I’ve done so many of the “Greatest of all-time” lists that by now, I could probably compose one of these in my sleep – although I must admit that it helps when the field of prospective selections isn’t as wide as say, in the quarterback category.
Lucky me. The category of greatest guards of all-time isn’t nearly as crowded – or as complicated – as several of the other NFL positions I’ve written about.
Having said that, haste makes waste. Here are the greatest guards in NFL history.
I firmly believe that Hannah is the greatest guard in NFL history. The 6-2, 265-pound immovable object was the prototypical guard of his – or any – era.
The fourth player selected in the 1973 draft, Hannah quickly became universally recognized as the premier guard of pro football. He was named All-Pro 10 consecutive years from 1976 through 1985. Hannah also won the NFL Players Association’s Offensive Lineman of the Year award four straight years from 1978 through 1981 and was named to nine Pro Bowls but missed the game following the 1983 season because of an injury.
Hannah was also a durable player who missed only five games because of injuries out of a possible 191 in his 13-season career. Although Hannah never played on a Super Bowl winning team, he was given a large share of the credit when the Patriots rushed for a then-record 3,165 yards in 1978 and remains to this day, the greatest guard in the annals of NFL history.
Upshaw was the Oakland Raiders’ first-round choice in the first combined AFL-NFL draft in 1967. The 6-5, 255-pound lineman won the starting job in his rookie training camp and held the guard spot for the next 15 seasons, starting in an amazing 207 straight regular season games until finally being forced out of action for one game in 1981. Upshaw returned the next week to play 10 more games in what turned out to be his final season. Altogether Upshaw played in an unbelievable 307 preseason, regular season, and post-season contests.
Upshaw played in 24 post-season games including, three AFL and seven AFC championship games and Super Bowls II, XI and XV. Along with the AFL championship he won in 1967 and victories in Super Bowls XI and XV, Upshaw became the only player ever to start on championship teams in both the AFL and NFL.
Upshaw was named first- or second-team All-League or All-Conference 11 consecutive years, and was named to play in seven Pro Bowls and is undoubtedly one of the greatest guards in NFL history.
Being a huge Miami Dolphin fan, I am pleased to make this selection – not that that fact swayed my judgment any. Little was an absolute star on several highly touted Dolphins teams of the 1970s.
Little began his career in 1967 as an unheralded free agent with the San Diego Chargers, but before the 1969 season, he was traded to the Dolphins.
It wasn’t long before the 6-1, 265-pound guard was being praised as one of the National Football League’s premier offensive linemen. A fixture at right guard during the 1970s when the Dolphins were a dominant team in pro football Little was the embodiment of the intimidating force of the famed Miami rushing attack.
Little was named first-team All-NFL from 1971 through 1975 and again in 1977. He was also named second-team All-NFL in 1978, and All-AFC five times. Little was also selected to play in five Pro Bowls (1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975) and was named the NFL Players Association’s AFC Lineman of the Year in 1970,1971 and 1972.
Legendary head coach, Don Shula, once called Little “a real inspiration, not just for the way he performs but also for his influence on our younger players.” Little missed only four games because of injuries in his first 11 seasons with the Dolphins and firmly established himself as one of the greatest guards in NFL history.
Munchak was the eighth player overall and the first offensive lineman chosen in the 1982 draft. The former Penn State standout was an immediate success with the Oilers, earning the starting left guard spot in his first training camp.
In 1984, in just his third year in the league, the 6-3, 281-pound Munchak was named to the first of seven All-AFC teams and received the first of nine Pro Bowl invitations.
Munchak, who was equally devastating as both, a pass blocker or run blocker, was the glue that held together several outstanding Houston Oilers offensive lines. Although he suffered from chronic knee problems throughout his career, Munchak played in 159 regular season games. His 12 seasons with the Oilers tied him for second longest in the franchise’s history at the time of his retirement.
Simply put, Munchak is one of the greatest guards in the history of the NFL.
DeLamielleure and his Buffalo Bills offensive line mates were dubbed the “Electric Company,” in the 1970s because they “turned the Juice loose.” The “Juice” of course was Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson, one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
Selected in the first round of the 1973 draft by the Buffalo Bills the former All-America and three-time All-Big Ten performer at Michigan State, was selected first- or second-team All-Pro; seven times. On eight occasion in his career, he was he was named first- or second-team All-AFC and six times, he was named to the Pro Bowl.
Since 1970, only two Hall of Fame guards, John Hannah with 10 and Gene Upshaw with seven, were named All-Pro more often and in 1975, the NFL Players Association named him Offensive Lineman of the Year.
DeLamielleure played in 185 consecutive games during his 13 playing seasons with the Bills and the Cleveland Browns and was a starter from the first game of his rookie season who played and started in every game for eight seasons in Buffalo before being traded to Cleveland in 1980. DeLamielleure, who was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team, is definitely one of the greatest guards in NFL history.