The most famous football player from every state

The most famous football player from every state
  • As the NFL playoffs get underway, we look back at the most famous football player from every state.
  • Small towns across America have produced some exceptional football talent, including Eatonville, Florida (Deacon Jones); Castle Rock, Colorado (Christian McCaffrey); and Rand, West Virginia (Randy Moss).
  • From Tom Brady's record number of Super Bowl wins to Brett Favre's record number of career pass completions, these are some of the most talented players in NFL history.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Over its 100 years, the NFL has seen some record-breaking, mind-boggling talent.

We determined the best-known football players from across the country based upon a number of factors, including records broken, stand-out game moments, presence in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and pop culture fame. We've named the most talented past and present football players born in every state — rather than those who have played for a certain state — for our ultimate list of the most famous athletes throughout the history of the game.

From Rob Gronkowski's record-smashing triumphs to Tom Brady's sixth Super Bowl trophy, these players were responsible for some truly memorable moments you may have been fortunate enough to witness. Keep reading to see the most famous football player from your state … and whether or not you agree.

ALABAMA: Terrell Owens

The former wide receiver, who was born in Alexander City, Alabama, smashed numerous records during his 15-season career, amassed 15,934 yards for five teams, and was selected to six Pro Bowls. T.O. was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 — but famously skipped the ceremony because of what he saw as a two-year delay in voting him in.

ALASKA: Mark Schlereth

The offensive lineman was the first Alaskan to win a Super Bowl when the Washington Redskins (now the Washington Football Team) won in 1992. He won the Lombardi Trophy twice more — with the Denver Broncos in 1998 and 1999. Born in Anchorage, Schlereth was nicknamed "Stink" after "stinkhead," an Alaskan dish of fermented fish heads — and his penchant for emptying his bladder while still in uniform didn't help. He's now an analyst for Fox Sports.

ARIZONA: Randall McDaniel

McDaniel, who was born in Phoenix, was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1988 draft and remained there until 1999, before finishing his career with the Buccaneers. He played 202 consecutive starts and was elected to 12 straight Pro Bowls. Considered one of the finest offensive linemen in NFL history, McDaniel was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

ARKANSAS: Willie Roaf

Roaf, who was born in Pine Bluff, played 13 seasons in the NFL (for the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs), 11 Pro Bowls, and was named a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team in the '90s and 2000s before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

"He was the best player on our team during his entire tenure with us, one of the top players in the history of our franchise, and one of the NFL's greatest at his position," said Saints owner Tom Benson in a press release at the time.

CALIFORNIA: Tom Brady

With nine Super Bowls under his belt — and a record six wins — the former New England Patriots' quarterback is today's most recognizable name in the game and considered the best football player of all time by some.

Brady, who was born in San Mateo, California, is the NFL's all-time leader in playoff wins, touchdown passes, passing yards, and completion percentage. His many records include the most Super Bowl MVP awards of any player (four), most NFL MVP awards (three), and when the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII in 2019, he became the oldest quarterback to do so.

In 2020, he announced his departure from the Patriots, calling his time on the team "the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life." He now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

COLORADO: Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey, who was born in Castle Rock, Colorado, has been the Carolina Panthers' running back since 2017 — and keeps breaking records. In 2019, he became the first player ever to reach 1,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards in the first 10 games of a season.

"McCaffrey has emerged as arguably the best all-purpose back in the NFL," ESPN's David Newton wrote in 2018.

CONNECTICUT: Dwight Freeney

Freeney, who was born in Hartford, was regarded as one of the NFL's best defensive linemen for most of the 2000s, and he's ranked the No. 1 Connecticut-born player by fans. He won the Super Bowl while playing with the Indianapolis Colts (over the Chicago Bears) in 2007.

DELAWARE: Tim Wilson

While the state isn't known for producing the best in NFL talent, Delaware native Tim Wilson made a name for himself as ferocious lead blocker for Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell while they played for the Houston Oilers in the late '70s and early '80s.

Wilson, who was born in New Castle, died in 1996, at the age of 42. His son, NFL player Josh Wilson, always carries his dad's 1981 football card with him (pictured).

FLORIDA: David 'Deacon' Jones

Jones, a defensive end born in Eatonville, was "without doubt the greatest defensive end to play in modern day football," according to former Rams' coach George Allen.

He was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year twice, in 1967 and 1968; was invited to eight Pro Bowls; and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. He passed away in 2013, at the age of 74.

GEORGIA: Jim Brown

Considered one of the best football players of all time, Brown was born on St. Simons. The running back was a first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns in 1957, earned Rookie of the Year, was named MVP three times, and held a record career rushing total of 2,312 yards until it was broken by Walter Payton in the '80s.

He came in at No. 4 on USA Today's list of the greatest NFL players of all time.

HAWAII: Olin Kreutz

No Hawaii natives are in the Hall of Fame yet, but among its most famous football exports is Olin Kreutz, who spent most of his 14 seasons with the Chicago Bears. He was selected to six Pro Bowls and named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team before quitting the game.

Kreutz, who was born in Honolulu, later joined NBC Sports as a commentator.

IDAHO: Larry Wilson

Wilson, a free safety born in Rigby, spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1965, he famously intercepted a pass from the Steelers' Bill Nelson with casts on both his hands, a week after breaking his left hand and breaking a finger on his right. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978 and, in 2019, he was named to the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. 

ILLINOIS: Dick Butkus

The Chicago-native played for the Bears from 1965 to 1973 — and was known as one of history's most intimidating linebackers.

"Dick Butkus is a special kind of brute whose particular talent is mashing runners into curious shapes," Sports Illustrated wrote during Butkus' senior season at Illinois.

He was selected for eight Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. When he retired in 1973, his fierce reputation helped land him TV and movie roles.

INDIANA: Rod Woodson

The defensive back played 17 seasons, including 10 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, before he retired as the NFL's then-leader in interception return yardage (1,483). He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. During his enshrinement speech, he credited his hometown, Fort Wayne, Indiana, with keeping him grounded.

"I think it kept me rooted in reality, honestly," he said. "I think it taught me what was truly real to me … I really want to thank Fort Wayne for accepting me and embracing me throughout my lifetime."

IOWA: Kurt Warner

Warner, who was born in Burlington, Iowa, and raised in Cedar Rapids, is one of NFL history's favorite comeback stories. In 2000, the former grocery bagger became the only undrafted quarterback in NFL history to start and win a Super Bowl — and was even named MVP. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

"I think when you have an extraordinary player and one who is just as extraordinary off the field, then you realize you were in the presence of someone special," Cardinals general manager Rod Graves told ESPN.

KANSAS: Barry Sanders

One of the most agile runners in NFL history, Sanders was named Rookie of the Year after being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1989. The Wichita native won the Heisman trophy, was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice, and was invited to the Pro Bowl 10 times. He joined the Hall of Fame in 2004.

"He did something every single week, whether it would be in practice or a game, that would absolutely amaze you," said Sanders' former teammate, Chris Spielman, after news of Sanders' retirement. "How did he do that? He did it consistently. Barry is in a class by himself."

KENTUCKY: Champ Bailey

Bailey, who was born in Fort Campbell, played for the Denver Broncos and Washington. During his 15 seasons in the NFL, he was invited to 12 Pro Bowls — the most of any defensive back in NFL history — and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s. In 2019, he joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I really do think Champ is a once-in-a-generation type of player. He was that gifted. But you combine that with the smarts [and] he's special," said former Broncos safety John Lynch.

LOUISIANA: Peyton Manning

The quarterback, who was born in New Orleans, spent his 18 NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos. The two-time Super Bowl winner is the only starting quarterback to win with two franchises in NFL history. After 71,940 regular-season passing yards and 539 touchdowns, he retired from the game in 2016.

"He's probably the hardest-working guy I've been around who has great ability," said former Colts head coach, Tony Dungy. "Overachievers work hard because they have to. Peyton has rare talent, but chooses to push himself like he doesn't."

MAINE: John Huard

Maine is another state that's not famous for its football talent, but John Huard, who was born in Waterville, was once named among the top 20 athletes in the state's history by Sports Illustrated.

Selected by the Denver Broncos during the 1967 draft, he played four seasons with the Broncos — starting every game his first three years — and New Orleans Saints before playing in Canada. He embarked on a successful coaching career and was inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

MARYLAND: Cameron Wake

Wake, who was born in Beltsville, initially signed to the New York Giants as a free agent, before working as a mortgage broker for a year. After resuming his football career, the defensive end spent 10 seasons with the Miami Dolphins and played with the Tennessee Titans between 2019 and 2020. He's won five Pro Bowls and was named one the Dolphins 50 greatest players on its 50th Season All-Time Team.

MASSACHUSETTS: Nick Buoniconti

Nick Buoniconti, of Springfield, has been named an All-Pro five times, more than twice as many times as any other Massachusetts-born NFL player in history. Buoniconti won two back-to-back Super Bowls while playing with the Miami Dolphins and in 2001, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Throughout his life, Buoniconti championed medical research. According to The New York Times, after his son Marc Buoniconti was paralyzed from a college football injury, Nick Buoniconti helped raise nearly $500 million for spinal cord and brain research.

In his later life, Buoniconti suffered from dementia. After his death in July 2019, his brain was donated to Boston University to help determine if this was at all caused by his football career.

"I'm not mad at the game, I'm mad at the owners," he said in "The Many Lives of Nick Buoniconti," an HBO documentary. "I think that we paved the way for the NFL being what it is today. In other words, we, uh, we paved the way for them and they're, they're reaping all the benefits."

MICHIGAN: Paul Krause

Born in Flint, Michigan, on February 19, 1942, Paul Krause would go on to become one of the most highly regarded pro football players from the state. After graduating from the University of Iowa, Krause played for Washington and the Minnesota Vikings. His football career would eventually span 16 seasons. Between 1964 and 1979, Krause became the NFL's leading pass interceptor of all time with a whopping 81 steals. 

He was a starting free safety in four Super Bowls — Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI. 

MINNESOTA: Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals but was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fitzgerald has been selected for the Pro Bowl eleven times and comes in second in NFL history for most receiving yards, second in career receptions, and sixth in receiving touchdowns.

MISSISSIPPI: Brett Favre

Brett Favre was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1969, and played for the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers, the New York Jets, and the Minnesota Vikings throughout his 20-year career.

Favre holds quite a few NFL records, including the most career pass completions and attempts. For a quarterback over the age of 40, Favre also has the most career passing yards and ties with Tom Brady for the most regular-season games with 300-plus passing yards.

Favre is the only player in NFL history to win the NFL MVP Award three consecutive times, between 1995 and 1997, and won Super Bowl XXXI with the Green Bay Packers. In 2016, Favre was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

MISSOURI: Kellen Winslow

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Kellen Winslow made 1,000 receiving yards and over 80 receptions in just three seasons. He spent his entire nine-season career as a tight end with the Chargers and finished his professional career with a total of 541 receptions, 6,741 yards, and 45 touchdowns. Winslow was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.

MONTANA: Pat Donovan

Born in Helena, Montana, Pat Donovan is considered to be one of the greatest NFL players to ever hail from the Midwestern state.

The former offensive lineman never missed a game in his nine seasons in the NFL. He played in 20 playoff contests, including six NFC Championships and three Super Bowls. In Super Bowl XII, Donavan won a ring while playing against the Denver Broncos.

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named Donavan as the fourth-greatest athlete from Montana of the 20th century.

NEBRASKA: Danny Woodhead

Danny Woodhead was born in North Platte, Nebraska. As a former running back, Woodhead played for the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, the San Diego Chargers, and the Baltimore Ravens. 

Woodhead made a catch in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLVI to score the first touchdown in the game for the Patriots but didn't end up going home with a ring. Nevertheless, the Nebraskan finished the game with four catches for 42 yards. 

After Woodhead tore his ACL while playing for the Chargers, coach Mike McCoy said, "There's not another Danny Woodhead out there, with what he does in all aspects of the game … He treats every day as if it's his last day. He's a great example of what it means to be a pro."

NEVADA: Steven Jackson

Las Vegas native Steven Jackson retired with 11,438 total rushing yards and 78 touchdowns under his belt. Jackson played for the Rams, the Atlanta Falcons, and the New England Patriots before retiring in 2015 after 11 years in the league. He played in the Pro Bowl a total of three times. 

Jackson is a member of the 10,000-yard rushing club, a feat only reached by 31 players.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Greg Landry

Greg Landry is one of the greatest football players to emerge from the Granite State. Landry was the 11th overall selection of the 1968 NFL Draft and played for the Detroit Lions for ten years. In 1976, Landry had 17 total touchdowns and was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year. 

Landry went on to coach for the Detroit Lions, the Illinois Fighting Illini, the Chicago Bears, and the Cleveland Browns.

NEW JERSEY: Franco Harris

Born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Franco Harris is regarded as one of New Jersey's most acclaimed athletes. Harris is a four-time Super Bowl champion, nine-time Pro Bowl selection, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With 12,120 all-time rushing yards in his career history, it's no wonder this former Steelers and Seahawks player was ranked number 83 on The Sporting News' 1999 list of the 100 Greatest Football Players and was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

NEW MEXICO: Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers was known for his versatility and ability to dominate the field throughout his 14-year career. Lott was used as both a left and right cornerback and as a free and strong safety. 

Lott recorded 63 interceptions and held the league record for interceptions twice during his career. Lott played for the 49ers for a total of 10 seasons between 1981 and 1990, during which he won eight NFC Western Division titles and four Super Bowls.

"He's like a middle linebacker playing safety," Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry said. "He's devastating."

NEW YORK: Rob Gronkowski

Born in Amherst, New York, Rob Gronkowski is perhaps the most famous NFL player to come from the state. One of the best tight ends in NFL history, Gronkowski has won three Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, is a five-time Pro Bowler, and in 2011 broke the record for most touchdown catches by a tight end in a single season.

In March 2019, Rob Gronkowski announced he would be retiring from the NFL at the age of 29. 

"Rob will leave an indelible mark on the Patriots organization and the game as among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the announcement was released.

However, the following year, he came out of retirement and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

NORTH CAROLINA: Bruce Matthews

Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee Bruce Matthews of Raleigh, North Carolina, played for the Houston Oilers franchise for a whopping nineteen seasons in the years 1983 to 2001. As a three-time Offensive Lineman of the Year, Matthews started 292 of the 296 games he played in throughout his decade-spanning career.

From 1988 up until his retirement, Matthews was invited to play in the Pro Bowl every season. He tied with Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen for most consecutive Pro Bowl wins at 14, nine of which he played guard and five at center.

NORTH DAKOTA: Gary Larsen

Gary Larsen was born in Fargo, North Dakota, and is remembered as a famous football player for the Minnesota Vikings during the 1960s and 1970s.

As a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings between 1965 and 1974, Gary Larsen, then known as the "Norse Nightmare," became part of the famous defensive line known as the Purple People Eaters. He was chosen to take part in two Pro Bowls and played in Super Bowls IV, VIII, and IX.

OHIO: Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson, of Fremont, Ohio, is the only primarily defensive NFL player to win the Heisman trophy after playing both offensive and defensive sides. Woodson is also one of just a few players who have played in a Pro Bowl in three different decades — Woodson played in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.

Woodson entered the NFL when he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 1998. After starting with the team in 2006, Woodson helped lead the Green Bay Packers to victory in Super Bowl XLV in 2010. In 2013, he returned to the Raiders for another two seasons before retiring in 2015.

OKLAHOMA: Wesley Carter Welker

Wesley "Wes" Carter Welker currently works as the 49ers wide receivers coach, but he was a player himself from 2004 to 2015 for a wide array of teams: the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, and St. Louis Rams. He was born in Oklahoma City.

OREGON: Jerry Smith

Jerry Smith was born in Eugene, Oregon. He had 60 career touchdowns, and held the record for most touchdowns by a tight end for 27 years. The record was later broken by Shannon Sharpe in 2002, who had 62 career touchdowns.

PENNSYLVANIA: Joe Montana

Born in New Eagle, Pennsylvania, Joe Montana played as a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. He earned the nicknames "Joe Cool" and "the Comeback Kid" for his extraordinary ability to bring a team back from defeat in the last quarter of a game with successful long passes. He also won Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, and XXIV.

Montana was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

RHODE ISLAND: Al Del Greco

Al Del Greco's football career spanned 17 years, during which he played as a placekicker for the Green Bay Packers, Phoenix Cardinals, and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. He scored a total of 1,584 points during his career, making him 23rd on the NFL All-Time Points Scored List. After he retired from football, he became a sports commentator and radio personality. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore is currently a cornerback for the New England Patriots. He was named named AFC Defensive Player of the Month in October 2019. He played for the Buffalo Bills from 2012 to 2016.

He was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Adam Vinatieri

Born in Yankton, South Dakota, Adam Vinatieri was a placekicker for the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. 

Vinatieri has played in five Super Bowls and won four of them, making him the NFL record holder for the most Super Bowl wins by a kicker. He is also holds the record for top scorer in the NFL with 2,673 points.

TENNESSEE: Reggie White

Reggie White was nicknamed "The Minister of Defense" as both an ordained minister and a defensive football player. He began his career playing with the Philadelphia Eagles, and then signed with the Green Bay Packers in 1993. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and 1998.

He was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

TEXAS: Drew Brees

Drew Brees started his NFL career playing with the San Diego Chargers in 2001, and has been playing with the New Orleans Saints since 2006. A renowned quarterback, he was Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year and Superbowl MVP in 2010. He was born in Austin, Texas.

UTAH: Steve Young

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Steve Young is best known for his 13 years as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. He was named MVP of Super Bowl XXIX after leading the 49ers to victory in 1995. He became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

VERMONT: Steve Wisniewski

Steve Wisniewski played 13 seasons for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and eight Pro Bowls before retiring in 2001. He was nicknamed "The Wiz" for his impenetrable moves as left guard. He was born in Rutland, Vermont.

VIRGINIA: Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor was born in Williamsburg, Virginia. He played 13 seasons as a linebacker with the New York Giants and is a two-time Super Bowl champion. He was also named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1986 — the first defensive player to win the title since 1971.

Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

WASHINGTON: John Elway

John Elway played 16 seasons as quarterback the Denver Broncos. The Broncos won two Super Bowls with his help, and he was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII. He was responsible for 82.2% of the Broncos' total points scored during his 16 years as quarterback.

Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He was born in Port Angeles, Washington.

WEST VIRGINIA: Randy Moss

Moss, who was born in Rand, West Virginia, was a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. He immediately made an impact, setting a then-NFL record for the most touchdown receptions by a rookie (17) and being named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

During his record-setting 14 seasons, he was named to six Pro Bowls, made two Super Bowl appearances, and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s. Now an analyst, he was selected to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

WISCONSIN: John Matuszak

John Matuszak played as a defensive lineman for the Houston Oilers (1973), Houston Texans (1974), Kansas City Chiefs (1974-1975), (the renamed) Washington Football Team (1976), and the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1976-1982). He then left football and launched his acting career, eventually starring in "The Goonies" as Sloth and appearing in numerous other television roles.

Matuszak was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He died of an accidental drug overdose in 1989.

WYOMING: Chris Cooley

Chris Cooley played as a tight end and running back for Washington from 2004 to 2011. He became known as "Captain Chaos" after his teammates dared him to introduce himself to the opposing team as such, and the name stuck. He was born in Powell, Wyoming.

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