Ranking top 25 players in NFL history: Dick Butkus has prominent place on league’s all-time list

In the 104-year history of the NFL, several of the game’s iconic players have stood the test of the time. One of those players is former Chicago Bears great Dick Butkus, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 80. Butkus’ football career, which ended in 1973, remains one of the most decorated in league history.

Many who saw Butkus play consider him to be not only the best linebacker NFL history, but one of the best players in league annals. It’s not hard to make Butkus’ case, as he dominated his position like few others have. Despite having a relatively short nine-year career, Butkus received just about every accolade a player can earn. A first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Butkus was also a member of two All-Decade teams and was part of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019. 

Is Butkus the greatest linebacker in NFL history? We decided to find out by ranking each of the league’s 25 greatest players. Before we dive in, here was the criteria that went into making the list. 

Individual success/accolades wonDominance during his eraLongevity and career milestones achieved Enduring impact/legacy Team success/championships wonRanking relative to his position 

Without further ado, here’s the list of the greatest 25 players in NFL history: 

25. Emlem Tunnell, DB (1948-1961): A pioneer in several respects, Tunnell became the first Black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. A longtime Giant who helped New York win the 1956 NFL title, Tunnell retired after the 1962 season as the NFL’s career leader with 79 interceptions and 1,282 interception return yards. His 158 consecutive games played was also an NFL record. 

24. Don Hutson, WR (1935-1945): A player decades ahead of his time, Hudson was the NFL’s first prolific wideout. Called an “end” in those days, Hudson led the NFL in receiving seven times, receptions eight times and…


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