The downright scariest players in NFL history

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

October 27th, 2021

It’s Halloween week, and there are plenty of spooky, frightening things lurking about as the leaves change and the candy flies off the shelves of supermarkets everywhere. In celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, we’re taking a look at five of the most frightening players in the history of the National Football League.

5. Steve McMichael

The resident maniac on the famed Chicago Bears "Monsters of the Midway" defense, the man known as Mongo was cut by the Patriots in 1981 but turned into a star in the Windy City. McMichael made a pair of Pro Bowls in 1986 and 1987, recorded a team-high 11 1/2 sacks in 1988, and had a second career as a professional wrestler in the late-1990’s.

4. Dick Butkus

Deacon Jones said it best: "Every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital." That’s good enough for us. Butkus dominated opposing offenses from 1965 to 1973, earned eight All-Pro selections, and was twice named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named the most feared tackler in the game’s history in 2009 by the NFL Network.

3. Chuck Bednarik

One of the NFL’s last two-way players, Bednarik starred for the Philadelphia Eagles at both center and linebacker, and he played with an edge for 60 minutes each week. He’s perhaps best known for a legendary hit on New York Giants running back Frank Gifford, as a photo of his celebration was published in Sports Illustrated and became one of the era’s defining images.

2. Ray Lewis

For the record (and it stinks that I need to write this disclaimer), this solely focuses on what Lewis did on the field, not the incident that resulted in the deaths of two men in 2000. The dominant middle linebacker of his era, Ray Lewis led fearsome Baltimore Ravens defenses for nearly 20 years. He went to 13 Pro Bowls in three different decades and won two Super Bowls, including Super Bowl XXX, where he was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

1. Lawrence Taylor

Some of these selections are debatable, but Lawrence Taylor struck fear into the hearts of opponents for a variety of reasons. LT changed the game as one of the first dominant edge rushers, and he played with an uncommon mean streak.

If you’re still not convinced, go ask Joe Theismann, whose leg was broken by an LT hit on Monday Night Football.