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 20th Century American Football Players

 1 
Peyton Manning
(One of the Greatest Quarterbacks of All Time)

Peyton Manning
25
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
(American football player)

Brett Favre
20
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
(American Football player, Baseball Player)

Deion Sanders
18
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 
Randy Moss
(American football player)

Randy Moss
16
Birthdate: February 13, 1977
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rand, West Virginia, United States
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.”

 5 
Terry Bradshaw
(American Football Player)

Terry Bradshaw
17
Birthdate: September 2, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Shreveport, Louisiana, United States
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.

 6 
Joe Montana
(American football player)

Joe Montana
11
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
(American football player)

Jerry Rice
10
Birthdate: October 13, 1962
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Starkville, Mississippi, United States

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 
Jim Brown
(Football Player)

Jim Brown
15
Birthdate: February 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: St. Simons, Georgia, United States

 9 
Walter Payton
(American Football Player)

Walter Payton
10
Birthdate: July 25, 1954
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Columbia, Mississippi, United States
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. 

 10 
Terrell Owens
(American Football Player)

Terrell Owens
14
Birthdate: December 7, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: AAlexander City, Alabama, United States

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 
Dan Marino
(American football player)

Dan Marino
10
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.

 12 
Jim Thorpe
(Athlete)

Jim Thorpe
11
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 
Troy Aikman
(American football player)

Troy Aikman
16
Birthdate: November 21, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: West Covina, California, United States

 14 
Aaron Donald
(American football player)

Aaron Donald
12
Birthdate: May 23, 1991
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

 15 
Barry Sanders
(American Football Player)

Barry Sanders
8
Birthdate: July 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States

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.

 16 
Lawrence Taylor
(Former American football Outside linebacker)

Lawrence Taylor
10
Birthdate: February 4, 1959
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Williamsburg, Virginia, United States

 17 
Emmitt Smith
(American Football Player)

Emmitt Smith
6
Birthdate: May 15, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, United States

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.

 18 
John Elway
(American football player)

John Elway
13
Birthdate: June 28, 1960
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Port Angeles, Washington, United States

 19 
Junior Seau
(American Football Players)

Junior Seau
13
Birthdate: January 19, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Diego, California, USA
Died: May 2, 2012

 20 
Steve Young
(American football player)

Steve Young
10
Birthdate: October 11, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

 21 
Troy Polamalu
(American Football Player)

Troy Polamalu
12
Birthdate: April 19, 1981
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Garden Grove, California, USA

 22 
Reggie White
(American Football Player)

Reggie White
8
Birthdate: December 19, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Died: December 26, 2004

 23 
LaDainian Tomlinson
(American football player)

LaDainian Tomlinson
9
Birthdate: June 23, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rosebud, Texas, United States

 24 
Michael Irvin
(Sports commentator, former American football wide receiver)

Michael Irvin
4
Birthdate: March 5, 1966
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States

 25 
Tony Gonzalez
(American Football Player)

Tony Gonzalez
6
Birthdate: February 27, 1976
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Torrance, California, United States

 26 
Bo Jackson
(Former Baseball & Football Player, the Only Professional Athlete in History to be Named an 'All-Star' in Both)

Bo Jackson
9
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 
O. J. Simpson
(Former American Football Player Who Was Tried for the Murder of His Former Wife Nicole Brown Simpson)

O. J. Simpson
16
Birthdate: July 9, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
O J Simpson created a record breaking football career with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL. He pursued a successful acting career and became a football broadcaster. However, the star footballer’s life took a dark turn when he was charged with the murders of his ex-wife and her friend and was later convicted in a kidnapping and armed robbery case.

 28 

Carl Weathers
4
Birthdate: January 14, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Carl Weathers began his career as a football player, playing for the NFL team Oakland Raiders and the CFL team B.C. Lions. He stepped into acting with Arthur Marks’s blaxploitation films. He is best known as Apollo Creed from the Rocky films and as Greef Karga from The Mandalorian.

 29 
Bart Starr
(American football quarterback and coach)

Bart Starr
5
Birthdate: January 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: May 26, 2019

 30 
Kurt Warner
(American football player)

Kurt Warner
6
Birthdate: June 22, 1971
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Burlington, Iowa, United States

 31 
Mike Singletary
(American Football coach)

Mike Singletary
6
Birthdate: October 9, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, USA

 32 
Ed Reed
(Football player)

Ed Reed
6
Birthdate: September 11, 1978
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint Rose, Louisiana, United States

 33 
Roger Staubach
(American football player)

Roger Staubach
5
Birthdate: February 5, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

 34 
LaVar Ball
(American Football Player, Businessman)

LaVar Ball
7
Birthdate: October 23, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
LaVar Ball, father of basketball players Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo Ball, once played professional American football. He has appeared on the reality show Ball in the Family and owns the clothing company Big Baller Brand. He once had an infamous feud with Donald Trump over LiAngelo’s arrest in China.

 35 
Travis Kelce
(American Football Player)

Travis Kelce
14
Birthdate: October 5, 1989
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Westlake, Ohio, USA

 36 
Adam Vinatieri
(American Football Players)

Adam Vinatieri
13
Birthdate: December 28, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Yankton, South Dakota, USA

 37 
Andy Reid
(Head Coach for the National Football League Team 'Kansas City Chiefs')

Andy Reid
10
Birthdate: March 19, 1958
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

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.

 38 
Sean Taylor
(American football player)

Sean Taylor
11
Birthdate: April 1, 1983
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Florida City, Florida, United States
Died: November 27, 2007

 39 
Tyreek Hill
(American football player)

Tyreek Hill
9
Birthdate: March 1, 1994
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pearson, Georgia, United States

 40 
Eric Dickerson
(American Football Players)

Eric Dickerson
6
Birthdate: September 2, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sealy, Texas, USA

 41 
Gale Sayers
(American Football Player)

Gale Sayers
6
Birthdate: May 30, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States
Died: September 23, 2020

 42 
Jimmy Garoppolo
(American football player)

Jimmy Garoppolo
11
Birthdate: November 2, 1991
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Arlington Heights, Illinois

 43 
Dick Butkus
(American football player)

Dick Butkus
4
Birthdate: December 9, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 44 
Jerry Jones
(Owner of NFL's Dallas Cowboys Team)

Jerry Jones
4
Birthdate: October 13, 1942
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Businessman Jerry Jones is best known for being the owner of the National Football League (NFL)'s Dallas Cowboys since 1989. An alumnus of the University of Arkansas, he launched many businesses as a young man and suffered a series of failures before finally finding financial success. Besides his business ventures, he has appeared in a few TV programs.

 45 
Shannon Sharpe
(American footballer)

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

 46 
Marshall Faulk
(American football player)

Marshall Faulk
3
Birthdate: February 26, 1973
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

 47 
Jared Goff
(American football player)

Jared Goff
10
Birthdate: October 14, 1994
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Novato, California

 48 
Steve McNair
(American Football Player)

Steve McNair
6
Birthdate: February 14, 1973
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mount Olive, Mississippi, USA
Died: July 4, 2009

 49 
Earl Campbell
(American Football Player)

Earl Campbell
3
Birthdate: March 29, 1955
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tyler, Texas, USA

 50 
Johnny Unitas
(American Football Player)

Johnny Unitas
5
Birthdate: May 7, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: September 11, 2002

Johnny Unitas was an American football player who played as a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL). A three-time NFL champion and three-time NFL Most Valuable Player, Unitas is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL. In 1979, Johnny Unitas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.