Mike Alstott: The Last True Fullback in NFL History

Greg MaiolaSenior Analyst IINovember 9, 2012

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott rushes for a midfield gain against the Washington Redskins Nov. 19, 2006 in Tampa.  The game was tied 3 - 3 at halftime.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

With the evolution of NFL offenses, the fullback position is virtually extinct. The traditional I-Formation is a rarity in today's NFL, as the game is developing into packages of single set backs with a splash of the wildcat.

Go ahead, name the teams that utilize the fullback in the offense on a consistent basis. The only team that currently has an adequate role for their fullback is the Green Bay Packers with John Kuhn.

Sure, the NFL is starting to become a quarterback-dominated affair. With excessive rule altering and an abundance of talented receivers, quarterbacks are starting to carve up defenses week in and week out. When teams do decide to run the ball, a lone back or a talented tandem awaits the hand-off, leaving the fullback as a specialized player.

The best fullbacks in today's game have a particular role. Vonta Leach is a heck of a blocker, but he is not a threat to explode on the ground. Marcel Reece and Kuhn are more of hybrid players who make most of their contributions in the passing game.

What has been lacking in the NFL since 2006 was the powerful, physical and explosive fullback. The type of player who was capable of blocking a middle linebacker and capable of gaining several yards after contact. What the NFL has lacked, and will probably never see again, is the type of fullback Mike Alstott was.

Alstott was a do-it-all player on offense. He was a fullback that opposing defenses had to game-plan for. His breed is gone from the NFL and the fast-paced offense that defines the game, but his contributions should not be forgotten.

In his 11 seasons in Tampa Bay, Alstott took 1,359 carries and turned them into 5,088 yards and 58 touchdowns. He also chipped in 305 receptions for 2,284 yards and 13 scores. But Alstott was more than what his stat sheet makes him out to be.

He was a tough player who bounced off tackles and plowed through tacklers. He was nearly automatic in short yardage situations due to his physical style of running. However, he was versatile enough to take any carry in any situation to the house.

Alstott was voted to six Pro Bowl teams, making four All-Pro squads. He scored the first Super Bowl touchdown in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history, helping the Bucs cruise to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.

He is also Tampa Bay's all-time touchdown leader, almost unthinkable for any modern day fullback. The "A-Train" simply did whatever was needed on offense. He was a bulldozing blocker who was as big of a threat with the ball in his hands, as he ran for 949 yards in 1999.

Alstott did what no other fullback will ever accomplish in the NFL. He was a fullback who was the face of the franchise. He was a fullback who made the big plays in big moments and left fans in awe as it was happening. He was a fullback who was a transition between generations of fullbacks. He was as powerful a rusher as the great Larry Csonka and as physical of a blocker as Tony Richardson.

Today's NFL is clear-cut at the fullback position. The fullback is either a featured blocker or a safety option for a quarterback under pressure. Very few fullbacks can make a difference rushing the ball like Alstott did. Le'Ron McClain turned out to be a phony, as his 902 rushing yards in 2008 has turned into 349 rushing yards since (stats as of Week 9 of the 2012 NFL season).

So while gunslingers and single set backfields continue to dominate the NFL, take a moment to recognize what Alstott did for the game. His powerful, physical and bruising rushing style meshed with his brilliant blocking abilities. He was versatile enough to catch over 300 balls out of the backfield. Heck, whose the last fullback you know of who has thrown two career passes?

Though the game continues to change in style and quality, one thing remains constant: Alstott was the last of a generation, the last of a movement, the last of a breed, and the game will never be the same again.