This is the last installment in my series of great players who wore numbers 1-99.
I hope you’ve enjoyed looking back at some of the past and some present players who made particular uniform numbers famous. We’ll move pretty rapidly through these last ones since there are not quite as many great athletes to choose from. Here we go with…..
#71: Perhaps even better known as “Mongo” in the best comedy movie ever made, Blazing Saddles, or Webster’s dad on the TV sitcom, Alex Karras was a pretty good lineman for the Detroit Lions when they were good. Well, at least better than they are now.
#72: Ed “Too Tall” Jones was a ferocious defensive lineman for the Cowboys. Now, you can see him in commercials and he doesn’t appear that intimidating but to quarterbacks- look out!
#73: Many experts view him as the best offensive lineman to put on a pair of shoulder pads. John Hannah played for the Patriots for 13 years and made All-Pro ten of them. Another pretty good lineman to wear this number was Ron Yary.
#74: What is it with these linemen turning to acting? Merlin Olsen played 15 years for the Rams before helping the Engalls’ build that little house on the prairie. Another great that wore this number was Bob Lilly of the Cowboys.
#75: Back-to-back Rams with Deacon Jones as the selection here. Creator of the head-slap, he used it to get to quarterbacks for many years. But there was another darn good #75 by the name of Mean Joe Greene. Unfortunately, he gave his jersey away to that little kid.
#76: Lou “The Toe” Groza edges out Orlando Pace. Groza kicked for the Browns for 20 years and led the league in field goals five times.
#77: We have to turn the clock back aways for this choice. Red Grange, “The Galloping Ghost”, was the first superstar of professional football. He played collegiate ball at Illinois.
#78: If John Hannah isn’t the best offensive lineman ever, then Anthony Munoz would be the next choice. The best thing the Bengals have ever had to cheer for and he never went to jail once.
#79: Co-MVP of Super Bowl XII, Harvey Martin teamed up with Randy White to provide the Cowboys with a tremendous tandem of pass rushers.
#80: Here’s another easy one- Jerry Rice. The greatest receiver ever and you never heard him open his mouth, unlike many of the so-called great ones of today. Still the all-time leader in pass receptions and yardage, we’ll never see another like him.
#81: I can’t choose between two excellent receivers so, I’ll call it a draw. Tim Brown and Art Monk can have a catch-off to decide the winner.
#82: Three good receivers here but Raymond Berry gets the nod over John Stallworth and Ozzie Newsome.
#83: “The Stork.” Ted Hendricks blocked 25 field goals during his 15-year career. But when you stand 6’7” and have the wingspan of a 747 it’s easy.
#84: Shannon Sharpe edges out his brother Sterling. Shannon leads all tight ends in career receptions and words per minute. Another wordy receiver wearing this number is present-day star Randy Moss.
#85: Jack Youngblood. He played 201 straight games and Super Bowl XVI with a broken left leg. That’s enough for me.
#86: I could show my bias and say Hines Ward but he’s got a lot to prove before he wins outright so the vote goes to Buck Buchanan of the Kansas City Chiefs. The big defensive tackle was the first player drafted in the AFL.
#87: Sidney Crosby will probably get the award a few years down the road but for now, it goes to Dwight Clark. The one who made “The Catch” famous for his leaping snag of a Montana pass against Dallas.
#88: Some pretty good choices here. Marvin Harrison, Lynn Swann, Eric Lindros- but my choice is the Hall of Fame defensive tackle of the Vikings, Alan Page. NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1971 and 1973, he gave the Purple People Eaters their appetite.
#89: Just because I’m afraid he’d beat me up if I didn’t pick him, Mike Ditka is the pick. Ditka became the prototype for what a tight end should be size-wise and mentality-wise. He was the first tight end ever selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#90: After Neil Smith of the Chiefs made a sack, he would get up and swing a pretend baseball bat to honor George Brett. I don’t know who he was honoring when he sacked someone while playing for Denver.
#91: I’ll go to hockey and Sergei Federov for this choice. No, I will not even consider Dennis Rodman.
#92: “The Minister of Defense”, Reggie White is the clear-cut winner.
#93: By process of elimination, Doug Gilmour, hockey player.
#94: Even though he made two of the dumbest plays in pro football history, I guess I’ll choose Charles Haley.
#95: Just because he went to the same high school I did, Richard Dent is the pick. Bubba Smith was better in college at Michigan State than in the pros I think but he made an even better cop.
#96: Cortez Kennedy, defensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks.
#97: Simeon Rice because there was nobody else to choose from.
#98: Another old-timer, Tom Harmon, father of actor Mark Harmon, is my choice over Tony Saragusa.
And last but in no way the least, #99: Wayne Gretzky.
The greatest hockey player of all time and the holder of practically every scoring record in the NHL, Gretzky is certainly “The Great One.” George Mikan also wore #99 as well as Warren Sapp and I guess we should close this out by mentioning Charlie Sheen’s character in “Major League”.
I’ve had fun with this and I hope you have, too. On to regular columns next week.
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.