Eight Old School NFL Players Who Make Today's Athletes Look Like Pansies
4. Ernie Stautner
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Ernie Stautner, who was a Marine before enrolling to play football at Boston College, certainly continues the trend. An undersized defensive lineman in the 1950s and early 1960s, Stautner only missed six games in a career that would get him enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But what makes him worthy of being on this list? Well, in addition to having a reputation as one of the toughest, meanest, dirtiest players in the NFL (opponents accused him of taping up his forearms with foreign objects such as tennis balls with which to club the hell out of them), there’s a story about Stautner that is both cringeworthy and awe inspiring. The story goes that Stautner came to the huddle with a compound fracture in his thumb, and he didn’t miss a play. Instead, he taped up his hand into a huge ball, and proceeded to use it as a weapon against his opponents, beating them senseless with his severely injured hand. It may not be as effective as a tennis ball, but apparently it got the job done all the same.
3. Lawrence Taylor
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Before his career as a felon and LaDainian Tomlinson stole his nickname, Lawrence Taylor was one of the greatest defensive players in the history of football. A terror at linebacker for the New York Giants, the real LT is most famous for his devastating hits, including what might just be the most horrific injury in football history.
In 1985, LT absolutely obliterated Joe Theismann’s leg, ending the Washington quarterback’s career and sending him to a career as a football analyst. It’s tough to decide which is worse: ending the guy’s football career or being responsible for jump starting his broadcasting one. But he didn’t just cause injuries, he played through them, including one game where he recorded three sacks despite playing with a torn pectoral muscle and playing three games with a fractured tibia.
2. Rocky Bleier
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After his rookie season in 1968, Rocky Bleier was drafted into the US Army and served admirably in the Vietnam War. That alone makes him tougher than just about anyone playing in the NFL these days, but it doesn’t end there. In 1969, Bleier’s platoon was ambushed and a grenade went off near the Pittsburgh Steeler, sending shrapnel into his leg. After receiving both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, doctors told him he’d never play football again.
So naturally, he was back at training camp the following year. He was twice waived while trying to play through the pain and get back into football shape, but by 1974, he was back as a starter in Pittsburgh’s backfield. In 1976, he rushed for over 1,000 yards, and over the course of his career he won four Super Bowl titles. Not too bad for a guy whose career, by all accounts, should have been over in 1970.
1. Jim Marshall
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So far, we’ve had guys who have played on broken legs, used their mangled hands as weapons, been hit by grenades, and cut off parts of their body. So what makes Jim Marshall the toughest sonovabitch in NFL history? What makes him the kind of guy who would point and laugh when a player is listed as being “out with a toe” these days?
Well, we could start with the 282 consecutive games played, which is easy to do if you’re a punter (yeah, that’s you, Jeff Feagles) but not so easy when you’re a defensive end. It’s not just that he was a member of the famed Purple People Eaters defense for the Vikings. No, it’s the simple fact that he kept that streak of 282 games alive despite battling pneumonia, ulcers, ankle sprains, concussions and, oh yeah, a freaking shotgun wound to his side, suffered when, while cleaning his shotgun, it accidentally went off. Unfortunately, Marshall is most famous for the longest safety in history, having returned a fumble 66 yards the wrong way and in celebration, throwing out the back of the endzone.
If I were you, I wouldn’t laugh. I’m pretty sure that Jim Marshall is the Terminator. And he’ll find you.