Topend Sports Logo

Greatest 'Athlete' To Play American Football

Success in American Pro Football requires excelling in a large range of fitness areas. The history of this sport is full of exceptional athletes combined with exceptional skills. A poll for The Greatest Pro Football Athlete of All Time was conducted on the ESPN Sport Science website in 2013. The voting was based on the best athlete (not player) who has a combination of strength, speed, endurance, quickness, durability and the other attributes that make an athlete elite.

See more about the ESPN Sport Science poll to determine the Greatest Athlete of All Time. They couldn't narrow this list down to five as they did for the other sports, there is so many quality players to choose from. See also our discussion of the greatest ever American football player (includes both skill and fitness).


Who is the greatest Greatest Pro Football Athlete of all time?

  1. Jim Brown — Brown averaged 104.3 rushing yards per game, the most in NFL history. He led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons. A great all-around athlete, at Syracuse he earned 10 varsity letters in four different sports (basketball, football, lacrosse, track).
  2. John Elway — Elway ranks in top 5 in NFL history in career pass attempts, pass completions and passing yards. He ran more than 3,000 yards with 300 touchdown passes in his career.
  3. Tony Gonzalez — 13 career Pro Bowl selections. He had the most career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns for NFL tight ends. Second in NFL history with 1,242 career receptions.
  4. Calvin Johnson — he set NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards in a single season (2012). Only player in NFL history with eight straight 100-yard receiving games.
  5. Joe Montana — 3-time Super Bowl MVP.
  6. Adrian Peterson — Ran for 2,097 yards during 2012 season. In high school he ran 10.33 secs for the 100m.
  7. Jerry Rice — NFL record holder in career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. 13 career Pro Bowl selections.
  8. Barry Sanders — One of three players in NFL history with more than 15,000 rushing yards.
  9. Lawrence Taylor — Only player to win AP Defensive Player of the Year three times.
  10. Reggie White — Second in NFL history with 198 career sacks. 13 career Pro Bowl selections, tied for second most all time.
  11. Steve Young — 43 career rushing touchdowns, most by a quarterback in NFL history. Third all-time in career rushing yards by a quarterback. During his senior year at High School, he was co-captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams.

And the winner is ...

Jim Brown

Related Pages

send us a comment Any comments, suggestions, or corrections? Please let us know.

Old Comments

Commenting is closed on this page, though you can read some previous comments below which may answer some of your questions.

Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

 → How to Cite