In his 15-year career, Tony Gonzalez (TE) has been one of the most productive tight ends in NFL history, making 11 trips to the Pro Bowl, earning nine All-Pro selections and holding several league records.
Selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft by Kansas City, where he played for eight seasons before moving on to Atlanta. Possessing great speed and quickness, Gonzalez started his career playing special teams and as a wide receiver. In 1998 and 1999, he built on his rookie performance and started receiving more attention. Following his 1999 season of 76 receptions for 849 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns, he earned his first of 10-straight Pro Bowl selections.
From 2000-2006, Gonzalez was, statistically, the most productive tight end in the league, averaging 79 receptions for 968 yards and 6.5 touchdowns per season. In 2004, he became the first tight end to lead the league in receptions, with 102. For this accomplishment, his record-setting jersey hangs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was also voted as the NFL Alumni Tight End of the Year in 2000 and 2003.
By the end of the 2006 season, Gonzalez conquered two team records – the single-season receiving yards and touchdowns record, and the yards from scrimmage mark. In 2007, he led the Chiefs and all NFL tight ends in receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,172), and broke the league record for most career touchdowns by a tight end (68), a record he continues to build on today.
Records continued falling in 2008, as Gonzalez surpassed the league record for receptions yards by a tight end with 10,064, another record that he has added to each year since. Gonzalez signed with Atlanta in 2009, where he has continued to rewrite the record book and notch his 11th Pro Bowl bid.
Gonzalez holds the league record for most consecutive starts by a tight end and Pro Bowl receptions (42) and touchdowns (six). He was also named to the NFL All-Decade Team (2000s).
A four-time Pro Bowl selection and 14-year veteran of the league, Hines Ward (WR) has developed into one of the best wide receivers in Steelers’ history.
After being selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft by Pittsburgh, Ward was initially utilized on special teams. With an exceptional work ethic, Pittsburgh coaches soon gave Ward a role on the offense as well, where he soon proved that he could make the big catch. Ward also impressed teammates and coaches around the league with his blocking abilities, and is renowned as one of the best blocking receivers in history.
In 2001, Ward had his first of four-consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and is the only player in club history to surpass that mark for four straight seasons. His first of four Pro Bowl nods came after that season, as well as each of the next three years. In 2005, he became the Steelers all-time leading receiver with his 538th reception. He has been adding to that record since.
Ward helped lead the Steelers to Super Bowl XL in 2006, and won the game’s MVP award after posting a game-high 123 receiving yards and a touchdown. He was the first Korean-American to win this award. In 2007, he became the all-time club leader in touchdown receptions with 64. Ward’s fifth 1,000-yard season followed in 2008.
In 2009 – his sixth 1,000-yard season – Ward playing through a sprained MCL to help lead the Steelers to their sixth Super Bowl (XLIII) victory. In his 14 post-season appearances, Ward has accumulated 76 receptions for 1,064 yards and eight touchdowns.
A three-time Steelers’ MVP, Ward holds the franchise records for career receptions, touchdowns and receiving yards. He was named to the Steelers’ 75th Season All-Time Team and led the Steelers in receptions from 1999-2009. Ward is the longest-tenured wide receiver with the same team in the NFL and the only Steeler with at least 800 career catches and over 11,000 career receiving yards.
For his entire 15-year career, Ronde Barber (CB) has been a staple of the Tampa Bay defensive unit and is the longest-tenured member of the Buccaneers. He is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and has been a first-team All-Pro selection three times. Barber also holds league record for most consecutive starts by a cornerback.
A 1997 third round selection out of the University of Virginia by Tampa Bay, Barber earned the nickel back spot during the playoffs in his rookie year. In 1998, Barber started nine games and totaled 81 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. He has been a regular starter since.
Barber led the NFL in interceptions in 2001 and in the 2002 NFC Championship game, he returned an interception 92-yards for the touchdown that cemented a victory and sent Tampa Bay to Super Bowl XXXVII, which the Buccaneers won over Oakland. In 2005, Barber became the first cornerback in league history to rack up at least 20 interceptions and 20 sacks, a performance that granted him membership to the prestigious 20/20 Club.
Often called a ball hawk, Barber led the NFL in interception touchdowns and became the all-time club leader in interceptions in 2006 and 2007, respectively. In 2010, he became the only player in league history with at least 25 sacks and 40 interceptions. His jersey and gloves from the record-breaking game have been honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Barber is the active league leader for defensive touchdowns scored, all-time sacks by a cornerback and was voted to the NFL’s All-Decade Team (2000s).
In his 16-year career, Brian Dawkins (S) has started all but one game he has played in – a number well over 200. He is one of the most accomplished and highly acclaimed safeties in league history and has the résumé to back it up.
A 2009 inductee of the Clemson University Athletics Hall of Fame, Dawkins was a second round selection in the 1996 draft by Philadelphia. He became a starter in week two of his rookie season and has never looked back. Dawkins was first named to the Pro Bowl in 1999 and is now tied for the most Pro Bowl selections at his position, with eight.
A long-standing defensive captain for the Eagles, Dawkins spent 13 seasons with the team, making him the longest tenured athlete in Philadelphia sports. In 2002, he became the first NFL player to record a sack, interception, forced fumble and touchdown reception in a single game. He remains the franchise’s all-time leader in regular season games played, postseason starts and overall wins, and shares the club record for all-time interceptions.
In 2009, Dawkins signed with Denver and has been an equally notable force ever since, averaging just shy of 100 tackles per year over his career, with a personal best 155-tackle season in 2006.
Dawkins won the NFLPA’s Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award in 2009 and became just the ninth player in league history to join the elite 20/20 club – 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career in 2008. With the fourth most career sacks by a defensive back and six All-Pro selections, Dawkins was rightfully named to the All-Decade team (2000s) and Philadelphia’s 75th Anniversary Team.
A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Charles Woodson (CB) has become a tireless cornerback in his 14-year career. In the 1998 NFL Draft, Oakland selected Woodson fourth overall out of the University of Michigan, where led the Wolverines to a national championship and became the only primarily defensive player in history win the Heisman Trophy (1997).
In 1998, Woodson became the first Oakland rookie since 1971 to start all 16 games, leading all defensive backs in the league with 64 tackles. Woodson also finished third in the league in interceptions (5). This performance earned him his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection by the Associated Press. Woodson also won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors from both the Associated Press and Pro Football Weekly.
Despite a toe injury that prevented him from practicing, Woodson started all 16 games in 2000 and was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro selection by Sports Illustrated. From 1998-2005, Woodson was named to four Pro Bowls.
In 2006, he signed with the Packers and has improved in every major defensive category since. In his first season in Green Bay, he added punt returner to his duties and snagged eight interceptions, breaking his rookie record of five.
Following a September 2008 victory in which he recorded two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, Woodson was named NFL Defensive Player of the Month. He went on to receive this accolade twice more in the next 14 months, becoming the only defensive player to receive this award three times. He was later awarded NFC Defensive Player of the Year and Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. This run of excellence culminated in a 2009 Pro Bowl selection, his fifth overall, and first of three consecutive nods.
Despite a second-half injury, Woodson helped lead the Packers to a Super Bowl XLV victory. He was a 2011 Pro Bowl selection and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team (2000s).