As a part of its 100th anniversary this year, the NFL has spent the last few weeks putting together its #NFL100 All-Time Team. The league has gone position by position, selecting 100 of the greatest players and 10 of the greatest coaches in NFL history. From Johnny Unitas to Tom Brady, from Elroy Hirsch to Randy Moss, the list is littered with true legends of the game and it just so happens that three former SU stars made the cut. Let’s take a look back at their Orange careers and some of their NFL highlights.
Best Season at SU (1956): 158 carries, 986 yards, 13 TD | 5 rec, 56 yards, TD
Collegiate Awards: Consensus First-Team All-American, 5th in Heisman Voting, No. 44 honored by SU
NFL Draft: 1957 6th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns
Career NFL Stats: 12,312 yards (11th all-time), 106 TD | 2,499 rec yds, 20 TD
Career Accolades: 1964 NFL Champion, 9x Pro Bowler, 8x First-Team All-Pro, 3x MVP, 8x Rushing Leader, No. 32 retired by Cleveland Browns, Pro Football HOF
Quite probably the best athlete to ever step foot on campus, Jim Brown was not only a star on the gridiron but also played basketball, ran track and is in the argument for being the greatest lacrosse player of all-time, not only at Syracuse, a school known for its incredible lacrosse program, but to ever play the sport. On top of that, he’s in the conversation for being the best football player to ever live and is undoubtedly a top three running back in NFL history. There was quite literally nothing Brown couldn’t do in his athletic career and he is more than deserving of his spot on the NFL 100 All-Time Team and deserves to continue being showered with accolades moving forward.
Best Season at SU (1961): 15 rec, 321 yards, 4 TD
Collegiate Awards: None, but the Mackey Award is now given to the best TE in CFB
NFL Draft: 1963 19th overall pick to the Baltimore Colts
Career NFL Stats: 331 rec, 5,236 yards, 38 touchdowns
Career Accolades: Super Bowl V Champion, 5x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro, Pro Football HOF
John Mackey completely revolutionized the tight end position at the professional level. A wide receiver/running back combo in his days at Syracuse, the tight end position was essentially nothing more than an extra offensive linemen before he came along. But when Mackey got to the league, the modern-day tight end, one who could not only block, but also be a consistent threat in the passing game, using size, speed and athleticism to beat opponents, was born. One of the fastest tight ends to ever play the game, his impact off the field was just as great as the one he made on it. Mackey was the first president of the NFLPA after the AFL/NFL merger and worked tirelessly to make NFL players’ lives easier not only while they’re in the league but also after their playing careers are over. One of the lasting pieces of his off-field legacy will be the “88 Plan” which provides former players with up to $100,000 per year for medical care in relation to dementia, Alzheimer’s, ALS and/or Parkinson’s disease linked to their football careers. John Mackey is a true legend both on and off the field.
Best Season at SU (1995): 56 rec, 1,131 yards, 8 TD | 5 carries, 69 yards
Collegiate Awards: All-Big East 1995
NFL Draft: 1996 19th overall to the Indianapolis Colts
Career NFL Stats: 1,102 rec (5th all-time), 14,580 yards (9th all-time), 128 TD (5th all-time)
Career Accolades: Super Bowl XLI Champion, 8x Pro Bowler, 3x First-Team All-Pro, 5x Second-Team All-Pro, Pro Football HOF
A part of the greatest WR/QB combo in NFL history with Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison got his start in Central New York where he dazzled for three seasons as a starter and teamed with fellow SU great Donovan McNabb in his senior season. In a draft class that also included No. 1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens and Muhsin Muhammad among others, Harrison probably had the best career of them all. His record of 143 receptions in a single season was just recently broken by the Saints’ Michael Thomas. For a guy that never quite had the “star power” of some of the other WRs on the NFL 100 list (Jerry Rice and Randy Moss come to mind), Harrison humbly and quietly put together one of the greatest careers in NFL history and deserves more credit than he’s given.