Physicality is the name of the game, and knocking peoples’ socks off is spectacular. The NFL has changed in many ways to protect its players and rightfully so. Specifically, with new target zones for striking and tackling, helmet modifications, and limiting high-speed collisions by changing aspects of the game like kickoffs. Undoubtedly, this has minimized the number of de-cleaters that happen league-wide. So, with these hits becoming obsolete, let’s look at a list of the hardest hitters amongst defensive backs in NFL history.
Who? You may be asking this as a fan of the NFL. If you were a player during the time Chuck played (1988-1995), you were saying, “Chuck, where?” At six feet and 185 pounds, Chuck didn’t look like a wrecking ball, but he was. Known for his punishing style of play, Cecil would hit you with the ball in your hands or without the ball in your hands. Knowing where Chuck Cecil was during that game was as important to wide receivers as oxygen is to lungs.
Especially, if you wanted to continue breathing.
One of the most notorious headhunters in NFL history. Lynch played fifteen seasons in the NFL. For someone to utilize his head for a battering ram, that is an incredibly lengthy NFL career. Don’t get me wrong, Lynch’s play was within the scope of NFL rules at the time, and he created highlights that made him a nine-time pro bowl selection. Needless to say, John Lynch caused many receivers to develop alligator arms in his time roaming the middle of the field.
Deion Sanders was showtime at cornerback, but Troy Polamalu was showtime at safety. I have never seen a safety with the instincts like Polamalu. From jumping over the center to sack the quarterback, to stopping the running game, and picking off quarterbacks with ease, Troy was the man during his time in the NFL. Along with all the showtime abilities, Polamalu was a devastating hitter. He didn’t just hit hard; he used every inch of his being. If you don’t believe me, watch his hit on Stephen Hill of the Jets on YouTube. That hurt, for real!!!
Bro, Dick Lane was lighting offensive players up with a single-bar face mask. He routinely knocked players out of the game. Lane is the reason you cannot tackle players by their helmets. Also, he was the inventor of the clothesline tackle, and it was outlawed, as well. I don’t believe there is a lot more that needs to be said about this man’s nastiness on the field. Oh yeah, his nickname was, ‘night train.” I think that has something to do with putting people to sleep. I’m just throwing it out there.
When Sean Taylor engaged in a hit, he would attempt to knock you unconscious, literally. Tragically, he was murdered in a home invasion that cut his life and playing career short. Taylor’s highlight hits sounded like head-on car collisions. The awesome part is Taylor did not change his style of play no matter the situation. This was never more evident when he de-cleated punter Brian Moorman during the 2006 pro bowl. That man would hit you regardless!!!
One of the most complete safeties in NFL history, Ed Reed was a banger in college (Miami) and the NFL. Reed’s ability to be an absolute ball-hawk made him a great pass defender and a solid run defender. Reed and that Baltimore defense played with a serious attitude. As a part of one of the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL, Reed constantly found himself in a position to do harm to receivers and running backs for that matter. Ed Reed was known for taking helmets off offensive players in the trenches. The true definition of a serious hitter!
We are in the top four of the hardest-hitting defensive backs in NFL history. These are hitters that you would consistently have to make business decisions against. Ronnie Lott was a heat-seeking missile, and that is not an overstatement. Lott, repeatedly, used his position as a launching pad to destroy offensive players. On pass defenses, it will be hard to find a highlight of Lott with both feet on the ground. He was just as physically punishing to running backs. Lot was to be feared on the field. He stared down opponents to let them know he was always going to be around lurking in the dark.
The man was so fierce, he broke a finger during a game where the bone was protruding from the skin. The doctors refused to let him go back in with his finger in that condition.
Lott told the doctors to cut it off, and they did. Literally, the man has nine fingers and a stub!
The best word to explain Brian Dawkins on the field is savage. Dawkins was an absolute menace to play against. He was like an animal marking his territory. If you dared to step into it, you would pay the ultimate price. Dawkins’ agenda was to seek and destroy. He was an intimidator that happened to be an outstanding playmaker. His ability to affect all three levels of the defense is why he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
The number two hardest hitter is Rodney Harrison. There is no doubt that this man was a thumper. Before each season, Harrison would set aside money, because he knew he was getting fined for illegal hits. Was he a dirty player? Hell, yes! At the time, the way he played was legal (for the most part). Ultimately, Harrison’s style of play is what prompted the NFL to change rules to protect defenseless receivers and striking opponents with the crown of the helmet.
The most feared and hardest-hitting safety of all time, Jack Tatum, better known in the league as, “the Assassin.” Tatum played for ten seasons in the National Football League, and his legacy lives on today. Jack’s intentions were all bad, and he made sure that everyone in the building was aware of this. He was the king of making helmets pop off and rendering opponents unconscious.
The Chiefs have had some great safeties, as well. The top three safeties are Jonny Robinson, Deron Cherry, and Eric Berry. Out of those three, Eric Berry was the most athletic and the hardiest hitting of the bunch. Berry was an instant star for the Chiefs after he was drafted out of Tennessee. Even though his career was plagued with injuries and a bout with cancer, he is still one of the best safeties to ever lace up the cleats for the Kansas City Chiefs.