With the NFL playoffs looming, it’s a good time for the Independent Gazette to publish a top ten list of the greatest Pennsylvania-born professional football players—the most solid players that the Keystone State has ever produced, in this reporter’s opinion. Be forewarned that not everyone will agree. With that said, let’s start the countdown.
10. Mike Munchak, OG, Scranton
A 9-time Pro Bowl selection, 10-time All Pro selection, and Hall of Fame inductee in 2001. Munchak is currently coaching the Tennessee Titans.
9. Tony Dorsett, RB, Rochester
1976 Heisman trophy winner, 4-time Pro Bowl pick, NFL Rookie of the Year in 1977, ranks eighth all-time in rushing, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
8. Jim Kelly, QB, East Brady
A 4-time Pro Bowl selection as well as Buffalo’s career passing leader, Kelly is the only QB to lead his team to four straight Super Bowls, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.
7. Herb Adderley, DB, Philadelphia
A 5-time Pro Bowler, 6-time NFL champion, 3-time Super Bowl champion, 1980 Hall of Fame inductee, and is also a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
6. Joe Namath, QB, Beaver Falls
A 4-time AFL All Star, 2-time AFL MVP, 1968 AFL Player of the Year, 1965 AFL Rookie of the Year, Super Bowl III MVP and Hall of Fame member since 1985.
5. Mike Ditka, TE, Carnegie
A 5-time Pro Bowler, 5-time All Pro, 3-time Super Bowl Champion, 1961 Rookie of the Year, 1985 and 1988 Coach of the Year and a 1988 Hall of Fame inductee.
4. Johnny Unitas, QB, Pittsburgh
A 10-time Pro Bowl selection and a 1957, 1959, 1964, and 1967 NFL MVP. Unitas was a 3-time Pro Bowl MVP, Super Bowl V MVP and a 1979 Hall of Fame inductee.
3. Dan Marino, QB, Pittsburgh
A 9-time Pro Bowler, 1983 Rookie of the Year, 12-time Miami Dolphins MVP, and the first QB to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a season. Marino holds 31 Miami Dolphins records and has been a member of the Hall of Fame since 2005.
2. Joe Montana, QB, New Eagle
An 8-time Pro Bowler, 4-time Super Bowl champion, 3-time Super Bowl MVP, 2-time NFL MVP and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
1. Chuck Bednarik, LB/C, Bethlehem
Bednarik was the 1948 Maxwell Award winner, 8-time Pro Bowl selection, 10-time All Pro, 2-time NFL Champion, and 1953 Pro Bowl MVP. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Some might wonder why Chuck Bednarik is ranked number one. Well, not only did he play his whole career in Pennsylvania (Liberty High, Penn, and Philadelphia), but he was also one of the greatest two-way players of all time, mastering the most physical positions (linebacker and center) at a time when the game was a lot tougher than it is these days. Keep in mind that as a linebacker, he was the leader of the defense and set up their formations. Plus, as the center, he helped make the protection calls and pick-up blitzes.
Following is a short list of players who just missed the cut, or “honorable mentions”: Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, LeSean McCoy, Charley Trippi, Leroy Kelly, Leon Hart, and Ernie Davis.