Top ten Irish American football players of all time

NFL player Tom Brady.

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 Driscoll. Credit: Fair Use

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

Rich Gannon. Credit: Public Domain
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.

9. John Hannah, lineman

1973-1985 New England Patriots

John Hannah. Credit:

Hannah was originally drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots in 1973. For ten straight years he was named an all-Pro and considered to be the best lineman in football. The NFL Players Association recognized his unparalleled size, speed, and competitiveness by naming him offensive lineman of the year from 1978-1981. Hannah was a workhorse as he only missed five games because of injuries out of a possible 191 in his career. In his last year as a pro he helped guide the Patriots to a Super Bowl XX against the Chicago Bears. Hannah was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

10. Mark Murphy, Safety

1977-1984 Washington Redskins

Mark Murphy. Credit:

Murphy was an undrafted player in 1977 out of Colgate University. He played in Superbowls XVII and XVIII and was voted to two pro bowls in 1982 and 1983. Murphy served as co-captain of the Redskins form 1980-84. He finished his career with 27 interceptions and 282 return yards, as well as six fumble recoveries for 22 yards. He has been voted the 29th Greatest Washington Redskin of all-time.

After his playing days he received his law degree from Georgetown University. He now serves as the Green Bay Packers President and CEO.


*Originally published in 2011.