Coming up with the list of the top 10 hardest NFL hits of all time was no walk in the park. Football is a game of brutal violence, and each and every NFL game features bone-jarring hits that would leave the average man writhing on the field in pain. However, every once in a while there is a huge NFL hit that stands out above all others, a collision that can be felt in the chest cavities of the audience, leaving them wincing in empathetic pain. These hard football hits have become legendary in NFL lore, and the tacklers who delivered them are remembered as some of the scariest men in the sport of football. Here are my picks:
10 – Roger Craig Crushes Tim Krumrie – One of the most brutal hits in NFL history, mostly due to the gruesome nature of the injure that Tim Krumrie sustained in the collision. The tremendous tackle left Krumrie with a shattered leg, and he needed to undergo surgery to have a steel rod inserted in his leg after this devastating collision.
9 – Chuck Bednarik Knocks Frank Gifford Unconscious – With the size and speed of today’s NFL players this list of the top 10 hardest NFL hits of all time will have a very contemporary flavor. However, football players in days gone by could deliver some huge tackles of their own, and one of the biggest was Chuck Bednarik’s crushing tackle on Frank Gifford. The hit was so devastating that Gifford missed all of the following season!
8 – Steve Atwater Obliterates Christian Okyoe – This one was a huge NFL hit for the ages. Okyoe was running full speed when Atwater nailed him. The hit was so hard the cameraman couldn’t react, and both players disappeared from the screen.
7 – Sean Taylor Lays Out Brian Moorman – It is pretty bizarre that one of the hardest hits in NFL history would occur in the usually friendly Pro Bowl Game, but in 2006 that is exactly what happened. Sean Taylor, a safety known for his fearsome tackling ability, put a lick on punter Brian Moorman. Moorman faked a punt then tried to scamper for a first down. Perhaps Sean Taylor had a personal grudge because he completely abandoned his safety position to come put the crushing hit on Moorman.
6 – Earl Campbell Headbutts Jack Lambert Into Next Week! – It is not too often that you will see a running back take the stage on the list of the top 10 biggest NFL hits ever, but Earl Campbell wasn’t just any running back. His compact frame and thick thighs made him a nightmare for opposing defensive players, and Jack Lambert got a first hand example of Campbell’s power when he tried to stop the oncoming freight train. Campbell lowered his head and butted it into Lambert’s chest, knocking the lineback flying and then running right over him.
5 – John Lynch Crushes Chris Henry At The One Yard Line – One of the hardest hitting safeties in NFL history John Lynch’s signature hit came when he caught Bengals receiver Chris Henry before he could celebrate a touchdown. With his foot in the air, ready to dance into the end zone Henry was absolutely crunched by John Lynch with a hit that was described as a “pancaking”.
4 – Sheldon Brown Hammers Reggie Bush – Reggie Bush hasn’t quite lived up to the hype since his much heralded draft, but this is one play that he would have preferred to stay completely under the radar. With his head turned the other way to receive a Drew Brees pass, Bush never saw the fearsome Eagles cornerback coming. Brown took full advantage, absolutely popping Bush with one of the hardest hits in NFL history. Bush tried to get up, but was eventually forced to crawl to the sidelines, his bell well and truly rung.
3 – Darrell Reid Demolishes Chris Henry – Of all the players on an NFL team the one you’ve got to feel for most is the return man. Every single opposing player on the field has just a single goal: stopping him from reaching their end zone, and often in as painful a manner as possible. Pain was certainly a factor in this devastating hit when Darrell Reid, all 290 pounds of him, came flying down the field and just about knocked Henry into next week. Unlike Bush, who was blindsided, Henry saw the hit coming, but there wasn’t a darn thing he could do about it, except lay there and whimper once the dust had settled.
2 – Lawrence Taylor Ends Joe Theismann’s Career – Before LaDainian Tomlinson came around, there was another L.T. in the NFL, and he was one of the meanest, baddest men ever to set foot on a football field. Lawrence Taylor could have taken several spots on this list of the top 10 hardest NFL hits of all time, but I decided to narrow it down to his biggest hit for the sake of variety. Arguably the greatest linebacker to ever play the game, Taylor was a freak of nature, and Joe Theismann had the very unfortunate experience of facing the ferocious linebacker in what would end up being the final play of Theismann’s career. The sack snapped both the tibia and fibula of Theismann’s leg and is remembered by fans of the game as one of the most painful hits in football history.
1 – Jack Tatum Paralyzes Darryl Stingley – Jack Tatum dished out some monstrous hits in his football career, including a crushing blow he put on Sammy White in Super Bowl XI. However, unfortunately the hit that he will forever be remembered for was the one that left Darryl Stingley of the Patriots a quadriplegic following a massive blow with his forearm that broke 2 vertebrae in Stingley’s neck. This tragic play tops this list of the top 10 hardest hits in NFL history, and is a sobering reminder just how much these ferocious gladiators risk each time they step on the field to play the sport they love.