Football as we know it today grew out of English sports - mainly rugby and soccer. This game became popular thanks to American students who started playing it in the 19th century. Today, it's one of the most popular sports in America, meaning that football players with an impressive resume are real superstars with crowds of loyal fans. Ask any 10-year old, and he will probably name a least a few football starts. Lawrence Taylor, John Elway, Bo Jackson.. we bet you've also heard these names before!
Did you know that the most watched television event in the United States is the Super Bowl? No wonder that today, a 30-second Super Bowl ad costs companies around $5 million - or as much as $166,667 per second! Football became more than just a sport in the U.S.A. now - entire families go watch the crucial games to cheer for their favorite teams. A football game is a big event not only industrial towns but also in New York and California as well.
Are you a real football fan? Take this quiz and find out how well you know the real legends of American football! We've also collected some amazing little-known facts about famous players so you can learn more about your favorite sport!
Tom Brady is the most loved and hated QB of the 21st century, depending on whether or not you're a Patriots fan. Some complain that the rules for tackling QBs are tightened every time he gets sacked, but you can't argue with his career winning record and Super Bowl rings.
Bradshaw is still a legendary figure in Pittsburgh sports, with four Super Bowl rings. He's made one of the most successful transitions from playing to announcing in broadcast history, and is a fixture on Sunday TV.
Taylor was a nightmare on the field, with his double-digit sacks every season forcing offenses to change the way they defended against pass rushes. Unfortunately, he was as wild off the field as on, with numerous suspensions for failed drug tests costing him chunks of playing time.
Marino is one of the greatest NFL players to never win a Super Bowl ring. He holds or has held just about every record for NFL QBs, and owns the Monday Night Football record book.
"Neon" Deion was an interception-hunting cornerback who often took criticism for his lack of tackling ability. He played for five teams, winning two Super Bowls, and also played pro baseball, going to the World Series with the Braves.
Brown is commonly acknowledged as one of the greatest players in NFL history. Younger audiences, though, might know him best through his acting career, especially including playing Fireball in "The Running Man."
Elway was a first-ballot pick for the NFL Hall of Fame, but Denver had elected him king of their city years before. He won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Broncos, then tacked on one more win as general manager of the team.
The man nicknamed "The Golden Arm" set the standard for today's marquee quarterbacks. He led the Colts to the NFL Championship in 1958, defeating the Giants in what's dubbed "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
Bo was one of the more broadly talented athletes in sports history. He's the only player to ever be an all-star in both baseball and football, playing for the Raiders and Kansas City Royals.
Aikman is a legend among Cowboys fans, having led the team to three Super Bowls. After football, for a time he owned a NASCAR team along with his predecessor, Roger Staubach.
Michael Irvin had an impressive career, and it likely would have been even better had a spinal cord injury not forced his retirement in 1999. He caught passes from Troy Aikman to help lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins.
During his playing years, Payton was known as one of the greatest students of the game ever, spending hundreds of hours analyzing film of opposing teams to find their weaknesses. Being ahead of Payton with two minutes left just meant you had a better than even chance of losing.
The Chargers picked Tomlinson in the 2001 draft, and planned to build an offense around his punishing running ability. The team never quite jelled, but LT went on to five Pro Bowls and two rushing titles.
Strahan played all 15 years of his career with the Giants, and took home a Super Bowl ring. In recent years, he's become a media personality, even hosting a morning chat show with Kelly Ripa after Regis Philbin stepped aside.
Peterson was supposed to be the linchpin of a Vikings offense that would be unstoppable. He piled up impressive personal stats, becoming the sixth-fastest running back ever to reach 6,000 career yards. However, he was traded to the Saints in 2017 after personal issues sidelined him for a season.
Brett Favre refused to fit into any particular mold as an NFL quarterback. He was an excellent pocket passer, but he'd also take off on 40-yard rambles if pressed. His infamous "jump passes" gave many defensive coordinators nightmares.
Lewis played for the Ravens in their inaugural season, and was the last member of that team to retire, having played his entire career in Baltimore. He took home two Super Bowl rings and a reputation as one of the most dominant linebackers in NFL history.
Larry Fitzgerald is known for his trash-talking abilities almost as much as his pass-catching skills. But opponents who let his mouth distract them are doomed to watch him dance in the end zone.
Rodgers had the unenviable job of following the legendary Bret Favre as quarterback of the Packers. He's done well in the position, and has also proven himself as adept at commercial pitchman work as his predecessor.
Rod Woodson was a dominant force at cornerback, one of the toughest positions on the field, during a career that started with the Steelers. He was an integral part of the Ravens team that dealt a surprise loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
Smith was part of one of the greatest offensive setups in NFL history, with Troy Aikman at quarterback for the Cowboys. He broke Walter Payton's all-time rushing record and won three Super Bowls during his career.
Standing 6'5" with an amazing vertical jump, Watt has redefined what a defensive end can do. He's as dangerous as a pass blocker as he is a run stopper, and his sacks are crushing affairs.
Safety is a tough position to play, but Reed made it look easy during his years with the Ravens. Among his career stats are the two longest interception returns for a touchdown, of 108 and 106 yards.
Drew was drafted by the Chargers and touted as the savior of the franchise. That didn't work out too well, but he went on to a Super Bowl win and great success with the Saints.
Staubach was the consummate pocket passer, excellent at checking down to second and third receivers in the face of a blitz. He led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl wins during Tom Landry's tenure in the '70s.
Bruce Smith was a crushing defensive end who played most of his career with the Buffalo Bills. He was on the team when it went 0-4 in Super Bowls.
Polamalu carried around a steel curtain of his own as safety for the Steelers. He won two Super Bowls with the team, along with numerous other personal awards.
New Orleans native Faulk was the Colts' first-round draft pick in 1994. He rewarded the team with three touchdowns and 143 yards rushing in his very first NFL game!
Butkus defined the middle linebacker position for the modern NFL with a tackling style best described as "violent." He showed a gentler side after his retirement, acting in many of the '70s most beloved movies.
Gonzalez was pretty much everything a tight end should be, and more. In his career, he set the NFL records for most receiving yards and most touchdown catches by a tight end, and played from 2000 until his retirement in 2013 with over 1,000 receptions and only ONE fumble.
Deacon Jones is the inventor of the term "sack," and he got a lot of them! His on-field nickname was "The Minister of Defense."
Earl Campbell was the cornerstone of the Houston Oilers' "run and shoot" offense in the '80s. His punishing running style made him the ideal back for the Oilers, whose scheme often left him with little blocking support.
Randy started his career with the Vikings, and he lit up opposing defenses as much with his trash talk as he did with his skills. In 2004, the Vikes traded him to the Raiders, where it looked like he might be a perfect fit. However, two years later he was with the Patriots, then back to the Vikes briefly before retiring with the 49ers.
In the '80s, the Bears defense was known as the Monsters of the Midway. The heart of the attack was Singletary, whose punishing tackles forced opponents to switch from running to passing quickly.
Woodson played two of the toughest positions on the field, cornerback and safety, during three different decades. He got a Super Bowl ring with the Packers, and was an all-pro in three different decades.
Coming out of the tiny town of Sealy, Texas, Dickerson starred at SMU before entering the NFL. He still holds the NFL single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards.
Known as "Joe Cool," Montana led his '49ers team to four Super Bowl wins, and was the first three-time Super Bowl MVP. His most famous play, known only as "The Catch," was a miracle touchdown toss to Dwight Clark to beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship in 1981.
Sanders' elusive running style gave NFL defenses headaches for a decade when he played with the Lions. He never won a Super Bowl, but was named to the all-pro squad every year of his career.
Starr is one of the all-time legends of the early NFL. As quarterback for the Packers, he led the team to victories in the first two Super Bowls.
Jerry Rice is one of the greatest receivers in the history of the NFL, but Calvin Johnson broke his record for single-season receiving yards. He earned his on-field Transformers-based nickname, Megatron.
Rice hold the records for most touchdown catches, most yardage and total receptions, and the numbers are so high it's likely he'll never be knocked off any of those. He won three Super Bowls with the '49ers and is called by some the greatest NFL player of all time.
Known as "The Minister of Defense" thanks to his preaching credentials, Reggie brought plenty of opposing running backs to their knees. He even did the near-impossible: winning over the Philadelphia sports media even after he left the team.
How do you follow a Hall of Fame QB who's a legend in the league? In Young's case (following Joe Montana), you win three Super Bowls and become the MVP of one of them.
Walter Payton was the ground game master for the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears in 1985. He was not just a runner, though, retiring with the record for most pass receptions by a non-receiver.
Dick "Night Train" Lane was a great mix of size and speed at defensive back for the Rams, Cardinals and Lions. He set a rookie record with 17 interceptions his first year which has never been bested.
Jack Lambert was the prototype for the modern middle linebacker. He was a bruiser, but he was also quick on his feet. He won four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers during the dynasty years.
Lott was a dominant player at both cornerback and safety, primarily with the '49ers. He won four Super Bowls with the Niners, and is now a broadcaster.
"Mean" Joe Greene helped the Steelers dominate the '70s as a defensive tackle. He's even more famous, though, for his iconic Coca-Cola commercial in which he tosses his jersey to a kid who hands him a Coke.
Gale came out of college with the nickname "Kansas Comet," and was known as one of the toughest players to tackle of his time. His friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo led to the all-time sports tearjerker, "Brian's Song."
Back in the pre-NFL days, Otto Graham played in the All-America Football Conference and led the Cleveland Browns to a string of conference championships. He still holds the record for most yards per pass attempt.