Some athletes end up becoming heroes. Some of them have been inspiring and have played some of the best football many others were not able to do at their position.
These are the players we never want to see retire. These are players who have made a big difference in the game of football, and we will always remember them years from now.
I’ve put together a list of 15 of the best and oldest players in the league today, from ages 33 through 38.
As always, let me know what you think.
He might have slipped in the past two games, but Tom Brady is still going strong as he hopes to help the New England Patriots capture one more Super Bowl victory before his time in the NFL is up.
Brady's accomplishments include, but are not limited to, three Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVP awards, six Pro Bowl honors and a two-time AP NFL MVP.
Brady was part of a team in 2007 that shattered many records as a team, most notably becoming the first team to go undefeated in a 16-game regular season schedule.
The New England QB has never had a season where he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Brady missed all of 2008 with an injury in the opening week, but he has been very healthy outside of that.
He currently has 20 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions with more than 2,700 yards passing. Despite not having many of the players who helped the team win three Super Bowls, Brady continues to give the Patriots a big name.
It can be Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers—at the end of the day, Donald Driver will always be a reliable wide receiver for any quarterback.
Driver has played for the Green Bay Packers since 1999 and earned his first Super Bowl ring last season.
He has been voted to three Pro Bowls, and is close to collecting 10,000 receiving yards for his career.
Driver is one of many reasons why the Packers are the only unbeaten team in the league right now. He has 15 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
No player has gone through what Plaxico Burress has gone through.
Burress was never at the same level as Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, but he did come away with one of the most game-changing touchdowns in Super Bowl history to prevent the Patriots from having a perfect season.
But Burress' Super Bowl moment was overshadowed by an accidental shooting in 2008. He is back in the league now, and is showing he can be the best in the league.
In his first season back in the league with the New York Jets, Burress has 23 catches for 322 yards and five touchdowns. Burress' biggest moment was when he caught three touchdown passes against the San Diego Chargers.
Plax's career may have been cut short because of jail time, but he is focused and hopes to be remembered for how he played the game by the time his career is up.
Hines Ward brought a lot of success to the Pittsburgh Steelers' organization to help them win two Super Bowls last decade.
Ward owns the franchise record for career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Along with four Pro Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl rings and a Super Bowl MVP award, Ward has become one of the most electrifying receivers in the game of football.
The wide receiver is also 40 yards away from having 12,000 career receiving yards and 20 catches away from 1,000 receptions in a career.
Ben Roethlisberger cannot ask for a better receiver in Ward, who currently has 26 catches for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Having won zero playoff games does not describe how great of an athlete Tony Gonzalez really is.
Gonzalez has shattered the record for most receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end in a career.
And while Gonzalez continues to play, he will set the bar high for future tight ends.
He is playing in Atlanta, leaving his longtime team in Kansas City and looking to earn a Super Bowl ring before he hangs up the cleats. Gonzalez is still searching for his first postseason win and hopes this is the year he can reach that goal with the Falcons.
Yes, offensive linemen deserve some love as well!
Jeff Saturday is one of the most accomplished offensive linemen today since playing for the Indianapolis Colts in 1999. Saturday has been a key piece of the puzzle in helping the Colts reach two Super Bowls with Peyton Manning taking snaps from him.
Saturday has been voted into the last five Pro Bowls and hopes to continue that streak this year.
Although the Colts are the only winless team in the league today, Saturday continues to be a leader for the Colts and hopes to help the Colts win a couple games before the season is over.
In his first season with the New England Patriots, Brian Waters brings a successful career to Foxborough with five Pro Bowl appearances.
Waters has also been part of an offensive line that helped runners like Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles earn Pro Bowl honors.
This year, Waters has a legitimate shot at earning his first-ever Super Bowl ring with the Patriots, who are leading the AFC East thanks to the help of some newcomers like Waters.
John Abraham has had a successful career with the New York Jets and now with the Atlanta Falcons.
Abraham has made his mark as one of the best active defensive ends in the game. Since 2000, Abraham has recorded 105.5 sacks in his career and has forced 33 fumbles.
After some coaching changes took place in New York, Abraham left the Jets and joined the Falcons.
He has three sacks and has popped loose one football this season.
The Falcons—and Abraham—hope to return to the playoffs after a disappointing showing as a No. 1 seed last season.
Want to know how dynamic of a linebacker Ray Lewis is?
He has 12 Pro Bowl appearances with 10 All-Pro honors and one Super Bowl ring.
Lewis has been the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens' defense since entering the league in 1996. He has 901 tackles, 40.5 sacks, 31 interceptions and 16 forced fumbles.
This season, Lewis has two sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles. He only needs to force one more fumble to have a career-high for most forced fumbles in a single season and 3.5 more sacks for a career-high for most sacks in a single season.
Lewis has seen the ups and downs of his franchise, but has never wanted to leave the team—even during their darkest moments. Lewis could leave the league anytime, but regardless how his last game goes, he will leave on a high note.
Brian Urlacher might be considered the scariest linebacker to ever play this game; his size and stature are unlike any other opposing players have seen.
Urlacher won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2000, has seven Pro Bowl honors and five All-Pro selections.
What else is missing? A Super Bowl ring.
Urlacher and the Bears have come close many times, but the Bears have never won a Super Bowl with him on the team.
This year, Urlacher and the Bears are involved in a tight NFC North race. He has been helping the Bears with three interceptions this season, hoping for a big postseason run before he retires.
There are not many 33-year-olds who are still considered lock-down corners.
Even when the Denver Broncos have bad seasons, Champ Bailey always shines on defense. Last season, Bailey attended his 10th Pro Bowl, which no cornerback has ever done in NFL history. He also has six All-Pro selections and has exactly 50 interceptions in his 13-year career.
While Bailey has been consistent in causing problems for opposing receivers, he has not been able to win a Super Bowl. With a sloppy, but very tight race in the AFC West, the Broncos cannot be counted out of the race, as Bailey has two interceptions this season.
Ronde Barber has been nothing but a quarterback's worst nightmare throughout his career.
Like many of the players mentioned, Barber has a Super Bowl ring, along with appearances in the Pro Bowl and selections as an All-Pro player. He also led the league in interceptions in 2001 and in interception returns for touchdowns in 2006.
This year, Barber won a Defensive Player of the Week award for his performance against Matt Ryan and the Falcons earlier this season. Barber has one sack and two interceptions this year, and hopes to be remembered as one of the league's best cornerbacks when he retires.
Outside of not being able to win a Super Bowl, Ed Reed is still the league's most dominant safety. Reed has picked off opposing quarterbacks 56 times and has six sacks in his career, along with 11 forced fumbles.
Reed led the league in interceptions in 2004, 2008 and 2010. He also led the league in interception yards in 2004 and 2010.
As one of the most dangerous defensive backs in the league, Reed is still out there making big plays on the gridiron with one sack, one forced fumble and two interceptions this season with the Ravens.
Brian Dawkins is the oldest player to make this list, and has had nothing but a terrific career.
The long-time Eagle is now teaming up with Champ Bailey in Denver to form the scariest cornerback-safety duo in NFL history. Bailey and Dawkins have done a good job of locking down receivers and limiting them to their success.
In the tight AFC West race, Dawkins has contributed to helping the Broncos with two sacks, and he is bound to earn an interception soon.
Yes, like offensive linemen, kickers get love on this list as well!
There are many older kickers in the league, but none have had a clutch career like Adam Vinatieri.
Vinatieri was responsible for three game-winning field goals to help the Patriots win three Super Bowls in four years. He then left the Patriots to join the Colts, and won yet another ring.
Vinatieri is not the most accurate kicker, but he is the most clutch kicker to ever play the game, and will win it for your team when it matters most. He has made 10-of-13 field goals for the Colts as one of the key players in Indianapolis this season.