Deion Sanders is Mr. Versatility
Deion Sanders could do it all on the field, but he wasn't the only one
08/03/2011 11:49 PM
01/12/2012 8:30 AM
Deion Sanders played offense. He played defense. He returned punts. He was special, but he wasn't unique. Several players in NFL history have been as versatile as Sanders, especially in the era before 1950 when most players had to play both ways. Sanders will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Devin Hester is the most versatile player in today's game, but the Cleveland Browns drafted Stanford two-way player Owen Marecic to play fullback and special teams. NFL Films calls the league's most versatile players "Swiss Army knives."
Sammy Baugh, TB/QB/DB/P
(Washington Redskins, 1937-52) TCU's own Slingin' Sammy started his career as a single-wing tailback. In 1943, he led the league in passing, punting and interceptions. In a 42-20 victory over Detroit that season, Baugh threw four touchdown passes and intercepted four passes on defense. In his career, he threw for 21,886 yards, ran for 325 yards and intercepted 31 passes. He also posted a 45.1-yard career punting average.
Chuck Bednarik, C/LB
(Philadelphia Eagles, 1949-62) Bednarik was the last true two-way player in the NFL. (He has been called "The Last of the 60-Minute Men.") Bednarik played 694 minutes in a 12-game season in 1960. He was a devastating blocker on offense and a more devastating tackler on defense. Bednarik's hit on Frank Gifford in 1960 is one of the most memorable tackles in NFL history. Nicknamed "Concrete Charlie," Bednarik was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a 10-time All-Pro.
George Blanda, QB/K
(Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers, Oakland Raiders, 1949-75) Blanda threw for 26,920 yards and 236 touchdowns, rushed for 344 yards and nine touchdowns, was 335 of 641 on field goal attempts and scored 2,002 total points. He also intercepted a pass, and had two kickoff returns for 19 yards and 22 punt returns for 809 yards.
Troy Brown, WR/CB/PR
(New England Patriots, 1993-2007) Brown showed his versatility in 2004. He had only 17 receptions, but he played an emergency role on defense and ranked second on the team with three interceptions. In 2006, Brown was the emergency quarterback. Brown is the team's all-time leading punt returner (252 for 2,625 yards) and its receptions leader (557).
Roy Green, WR/CB
(St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, 1979-92) On his All-Madden Team, John Madden once famously called Green the best player in the game. Green began his career as a starting cornerback before moving to receiver, where he became All-Pro. Green made 559 career receptions for 8,965 yards and 66 touchdowns. He also had 140 rushing yards, 230 punt return yards and 2,002 kickoff return yards. And he intercepted four passes for 54 yards and recovered 20 fumbles.
Lou Groza, K/OT
(Cleveland Browns, 1946-59, 1961-67) Groza mostly is known as football's first great kicker, but he was all-league six times at tackle. In 1954, The Sporting News named him the NFL's player of the year. "The Toe," as he came to be known, scored 1,608 points in his career, which included the AAFC. After a back injury forced him to miss the 1960 season, Groza returned to the team as a place-kicker only for his final seven seasons.
Devin Hester, CB/WR/KR/PR
(Chicago Bears, 2006-present) The Bears drafted Hester as a cornerback and a returner, where he spent his first season. As a rookie, Hester earned Pro Bowl honors with five return touchdowns. Despite taking only one offensive snap that season, Hester was the team's second-leading scorer. He initially resisted the move to receiver before his second season, wishing to follow in the footsteps of Deion Sanders as a cornerback. But in the past four seasons, Hester has 168 receptions for 2,196 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has 14 touchdowns on kickoffs and punt returns in his career.
Paul Hornung, HB/PK/option passer
(Green Bay Packers, 1957-62, 1964-66) Hornung, the No. 1 pick in 1957, led the league in scoring for three consecutive seasons. In 1960, he set a then-league record with 176 points. He also passed for two touchdowns that season, which weren't counted in his point total. He rushed for 3,711 yards and 50 touchdowns in his career, while catching 130 passes for 1,480 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also passed for five touchdowns and made 66 field goals. He scored 760 career points. Jim Jensen, WR/QB/RB/TE/ST
(Miami Dolphins, 1981-92) Jensen, nicknamed "Crash" by broadcaster Howard Cosell, wore No. 11 because he entered the league as a quarterback. When the Dolphins drafted Dan Marino, Jensen became a jack-of-all-trades. In 12 NFL seasons, he had 229 receptions for 2,171 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 142 yards. Jensen also passed for two touchdowns. He was named the league's special teams player of the year in 1988.
Jerry Kramer, OG/K
(Green Bay Packers, 1958-68) He played right guard, putting the power in the Green Bay sweep. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro. He also made 29 field goals, 90 extra points and 177 total points in his career.
Tom Matte, RB/QB/KR
(Baltimore Colts, 1961-72) Matte rushed for 4,646 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career and caught 249 passes for 2,869 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he is most remembered for serving as the Colts' emergency quarterback in 1965 after Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were lost to season-ending injuries. Coach Don Shula drew up a list of plays he put on a wristband that Matte wore during the two games he started as a quarterback, including an overtime playoff loss to the Packers.
Brian Mitchell, RB/KR/PR/QB
(Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, 1990-2003) Mitchell had to play quarterback his rookie season after the Eagles knocked the Redskins' quarterbacks out in "The Body Bag Game." He completed 3 of 6 passes for 40 yards and ran for a touchdown. Mitchell ranks second in career all-purpose yardage with his 23,330 yards behind only Jerry Rice. His 13 special teams touchdowns are second only to Devin Hester.
Kordell Stewart, QB/WR
(Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens, 1995-2005) Stewart earned the nickname "Slash" for his abilities as a quarterback and as a receiver. In his career, he passed for 14,746 yards and 77 touchdowns, ran for 2,874 yards and 38 touchdowns and had 658 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
William "Refrigerator" Perry, DL/FB
(Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, 1985-94) He made 506 tackles and 29.5 sacks in his career, but he is most known for his role as the Bears' goal-line fullback. He scored two touchdowns and caught a pass for another in his career. Perry's most famous touchdown came in Super Bowl XX
Mike Vrabel, LB/TE
(Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, 1997-2010) Vrabel had 704 career tackles and 57 career sacks. And he had almost as many receiving touchdowns (10) as interceptions (11). Bill Belichick began lining Vrabel up as an extra tight end in goal-line situations, and Vrabel finished his career with 10 catches for 14 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Paul "Tank" Younger, FB/LB
(Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1949-58) Younger, the first African-American to play in an NFL all-star game, is the sixth-leading rusher in Rams history with 3,296 yards. The four-time Pro Bowler rushed for 3,640 yards in his career, caught 100 passes for 1,167 yards, scored 35 touchdowns and intercepted three passes. His only pass attempt was intercepted.
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760
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