Tom Brady started it all. He has the boyish good looks, the ability to emerge out of nowhere and lead a team to the Super Bowl and the supermodel girlfriend. Brady is the epitome of a pretty boy in the NFL. He even proved he could create the most buzz about a haircut since Jennifer Aniston in Friends.
Despite all the hits he takes on the football field, Brady has managed to retain that perfect smile and avoid the almost inevitable broken nose that might damage such a sculpted face. His three Super Bowl rings don’t hurt either.
While Brady is arguably the most well known of the NFL studs, a few other football stars have managed to keep their handsomeness intact on and off the football field.
The most recent pretty boy to emerge from the NFL, Mark Sanchez initially seemed more intent on promoting his good looks than playing football.
In 2009, before even playing his first NFL game, Sanchez posed for GQ magazine, prompting many to think that a) his true calling was to be the star of Baywatch; b) he recently got traded to Miami and was trying out his new yachting outfits; or c) he would soon be the next NFL player to star in a looking-for-love reality show.
Sanchez received quite a bit of flak from teammates for the photo shoot. After all, GQ is not manly like Campbell’s Chunky Soup. He eventually managed to overcome the taunts and lead his team to two straight AFC championship games. However, it is likely that many of Sanchez’s non-football-playing fans still have his lifeguard-themed spread tacked to their walls.
While many now recognize Dan Marino as an aging sportscaster who was once a tremendous quarterback, not many recognize him for the pretty-boy charm he held early in his career.
Before breaking nearly every major NFL record at the quarterback position, Marino was a fresh-faced college student at the University of Pittsburgh. His hair was wild and untamed, falling in perfect curls under his helmet.
And then there was that smile. Marino defined the warm, welcoming, friend-to-all smile. It was impossible not to root for the nice guy—especially since he also happened to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
As Marino has aged, his good looks have not faded. He may no longer look the part of a teenage athlete, but the pretty-boy glimmer in his eyes is still there.
Both receivers are notorious for their tremendous ability to snatch balls out of thin air, score game-changing touchdowns and celebrate those touchdowns in the most creative and fine-provoking ways as possible.
That and their dueling reality shows.
Terrell Owens started the trend, allowing cameras to follow him around as he tried to start his NFL career over in Dallas and Buffalo. While he didn’t have much success on the field, his sneaky yet charming smile was constantly on display. Ending each episode with a shot of a shirtless Owens running up a mountain probably didn’t hurt ratings either.
Chad Ochocinco followed his friend’s lead and created a show of his own called The Ultimate Catch, which was the pro footballer's version of The Bachelor.
Ochocinco took his pretty boy swag to a new level, as the plot of the show was basically that women constantly talked about his good looks and he rewarded the one who did the best job.
Never ones to shy away from the camera, T.O. and Ochocinco ensured that even if their football futures were in doubt, they would remain in the public eye for their looks alone.
No one wears jeans better.
Brett Favre has proven that he can not only dominate an NFL playoff game with 300-pound defensive linemen breathing down his neck, but that he can also relax and dominate a touch football game among friends.
While undoubtedly the opposing team in his Wrangler jeans commercials was not pleased that it lost the coin toss and was unable to choose the 11-time Pro Bowler, as soon as Favre put on a pair of jeans, the mood immediately lightened.
Favre may be indecisive about his football future, but it is clear that he is the silver fox among NFL pretty boys. He has the rugged good looks that come with years of absorbing sacks, but he has not lost the charm and handsomeness that placed him among the pretty-boy elite early in his career.
Is there any team more suited for a quarterback than Dallas is for Tony Romo? Sure, he has not taken America’s Team to (or even close to, for that matter) a Super Bowl in his time as a starter, but does anyone play the part of beloved Texas star better?
Romo is adored by all, but not necessarily for what he does on the field. Fans who have never seen him play a down or listened to one interview are convinced that he is the nicest man to ever play the game. There is something about the combination of his smile, scruffy hair and eagerness that just spells hometown hero. The fact that he is from California and went to college in Illinois is of no consequence.
Romo’s often erratic play also does not figure into his status as a top NFL pretty boy. Interceptions are certainly not praised in the state of Texas, but as long as Romo says the right things in interviews—stressing his desire to win and commitment to the team and his fans—all will be forgiven. As long as he keeps flashing that winning smile, of course.
Everyone loves Jerry Rice. Maybe it is because he is arguably the best receiver to play the game. Perhaps it is because he was so willing to start his career over with the Oakland Raiders after spending his first 15 seasons in San Francisco. It could be his dedication to the game, as Rice missed just 10 regular season games in his 20 years in the NFL.
Or it could be his smile. Whether he was a rookie draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State or a 20-year veteran playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Rice could always be caught on camera with his memorable grin. While it may be a stretch to consider a 40-year-old man a pretty boy, the glee that Rice always showed playing football made him seem more like a 15-year-old kid.
Yes, yes, I know. Todd Heap is not a rookie. He is a 10-year veteran who has seen his fair share of NFL hits. However, he entered the football scene as the lovable pretty boy on the show Hard Knocks when he was a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001.
Heap was constantly chided by teammates Tony Siragusa and Shannon Sharpe, yet he took all the jokes with the same good-natured laugh. He was a baby-faced addition to a locker room that was dominated by veteran stars and journeymen. Any scene on the show that featured Heap was sure to elicit a collective “aww” from viewers—unless he was being decked while running a crossing route.
Now with the Arizona Cardinals, Heap no longer looks the part of a wide-eyed rookie, but his pretty-boy looks still surface from time to time.
Despite seeing virtually no action in a meaningful NFL game all season until this past weekend and being demoted to third on the depth chart after the preseason, Tim Tebow is a fan favorite in Denver.
Fans are chanting his name, begging for Kyle Orton to be benched and Brady Quinn to be forgotten, and waiting in breathless anticipation before every set of downs. All for a third-string quarterback many thought would never play a down in the NFL.
This type of adoration is nothing new for Tebow, who dealt with a similar situation in Florida as he became the heir apparent and, quickly, the replacement for former star Chris Leak. He also must be used to the ridiculous and over-the-top praise for his good-natured personality and charity work off the field.
According to much of the media and every single fan in both Florida and Denver, Tebow can do no wrong, and he has the looks to match such a well-rounded personality. Time will tell whether he will make an impact in the NFL other than beginning a craze much like Justin Bieber mania.
For now, at least, he firmly holds a place as a top NFL pretty boy.