As part of our Rivalry Week(s) series here on the SB Nation family of NFL blogs, we’ve already asked which current player you’d take from the Minnesota Vikings’ three NFC North rivals and add to the current team. Now, we want to step a little further back in time.
We want to know who your all-time favorite player is/was from each of the Vikings’ three current NFC North rivals. Go as far back into history as you want. Personally, my football watching experience started in the mid-80s, so I might not have the depth that some of the folks around here have, but I’m going to give you mine here.
Green Bay Packers - Gilbert Brown, DT
There may be a bit of bias here, since Brown was a draft choice of the Vikings coming out of the University of Kansas. In fact, the Vikings selected him in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft, and then cut him after Training Camp. That’s something that’s damn near unheard of today. . .usually third-round picks are a lock to make the team.
Honestly, though, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the big dudes in the middle of the defensive line. Gilbert Brown was listed at 340 pounds, which is only slightly more realistic than when the Vikings used to list Pat Williams at 315. He was one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles of his era and the “Grave Digger” celebration was pretty cool. I don’t have a lot of love for very many former Packers, but Gilbert Brown is one I’ll put on the list.
Chicago Bears - Walter Payton, RB
Even though I only really caught the end of Payton’s career with the Bears. . .he retired following the 1987 season. . .it was pretty obvious why he’s on the short list of the greatest running backs of all time. Even when he was whooping up on the Vikings, he was pretty incredible to watch. In three of his last four seasons, he topped 1,300 rushing yards and was as dynamic a player as the NFL had at that time.
By the time he retired, Payton was the leading rusher in NFL history, and today still sits at #2 on the list behind Emmitt Smith. In all my years of watching the NFL, there’s only one running back that I can think of that I would rate as a more gifted and talented runner than Walter Payton.
Detroit Lions - Barry Sanders, RB
And that guy is Barry Sanders.
Seriously, Barry Sanders highlights are a thing of beauty. He just had so many ways of making people miss and turning something into nothing. We saw Adrian Peterson do that numerous times during his career with the Vikings, but Sanders made it into an art form. He wasn’t a big guy. . .he was listed at 5’8”. . .but he was tough and was damn near impossible for one guy to bring down.
Sanders is still fourth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, currently between two players that are still active (Frank Gore at #3 and Peterson at #5). It’s easy to think that he could have vaulted himself into the #1 spot on the list had it not been for his surprising retirement before the 1999 season. At that time, he was less than 1,000 yards behind Payton for the most rushing yards in NFL history and likely could have put quite some distance between himself and Payton had he played out the remainder of his contract with the Lions.
So, who are your all-time favorite players from the Bears, Lions, and Packers, folks?