The 15 Most Freakishly Strong and Athletic RTs Ever

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IFebruary 28, 2012

The 15 Most Freakishly Strong and Athletic RTs Ever

0 of 15

    Left tackles get all the love: Jim Parker, Anthony Munoz, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, of eras past are icons. 

    And today, Jake Long and Joe Thomas are well on their way to that type of status. 

    Why? Because they are (more often than not) charged with blindside protection. That's why they usually earn the big bucks and praise.

    That doesn't necessarily leave their bookend, counterparts at right tackle broke and unappreciated. But they don't get quite as much love. 

    Not on this list.

    Since left tackles' biggest task is pass protection, right tackles often need to be much more balanced and versatile: more-than competent at pass pro, but dominant at run/drive blocking. 

    Exceptional strength, speed and footwork achieves that. 

    Each one of these 15 men possesses such talent. 

    Note: As you'll notice, for right tackles (and any position, for that matter) "freakish strength and athleticism" doesn't necessarily translate to greatness. Just ask Tony Mandarich or Robert Gallery. 

No. 15: Jon Jansen

1 of 15

    Career: 1999-2009

    Teams: Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions

    Achievements: one Pro Bowl

    Jansen, a stud at Michigan, didn't look like the stereotypical offensive lineman. He, and tackles like Tony Boseli, came from that same era that saw offensive linemen start to look much more svelte and far less sloppy.

    Although Jansen weighed at most 300 pounds, he was never at a disadvantage because of his quick feet and powerful frame. 

    Jansen didn't wow any one at the combine coming out of Michigan, but over time he developed physically and used the ideal blend of strength and athleticism to become one of the best right tackles in the game. 

No. 14: Tyron Smith

2 of 15

    Career: 2010-present

    Teams: Dallas Cowboys

    Achievements: None

    As I'll probably have to repeat several times throughout, this list is not a collection of "the greatest right tackles of all time." We're talking about athleticism and strength, so achievements or "greatness" doesn't apply: There's no age/experience requirement. 

    At the combine last year, Smith was dubbed a physical freak just based on his enormous frame, but he also backed up the hype, running an unofficial 4.93 in the 40-yard dash and tossing up 225 on the bench 31 times.

    If he had been more refined (remember he came out of USC barely 21 years old) he probably would have been the first or second overall pick in the draft. 

No. 13: Jackie Slater

3 of 15

    Career: 1976-95

    Teams: Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams

    Achievements: Hall of Fame, seven Pro Bowls

    When speaking about Jackie Slater you can throw the combine-related numbers out the window. It doesn't matter if he could bench 225 three times or 50 times, run the 40 in 4.8 or 10 seconds flat.

    Slater clinches a spot on this list as a "freakish athlete" for one simple reason: The man started 211 NFL games at tackle, spanning three decades and 20 seasons.

    As much skill as needed for that, durability and a remarkable athleticism is needed to do that at such a demanding position. 

    And since he was the key cog in the run blocking scheme that Eric Dickerson rode to record-setting figures, you know he had tremendous strength. 

No. 12: Jordan Gross

4 of 15

    Career: 2003-present

    Teams: Carolina Panthers

    Achievements: two Pro Bowls

    Like Jon Jansen, Gross didn't necessarily wow anyone with his strength or speed and footwork, but because he was above average at both, he's been one of the most consistent and steady lineman in this era.

    Coming out of Utah he could bench roughly 400 pounds and run the 40 in five seconds flat. 

    And if there's any question about how great his footwork is, remember that, back in 2004, just his second NFL season, the Panthers switched him to left tackle and he didn't skip a beat. 

No. 11: Jason Smith

5 of 15

    Career: 2009-present

    Teams: St. Louis Rams

    Achievements: None

    Again, not "great" tackles, "freakishly athletic" tackles.

    Smith, the second overall pick in 2009, has been a tremendous disappointment in his three seasons, and there are even rumors that he'll be a salary cap casualty this spring.

    But coming out of Baylor he was considered a freak, especially in terms of the bench press, racking 225 33 times. 

No. 10: Ron Mix

6 of 15

    Career: 1960-69, 1971

    Teams: Los Angeles/San Diego Rams, Oakland Raiders

    Achievements: Hall of Fame, nine-time All Star

    If we're talking about the most athletic right tackles OF ALL TIME, we have to consider ALL TIME.

    So even if it's true (and it is) that the weakest, slowest, least athletic right tackle in today's NFL is light years ahead of the strongest, fastest and most athletic right tackle from the 1960s it would be short-sighted to exclude players from that bygone era.

    And Ron Mix is a prefect example of why. There was no combine back then and weight training wasn't nearly what it is today, but Mix was one of the first to get in the weight room and that gave him a huge edge over the rest of his contemporaries. 

    That means that relatively speaking Mix was freakishly strong during the 1960s. 

No. 9: Erik Williams

7 of 15

    Career: 1991-2001

    Teams: Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens

    Achievements: three Super Bowl wins, four Pro Bowls

    The two guards that played beside him, Larry Allen and Nate Newton, were much better known for freakish strength, but Williams had plenty of strength of his own. 

    Couple that with very good footwork—one of the reasons why Troy Aikman and that passing game was so proficient—and he may have been the most complete member of perhaps the greatest O-line in NFL history. 

No. 8: Damien Woody

8 of 15

    Career: 1999-2010

    Teams: New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, New York Jets 

    Achievements: two Super Bowls, one Pro Bowl

    Damien Woody won't make it to the Hall of Fame and he was never one of the game's truly elite offensive lineman. 

    But Woody was a very good center in New England, then managed to move his way down the line to guard in Detroit before winding up as a right tackle with the Jets. Imagine the athleticism and relative strength it takes for an undersized (6'3", 320-pound) player to play a position like right tackle, and play it extremely well. 

    In the Brett Favre 2008 offense, Woody and the Jets threw the ball extremely well, before switching to Rex Ryan's ground-and-pound over the next two years to reach consecutive AFC title games.

    D'Brickashaw Ferguson may have been the more highly-touted and "freakish" tackle on that team, but Woody certainly held his own. 

No. 7: Forrest Gregg

9 of 15

    Career: 1956-71

    Teams: Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys

    Achievements: Hall of Fame, six NFL championships, nine Pro Bowls

    Although Bart Starr made his way to the Hall of Fame, the Packers offense was built almost exclusively on the running game: Lombardi's power sweep with "a seal here, and a seal here." 

    Whether it was Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor, that great Packers line relied on the speed and agility of each of their linemen. And Gregg was the best at executing Lombardi's design. 

    If you watch closely, so many of those old NFL Films of the Packers feature Gregg leading a convoy of blockers down the sideline while a Green Bay back cruises into the end zone. 

No. 6: Mark May

10 of 15

    Career: 1981-93

    Teams: Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, Phoenix Cardinals

    Achievements: two Super Bowl wins, one Pro Bowl

    Long before he was the straight man in ESPN's comedy routine alongside Lou Holtz, May was a standout right tackle in the NFL.

    He came out of the University of Pittsburgh as a versatile tackle who could pass protect for a great quarterback like Dan Marino but in the NFL became a powerful member of the Redskins famous Hogs line that routinely grounded opponents into submission via the running game.

    Only an equally strong and athletic right tackle can make that type of transition. 

No. 5: Dan Dierdorf

11 of 15

    Career: 1971-83

    Teams: St. Louis Cardinals

    Achievements: Hall of Fame, six Pro Bowls

    Another in the blend of both freakishly strong (again, for his era) and wonderfully agile, Dierdorf became an instant Hall of Famer despite playing on perpetually bad Cardinals teams. 

    A prolific wrestler at Michigan, Dierdorf possessed deceptive speed and quickness, and years later said that the Wolverine's football staff even considered moving Dierdorf to defensive tackle. 

    That takes great athleticism. 

No. 4: Rosey Brown

12 of 15

    Career: 1953-65

    Teams: New York Giants

    Achievements: Hall of Fame, nine Pro Bowls, one NFL Championship

    Stretching way, way back for this one, but it's an appropriate selection.

    Despite being considerably undersized (even for his era) Brown was the elite blocker on the Giants dynasty of the late 1950s, early 1960s.

    His footwork and foot speed was much renowned, but according to his Hall of Fame entry, he possessed "powerful arms" that he used to fend off some of the game's early pass-rushers, like Doug Atkins, Ernie Stautner and Gino Marchetti.  

No. 3: Rayfield Wright

13 of 15

    Career: 1967-79

    Teams: Dallas Cowboys

    Achievements: Hall of Fame, two Super Bowl wins, six Pro Bowls

    Perhaps it's fitting that both the Cowboy dynasties featured fantastic, All-Pro right tackles, but long before Erik Williams came along, Rayfield Wright set the standard.

    Wright, a four-year letterman in basketball, according to Gil Brandt, "was such an athletic player in college, able to play positions as diverse as free safety, defensive end, tight end and punter."

    Originally drafted out of Fort Valley State as a tight end, Wright used his great agility to keep Roger Staubach out of danger and occasionally open up holes for Roger the Dodger to scramble his way out of danger. 

No. 2: Ron Yary

14 of 15

    Career: 1968-82

    Teams: Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams

    Achievements: Hall of Fame, seven Pro Bowls

    I suppose blocking for O.J. Simpson in college and Fran Tarkenton in the pros is enough to gain Yary a prominent spot on this list—a tackle needs great athleticism to keep up with those two—but that's just scratching the surface of Yary's achievements. 

    The USC alum and first overall pick in the 1968 NFL draft—also a standout baseball and basketball player in high school—ran with such grace for such a huge man, that it was remarkable.

No. 1: Aaron Gibson

15 of 15

    Career: 1999-2004

    Teams: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears

    Achievements: None

    Once again, let's not confuse NFL success (or failure) with "freakish" strength and/or speed. 

    And let's be honest, despite being a first-round choice of the Lions in 1999, Gibson's career was a real disappointment: He suffered injuries, struggled to get on the field and was cut after just three seasons. 

    But back in 1999, he was the quintessential freakish athlete. 

    Over 400 pounds he still ran a 5.3 40-yard dash, benched 500 pounds, squatted 750 pounds, and, according to Sports Illustrated, had "a 31½-inch vertical leap, so he can dunk a basketball. He has won countless bets by arranging two benches several feet apart, placing a leg on each one and doing a split between them, a surreal trick he borrowed from a Jean Claude Van Damme movie."

    That should say it all.