Possibly the most fun position in football. Who doesn't love watching a defenseless WR crossing over the middle and getting demolished by a safety coming at full blast.
1. Ronnie Lott - Defines the position. Never let a play behind him...and if you saw him coming you knew you had better get to the ground or be prepared to get killed. 8 time all pro, helped a young 9ers secondary to a super bowl victory in his rookie year. Every team wished they had this guy.
2. Paul Krause - Krasue’s career total of 81 interceptions during a 16-season career with the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings from 1964 to 1979 is absolutely mind-boggling – especially when you consider he played in an era when teams didn’t throw ball nearly as much as in today’s era of high-powered passing offenses. Krause was the starting safety in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI, in the 1969 NFL championship game and NFC title games in 1973, 1974, 1976 and 1977. He intercepted one pass in Super Bowl IV and recovered a fumble inIX.
3. Ken Houston - Easily could be second on this list. As the premier free safety of his era in a 14-year career that began with the 1967 Houston Oilers, Houston was a player that was way ahead of his time. After excelling for six years with the Oilers, Houston was traded to the Washington Redskins for five veteran players in 1973 where he was either All-Pro or All-NFC every year from 1973 to 1979.
4. Willie Wood - He looked like mini-me in the secondary. A towering 5'10" and intimidating 190lbs he was not your prototypical NFL safety, but this guy could flat out play. Wood won first or second team All-NFL honors nine times from 1962 through 1970 season and was a Pro Bowl participant eight times (1963, 1965 –1971) and also played in six NFL championship games.
5. Larry Wilson - I was originally going to put another safety here but after further review, I decided that Wilson would be my choice. Not only was he more than capable in pass coverage, but it was Wilson’s exploits in blitzing from the safety position that helped him to really stand out. Basically, when Wilson wasn’t flattening opposing quarterbacks, he was picking them off downfield. Wilson won first or second team all-league honors seven times during his career and played in eight Pro Bowls.
6. Ed Reed - Redefining how the position should be played every time he steps out on the field for the Ravens. Even though Ray Lewis may be the leader of the defense, Reed is probably the most talented player on the field. Plays amazingly well against the run, shut down defender, can hit like nobody's business, and is even a great special teams player. Could be top 3 by the time his career comes to an end.
7. Steve Atwater - This is a personal favorite of mine. Atwater was truly a sledgehammer in the secondary. He was known for leaving his feet and brutalizing anyone that tried to catch a ball down the field. Although he didn't have amazing career INT numbers he forced a ton of fumbles and forced more dropped passes than one could count. Loved to watch this guy play.
8. Cliff Harris - "Captain Crash" was scary and wreckless. During a time when the game was more discipline, Harris represented a patient from a psych ward that was let loose on the football field. During his career he made 5 Super Bowl appearances, was chosen for the Pro Bowl six consecutive times and was voted All Pro four times.
9. Jake Scott - Member of the undefeated 72 Miami Dolphins and possibly the most important cog on their defensive unit. Finished that season as Super Bowl MVP of SB VII, recording 2 interceptions and 63 return yards in the Dolphins' 14-7 win. He also played for the Dolphins in their Super Bowl VIII win, recording a fumble recovery, 20 punt return yards, and 47 kickoff return yards in that game. The guy was just a great ball player.
10. Rod Woodson - Going to be a HOF player as soon as he's eligable. Had an amazing career in Pittsburgh anchoring that defense for over a decade. Was never the hardest hitter (make no mistake, he could hit) but he was great at reading the offense and getting his hands on the ball, always causing problems for opposing teams.
There you have it, my top 10 free roaming sledgehammers on the defensive side of the ball. Where's walt?