The 10 Least Physically Gifted NFL Superstars Ever

Mike StangerCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2011

The 10 Least Physically Gifted NFL Superstars Ever

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    NFL Superstar.

    Not many players receive that title. Most of the ones that do come from superior stock.

    Take Peyton Manning for example.

    His was destined for greatness. His double helix is in the shape of a football. While in the womb, he watched game film of various defensive schemes.

    On the other hand, some players don't have that superior pedigree. They have had to work a little harder than others. Perhaps they were "too short" or "too slow" to play in the NFL.

    But not only did these players have the wherewithal to make it into the NFL, they also pushed themselves into superstar status.

Sam Mills

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    Sam Mills had no business being an NFL linebacker. His small frame (5'9", 229 lbs) left many teams disinterested with him after college.

    But the one thing they couldn't measure was his desire, which cast a long shadow.

    Mills got his start in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars. He was named to the All-USFL team three times.

    He signed with the New Orleans Saints in 1986 and was named to the Pro Bowl four times during his time there.

    Later, he went to the Carolina Panthers. While there, he made another Pro Bowl and was voted first-team All-Pro. He also set a record for the oldest player (37 years, 104 days) to return a fumble for a touchdown (41 yards).

    After retiring from the game, Mills was inducted into the Carolina Panthers Hall of Honor and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Fred Biletnikoff

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    Nobody could mistake Fred Biletnikoff for his fellow wide receiver Cliff Branch. While Branch had speed to burn, Biletnikoff ran at a glacial pace. 

    There wasn't an NFL Scouting Combine in Biletnikoff's day, but if there were one, he would have been clocked with a calendar.

    He was drafted by both the Oakland Raiders (AFL) and the Detroit Lions (NFL) in 1965. He signed with the Raiders.

    During his time with the Raiders, he made six Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro twice. He was named Super Bowl XI MVP

    He was probably most known for the copious amounts of Stickum he used.

    Fortunately for Biletnikoff, the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame saw more to him than that. He was inducted in 1988.

    The annual Fred Biletnikoff Award is given to the best wide receiver in college.

Zach Thomas

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    Zach Thomas was another linebacker overlooked for his size (5'11", 230 lbs).

    Drafted in the fifth round in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, Thomas wasn't expected to make that much of an impact with the team.

    But he definitely made one. He was an All-Rookie selection in 1996.

    While with the Dolphins, Thomas was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a five-time first-team All-Pro.

Donnie Shell

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    Becoming a starter for a team as an undrafted free agent is an accomplishment.

    But, becoming a starter on the '70s Pittsburgh Steelers is even more of one.

    Donnie Shell was that man. His play at strong safety in 1977 for the injured Mike Wagner made an impression. Wagner was moved to free safety upon his return in 1978, and former free safety Glen Edwards was shown the door.

    Shell was named to the the Pro Bowl five times and first-team All-Pro three times.

Steve Largent

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    In the 1976 NFL Draft, a young man named Steve Largent from the University of Tulsa was selected by the Houston Oilers in the fourth round. 

    Who knew then that Largent would become an NFL record-holder and a Hall of Famer? Certainly not the Oilers: They traded him to the Seattle Seahawks before the season started.

    Although not particularly fast, Largent ran precise routes and was sure-handed.

    During his career, Largent made the Pro Bowl seven times and first-team All-Pro once.

    At the time of his retirement, he held six NFL records, including those for receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089), consecutive games with a reception (177) and touchdown receptions (100).

    He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

Drew Brees

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    Compared to the general population, Drew Brees is taller than average (6'0"). For an NFL quarterback, however, he is lilliputian.

    He size hasn't stopped him from performing at a high level, though. He has led the league in touchdown passes and passing yards twice. (He is on pace to lead the league in passing yards this season, too.)

    For his career, Brees has thrown for over 40,000 yards and 272 touchdown passes. He has made the Pro Bowl five times and first-team All-Pro once.

    He was named MVP of Super Bowl XLIV.

Lyle Alzado

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    Yankton College isn't known as a breeding ground for NFL players. Its list of NFL alumni begins and ends with Lyle Alzado.

    Maybe that's why it no longer exists.

    Alzado was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL Draft.

    Despite being undersized for a defensive lineman, he excelled for 15 seasons, being voted to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro twice.

Tom Jackson

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    Before Tom Jackson was an NFL analyst for ESPN, he was a football player.

    And a pretty good one at that.

    Jackson was drafted in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos in 1973 NFL Draft. His size (5'11", 220 lbs) was unremarkable, but his style of play was not.

    He was a main part of the Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense.

    Over his 14-year career, Jackson was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and first-team All-Pro once. 

Tom Dempsey

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    With a portly physique (6'2", 255 lbs), Tom Dempsey would be mistaken more for a baker than an NFL player.

    However, Dempsey made it in the NFL as a placekicker. He accomplished this despite being born without any toes on his right foot and with no fingers on his right hand.

    Dempsey is best know for kicking an NFL-record 63-yard field goal.

    The record has been tied, but still hasn't been broken.

Doug Flutie

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    I met Doug Flutie once. He is only slightly bigger than I am, and I will never be mistaken for an NFL quarterback.

    To this day, I am absolutely amazed that he was able to survive as an NFL quarterback at his size (5'10", 180 lbs).

    Yet, he was able to survive for 13 seasons in the NFL, as well as eight seasons in the CFL. He was voted to the Pro Bowl once. He was also inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.