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The List: Readers' most beloved football players
From the Page2 mailbag
On Monday, Page 2 ran its list of the most beloved football players in history. We asked for your take, and you filled our mailbag with plenty of choices for your favorite NFL player of all-time.
1. Walter Payton
How can you not love one of the most talented and charismatic athletes ever? Off the field, he was the perfect image of what you want an athlete to be ... outgoing, but not brash, funloving but not out of line, upfront but not rude. "They call me Sweetness, and I like to dance. Running the ball is like making romance." Sweetness was second to none, on the field and in fans hearts.
Hinsdale, Ill. Walter Payton was in a class by himself. He would knock a defender flat on his back, and then help him back to his feet. He was notorious among teammates and officials for his good-natured practical jokes. After each touchdown, no dances or showing off -- he just flipped the ball to one of his linemen to let them spike it. Walter Payton played the game hard and remained a true sportsman, I have never heard an opposing player, coach or fan say anything negative about Walter. In his last days, he gave us another reason to love him, showing us that he was truly a world-class human being.
2. Joe Montana (120 letters)
Your oversight of Joe Montana on both the Top 10 list and honorable mention transcends the bounds of human decency. I'm not sure a community has ever deified an athlete as fervently as "Super Joe" was feted here in the Bay Area, or, for that matter, his home region of Monongahela, Pennsylvania.
Oakland, Calif. How could you leave Joe Montana off your list? This guy had more "I'm going to Disney World!" commercials and Wheaties box appearances than any other football player in history, and he is easily one of the five most famous quarterbacks of all time. Everyone loves this guy, even the weirdos who rooted for the Bengals back when "The Ickey Shuffle" was cool. ... Not that I was one of those or anything...
3. Brett Favre (80 letters)
He's a kid in the body of a man. He still plays for the love of the game. I know he has a $100 million contract. He earned it. The greatest part of watching Brett Favre is remembering the days when he used to throw off of his back foot constantly. Those days make the current Favre even easier to root for. He has grown both on and off the field, but has never lost his passion for what he does.
Green Bay, Wisc. Brett Favre is definitely the most beloved football player for millions of Packers fans and plenty of others. His pure joy and toughness on the field are reminiscent of backyard football, and you've got to love a guy who takes a hit and bounces back up smiling. Off the field, Favre isn't perfect, but he's no thug, either. His flaws (including his battle with pain-killer addiction) make him much more real to the blue-collar fans in Green Bay. He's generous to fans and charities, and will spend the rest of his career loyal to Green Bay. ... Who does that today?
Lake Geneva, Wisc. Favre, Favre, Favre ... The three-time MVP is a near deity around Green Bay, and how many millionaires do you know who mow their own lawn?
4. John Elway (78 letters)
John Elway, bar none. As a Denverite, I am, of course, biased on the issue. In Denver, every boy grows up to want to be Elway. Every athlete is compared to him. The guy hawks cars on the side, I mean, how much more evidence does one need?
Scottsdale, Ariz. If you weren't a die-hard Cheesehead, you wanted to see arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time win his first championship. Then, as an encore, he has the game of his career, guides the Broncos to back-to-back crowns, and he's named Super Bowl XXXIII MVP. Name a Hall-of-Famer who ended his career like that.
5. Pele (Edson Arantes de Nascimento)
The most beloved football player of all-time is, without a doubt, Pele (Brazil, Santos, N.Y. Cosmos), The King of Football. No other player in the world in the history of football ever came close to his popularity. Even now, 30 years after he retired, little kids in most remote parts of the globe still want to be "like Pele." Nobody else can even be mentioned in the same breath.
Taras Y. Bulba
Austin, Texas Pele is the worlds most beloved football player. He took control of the beautiful game and dominated his sport like none before or since in any sport. Jordan had his Magic, Gretzky had his Lemieux, Montana had his Elway, but no one has ever come close to the sheer domination Pele displayed.
6. Doug Flutie (45 letters)
7. Roger Staubach (44 letters)
I was a young child of Cowboy fanatics while he was playing. I remember vividly, even being so young, how beloved he was by my family and the community. He still is.
Dallas He gave, perhaps, the best years of his career to service to this country in the U.S.Navy, then led "America's Team" with class and a never-say-die attitude that made him "Captain Comeback." He won (and lost) as a real sportsman and gentleman, something too rare today. His won-lost record as well as personal statistics rank with the best. Had he not given those years to our country, he would possibly be No. 1 in most categories.
Horton H. Tracy
8. Dan Marino (42 letters)
North Miami Beach, Fla.
9. Barry Sanders (38 letters)
Where is Barry Sanders? Perhaps the most gifted and entertaining running back of all-time played the game with class and a quiet grace -- can you imagine any of these other ham n' eggers in the league today simply flipping the ball to the ref when they score? ("Act like you've been there before," said his dad.) Sanders was overshadowed during his day by the far less-talented Emmitt Smith only because Smith played on a flashier team and had one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history blocking for him.
10. Darrell Green (35 letters)
He is an Iron Man. He is to the Redskins what Cal Ripken Jr. is to the Orioles. He has been with the 'Skins and only with the 'Skins for a bajillion years. Not to mention that he is still one of the best corners in the league and still one of the fastest players. How can you not love this guy?
Honorable Mention: Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, John Riggins, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Steve Largent, Art Donovan.
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