusher and is the only running back to win a Super Bowl. A humanitarian, Smith is credited with founding a nonprofit organization called the Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities.

 16 John Elway

John Elway
11
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: June 28, 1960
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Port Angeles, Washington, United States

 17 Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson
20
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: March 21, 1985
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Palestine, Texas, United States

Adrian Peterson is an American football player. Widely regarded as one of the greatest running backs in the history of the National Football League (NFL), Peterson became the third-fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 rushing yards in 2013. He is currently playing for the Detroit Lions.

 18 Junior Seau

Junior Seau
12
Famous As: American Football Players
Birthdate: January 19, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Diego, California, USA
Died: May 2, 2012

 19 Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor
8
Famous As: Actor, American football player
Birthdate: February 4, 1959
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Williamsburg

 20 Steve Young

Steve Young
8
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: October 11, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

 21 Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu
8
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: April 19, 1981
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Garden Grove, California, USA

 22 Reggie White

Reggie White
8
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: December 19, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Died: December 26, 2004

 23 LaDainian Tomlinson

LaDainian Tomlinson
8
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: June 23, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rosebud, Texas, United States

 24 Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald
12
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: May 23, 1991
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

 25 Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick
19
Famous As: American football coach
Birthdate: April 16, 1952
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nashville, Tennessee, United States

 26 Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson
9
Famous As: American Football Player, Baseball Player
Birthdate: November 30, 1962
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bessemer, Alabama, United States

Former professional baseball and football player Bo Jackson has the distinction of being the only professional athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both the sports. Considered one of the greatest athletes of all time, he pursued his other interests following his retirement from sports in the 1990s. He has acted in a few TV shows, playing minor characters.

 27 Bart Starr

Bart Starr
4
Famous As: American football player-Quarterback
Birthdate: January 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: May 26, 2019

 28 Ed Reed

Ed Reed
4
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: September 11, 1978
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint Rose, Louisiana, United States

 29 Michael Irvin

Michael Irvin
4
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: March 5, 1966
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States

 30 Adam Vinatieri

Adam Vinatieri
11
Famous As: American Football Players
Birthdate: December 28, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Yankton, South Dakota, USA

 31 Mike Singletary

Mike Singletary
4
Famous As: American Football coach
Birthdate: October 9, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, USA

 32 Andy Reid

Andy Reid
9
Famous As: Coaches
Birthdate: March 19, 1958
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

Andy Reid is an American football coach who is currently serving as the head coach for the National Football League team the Kansas City Chiefs. Reid is credited with revitalizing the Chiefs which was a struggling team when he started coaching them in 2013. He helped the Kansas City Chiefs win a Super Bowl title, their first in 50 years.

 33 Kurt Warner

Kurt Warner
6
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: June 22, 1971
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Burlington, Iowa, United States

 34 Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor
10
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: April 1, 1983
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Florida City, Florida, United States
Died: November 27, 2007

 35 Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez
5
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: February 27, 1976
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Torrance, California, United States

 36 Roger Staubach

Roger Staubach
4
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: February 5, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

 37 Eric Dickerson

Eric Dickerson
4
Famous As: American Football Players
Birthdate: September 2, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sealy, Texas, USA

 38 Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce
14
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: October 5, 1989
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Westlake, Ohio, USA

 39 Gale Sayers

Gale Sayers
4
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: May 30, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States
Died: September 23, 2020

 40 Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus
3
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: December 9, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 41 Jared Goff

Jared Goff
10
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: October 14, 1994
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Novato, California

 42 Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo
10
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: November 2, 1991
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Arlington Heights, Illinois

 43 Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer
9
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: July 10, 1964
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio, United States

Urban Meyer is an American football coach who is currently serving as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars which competes in the NFL. He has also coached college football teams like the Ohio State Buckeyes, helping the team win its maiden Big Ten Conference title. He has also worked as an analyst for popular TV networks like Fox Sports.

 44 Steve McNair

Steve McNair
5
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: February 14, 1973
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mount Olive, Mississippi, USA
Died: July 4, 2009

 45 Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk
3
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: February 26, 1973
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

 46 Shannon Sharpe

Shannon Sharpe
7
Famous As: American footballer
Birthdate: June 26, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

 47 Shaquem Griffin

Shaquem Griffin
8
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: July 20, 1995
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Florida

 48 Tyreek Hill

Tyreek Hill
8
Famous As: American football player
Birthdate: March 1, 1994
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pearson, Georgia, United States

 49 Earl Campbell

Earl Campbell
3
Famous As: American Football Player
Birthdate: March 29, 1955
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tyler, Texas, USA

 50 Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll
6
Famous As: Football Coach
Birthdate: September 15, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States