25. Carnell Lake
Carnell Lake performed swimmingly for 10 seasons as a Steeler in the Burgh. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Lake, who the Steelers drafted out of UCLA with the 34th choice in 1989, was a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time second-team All-Pro and he is a member of the 1990s All-Decade squad. Lake, a member of the Steelers’ All-Time Team, retired in 2001 with 826 tackles, 16 interceptions and 25 sacks over 185 contests. Like a handful of others on this list, Lake is a borderline Hall of Famer.
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24. Rodney Harrison
Rodney Harrison was an enforcer, and ferocious tackler, on the gridiron. The San Diego Chargers selected the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Harrison out of Western Illinois with the 145th choice in 1994. Although effective as a Charger, Harrison became a legend when he joined the New England Patriots in 2003. The two-time first-team All-Pro excelled as a Patriot and muscled them to back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 2003 and 2004. Harrison tallied 1,205 tackles, 34 interceptions and established the league’s record for sacks by a defensive back with 30.5.
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23. Eric Weddle
The San Diego Chargers chose Eric Weddle out of Utah with the 37th pick in 2007. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Weddle shined in San Diego and became a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro. The gifted Ute has notched 1,026 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 29 interceptions and eight forced fumbles over 174 games as a professional. The 33-year-old Weddle currently competes for the Baltimore Ravens.
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22. Earl Thomas
Earl Thomas was an irreplaceable part of the Seattle Seahawks’ storied Legion of Boom defense. The 5-foot-10, 202-pound Thomas, who the Seahawks grabbed out of Texas with the 14th choice in 2010, is a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro. “Deuce,” who has amassed 653 tackles, 70 pass deflections and 28 interceptions, helped Seattle lambaste the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014. The 29-year-old Thomas endured a season-ending leg injury on October 2. Provided he can regain his health, Thomas is on pace to procure a spot in Canton Ohio.
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21. Paul Krause
Paul Krause was an exceptional athlete who blanketed wide receivers for 16 seasons. The Washington Redskins acquired the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Krause out of Iowa with the 18th choice in 1964. The multi-talented Iowan matured into an eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro. Krause, named to the Redskins’ 70th anniversary squad and the Minnesota Vikings’ Ring of Honor, retired in 1979 with 81 interceptions in 226 games. Krause was enshrined in the Hall of Fame on August 2, 1998.
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20. Cliff Harris
Cliff Harris was an absolute star for the Dallas Cowboys throughout the 1970s. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Harris, an undrafted free agent out of Ouachita Baptist, made six Pro Bowls and four first-team All-Pro squads as a Cowboy. More importantly, Harris was a lockdown defender in the secondary who played a pivotal role in Dallas’ Super Bowl victories in 1971 and 1977. Harris, who recorded 29 picks over 141 contests, is in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
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19. Kenny Easley
Kenny Easley utterly flew as a Seahawk throughout his seven-year career in Seattle. The Seahawks obtained the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Easley out of UCLA with the fourth pick in 1981. Easley proceeded to become a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro, and he won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 1984. A severe kidney disease forced Easley to retire in 1987 at the age of 28. Despite his relatively limited time on the gridiron, Easley was inducted into the Hall of Fame on August 5, 2017.
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18. Yale Lary
Yale Lary had ample bite in the secondary as a Detroit Lion. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Lary, selected by the Lions out of Texas A&M 34th overall in 1952, intercepted 50 passes over 133 contests. For his ample feats, Lary made nine Pro Bowls, five All-Pro squads and he clinched a spot on the league’s 1950s All-Decade Team. Lary, a three-time champion with the Lions, became a Hall of Famer in 1979.
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17. LeRoy Butler
LeRoy Butler is a legendary Green Bay Packer. The Packers drafted the 6-foot, 197-pound Butler out of Florida State with the 48th choice in 1990. Butler somewhat overachieved and developed into a four-time All-Pro and he gained a spot on the league’s 1990s All-Decade Team. Furthermore, Butler was a critical piece of the Green Bay squad that outclassed the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI on January 26, 1997. Butler, a member of the Packers’ Hall of Fame, has an outside chance to eventually earn a place in Canton, Ohio.
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16. Jack Christiansen
Jack Christiansen grooved from the get-go in Motown. The Detroit Lions took the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Christiansen out of Colorado A&M with the 69th pick in 1951. Christiansen, a five-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, made the league’s 1950s All-Decade Team. More importantly, Christiansen helped the Lions clinch championships in 1952, 1953 and 1957. Christiansen, who passed away in June 1986 at the age of 57, is a Hall of Famer.
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15. Joey Browner
Joey Browner was a warrior for the Minnesota Vikings for nine seasons. The Vikings drafted the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Browner out of USC 19th overall in 1983. The beloved Trojan proceeded to become a six-time Pro Bowler, three-time first-team All-Pro, and a member of the league’s 1980s All-Decade squad. Browner, who snagged 37 picks over 145 contests, is part of the Vikings’ Ring of Honor.
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14. Kam Chancellor
Kam Chancellor helped put the “boom” in the Seattle Seahawks’ famed Legion of Boom. The Seahawks acquired the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Chancellor out of Virginia Tech with 133rd pick in 2010. The intimidating Virginian has made four Pro Bowl teams and two second-team All-Pro units since departing Blacksburg. Most memorably, Chancellor was a key figure in the Seahawks’ 43-8 destruction of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014. The 30-year-old Chancellor sustained a neck injury in November 2017 and, consequently, he’s been placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
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13. Jack Tatum
Jack Tatum was a badass in The Town for the Raiders. The Raiders obtained the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Tatum out of Ohio State with the 19th selection in 1971. “The Assassin,” a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All-Pro, was one of the most feared hitters in the annals of professional football. Tatum, who compiled 37 interceptions, played a vital role in Oakland’s 32-14 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977. A 61-year-old Tatum suffered a fatal heart attack on July 27, 2010.
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12. Eric Berry
Eric Berry has chopped down offensive skill players since he premiered as a Kansas City Chief eight seasons ago. The 6-foot, 212-pound Berry, taken by the Chiefs out of Tennessee with the fifth pick in 2010, has been named to five Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro squads as an employee in the Show Me State. Following the 2014 campaign, the two-time unanimous All-American underwent chemotherapy to defeat Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Accordingly, Berry earned Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2015 for his courage and resolve. The 29-year-old Berry appears headed for Canton, Ohio.
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11. Donnie Shell
Donnie Shell’s name is synonymous with the Steel Curtain. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Shell, an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina State, made five Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro squads in 14 seasons as a Pittsburgh Steeler. The gritty South Carolinian also starred on four of the Steelers’ Super Bowl-winning teams in the 1970s. Shell, who was named to the Steelers’ All-Time Team, retired in 1987 with 51 interceptions in 2,012 contests.
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10. Emlen Tunnell
New York Giants icon Emlen Tunnell was a pioneer on the gridiron. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Tunnell was a nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro who secured a spot on the NFL’s 1950s All-Decade Team. More importantly, “The Gremlin” became the first African-American to gain a place in Canton, Ohio, in 1967. A 51-year-old Tunnell, who won a title as a member of the Giants and Green Bay Packers, suffered a fatal heart attack on July 23, 1975.
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9. Willie Wood
Willie Wood was an integral piece of the Green Bay Packers’ dynasty in the 1960s. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Wood, an undrafted free agent out of USC, was a five-time first-team All-Pro who topped the NFL with nine interceptions in 1962. Wood, who compiled 48 picks over 166 games, is a member of the Packers’ Hall of Fame and he was named to the league’s 1960s All-Decade team. Furthermore, Wood became a permanent resident of Canton, Ohio, in 1989.
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8. Ken Houston
Houston never had a problem in the NFL. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound Ken Houston, drafted by the Oilers out of Prairie View A&M with the 214th choice in 1967, was a two-time first-team All-Pro and 10-time second-team All-Pro who earned a spot on the league’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. After thriving in Space City for six seasons, Houston was traded to the Washington Redskins in 1973. The 1986 Hall of Fame inductee also prospered in our nation’s capital and he procured a spot on the 1970s All-Decade squad. Houston retired in 1980 after amassing 49 picks and 21 fumble recoveries over 196 games.
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7. Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson proved to be a remarkable free safety in the Show Me State. As a St. Louis Cardinal, the 6-foot, 190-pound Wilson made eight Pro Bowls, five first-team All-Pro squads, and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1966. The distinguished Idahoan recorded 52 picks over 169 games as a Cardinal. Wilson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978.
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6. Steve Atwater
Steve Atwater mortified NFL wide receivers for 11 seasons. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Atwater, who was selected by the Denver Broncos out of Arkansas with the 20th pick in 1989, made eight Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro squads. Of greater significance, the brutal hitter muscled the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. The 52-year-old Atwater, named to the league’s 1990s All-Decade Team, deserves to gain a place in Canton, Ohio.
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5. John Lynch
John Lynch’s play in the secondary helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense become one of history’s most indomitable units. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Lynch, drafted by the Bucs out of Stanford with the 82nd selection in 1993, made nine Pro Bowls and was a three-time first-team All-Pro. Lynch’s apex as a professional likely occurred when Tampa Bay dismantled the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003. The powerful Cardinal, who was elected to the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor and the Denver Broncos’ Ring of Fame, is destined for Canton, Ohio. The 47-year-old Lynch is presently employed as the San Francisco 49ers’ general manager.
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4. Brian Dawkins
Brian Dawkins flew as an Eagle in the City of Brotherly Love for 13 brilliant seasons. The 6-foot, 210-pound Dawkins, taken by the Eagles out of Clemson with the 61st choice in 1996, was a nine-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro who made the league’s 2000s All-Decade squad. “B-Dawk” was a statistical machine who notched 1,131 tackles, 26.0 sacks, 36 forced fumbles and 37 interceptions over 224 games. Dawkins was inducted into the Hall of Fame on August 4.
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3. Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu was much more than simply a luscious head of hair on the gridiron. The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Polamalu, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers 16th overall in 2003, was voted onto the league’s 2000s All-Decade Team. Moreover, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year was a key piece of Steelers championship squads in 2005 and 2008. Polamalu, an eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro who retired in April 2015 with 770 tackles, 12.0 sacks, 32 picks and 14 forced fumbles, is a surefire future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
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2. Ed Reed
Ed Reed had an unrivaled ability to read an offensive formation, adjust, and then exploit its weakness. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reed, who the Baltimore Ravens selected out of Miami with the 23rd pick in 2002, was a nine-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro. The NFL’s three-time interceptions leader was also part of the Ravens’ squad that soared over the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII. Reed, a member of the league’s 2000s All-Decade Team, is also a surefire future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
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1. Ronnie Lott
Ronnie Lott was the embodiment of a tough guy on the gridiron. The San Francisco 49ers drafted the 6-foot, 203-pound Lott out of USC eighth overall in 1981. The decorated Trojan, an eight-time first-team All-Pro and 10-time Pro Bowler, manned San Francisco’s secondary and helped it win four Super Bowls in the 1980s. Lott, a bruising hitter who recorded 1,146 tackles, 63 interceptions and 16 forced fumbles, was named to the league’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Even more prestigious, Lott became a Hall of Famer on July 29, 2000.
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