COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States, has released its inaugural All-Time NFL Honor Roll, featuring pro football stars who wrestled. This announcement is made in recognition of the start of the new NFL season and days prior to the International Olympic Committee's vote in Buenos Aires, Argentina, about wrestling's future as a sport on the Olympic program.
There is a long tradition of great football players who also competed in wrestling during some part of their athletic careers. Some had impressive wrestling credentials, others were involved in wrestling in high school and in their youth, but all bring a wrestling background to the football achievements.
There are 12 Pro Football Hall of Fame athletes who are confirmed to have a wrestling background.
Headlining the team is recent Hall of Fame member Curley Culp, who was a 1967 NCAA wrestling champion for Arizona State and a two-time state wrestling champion for Yuma High School in Arizona. Culp made his impact in the NFL as a defensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Henry Jordan, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns, wrestled for the University of Virginia, where he was an NCAA runner-up in wrestling in 1957. He also wrestled for Warwick High School in Virginia.
Hall of Famer inductee Leo Nomellini, who starred as a defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, was a Big Ten wrestling champion for the University of Minnesota and attended Chicago Crane Technical High School.
Offensive guard John Hannah, who starred with the New England Patriots on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wrestled at Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn, where he won a National Prep wrestling title in 1967.
Hall of Fame offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf competed in wrestling at the University of Michigan and at Glenwood High School in Ohio. Dierdorf starred in the NFL for the St. Louis Cardinals, and has gone on to a great career as a television football announcer. Dierdorf was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as an Outstanding American in 1997.
Hall of Fame running back Jim Thorpe, who played for a number of different professional teams, was considered the top all-around athlete of his era and perhaps of all time. Wrestling was one of the sports which Thorpe participated in his youth. Thorpe attended Carlisle Indian Industrial Tech in Pennsylvania.
A number of Pro Football Hall of Famers did not wrestle in college but were involved in the sport in their youth.
Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame center who starred for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was third in the Wisconsin state wrestling meet for Rhinelander High School. Larry Csonka, a Hall of Fame running back for the Miami Dolphins, competed in wrestling in his youth, where he attended Stow High School in Ohio. Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers was a wrestler for Eisenhower High School in California. Hall of Fame offensive guard Randall McDaniel of the Minnesota Vikings was a wrestler who attended Agua Fria High School in Arizona. Bruce Smith, the Hall of Fame defensive end for the Buffalo Bills, was a wrestler who went to Booker T. Washington High School in Virginia. Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden of the Baltimore Ravens was on the wrestling team at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.
Recognized for their wrestling backgrounds are numerous All Pro players, as well as other prominent athletes who have made an impact in the NFL, including a number of Heisman Trophy winners in college.
Among those on the Honor Roll are recently retired NFL star linebacker Ray Lewis, who was a state high school wrestling champion at Kathleen High School in Florida, and current wide receiving star Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons, a two-time South Carolina state champion for James Island High School.
Among those honored who were great wrestlers and NFL stars were Stephen Neal, an offensive guard for the New England Patriots and three-time Super Bowl champion, was also a World champion in freestyle wrestling and a two-time NCAA wrestling champion for Cal-State Bakersfield, as well as Carlton Haselrig, an All Pro offensive guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a three-time NCAA Div. I and three-time NCAA Div. II national wrestling champion for Pitt-Johnstown. Also on the list is Bob Pickens, an offensive guard for the Chicago Bears, who wrestled on the 1964 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling Team.
NCAA wrestling champions who played in the NFL included running back Jim Nance of the New England Patriots, who won national titles for Syracuse in 1963 and 1965, and running back Art Baker of the Buffalo Bills, an NCAA champion for Syracuse in 1959. Two-time NCAA wrestling All-Americans who played in the NFL were Bob Golic, a defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns, Charlie Getty, an offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and Steve Sefter, a defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. Golic won his two All-American honors for Notre Dame, while Getty and Sefter were both two-time All-Americans for Penn State.
Some of the All-Time NFL Honor Roll selections were NCAA Wrestling All-Americans. John Ward, an offensive tackle for three NFL teams, competed for Oklahoma State. Antonio Garay wrestled at Boston College, and plays defensive tackle in the NFL. Lorenzo Neal wrestled for Fresno State, and has been an All-Pro fullback playing for seven different NFL teams. Ron Essink played offensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks and wrestled for Grand Valley State. Ralph Cindrich played linebacker in the NFL and went on to become a successful sports agent. Cindrich was an All-American wrestler for Pitt, and was a two-time Pennsylvania state high school runner-up.
Heisman Trophy winners who made the All-Time NFL Honor Roll are Archie Griffin, a running back for Ohio State in college and for the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL, and running back Charles White, who won his Heisman for USC and played for the Cleveland Browns.
Mike Golic, who wrestled at Notre Dame and played defensive line in the NFL, is a popular broadcaster who appears on the Mike and Mike Show each day. Tony Siragusa, who played defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, was a New Jersey state high school wrestling champion, and is now a featured broadcaster for NFL football games. The list is full of many prominent football names like Bo Jackson, Ricky Williams, twins Ronde and Tiki Barber, Tedy Bruschi, Marvin Lewis and many, many others.
This is the first step of a research project by USA Wrestling to document the history of wrestlers who went on to greatness in American football. Those with more information on NFL players who wrestled should contact Gary Abbott of USA Wrestling at firstname.lastname@example.org
Inaugural USA Wrestling All-Time NFL Honor Roll of pro football stars who wrestled
Pro Football Hall of Famers (alphabetically)
Curley Culp, DT, Kansas City Chiefs, Pro Football Hall of Fame, NCAA wrestling champion
Larry Csonka, RB, Miami Dolphins, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Dan Dierdorf, OT, St. Louis Cardinals, Pro Football Hall of Fame
John Hannah, OG New England Patriots, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Henry Jordan, DT, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Ronnie Lott, DB, San Francisco 49ers, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Randall McDaniel, OG, Minnesota Vikings, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Leo Nomellini, DT, San Francisco 49ers, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Jonathan Ogden, OT, Baltimore Ravens, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Bruce Smith, DE, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Jim Thorpe, RB, New York Giants, Canton, Cleveland, Oorang, Rock Island, Chicago, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Mike Webster, C, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Pro Football Hall of Fame
All-Pro athletes (alphabetically)
Ronde Barber, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pro Bowl player
Tiki Barber, RB, New York Giants, Pro Bowl player, broadcaster
Harris Barton, OT, San Francisco 49ers, Pro Bowl player
Brad Benson, OG, New York Giants, Pro Bowl player
Jeff Bostic, C, Washington Redskins, Pro Bowl player
Bob Bruenig, LB, Dallas Cowboys, Pro Bowl player
Tedy Bruschi, LB, New England Patriots, Pro Bowl player, broadcaster
Chris Cooley, TE, Washington Redskins, Pro Bowl player
Donnie Edwards, LB, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Pro Bowl player
Jim Everett, QB, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Pro Bowl player
Bill Fralic, OG, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Pro Bowl player
Doug France, OT, Los Angeles Rams, Pro Bowl player
Darrien Gordon, DB, Special Teams, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Pro Bowl Player
Jay Hilgenberg, C, Chicago Bears, Pro Bowl player
Carlton Haselrig, OG, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pro Bowl player, 3x NCAA wrestling champion
La'Roi Glover, DE, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Pro Bowl player
Bob Golic, DT, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Raiders, Pro Bowl player
Chad Hennings, DT, Dallas Cowboys, 9 seasons, Pro Bowl player, College Football Hall of Fame
Tim Krumrie, DT, Cincinnati Bengals, Pro Bowl Player
Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens, Pro Bowl player
Matt Millen, LB, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Pro Bowl player
Jim Nance, RB, New England Patriots - AFL All-Star
Lorenzo Neal, RB, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders, Pro Bowl player, NCAA Wrestling All-American
Mike Pyle, C, Chicago Bears – Pro Bowl player
Mike Reid, DT, Cincinnati Bengals, Pro Bowl player, professional musician
Jeff Saturday, C, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, Pro Bowl player
Mark Schlereth, OG, Washington Redskins, Pro Bowl player
Fred Smerlas, DT, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Pro Bowl player
Kyle Turley, OT, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Pro Bowl player
Adam Vinitieri, K, New England Patriots, Baltimore Colts, Pro Bowl player
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons, current player, Pro Bowl player
Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Pro Bowl player
Steve Wisniewski, OG, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, Pro Bowl player
Other prominent stars
Art Baker, RB, Buffalo Bills, NCAA wrestling champion
Ralph Cindrich, LB, Houston Oilers, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, pro football agent
Antonio Garay, DT, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, NCAA Wrestling All-American
Ron Essink, OT, Seattle Seahawks, NCAA Wrestling All-American
Charlie Getty, OT, Kansas City Chiefs – 2x NCAA Wrestling All-American
Bob Golic, DT, Cleveland Browns –2x NCAA wrestling All-American
Mike Golic, DL, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Oilers, Miami Dolphins, 7 years in NFL, broadcaster
Archie Griffin, RB, Cincinnati Bengals, 7 year career, Heisman Trophy winner
Tim Green, DE, Atlanta Falcons, broadcaster
Kelly Gregg, DT, Baltimore Ravens, Philadephia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, 12 years in NFL, USA Wrestling Cadet National champion
Bo Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Raiders, MLB Chicago White Sox and KC Royals, most famous all-around athlete of his generation
John Jurkovich, DT, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, 9 year career, broadcaster
Marvin Lewis, Coach, Cincinnati Bengals, 10 years as head coach
Jim Nance, RB, New England Patriots – 2x NCAA Wrestling champion
Stephen Neal, OG, New England Patriots, World freestyle Wrestling champion, 2x NCAA Wrestling champion
Jim Plunkett, QB, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl MVP
Bob Pickens, OT, Chicago Bears, Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler
Steve Sefter, DT, Philadelphia Eagles, 2x NCAA Wrestling All-American
Tony Siragusa, DT, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, 12 year career, broadcaster
Dave Szott, OL, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, 4th in USA Wrestling Junior Nationals
John Ward, OT, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Bucs, NCAA Wrestling All-American
Scott Wells, C, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, 3x USA Wrestling Cadet National champion
Charles White, RB, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, nine year career, Heisman Trophy
Coy Wire, S, Buffalo Bills