With 100 years of NFL football upon us, it makes sense that one can get carried away by the constant action the league gives its audience, regular season and otherwise. Every team sees turnover galore in its rosters each year, and even some of the greatest players don’t hang around one team for their entire careers. However, some do. Without further adieu, here’s to top NFL players to only play for one team. Note: This only applies to the modern era, so guys like Dan Marino and Jim Brown need not apply.
Kyle Williams (Buffalo Bills)
A bit of a soft spot for many fans (and absolutely a biased pick by the author) Kyle Williams is likely the least accomplished player on this list. Despite having only one playoff appearance in his 13-year career at defensive tackle with the Buffalo Bills, he managed to make it to 5th all-time on the teams sack rankings with 48.5, leading all defensive tackles, and was widely regarded as the heart and soul of the team. Williams also racked up 610 tackles over the course of his career, as well as 6 Pro Bowl appearances (including 3 consecutive ones from 2012-2014). As a result of his accomplishments, Kyle Williams earned the respect of the league. Taking one offensive touchdown run home with him after retiring at the end of the 2018-19 season, Williams was more to Buffalo than just a defensive tackle.
Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The former 16th overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft, Troy Polamalu was scary. After playing for 11 years, he totaled 770 tackles whilst playing safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as 12 sacks, 32 interceptions, and 3 touchdowns. If helping them win 2 Superbowls wasn’t enough, he was an 8-time Pro Bowler, 4-time 1st team All-Pro and 2-time 2nd team All-Pro. His impressive resume doesn’t end there, as he also won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2010. Known for his intelligence and athleticism, Polamalu cemented his place is Steelers team history early and will go down as an all-time great.
Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals)
A guaranteed hall of famer and 1 of only 2 active players on this list, Larry ‘Legend’ Fitzgerald is 2nd all-time in receiving yards at 16,279 and tied 6th all-time in receiving touchdowns at 116. With over 1300 catches in his professional career, Fitzgerald has made an unsurprising 11 Pro Bowls in his 14-year career and took home Walter Payton Man of the Year honours in 2016. A known gentleman on and off the field of play, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game. Deservedly so, it would seem, making 1st team All-Pro in 2008 and 2nd team All-Pro in 2009 and 2011. The Arizona Cardinals had no idea who they’d just got with the 3rd overall pick in 2004, but they soon found out.
Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens)
The 26th overall pick in 1996 was absolutely terrifying throughout his career. His 2,061 amassed tackles in his 17 years with the Baltimore Ravens cemented Ray Lewis as a hall of famer, so let’s call his Superbowl MVP award, two rings, and 13 Pro Bowl appearances “icing on the cake”, shall we? A true force of nature on the field, Ray Lewis earned 7 1st-team All-Pro honours, as well as 3 2nd-team placements. The 2000 and 2003 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was unanimously named a member of the 2000’s All-Decade team, and the rest is history. 41.5 sacks are notoriously few for a player considered an all time great, but they’re balanced by his 31 interceptions, 67 deflections, 17 forced fumbles, and 3 touchdowns. He was first-ballot for a reason.
Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
The case for Tom Brady as the greatest of all time is a valid one. Call him a system QB, give the credit to coach Bill Belichick, talk about the Patriots innumerable scandals during his tenure with the team, do whatever. However, none of that changes the fact that the New England Patriots have won 6 Superbowls in their 9 appearances with TB12 at the helm. Holding 11 regular season records, 20 playoff records, 4 Superbowl MVP awards, 17 Superbowl records, and 3 MVP awards is likely an untouchable legacy. Often considered the greatest steal of all-time, Brady was only selected with the 199th overall pick in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft. A lot of teams are likely still kicking themselves for that one.