Football's Greatest Stars

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An exciting history of the game, with profiles of its greatest players.

At the heart of Football's Greatest Stars are detailed profiles of the 50 greatest players of professional history. They're all here — the original heroes, the '80s superstars and the future Hall of Famers.

Luminaries include:

  • Brett Favre
  • Dan Marino
  • Deacon Jones
  • Dick Butkus
  • Forrest Gregg
  • Fran Tarkenton
  • Jerry Rice
  • Joe Montana
  • Joe Namath
  • Johnny Unitas
  • Lawrence Taylor
  • Peyton Manning
  • Roger Staubach
  • Terry Bradshaw
  • Tom Brady
  • ... and
    35 others.

Football is followed by more fans than any other sport in the United States. It's also cherished by big businesses, which pay $2.7 million for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl.

Why is professional football so popular? How did it get that way? Who are the men who carried this storied league to the biggest stage in the United States? Allan Maki assesses the NFL's rise to greatness with three compelling essays on the men, the moments and the circumstances that have created the game that's watched today by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In addition to the player profiles, 32 franchise profiles chart the league's rise to greatness.

Football's Greatest Stars is a superb book for fans, and a compelling history of a great game.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

This book attempts to profile the top 50 stars of the last 50 years of professional football, as chosen by a 25-year veteran sportswriter from Canada. The 50 selections are divided into two sections, Top 20 and Next 30, and are arranged alphabetically within those groupings. Of the Top 20, eight are quarterbacks, five are running backs, and only five are defensive players; the proportions for the Next 30 are similar. The profiles themselves are knowledgably written but take a back seat to the well-chosen illustrations-135 color photographs mixed with scores of black-and-white ones in a very striking layout. The book also features, e.g., "Legends in the Making" and "Franchises" (one-page summaries of all 32 teams). In short, a beautiful if not essential book that would be at home in any public library.
—John Maxymuk

American Profile .com
Packed with 120 color photos of Peyton Manning, O.J. Simpson, Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Deion Sanders and many , many other touchdown titans, it's sure to be a hit with any gridiron fan.

— Neil Pond

Winnipeg Free Press
There's a lot of information in this book.

— Nick Martin

Shelf Life
Football's Greatest Stars looks at an elite group of players who came to define the sport through their stellar play.... A valuable reference guide for lovers of the sport, reading the book will bring back memorable Sunday afternoons of watching some of the greatest players ever to put on a football helmet.
A superb book for fans and a compelling history of a great game — includes profiles of its greatest players.
American Profile .com - Neil Pond
Packed with 120 color photos of Peyton Manning, O.J. Simpson, Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Deion Sanders and many , many other touchdown titans, it's sure to be a hit with any gridiron fan.
Winnipeg Free Press - Nick Martin
There's a lot of information in this book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781770852464
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 8/11/2013
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 283,535
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Allan Maki is an award-winning sports journalist who has also contributed to several books.
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents


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"It's not bragging if you can do it."
— Joe Namath, Quarterback, New York Jets

The Deacon was sipping drinks with an inquisitive sportswriter in a Toronto nightclub one evening when the question was raised: What made him one of the NFL's most dominant defensive linemen? Was it his quickness, that quarterback-crippling, inside-outside rush move?

Twenty years removed from his last game, David "Deacon" Jones shook his head and uttered a single word: "Attitude." That was the key that unlocked his greatness, Jones insisted. All those who play in the NFL boast a high degree of talent, he explained. They can run fast, hit hard, throw accurately. But what separates the prime cuts from the herd is how badly they want to succeed: their attitude.

That was how the Deacon saw it, and I thought of that conversation with Jones soon after I was contacted last fall by Firefly Books editor Steve Cameron. Steve had asked me to write about the NFL's 50 Greatest Players. The dilemma, aside from a tight deadline, was how to pick the foremost 50. How do you compare players from different eras? How do you value a good offensive lineman as opposed to a good inside linebacker? Do you go by durability? Versatility? Do you pick an athlete because he took his position and played it like no one else ever had? That worked in a couple of cases (for example, New York Giants' linebacker Lawrence Taylor and Baltimore Colts' tight end John Mackey), but not for everyone. So how did we come up with our 50?

We used two criteria: only players from the late 1950s and early 1960s up to the present would be included. We wanted a contemporary collection (no offense to Otto Graham or Don Hutson). They also had to pass the
Deacon's test, meaning they had to have an attitude about them. That wasn't to say every player had to preen and prance like Deion "Neon" Sanders auditioning for the Rockettes dance troupe. That was his own gimmick, his personal style.

What we wanted overall were players with an unflinching belief in themselves — men whose personal triumphs and attitudes were as impressive as the statistics and records they set.

Green Bay Packers' quarterback Bart Starr was a shining example of that. Starr was a late-round draft pick with supposedly limited skills, but his passion for the game helped him to become a master craftsman. Starr's ambition was to execute a game plan to perfection and to do it in the biggest games. In terms of his personality, he was practical and humble.

But make no mistake. Starr was a merciless competitor. He would find the weakness in an opposing defense and exploit it repeatedly. He wasn't in it for the glory. He just wanted the victory. And he collected his share.

Considering the depth of our project — and again, a pressing deadline — Calgary Herald sports columnist George Johnson was brought in for his able assistance. Johnson is one of Canada's premier sportswriters and when he began filing his first biographies, he, too, was captivated by the players who had confronted adversity in their lives, if not their careers. His piece on Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke captures all the elements we were looking to highlight.

With Johnson aboard, we debated then settled on our 50 favorites, based on their inner traits and on-field work, and began writing. A portion of my research came from conversations over the years with some of the NFL's finest minds (coach Marv Levy, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, and general manager Bill Polian, who built the Indianapolis Colts into 2007 Super
Bowl champions), along with some of the game's freest thinkers (NFL assistant coaches Bill Bradley and Fred Biletnikoff, and my long-time source and purveyor of all things NFL, Deep Zone. You know who you are).

Those men provided tremendous insight into the game and helped shape my thoughts as this book was assembled.

When I look back at this endeavor, I realize we excluded many remarkable athletes, for example, Dallas Cowboys' defensive lineman Bob Lilly; Oakland Raiders' cornerback Mike Haynes; Miami Dolphins' receiver Paul Warfield. But I'd argue hard and fast if any of our 50 had to be dropped to make room for someone else.

Some of you may take issue with the inclusion of Buffalo Bills' running back O.J. Simpson and Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis, both of whom were charged with murder in separate incidents. Simpson was found not guilty; Lewis pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Simpson's legal battles came after his career; Lewis's came at the height of his playing days, and he has been able to restore at least part of his reputation through humanitarian efforts.

Simpson and Lewis are not popular picks, but as athletes, away from outside temptations, their work had the football world shaking its head in amazement. (Lewis's still does.) They had the gifts. And attitude!

They did a pretty good job of wanting to be the best player in football, and that's why they're included here.

So sit back, relax and marvel at the great players and moments that have shaped the NFL. Where would the game be without them?

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