Here are the Top 10 Most Intense NFL Players - featuring players like Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins all of whom deliver the best pregame speeches and hardest NFL hits...
Intensity can be measured in a number of ways. It can be defined as an extreme degree of strength, force, energy, and feeling. We try to define it within an athlete's realm as being "all about business" when it comes to Sundays. We measured all of the individuals in the NFL to narrow it down to a narrow few based upon a few factors. We measured the top 10 most intense athletes in the NFL in terms of:
1) How much effort a player gives on each down and every single play (Meaning you won't see Randy Moss on this list);
2) His ability to be a vocal leader and fire up his teammates by his lead (Meaning you won't see Donovan McNabb on this list);
3) The amount of abuse he is willing to take and his eagerness for contact (Meaning the Wayne Chrebets of the league get extra points);
4) Oh yah, and you actually have to be great at football (Sorry, Tebow you're not there yet- but one day).
"You try to stay within the rules for the sake of the game, but you can always turn up the intensity."-Lawrence Taylor
These are the top 10 guys in order:
10. Bernard Pollard
Usually the intense guys are on the defensive side of the ball and when it comes to jawing off and hitting hard, Bernard Pollard is king at it for a DB. Pollard had a career year last year with 102 tackles and was a major part of the defensive turnaround that occured in Houston. The Houston Texans have a redefined vigor associated with their defense and aren't getting pushed around anymore. They've told the league that they are for real with the addition fo Pollard and Cushing. Pollard was dubbed the "BoneCrusher" during his tenure at Purdue for his hard hits and tackles.
9. Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu has a motor like no other. Polamalu goes all-out on every single play that he is on the field. This image of him diving to make this improbable tackle is testament to how hard he works during a game. Regarded as one of the best safeties in the game, the 5 time Pro-Bowler is the backbone of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. The reason why he gets the nod over his fellow teammate James Harrison is quite simply because the Steel Curtain isn't quite the same without Polamalu. When the Samoan is healthy and able to contribute the way he wants to, the Steelers defense is the best in the league and when he's not there, that defense is not the same. Soft-spoken off of it, Polamalu is one of the most intense football players on the field and has the ability to make game-changing plays multiple times throughout a game by intercepting an impossible pass, making a bone-jarring hit, or forcing a fumble to give Big Ben one last go for the win.
8. Adrian Peterson
Adrian "All Day" Peterson came into this league with a lot of hype surrounding him given his incredible career at Oklahoma, and he has certainly lived up to it. He is given that nickname simply because he goes at opposing defenses all day long. Peterson is probably the most elite running back since Barry Sanders hit the scene and is the hardest person to tackle. Opposing defenses only succeed when they force themselves to gang tackle AP. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and broke the single-game rushing record with a flat out ridiculous 296 yards. He is incredibly intense all game long and that is evident when he trucked William Gay after catching the ball as shown in the video below. Let's not forget about the one against Al Harris too. He just refuses to go down.
7. Ed Reed
Ed Reed, also known as the ball hawk of all ball hawks is one of the best safeties in the game, not only for his uncanny ability to run back interceptions for touchdowns, but because he can actually lay a hard hit on an offensive player at any given moment- and he certainly isn't afraid to lay his body out there to do so either. The 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has racked up 6 Pro Bowl Selections and even made the NFL 2000 First-Team All-Decade-Team for the Safety position. Ed Reed is known to give great speeches to his teammates in an effort to get them fired up, especially when he was the defensive standout at Miami and the player that all his teammates looked up to. His ability to hit hard, make clean tackles, score touchdowns as a defender, and be the vocal leader his teammates need makes him a clear choice to be put on this list. Not to mention his 49 interceptions for 13 touchdowns in 9 NFL seasons is just insane.
6. Roy Williams
Roy Williams took the reign from John Lynch in being known as the hardest hitting safety in the league. This 5X Pro Bowler is as intense a hitter as the best of them and has a proven track record of injuring the opposing team. Roy WIlliams is perhaps most famous for what you know the rule to be the horse collaring rule. Similar to how Tom Brady has his own rule, the Roy Williams rule prevents defenders from tackling an offensive player from behind by grabbing onto his pads due to the fact that Roy Williams injured three separate players by doing that.
5. Joey Porter
Enough can't be said about Joey Porter's presence when he was on the field in Pittsburgh, Miami, and now in Arizona. Yah, Joey Porter loves to run his mouth, but he sure as hell backs it up too. In a pre-season interview he said “we’re going to play with an attitude…None of that bully stuff will be happening to us. If anybody is going to be doing some bullying, it’s going to be us on defense". That is how much confidence he has in himself and his ability to carry it over on everyone else on his team. He brings a certain fire with him and expects his teammates to play at a tremendously high level. More importantly, he expects it out of himself. The 4x Pro Bowler is a member of the 2000 All Decade Team and has a ring to show for his playing level. At 92 sacks for his career, Porter is a leader on the field and that #55 brings instant credibility to the middle of the field.
4. Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews has turned into one of the best outside linebackers in the game. His raw athleticism, speed, strength, and agility makes him a sack-machine and a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. Drafted in 2009 by the Green Bay Packers, Matthews made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and has 20.5 sacks in 17 games as a Pro. Perhaps Matthews is famous for his sacks, but he is even more famous for the pose that he delivers to the crowd and the television cameras: The Predator Pose (as in the movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger- he kind of looks like him with that long, ugly hair). Clay Matthews goes hard and intense on every play and you can see him shouting and screaming throughout the course of a game, showing that he is fired up and always comes ready to play. There are a lot of similarities between Clay Matthews and Shawne Merriman, but let's just hope Matthews is clean as a whistle, while Merriman..well..wasn't.
3. John Henderson
At 6'7" and 331 pounds, John Henderson is one of the biggest men in the NFL. The 2002 9th pick immediately made a presence for the Jaguars, being nominated to 2 Pro-Bowl selections. Perhaps what Henderson is most famous for though is his pre-game ritual. No, we're not talking about lucky socks or charm bracelets. We're talking about the most hardcore pre-game ritual in the business. Just take a look at the video below and you'll understand why he's #3 on this list.
2. Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis, or Ray Ray, will go down as one of the best linebackers in the history of football. The 11 time Pro Bowler has been crushing heads and taking names for the better half of 14 years and doesn't even look like he is slowing down. ray Lewis is known to have grueling workouts in the off-season to prepare him for the regular season and it doesn't look like he is let up off of his regimen once. Lewis, a member of the 2000 All Decade Team, is a 2x Defensive Player of the Year, a Super Bowl MVP, and was the quickest person to ever reach the 20/20 club (sacks and interceptions-113 games). Ray Lewis is a sure bet to record more than 120 tackles per year along with a few interceptions and sacks to add onto his resume. Lewis is a playmaker on the field and has made more game-changing plays throughout his tenured career than any football player of this generation. However, Ray Lewis brings something even greater than that. He brings intangibles, especially to the locker room in terms of the intensity he brings. He makes his teammates better. He makes his coaches better. He makes himself better. And most importantly, he makes his team better.
To shed light on how intense Ray Ray is here is something surprising. Lewis was in the weight room one day with the team during a voluntary practice. Brian Billick, the coach, was on the Stairmaster (because Lewis only felt it was right that the entire team participate regardless of the voluntariness) and got off before the allotted time was completed. Lewis immediately began to scream at him for his forfeiture of effort and exertion. Lewis got so angry he wanted to attack him and it took 6 guys to hold him back. While we all know that this is an extremity that no reasonable and prudent man should engage in, it’s what it represents that I share this story to you for the positives that can be brought out of it. Billick took no offense to the posed danger, because he understood the intensity that Lewis brought to the table every single day and how it affected everyone’s game play surrounding him. Other coaches would have brought charges, while Billick embraced it because it was the sacrifice he was willing to make to have the hardest working man in the NFL on his team that would ultimately make the rest of his players and team better off. It brought the team closer as a unit and propelled his teammates to push their hardest in practice so they could perform their best on the job, out there on the field. Lewis was adamant about what hard work stands for, how to achieve it, and how it translates to performance. But his intensity is driven by his passion for the game and enthusiasm to be the best at what he does. You can see that passion in each of his speeches before the game and his play on the field.
1. Brian Dawkins
And our #1 selection should clearly be a no-brainer, because if you've ever followed NFL players you immediately understand the impact that B-Dawk brings to any team he is a part of. Brian Dawkins, known for his bone-crushing tackles and overall knack for the ball, is a eight-time Pro Bowl Safety who is in well on his way to number nine. He is often remembered as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, where he brought more victories (109 wins/183 games played) to the city of Philadelphia than any Eagle in its history, but is now with the Denver Broncos.
Dawkins has two personas. One is of him as the humble, religious, and righteous man during the week, who never curses and is never involved in any controversy or scandal off the field. And on Sundays, he lives by that of Weapon-X, who represents his idol and favorite comic book character, Wolverine. He keeps figurines of this character in his locker, because he admires Wolverine’s emotion and his sentiment for incessant intensity. Brian marvels at the Wolverine based upon “the fact that he never backs down from a battle...The fact that he's intense all the time. It’s something that invited [Dawkins] into that world”.
Dawkins has recorded an unbelievably ridiculous 1,041 tackles, 22 sacks, and 37 interceptions. he is one of 10 players to join the 20/20 club. He is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame and encompasses more passion for the game of football than anybody in the league's history.
The Inquirer said this in regards to Dawkins' intensity on Sundays, "The Eagles' free safety is a maze of fun and entertainment from the moment he steps out of the tunnel for pre-game warm-ups to the moment he disappears into the locker room at the end of a game. He has more energy than the sun and an endless range of emotions."
Dawkins brought more than physical play to the locker room he enters, whether it’s in Philadelphia or Denver. His on-field play is exceptional, but his work outside of the Sunday games is what is truly special. Dawkins helps so many young guys better in the league, by leading the way. Instead of feeding them a fish, he teaches them how to fish. He teaches them how to make it in this league and how to make more out of themselves. He brings with him intangibles that no stat sheet could calculate or adequately measure, noting how poor the Eagles’ decision truly was. He filtrated throughout that Philadelphia locker room an unparalleled emotion that carried with it intense practices for every member of the team along with motivational speeches to fire up his teammates. Dawkins is a legend of the gridiron. When the Eagles let him go as an effort to go with a younger look in Demps, they sacrificed their entire defensive unit in terms of performance play, but also their composure, attitude, respect for one another, intensity, and internal motivation which all translates to being properly prepared for Sunday. Dawkins was the identifiable reason for all of that and he was the one responsible for holding that defense together, and as a result, the entire team. Two years ago, while facing a difficult first half, it was Dawkins who propelled that team into the playoffs. After the Eagles entered a losing skid and faced heavy criticism for their underperforming 5-5-1 record, Dawkins held a team meeting where he talked to and inspired his teammates to play passionate, unselfish ball. His teammates responded with 4 out of 5 victories and an eventual playoff berth. Dawkins led this young Wild-Card team yet again through a big win in Minnesota against a hungry Vikings team and against the returning Super Bowl Champs in the New York Giants to get to the NFC Championship Game. Although Dawkins has never reached his ultimate goal of capturing a championship, he is still hungry and will not quit until that ring is on his finger.
Dawkins is the leader that the players can actually relate to. His pregame speeches are testament to the intensity he brings and his teammates respond to it wholeheartedly. They get fired up off of his lead, whereby he leads by example, both on and off the field. He brings a certain unparalleled level of intensity to the game that is looked up to by his peers. He teaches them the intricacies of the game to make them better as athletes and teaches them about his life experiences to make them better people in the world. He simply makes everyone around him be better, not because of their fear that he'll get on their backs for acting in defiance, but because of their own rubbed-off self-righteousness to give it their all "on every 'doggone' play". Dawkins, often revered for his work ethic, has been recognized as the most diligent man in the NFL. Anyone associated with Dawkins knows that he works out harder, and with more intensity than anyone else in the league. Sheldon Brown said Dawkins was the most dominant defensive player he’s ever played with in all his 15 years of football, and that now he’s gone, “they’re missing a little heartbeat”. Teammate and all-star corner, Champ Bailey, noted that Dawkins was the greatest addition the Broncos could have ever asked for. That is the impact this one player has on the entire team. He makes his teammates want more out of themselves. His passion for the game is unparalleled. It was apparent in Philadelphia and now the city of Denver is experiencing it first-hand. Even when he isn’t on the field delivering play-making hits and turnovers, you can see him on the sidelines yelling at his teammates to “turn it up”.
Dawkins' former coach Andy Reid said, "When he comes out, you know he transforms into that wolverine thing, I mean he believes it. He just is out of his mind, and he maintains that now though the whole game, on fire the whole game".
Brian Dawkins epitomizes the Wolverine’s attitude of never backing down from a battle. He’ll always face confrontation. He’ll always exit his comfort zone and lay it all out there knowing that he could get hurt from the punishment he tries to deliver with every bone-jarring hit. He is intense all the time no matter what he does…from the pregame warm-up to the final tick of that clock…from early Monday morning to late Sunday night. Brian Dawkins, like the Wolverine, never backs down from a battle. He has entered that world of giving everything he’s got, acting in principle, to give it his absolute all on “every ‘doggone’ play” of the game we call life. He has pride in how he acts as a person and that’s the ultimate pride to have- more than the pride of winning a game could ever signify.