Putting together a list comprised of NFL players I'd most want to be teammates with is an extremely challenging project. I can humbly say this process was a vastly underestimated challenge.
First, I had to consider whether or not to include players from the past or players I grew up watching, or if this would be a list consisting of only active players.
Another struggle in completing this project became the process and method by which to eliminate potential candidates in order to accurately reflect my opinions on who I'd most want to be teammates with, and why.
A couple of major questions were worth consideration when creating this list:
Do I love the way they play the game?
Do I respect and admire them as people, based on whatever limited exposure I've had of their character?
For those who are likely to read this list and feel as if a lot of great names have been left off, allow me to address those concerns in advance by reminding you I've had the privilege to be teammates with quite a few NFL legends whose names will forever be synonymous with greatness.
Also, in the spirit of keeping things simple, I decided to only include names of players who are currently active in the NFL. This allows me to remove the natural bias in leaning heavily towards a list comprised almost exclusively of players I grew up watching—players I learned the game from as a child watching on TV, wishing I could be them.
Naturally, those names would be omitted from consideration. This is a list of those players I would have loved to have had the opportunity to play with. Keep in mind the names are in no particular order.
Having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch and admire firsthand and in person the way Peyton Manning dedicates himself to the sport would be inspiring and highly informative.
Few people in the history of this game have had the kind of impact that Peyton has. He is not only one of the greatest leaders in the sport today, if not the greatest, but he has also shown such rare ability to come across so genuine and respectful.
Besides, judging by Manning's television appearances, endorsing countless products and services, as well as his impressive bout as the host of SNL, I would wager there's quite the humorous side to the 6'5" quarterback equipped with a face you're perhaps more likely to see at a Star Trek convention. But as we know, looks can be just as deceiving as Peyton's mastery over the pre-snap chess match.
I chose Calvin Johnson because not only is he perhaps the single most deadly non-quarterback weapon in the league, but he also manages to deal with his success in the most likable way.
Most Pro Bowl wide receivers tend to come fully equipped with a diva-like personality that eventually outshines the talent of the individual. By all accounts observable, Calvin Johnson is none of those things.
I happened to be in Detroit for a tryout during the team's rookie minicamp in Johnson's first season, and he was one of the most humble and quiet first-round picks I'd ever seen. The guy just kept his head down and worked his butt off.
So, aside from the advantages of winning a lot of games with his deer-like strides and grace, I could easily see thoroughly enjoying his presence as a teammate, as he's a breath of fresh air from the privileged and distracted superstars of today.
Justin Smith is an old-school throwback-type guy who gets the job done on the field with hard work, effort and brute-like strength.
Imagining the privilege of lining up next to a guy who plays the game with such fire and determination is an exciting prospect by which I could envision many valuable lessons to be had—even as a casual observer.
The consistent perception collected by my own ears and judgments about Justin Smith is that he would be a guy who leads more by example than with his words.
After all, anyone who says sushi is the best pregame meal available has to earn some major cool points based almost exclusively on originality. Hearing guys in the NFL talking about sushi is rare, let alone eating it before a football game.
But my football experience has taught me the most unique guys on the team are often the ones I enjoyed the most.
Adrian Peterson is one of those guys who seems to have a smile on his face no matter how terrible the news or how challenging the tasks may become; it's attitudes such as these that men follow.
By now Adrian has thoroughly established himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL, which he has achieved by running over and through defenders on a weekly basis.
Perhaps his most impressive accomplishment to date was his beyond-successful rehabilitation following a gruesome knee injury. Less than one year later, Peterson is back to his old self again, without a single indicator he ever completely reconstructed his knee only months earlier.
Yup folks, that's correct—I picked Tim Tebow as a guy who I'd really like to have as a teammate.
I admire the way he plays football much more than I admire his ability to play quarterback. But there has to be something said for Tebow's leadership qualities and ability to rally a team together.
I think with Tebow there's always going to be a fascination with the way he carries himself. It would be interesting to see this guy in a locker room environment and watch his behaviors on a daily basis. Perhaps my fascination to better understand the man behind the phenomenon known as "Tebowmania" is governing my desire to have him as a teammate more than anything else.
But I believe he can and does have a positive influence in any locker room he is a part of.
I've always been a big fan of Troy Polamalu both on and off the field and would have loved to have had the opportunity to play on the same team as him. Polamalu is a soft-spoken and humble guy who seems to have a ton of depth in character.
On the field, Troy is known as "The Tasmanian Devil" due to his wild and frantic playing style; to the untrained eye it may seem as if he's running around with his head cut off.
His leadership abilities would come primarily through example.
I can also envision having thoughtful and informative conversations with him when he isn't busy promoting shampoo companies in a very humorous way.
Aside from being an electrifying talent on the field with lightning speed and fantastic moves, Victor Cruz just seems to be an all-around great guy, a guy who I'd like to get to know more about.
Cruz's journey into the spotlight as an undrafted free agent and an afterthought to most personnel departments has been an inspiring story. This is a guy who plays hard and has a positive attitude with no inflated ego to salsa dance around. Those are the type of guys one looks to fill a locker room with.
In fact, when Victor was approached by ABC's Dancing with the Stars to be a contestant, he turned it down, saying he just wanted to concentrate on playing football right now.
Patrick Willis is one of those guys who's so physically gifted that you just can't help but look on in complete awe.
Willis happens to be one of the best football players in the entire league, but he also fits the bill in terms of character.
One of the most valuable things I could've learned from having a guy like Willis on my team is to watch how he physically prepares himself. This guy is densely packed with muscles and doesn't have an ounce of fat on his entire body. I would love to have a firsthand view of his preparation process, specifically in the weight room, in hopes to harness five percent of what he has.
Patrick is an interesting guy with a tragic backstory. But if you are trying to field a team with the right attitude and toughness for a dominant defense, you need look no further than big No.52.
This undrafted free agent has made quite a name for himself over the last two seasons. Arian is a highly articulate individual who, according to ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, majored in philosophy and loves to write poetry. Oh, and he happens to be a vegan as well.
I don't have any specific interest in his dietary choices, but when you combine of all of his mentioned characteristics, it becomes clear Arian is one of the more interesting and unique people in the NFL today.
Personally, my experiences with philosophy majors have always led me down a path of fascinating and enjoyable conversations, perfect for some of those long plane flights.
But when all is said and done, Foster is a beast on the field and has shown tremendous consistency as a workhorse running back, not to mention he's a key weapon in the Houston Texan offense for a team widely considered the best in the league.
Robert Griffin III is quickly becoming one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. His rare combination of speed and pocket presence gives him a unique skill set that has allowed him to flourish over the first half of his rookie season.
There really is no denying the rare talent the Redskins have in Griffin. But one of the most impressive parts of his game so far has been his poise and ability to be a great leader and teammate in only his first year in the league. This is a monumentally difficult task to accomplish at the level in which he is already functioning.
I would love to cheer on RG3 as he zooms past me on the sidelines, making history one big play after another. Having front-row seats to watch the emergence of a superstar would be a special opportunity.
Griffin seems quite comfortable as the face of the Washington Redskins. He clearly has demonstrated that the NFL stage is nowhere near too big for him.
When thinking about him as a teammate, I can find nothing but positive things in RG3. He's smart, articulate and one of those guys who can let loose and have a good time. His sense of humor shines through in his odd collection of bright, colorful, themed socks to go with an occasion.