Top ten Irish American football players of all time
NFL stars with Irish links
People are buying the chips, the dips, the wings and the facepaint as they get ready for the big game on Sunday, Super Bowl XLV to be played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
There have been many Irish NFL players who have taken to the Super Bowl gridiron over the years and made some indelible contributions to the game . Here is the Irish Central list of the 10 best Irish American football players of All-time in no particular order.
1. Tom Brady, Quarterback
2000-present New England Patriots
Thomas Edward Patrick “Tom” Brady is arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. He was originally drafted as the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Michigan. He has taken the Patriots to four Super Bowls and has won three of them. Brady has been awarded the Super Bowl MVP twice. He has also been named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2005 and the Sporting News “Sportsman of the Year” in 2004 and 2007.
His records include most touchdown passes in a regular season (50); most completions in one Super Bowl (32); most consecutive pass attempts without an interception (339); most career completions in Super Bowl history (100); to name a few.
Brady has thrown for 34,744 yards, 261 touchdowns and has a 95.2 % passing rating over his career.
2. George Connor, Tackle-Linebacker
1948-1955 Chicago Bears
Connor was originally drafted in the first round by the New York Giants in 1946. He was an incredibly versatile player. Over his career Connor was named to the All-NFL team for three different positions: Offensive tackle, defensive tackle and linebacker. At 6’3’’ 230 pounds he was considered a prototype of the big, fast linebacker of today. Connor is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
3. Ed Healey, Tackle
1920 – 1922 Rock Island Independents
1922 - 1927 Chicago Bears
Healey has the distinction of being the first player whose contract was purchased in the NFL. His rights were acquired by the Chicago Bears for a whopping $100 by the legendary player-coach George Halas in 1922. Halas referred to Healey as the “most versatile tackle ever”. Over his career “Big Ed” was named an all-league player five times. He was inducted in 1964 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Mike McCormack, Tackle
1951 New York Yanks
1954-1962 Cleveland Browns
McCormack was drafted by the New York Yanks in 1951. Starting as a rookie he played in 6 pro bowls at right tackle. After serving in the military McCormack was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 1953. He was a stabilizing force on the Browns defensive line. His career defining moment came in the 1954 title game when McCormack stole the ball from Detroit Lions quarterback Bobby Layne to set up a touchdown in the NFL Championship game.
In 1955 He switched to Offensive tackle where he helped the Browns win another title the following year. At that position he anchored the blocking for legendary Browns running back Jim Brown. McCormack is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5. John (Blood) McNally, Halfback
1925-1926 Milwuakee Badgers
1926 -1927 Duluth Eskimos
1928 Pottsville Maroons
1929-1933, 1935-1936 Green Bay Packers
1934, 1937-1938 Pittsburgh Pirates
John McNally gave himself the name “Blood” to protect his senior year of eligibility at St. Johns College in Minnesota. It came from the movie “Blood and Sand”. The quirky, off beat player, known as “Vagabond Halfback”, was extremely versatile as he could pass, punt, run, and catch with the best of them. He was known for his blazing speed on offense. With 5 NFL teams McNally scored 49 TDs, and 297 points over his career.
He played on four championship teams with the Green Bay Packers in 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1936. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He is probably best known for his antics off the field. He reportedly one time walked on the top of a moving train and reached the Engineers car. McNally then proceeded to drop through the ceiling of the car and spend the remainder of the trip with the drivers.
George Clooney loosely portrayed John McNally in the movie “Leatherheads.”
6. Jim Kelly, Quarterback
Houston Gamblers (1984-1985)
Buffalo Bills (1986-1996)
Kelly was drafted in 1983 in the first round after John Elway. He led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-1993 and made four pro-bowls. This successful offense engineered by Kelly, known as the “K-Zone”, was based on the hurry up offense. It was so effective that the NFL changed the rules to allow teams to change defenses under no huddle situations.
He is the all-time Buffalo Bills leader in completions (2,874), yards (35,467), and touchdowns (237). Kelly finished his career in both the NFL and USFL with 45,000 yards passing and 320 touchdowns. His records include the most pass attempts in a Super Bowl (58) and most yards gained per completion in a single game (44).
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
7. John (Paddy) Driscoll, Quarterback
1920-1925 Chicago Cardinals
1920 Decatur Staleys
1926-1929 Chicago Bears
Paddy was as much a threat on defense as he was on offense, where he excelled at quarterback and half back. His kicking skills were legendary. He set an NFL record with 4 drop kicks in one game. His all-around offensive game generated 27 points in a 1923 contest. Paddy was a six-time all-NFL selection and was named to the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team. He is inducted into both the Pro Football and College Halls of Fame.
8. Rich Gannon, Quarterback
Minnesota Vikings 1987-1992
Washington Redskins 1993
Kansas City Chiefs 1995-1998
Oakland Raiders 1999-2004
Gannon was originally selected as the 98th overall pick in the fourth round by the New England Patriots. The team supposedly wanted to convert him to a defensive back. Gannon’s success occurred in the later part of his career with his stint in Oakland. There he led the team to a Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003. He was voted to four straight pro-bowls and set a NFL record for being nominated Pro-Bowl MVP for two consecutive seasons. He also received AP NFL honors in 2002. Over his 17 year career Gannon finished with 28,743 yards passing, 180 touchdowns, and a 84.7 QB rating.
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