This list of 10 famous NFL players from the 1960s should not be misinterpreted as a list of the 10 greatest players of that decade, but certainly many of those included here are not only Hall of Fame inductees, but more than half are considered the best players, at their position, of all time. Certainly, superior achievement on the football field enhanced the fame of these players, but others also gained notoriety for outsized personalities along with their skillful performances.
- Jim Brown. Speed, power, size, strength and grace. These are all the qualities of the greatest NFL running back of all time, and perhaps the greatest player of all time. Brown earned All-Pro honors every year he played, including a six-year stint between 1960 and 1965, the year he retired at the top of his game. Famous for both his superlative skills and his outspoken views on race and labor relations, Brown is still considered by football experts to be the most popular football player in history.
- Johnny Unitas. The gold-standard by which all quarterbacks are measured, Unitas led the Baltimore Colts to a championship in 1958 over the New York Giants in a game many experts called the greatest ever played. This instant classic helped usher in the popularity of football in the 1960s, an era in which Unitas won two Most Valuable Player awards, and lead his team to two Super Bowl appearances.
- Gale Sayers. If Jim Brown was thunder, then Sayers was lightning, an impossibly-quick, turn-on-a-dime runner, whose open-field moves still leave modern viewers gaping in astonishment. For six brief seasons beginning in 1965, Sayers wowed football fans with his prowess, gaining fame for the variety of ways he made defenders look silly.
- Dick Butkus. The Mike Tyson of NFL players, Butkus played with the savage ferocity of a wrecking ball, earning fame with the Chicago Bears in the 1960s for his nasty attitude and intimidating physical presence.
- Merlin Olsen. With his kind eyes and thick beard, Olsen more resembled a saintly uncle than the fierce defensive end of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams. His talent earned him wide acclaim, along with eight Pro Bowl appearances in the 1960s.
- Deacon Jones. When quarterbacks dreamed they'd escaped the pass rush of Jones, they woke up and immediately called him to apologize. Jones, famous for his uncanny speed and bone-crushing tackles, was also a man known for his humor during games, constantly talking trash to opposing players.
- John Mackey. The recipient of many of Johnny Unitas' passes, Mackey revolutionized the tight end position with his breakaway speed, and played in five Pro Bowls in the 1960s.
- Ray Nitschke. A cornerstone of Vince Lombardi's great Green Bay Packer squads, Nitschke was famous for his toothless grin and workmanlike approach, earning two Super Bowl victories in the 1960s.
- Jerry Kramer. Another Green Bay Packer luminary, Kramer was an offensive lineman who used his strength and athleticism to create huge holes for his running backs, helping the Packers win five championships in the 1960s.
- Bart Starr. In a list dominated by Green Bay Packers, Starr is arguably the biggest name, famous for his leadership and fearlessness, never more evident than in the 1967 NFL championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, a game dubbed the "Ice Bowl" due to the wintry conditions. Starr scored the winning touchdown, solidifying his legacy as one of the true icons of the NFL in the 1960s.
What Others Are Reading Right Now.
Acting, comedy and strong spirits converge in Speakeasy. When host Paul F. Tompkins interviews entertainers—Key and Peele, Alison Brie, Rob Delaney, Zach Galifianakis—about all sor …
10 Things Women Expect Men to Know How To Do
To make ladies swoon or at least not cringe, you’d better be able to handle the following…
Speakeasy: Jonathan Banks
The Emmy-nominated Breaking Bad star talks Beverly Hills Cop, Wiseguy, sitcom work and his new flick with Danny Trejo, Bullet. Oh yeah, a few Mike Ehrma …