While a wealth of international players have become stars in professional baseball, basketball and hockey, the NFL remains a league almost entirely populated by American athletes. The players in the NFL’s 100-year history have come from all across the country, with all 50 states providing great players.
We looked at the players born in every state and figured out the best one from each, based on their statistical output, individual honors and legacy in professional football. Check out our picks and see who is the GOAT from your own neck of the woods.
Alabama — Bart Starr
While it’s known as the nation’s capital for college football greatness, Alabama has also given the NFL some tremendous stars over the years. Greats like Bo Jackson, Terrell Owens and Philip Rivers were born in its borders but Green Bay Packers legend Bart Starr tops them all. He was arguably the league’s first star quarterback and helped lead coach Vince Lombardi’s teams to five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls, in the 1960s.
The Hall of Famer from Montgomery led the league in passer rating five times and was named the NFL’s most valuable player in 1966.
Alaska — Mark Schlereth
Despite having a state culture known for hardiness, Alaska has only given the NFL 13 players in history, according to Pro Football Reference. Even if the state had given the league many more players, Anchorage native Mark Schlereth would probably still top the list. The guard was a two-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion with Washington and Denver during 12 seasons that spanned 1989-2000. During his time in Washington, Schlereth was part of the franchise’s legendary group of offensive linemen known as “The Hogs.”
Arizona — Randall McDaniel
While Hall-of-Fame guard Randall McDaniel made his NFL career in Minnesota, he was born in Phoenix. He stayed in his home state and had a brilliant college career at Arizona State before going pro and making a ridiculous 12 Pro Bowls to go with nine selections to the first-team All-Pro squad. When the NFL put together its prestigious list of the 100 greatest players in its 100-year history in 2020, McDaniel was the lone Arizonan to make the cut.
Arkansas — Don Hutson
The Natural State gave us a tall task in picking its best NFL product. All-time great players like Joe Perry, Willie Roaf and Kevin Williams all hailed from Arkansas but Don Hutson was impossible to overlook. The Pine Bluff native virtually invented the modern wide receiver position while playing with the Packers in the 1930s and 1940s, leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns in nine of his 11 seasons. He was instrumental in Green Bay winning three league titles from 1936-1944 and was named the NFL’s MVP for the 1941 and 1942 seasons. For all that, he was part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s charter class in 1963.
California — Tom Brady
In the first century of its existence, no state gave the NFL more players than California. More than 2,500 of the league’s players have come from the Golden State, including icons like Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Allen, a figure that’s more than 200 times higher than the output of some other states. But of them all, Tom Brady has to be considered the all-time best, especially since it could be argued he’s the single best player in NFL history.
Six Super Bowl rings, three MVP honors and 14 Pro Bowls are just some of the incredible distinctions the San Mateo native has earned so far.
Colorado — Calais Campbell
While Hall of Famer Dutch Clark made a strong case as Colorado’s best NFL product, likely future Hall of Famer Calais Campbell edged him out in our eyes. The six-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle was born in Denver and was named part of the league’s most recent All-Decade Team for his outstanding work during the 2010s.
He’s racked up nearly 100 career sacks and more than 700 tackles to this point but his selection as the 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, arguably the league’s most prestigious honor, gives Campbell some real bragging rights.
Connecticut — Andy Robustelli
Connecticut has given the NFL a slew of incredible defensive players, including two of the best defensive ends in history. We gave Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli the nod but it easily could’ve gone to Dwight Freeney as well, while Eugene Robinson and Bill Romanowski also had great careers. Robustelli was born in Hartford and played his college ball in Bridgeport before an NFL career that saw him win league titles with the Rams and Giants in the 1950s. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, six-time first-team All-Pro pick and retired with the NFL record for fumble recoveries.
Delaware — Duron Harmon
The pickings were pretty slim in Delaware, as the state has never produced a Pro Bowler or a first-team All-Pro selection. We narrowed it down to offensive lineman Luke Petigout and safety Duron Harmon, giving the latter the nod because of his three Super Bowl rings. Harmon, who was born in Magnolia, won those titles with the Patriots and earned his nickname, “The Closer,” for his uncanny knack for grabbing game-sealing interceptions in the final minutes of a contest.
Florida — Ray Lewis
As football factories go, the state of Florida is well known for its ability to produce incredible talent. We could’ve gone with rushing legends Emmitt Smith or Frank Gore, as well as cornerback Patrick Peterson, but Ray Lewis was as great a defensive player as the sport has ever seen. The Bartow native had a great college career at Miami before his Hall-of-Fame stint in the NFL, which saw him finish with more than 2,000 tackles.
He helped the Ravens win two Super Bowls, one of which he was named game MVP for, and was twice named the NFL’s defensive player of the year. That’s all to say nothing of his 13 Pro Bowls, which are the most for any player from the Sunshine State.
Georgia — Jim Brown
No disrespect to the great Mel Blount but St. Simons native Jim Brown is likely the best NFL player Georgia will ever produce. The rushing legend makes a strong case as the best player in league history, regardless of birthplace. In a career that lasted just nine brilliant seasons, Brown revolutionized the running back position and was a Pro Bowler every season he played. He led the league in rushing a record eight times and was named NFL MVP three times.
Hawaii — Olin Kreutz
Given its small landmass, you might be surprised to know Hawaii has produced more than 100 NFL players so far, ranking it far above many mainland states. Of those, we think Honolulu’s Olin Kreutz tops fellow Hawaiians Matt Blair and Max Unger as the state’s best pro player. Kreutz was a six-time Pro Bowler at center during his long stint with the Bears, where he commanded immense respect from his teammates. In 2019, he was named one of the historic franchise’s 100 best players in its first century of existence.
Idaho — Larry Wilson
From the small town of Rigby, Hall-of-Fame safety Larry Wilson represents Idaho in our list of NFL greats. He was the only player from the Gem State to show up in the league’s prestigious list of its 100 best players in 2020. He spent all 13 seasons of his NFL career with the then-St. Louis Cardinals, who unfortunately never had any playoff success during his tenure. He was named the NFL defensive player of the year in 1966 when he led the league in interceptions and was an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro first-team selection.
Illinois — Dick Butkus
The Prairie State presented us with one of the toughest toss-ups of this entire list. We narrowed the choices down to Hall of Famers Otto Graham, Kellen Winslow and Dick Butkus but had to give the latter the nod because of his lifelong roots in Illinois. The legendary linebacker was born in Chicago before playing college football at Illinois and spending his entire NFL career with the Bears, meaning he never wore the uniform of any team outside his home state.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Butkus was an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL defensive player of the year whom the NFL Network once dubbed the most feared tackler in history.
Indiana — Rod Woodson
Fort Wayne native Rod Woodson was really the only legitimate choice as the best NFL player to come from Indiana. The 1993 NFL defensive player of the year was an 11-time Pro Bowler and is regarded as arguably the best defensive back to ever play the game. The Hall of Famer stayed in the Hoosier State to play college football at Purdue before an NFL career that saw him win a Super Bowl with the Ravens and lead the league in interceptions twice.
Iowa — Kurt Warner
Pro-Bowl guard Marshal Yanda came close to being Iowa’s best NFL product but we had to go with Burlington native Kurt Warner for that honor. His path to NFL stardom started at the University of Northern Iowa before a detour in arena football with the Iowa Barnstormers. Once he hit the NFL, Warner led the Rams and Cardinals to Super Bowls, winning a ring with the former team in 2000. He was twice named the league’s MVP and is regarded as one of the most accurate passers in history.
Kansas — Barry Sanders
The state of Kansas — and the city of Wichita, specifically — has given the NFL two of its greatest running backs ever. We ultimately went with Barry Sanders as our pick for the state’s best player but the late Gale Sayers could’ve easily earned the distinction as well. Sanders spent just 10 seasons in the NFL, all with the Detroit Lions, but was selected to the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro squad in each of them. He ranks among the league’s top-five rushers ever and was named league MVP in 1997, when he amassed more than 2,000 rushing yards in his penultimate campaign.
Kentucky — Dermontti Dawson
Hall of Famers Rod Woodson and Bill Cowher both called Steelers legend Dermontti Dawson the most athletic man to ever play the center position in football. The big man came from Lexington and stayed close to home to play college football at Kentucky before spending his entire NFL career in Pittsburgh. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro selection, the latter being a record for players from the Bluegrass State. Other NFL greats to come from Kentucky include Champ Bailey, Phil Simms and Paul Hornung.
Louisiana — Peyton Manning
It was very tough crowning a GOAT from the crop of legendary players that Louisiana has produced but Peyton Manning narrowly edged out fellow Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Marshall Faulk. The New Orleans native’s legacy at the quarterback position is nearly unmatched, as is his status as an ambassador for the league in general. Manning led both the Colts and Broncos to Super Bowl titles and has his No. 18 jersey retired by both franchises. He was also named NFL MVP five times and a Pro Bowler 14 times, both of which are all-time records.
Maine — John Bunting
There has never been a player from Maine to earn a Pro Bowl pick or All-Pro distinction in NFL history and the choices of the state’s best players were pretty slim. After comparing their stats, former Eagles linebacker John Bunting edged out former Bears defensive end Al Harris for the honor. Bunting, who came from Portland, spent his entire NFL career with Philadelphia, starting in 116 games, including Super Bowl XV in 1981.
Maryland — Cameron Wake
Maryland doesn’t have a deep history of producing outstanding NFL talent but the state has given the league some great players in the current era. Pro Bowlers Todd Gurley and NaVorro Bowman both came from the Free State but we’re picking Beltsville native Cameron Wake as the best. After initially going undrafted and starting his pro career in the Canadian Football League, Wake was signed by the Dolphins in 2009 and had a great career at defensive end. He was named to five Pro Bowls and racked up more than 100 sacks, making him a likely future Hall of Famer.
Massachusetts — Howie Long
This one was a toss-up between two Hall-of-Fame defensive players but we gave Howie Long the slight nod over Nick Buoniconti. Long came from Somerville and spent his entire NFL career with the Raiders, whom he helped win a Super Bowl in 1985. Widely regarded as one of the toughest linebackers in history, Long was an eight-time Pro Bowler, former defensive player of the year and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for his work in the 1980s.
Michigan — Antonio Gates
No disrespect to fellow Michiganders Jerome Bettis and Jimmy Smith but Antonio Gates is the best to ever come from the Great Lake State. Fans of the Lions would’ve loved for this Detroit native to have stuck to his hometown but Gates spent his entire career with the Chargers, putting up ridiculous numbers that made him a fan favorite. He was elected to eight consecutive Pro Bowls from 2004-2011 and caught 116 career touchdowns which are the most ever at the tight end position.
Minnesota — Larry Fitzgerald
Future first-ballot Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is closely identified with football in Arizona but he was born in Minnesota. In addition to being regarded as one of the nicest guys to ever play professional football, the Minneapolis native has singled himself out as one of the best wide receivers ever. He’s led the league in receptions and receiving touchdowns twice each and has been named to 11 Pro Bowls, further cementing his status as a beloved star.
Fitzgerald edged out Terrell Suggs and Jim Langer as the best from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Mississippi — Jerry Rice
The state of Mississippi has given the NFL two of its very best players in Jerry Rice and Walter Payton, but the former just edges it out. Rice came from Starkville and played college football at Mississippi Valley State before becoming a first-round NFL Draft pick in 1985. He was instrumental in the dominant run of the 49ers after that, helping them win three Super Bowls and twice being named offensive player of the year.
You want more insane numbers from Rice’s career? He was a 13-time Pro Bowler, 10-time first-team All-Pro and led the league in receiving yards and touchdowns six times each.
Missouri — Cal Hubbard
Missouri’s Cal Hubbard holds the amazing distinction of being the only person enshrined in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s in the latter for his work as an umpire after his legendary football career ended in 1936. Hubbard was born in tiny Keytesville (population: 471 in 2010) and helped pioneer the position of linebacker as a four-time first-team All-Pro in the NFL’s earliest days. He won four league championships with the Giants and Packers, including three consecutive with the latter team from 1929-1931.
Montana — Jerry Kramer
Speaking of Packers icons, offensive lineman Jerry Kramer is the only NFL player from Montana to have earned multiple selections as a first-team All-Pro, which he did five times. The key blocker in the legendary “Lombardi Sweep” play, Kramer was a big part of seven championship teams for Green Bay, including the first two Super Bowl winners. The native of Jordan, Montana took far too long to be elected into the Hall of Fame but finally made the cut in 2018.
Nebraska — Mick Tingelhoff
Another NFL great who took far too long to get enshrined in the Hall of Fame was Nebraska native Mick Tingelhoff. He was born in Lexington before moving a couple hours east and playing college football at Nebraska in Lincoln. Tingelhoff was undrafted but got signed by the Vikings in 1962 and spent his entire career playing center for them. He won an NFL title with the franchise in 1969, which was also one of his six Pro-Bowl seasons. Other great Nebraskans to star in the NFL include Ahman Green and Pat Fischer.
Nevada — Steven Jackson
The state of Nevada has yet to produce an all-time NFL icon but it has given us a few very good ones. Las Vegas native Steven Jackson takes the crown over Ronnie Stanley and DeMarco Murray because of his stout legacy as a star rusher. He took over duties as the featured back for the Rams from the immensely popular Marshall Faulk, which was no enviable position, and he did a remarkable job. Jackson ran for more than 11,000 career rushing yards and is the all-time leading rusher in Rams franchise history.
New Hampshire — Greg Landry
According to Pro Football Reference, there’s only been one Pro Bowler to ever come from New Hampshire and it was Nashua’s own Greg Landry. The quarterback earned that honor in 1971 for the first and only time of his career, which included stints with the Lions and Colts. Landry was also named the league’s comeback player of the year in 1976. While his career passing statistics are middling, Landry was a gifted runner at a time when quarterbacks didn’t really do that, once rattling off 76 yards on a QB sneak.
New Jersey — Franco Harris
While Franco Harris is a legend in the history of the Steelers, he would’ve been much closer to home had he played for the Giants or Jets. The Hall-of-Fame fullback was born at Fort Dix because his father was sergeant in the Army. Harris won four Super Bowls with Pittsburgh and was named MVP of the game in 1975. His career, which included nine Pro-Bowl selections, edges out those of Richie Incognito, Mark Ingram and Joe Flacco as the best of anyone from Jersey.
New Mexico — Ronnie Lott
While some states were a toss-up, choosing Ronnie Lott as New Mexico’s best NFL product was a no-brainer. The Hall-of-Fame defensive back was selected as a first-team All-Pro eight times, which is by far the most of anyone from the Land of Enchantment. Born in Albuquerque, Lott won four Super Bowls with the 49ers and led the league in interceptions twice. He was also a 10-time Pro Bowler who amassed more than 1,100 career tackles and 63 total picks, the latter of which puts him in the top 10.
New York — Sid Luckman
It was tough to deny Rob Gronkowski this distinction but Sid Luckman’s impact on the modern NFL was as great as that of any early player. New York City hasn’t produced a wealth of great NFL players but this Hall of Famer came from Brooklyn before staying in the city and playing college ball at Columbia. He was drafted No. 2 overall by the Bears in 1939 and led the team to four NFL championships in the 1940s, while helping revolutionize the modern offense and becoming arguably the best passer of his generation.
North Carolina — Bruce Matthews
The Tar Heel State has given the NFL some legendary players, including Sonny Jurgensen and Bobby Bell, but offensive lineman Bruce Matthews tops them all. This Titans franchise icon was selected to an NFL-record 14 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1988-2001 and was a first-team All-Pro nine times. The Raleigh native started in nearly 300 games, won the prestigious Bart Starr Award and was named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary all-time team in 2020.
North Dakota — Pete Retzlaff
Hailing from the small town of Ellendale, “Pistol Pete” Retzlaff is our pick for the best NFL player born in North Dakota. His best competition was former Vikings star Gary Larsen but Retzlaff takes the title because of his five Pro Bowl appearances and two selections to the All-Pro first team. He was an all-around offensive weapon for the Eagles, where he played his entire career, in the 1950s and ’60s. Retzlaff helped the team win an NFL title in 1960 and had his No. 44 jersey retired by the franchise, which is just about the greatest honor a team can bestow upon a player.
Ohio — Alan Page
Given that the NFL’s first game was played in Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located there, it makes sense the state would’ve produced a large number of iconic players. We had a tough time denying guys like Roger Staubach, Jack Lambert and Charles Woodson the honor of being the Buckeye State’s best product but Alan Page couldn’t be denied. The Canton native is probably the best defensive lineman in football history and was selected to nine Pro Bowls and six All-Pro first teams for his efforts with the Vikings in the 1960s and ’70s.
Page was also named NFL MVP, a real rarity for defensive players, in 1971 and was twice named the league’s defensive player of the year.
Oklahoma — Lee Roy Selmon
Speaking of all-time great defensive linemen, Lee Roy Selmon deserves a place in the conversation. He was born in Eufaula before moving to Norman to play college football at the University of Oklahoma, where he won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in the nation in 1975. Selmon spent his entire career with the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was named defensive player of the year and was elected to six Pro Bowls and three All-Pro first teams before his No. 63 was retired by the franchise.
Seahawks icon Steve Largent also makes a strong case as Oklahoma’s best NFL product.
Oregon — Dave Wilcox
Born in Ontario, Oregon, on the state’s border with Idaho, Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox represents the best of the Beaver State. He played college ball at Oregon before moving south to spend his entire NFL career with the 49ers. While playing linebacker there, Wilcox was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro multiple times from various publications. The franchise put him in its own Hall of Fame after he retired.
Pennsylvania — Dan Marino
The commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a breeding ground for great quarterbacks, with Hall of Famers like Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly and Johnny Unitas all coming from there. But we went with Pittsburgh’s own Dan Marino as its best NFL product for his ability to shatter passing records during his legendary career. After being born in the Steel City, Marino stayed there to play college football at Pitt before going way down south to play his entire NFL tenure with the Miami Dolphins.
The most prolific passer of all time during his era, Marino was the first QB to throw for 50,000 yards and 400 touchdowns and he retired in 1999 with dozens of all-time passing marks.
Rhode Island — Bill Osmanski
Yet another of the all-time great Chicago Bears, fullback Bill Osmanski started his road to NFL stardom in Providence. He was drafted by the Bears in the first round in 1939 and spent his entire career there before retiring in 1947. In that relatively brief span, Osmanski helped the team win four championships and led the league in rushing in his rookie year. Former Jets great Gerry Philbin, who came from Pawtucket, was also one of the best players to call Rhode Island home.
South Carolina — Richard Seymour
We love Art Shell and DeAndre Hopkins, who could take this honor if he keeps up his current production for a few more seasons, but Richard Seymour is our pick as South Carolina’s best NFL star. The great defensive lineman won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and is overdue for a spot in the Hall of Fame. Seymour was born in Gadsen, which is right in the heart of the Palmetto State, and was elected to seven Pro Bowls, including two during his latter years with the Raiders.
For his work during the 2000s giving opposing offenses nightmares, Seymour was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team.
South Dakota — Norm Van Brocklin
A double Hall of Famer for his college and pro careers, “The Dutchman” made his native South Dakota proud on the gridiron. Norm Van Brocklin was born in tiny Parade, which had an estimated population of just 34 as of the 2010 census. The beloved quarterback played for the Rams and Eagles and won a championship with each franchise. He was named NFL MVP in 1960 and was a nine-time Pro Bowler, earning that distinction in almost every season of the 1950s.
Tennessee — Reggie White
The Volunteer State was the origin of two of the seven defensive ends chosen by the NFL for its all-time roster in 2020. There’s no denying the talent of Doug Atkins but Reggie White’s accomplishments are almost unrivaled on the defensive side of the ball. “The Minister of Defense” came from Chattanooga and played college ball at Tennessee, where his No. 92 jersey is retired. White’s jersey number was also retired by the Eagles and Packers, the teams where he made 13 Pro Bowls and eight first-team All-Pro squads.
White collected nearly 200 sacks in his Hall-of-Fame career and was named defensive player of the year in 1987 and 1998.
Texas — Drew Brees
Texas is second only to California in the production of NFL players, so you can imagine how many legends have come from that massive state. Eric Dickerson, LaDanian Tomlinson, Sammy Baugh and Earl Campbell are certainly worthy of consideration but Drew Brees gets the nod. He was born in Dallas and played high school ball in Austin long before he became so closely tied with football in New Orleans. Brees is the NFL’s all-time leading passer and is as accurate a quarterback as the league has ever seen. He’s a lock as a first-ballot Hall of Famer whenever he decides to retire.
Utah — Merlin Olsen
It was tough to deny Steve Young the spot atop the football greats of Utah but Rams icon Merlin Olsen barely outdid him. While the native of Logan and graduate of Utah State University never won a Super Bowl, he did everything else a player in the NFL can. His 14 consecutive selections to the Pro Bowl are a league record and his five consecutive selections to the All-Pro first team from 1966-1970 show he was possibly the best defensive lineman of his era.
Vermont — Steve Wisniewski
Here’s a fact that could win you some money at your next bar trivia night: No state has produced fewer NFL players than Vermont. The Green Mountain State has given the league just 10 players in the past 100 years, according to Pro Football Reference, but one of them was eight-time Pro Bowler Steve Wisniewski. He was born in Rutland long before beginning a stellar career on the offensive line with the Raiders. The big man was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for his exemplary work in the 1990s.
Virginia — Lawrence Taylor
The historic city of Williamsburg was the hometown of Lawrence Taylor, who is still regarded as one of the most fearsome hitters in football history. Maybe the best linebacker of the past 40 years, “L.T.” spent his entire career with the Giants, where he is still essentially worshipped by the fanbase. He’s one of just two players to win the NFL’s defensive player of the year award three times, was a 10-time Pro Bowler and eight-time selection to the All-Pro first team. Other great Virginians in the league include Fran Tarkenton, Willie Lanier and Michael Vick.
Washington — John Elway
John Elway is most attached to the states of California and Colorado, where he spent his college and pro careers, but his origins trace back to Washington. He was born in scenic Port Angeles, which is right on the northwestern border of the state. The two-time Super Bowl champion with the Broncos and 1987 NFL MVP was one of the best quarterbacks of his era, which was full of great passers. Elway shares his home state with fellow NFL greats Corey Dillon and Drew Bledsoe.
West Virginia — Gino Marchetti
While Randy Moss is the best offensive player to come from West Virginia, the best overall has to be Gino Marchetti. The Hall-of-Fame defensive end won back-to-back NFL titles with the Colts in 1958 and 1959, which were two of his 11 Pro-Bowl seasons. The native of the small town of Smithers was also selected to nine consecutive first-team All-Pro squads from 1956-1964, which itself is a remarkable achievement. His No. 89 jersey is retired by the Colts.
Wisconsin — Mike Webster
Wisconsin is home to what is arguably the NFL’s most iconic franchise, so it makes sense that the frigid state would have produced some great football talent over the past century. All-time greats like Jim Otto, Elroy Hirsch and J.J. Watt all came from there but Mike Webster is the GOAT of America’s Dairyland. He came from Tomahawk and went on to play college ball at Wisconsin before finally leaving his home state to play for the Steelers. Webster won four Super Bowls there as the team’s center and was named to nine Pro Bowls in the 1970s and ’80s.
Webster holds the rare distinction of being part of the league’s All-Decade Teams for both of those decades.
Wyoming — Boyd Dowler
According to Pro Football Reference, there has never been a first-team All-Pro selection from the state of Wyoming. There have only been seven Pro Bowlers from the Cowboy State and Boyd Dowler is the most accomplished. The wide receiver, who is best known for his days with Vince Lombardi’s Packers in the 1960s, was born in Rock Springs. Dowler was named to two Pro Bowls and won five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls while playing in Green Bay.