Harrison Smith (Vikings) Opens Up About His Sports Fandom

Harrison Smith is on quite a roll. His Minnesota Vikings are 5-0 heading into Week 7. He’s the leader of their vaunted defense’s secondary. He took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about Harrison Smith, the sports fan.

Smith is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection last season, prompting the Vikings to sign him to an extension in the offseason that made him one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL. Many insiders consider him the best at his position in the game.

The Vikings front office will tell you none of this is a surprise to them. It’s why they drafted him in the first round back in 2012. And the 27 year old is not a Cinderella story – he played four seasons at powerhouse Notre Dame in South Bend. But if you think of Harrison Smith as just a football player, you’re shortchanging him.

In high school in Knoxville, Tennessee, Smith excelled on offense as both a running back and receiver and on defense. He was named the Gatorade Football Player of the Year in Tennessee in 2006. He also played basketball and competed as a jumper on the track team, where he won multiple state championships. He was rated a four-star recruit late in high school, and received scholarship offers from some of the nation’s biggest programs, including Notre Dame and his hometown University of Tennessee. He chose Notre Dame despite growing up a Vols fan, which he discusses:

“Growing up, it wasn’t Notre Dame; it was the University of Tennessee. I grew up watching Peyton Manning, Al Wilson on defense … there was a ton of greats that came through Tennessee when I was young and I got to watch them and be a fan of them.”

But Smith is quick to draw the line in the sand:

“If Notre Dame and Tennessee matched up in a bowl game now? No question. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 100%, no hesitation.”

The multisport star was also quick to throw some love at some perhaps unexpected programs at his alma mater, saying, “I went to Notre Dame, so just a fan of everything they do. They’ve always got a good lacrosse team, good men’s and women’s soccer, softball … so they kind of have it all so it’s fun to watch.”

Smith is also a fan of playing in a market where all the major sports are represented.

“Being in Minnesota and having a team in every sport – you’ve got the Wild, the Twins, the T-Wolves – being a fan of each of those and being able to support those guys is awesome.”

And proving once and for all that Harrison Smith is all of us, when asked if he could trade places with any professional athlete in the world, he had this to say:

“I’d have to go with Cristiano Ronaldo. You know, they’ve kind of got it all because the whole world is watching them.”

We don’t know about the whole world, but we’re sure the number of people watching Smith play will only continue to grow. You can shop for all the best Harrison Smith and Vikings gear at Fanatics.

The Evolution of the New England Patriots Logo


The New England Patriots are a well-known modern-day NFL powerhouse dynasty; they’ve racked up four Super Bowl wins in the last 15 years. The franchise, however, has been around for decades, getting its start in the waning years of the 1950s when a group led by businessman William H. Sullivan Jr. captured the eighth and final franchise in the brand new American Football League.

Locals poured name suggestions into the new team’s Boston mailbox. Sullivan ultimately chose “Boston Patriots,” a moniker suggested by 74 fans. The team’s first 11 seasons were spent in four different Boston stadiums, but they eventually moved to suburban Foxborough to set up shop in a brand new stadium in 1971. After the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the team was placed in the AFC East, where they remain today. Shortly after, they also took on a new team name – the New England Patriots. This helped reflect their location change as well as their growing popularity throughout the general New England area.

Success in New England

The early years of the Patriots didn’t induce much cheering – the only time they reached the playoffs before 1976 was a 1963 roll that ended with an AFL Championship defeat. However, one of the bright lights of those days was fullback and Pro Bowler Sam Cunningham, who was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2010. The squad steadily gained ground after those years, though, and had two playoff appearances before finally reaching the Super Bowl in their 1985 season – which the team did not win.

Things started to finally change in the ’90s. Drew Bledsoe was drafted by the Patriots as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. He’d shone for the Patriots, throwing 4,555 yards his second year with the club, leading the NFL. He continued to be a prolific passer until the 2001 season, when he was sidelined with a serious injury during the second game of the season. Ultimately, this resulted in a quarterback change for the franchise.

That quarterback was Tom Brady. Brady was also drafted by the Patriots, but not as the first pick, nor even in the first round. He was a sixth-round draft pick in the 2000 NFL Draft and backed up Bledsoe for the first season and then some, but eventually took over the reins when Bledsoe was knocked out with his injury. Once he settled into the captain’s chair, Brady never looked back. When Bledsoe was medically cleared to return to play, Brady remained the starter. Since then, he has gone down in Patriots (and NFL) history as one of the best quarterbacks of all time. He has led the team to six Super Bowls, and he has won the Lombardi trophy four times.

The team has come a long way from their humble beginnings as one of the AFL’s first teams, and so has their logo. Let’s take a look at how it has changed over the years.

Patriot Pride


1960: The original logo is a simple blue and white tricorner hat. The design, much like the name of the Patriots themselves, is inspired by a fan named Walter Pingree.

1961–1964: The 1961 season sees the introduction of “Pat Patriot,” the brainchild of Boston Globe cartoonist Phil Bissell. Team owner Billy Sullivan is so inspired by Bissell’s cartoons that he makes Pat Patriot getting ready to snap the ball the official team logo.

1965–1970: Pat Patriot remains the team logo, but his features become more refined and realistic.

1971–1992: In 1971, there are a few minor changes to the logo, most notably to the skin color of Pat Patriot himself.

1993–1999: Pat Patriot is retired after the 1992 season, and a new logo makes an appearance. It features a gray-faced minuteman sporting a red, white, and blue tricorner hat, which seems to flap in the breeze.

2000–Present: The present-day logo is put into place for the 2000 season and is nearly identical to the prior logo, except that it is a darker shade of blue.

Whether you’re a fan of the Patriots early AFL days, or a newer fan of the modern squad, Fanatics.com has a ton of Patriot garb, including jerseys, baby clothes, and even stocking caps. Check it out today.


The Evolution of the Cleveland Browns Jersey


Established in 1946 as a member of the All-American Football Conference, the Cleveland Browns are one of the NFL’s most unique franchises. Out of the entire league, they are the only team named after a former coach – legend Paul Brown. The Browns are also the only team in the NFL without a logo on their helmet.

The team has played in the league for sixty-eight seasons and has a total of eight championships – all pre-Super Bowl era. With these victories coming before the big game was even created – the Browns have yet to appear in a Super Bowl.

The Browns were a source of attention in 1995, when owner Art Modell looked to move the team to Baltimore. Cleveland retained rights to the team and its namesake, but Modell’s move transformed the franchise into the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns were re-introduced as an expansion team in 1999 and have struggled to find success in the years since.

Built in 1998 as the new Cleveland Browns’ stadium FirstEnergyStadium serves as their home field. The stadium is situated on the same grounds where the Cleveland Municipal Stadium once stood – the gridiron where the Browns won all eight of their championships. With a current capacity of 73,200 – FirstEnergyStadium serves as the ideal location for the Browns to call home.

Read on to see how the Browns have transformed their jersey since their inception, and how their iconic helmets compare in fashion & popularity to the rest of the league.

Notable Jersey Changes


1948: Cleveland’s first uniform combination consists of plain white helmets with white and brown jerseys. A brown-orange trim aligns the pants and sleeves of the jersey, and the numbers feature a light shadow.

1950: The team introduces the classic orange helmet for the first time—a feature that is still used today.

1953: An orange jersey with minimal brown and white coloring is used. The orange jerseys would come and go throughout the years before making an updated return in 2015.

1957: For the only time in franchise history, the Browns add an image to the helmet in the form of player numbers.

1960: The familiar brown striping is added to the team’s helmet and brown player numbers also make an appearance on the sleeves.

1969: A special patch is added to the uniform’s left shoulder in celebration of the NFL’s 50th anniversary. Thin, white stripes were also added to the sleeves.

1970: The Browns add player names to the back of the jerseys.

1975: The Browns opt for orange pants – a first in team history. Facemasks are also changed to white.

1984: Jerseys are redesigned with bold orange trim, and orange pants are replaced by white pants that feature a center orange stripe outlined in brown. Also, brown jerseys are worn with orange numbers, before being removed due to difficulty of identifying players on the field.

1985 (1986 depicted): After just one season, the team ditches the intricate design and return to the old-fashioned Browns look.

1999: The franchise moves to Baltimore, but a new ownership group would reinstate the Browns franchise with a “return” to Cleveland. The team wore a “1999” patch to celebrate the return.

2002: Orange jerseys are featured as an alternative uniform kit. The jerseys feature white numbers with a brown drop shadow.

2003: Orange pants return, only to disappear a few seasons later.

2008: The Browns introduce solid brown pants for the first time.

2013: Following the NFL’s change to Nike as the uniform provider, the Browns change their look sporting an all brown uniform appearance.

2015: The Browns underwent drastic changes to a design that has seen little significant alteration for the majority of the franchise’s existence. All three jerseys were redesigned with new striping, updated colors and a bold font. The pants now feature partial striping with the team name on the side, and the jersey adds the city name over the number in large, block font. Cleveland also adds a brown face mask for the first time.

Looking Back to Look Forward

Although the Browns have yet to see a Super Bowl victory, or appearance for that matter – the team has witnessed legendary players take the field, decked in their trademark brown and orange jerseys. The team has a total of eight championships with sixteen players inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame – the sixth highest total league-wide. The organization has been noted to lean on the stingy side when it comes to retiring jerseys – with the current number standing at five.

Since their inception into the National Football League, the Browns have retired five jersey numbers:

No. 14 – Otto Graham

No. 32 – Jim Brown

No. 45 – Ernie Davis

No. 46  – Don Fleming

No. 76 – Lou Groza

Heading over to FirstEnergyStadium to support the #ClevelandBrowns? Be sure to stop by Fanatics – the one stop shop for all your Browns essentials!


Dick Butkus: Chicago fans are a certain breed because…

Dick Butkus is a name synonymous with football. Famous for his days as a feared anchor of the Chicago Bears defense, Butkus was a football player since childhood. He recently sat down with us for a little to talk about his roots and what it was like being a fan while out on the gridiron.

Butkus was “born and raised on the south side of Chicago” where he was the youngest of nine children born to working class parents. He attributes his first involvement in sports to his older brothers and the family’s childhood proximity to Fernwood Park, a public park on Chicago’s south side.

Butkus described this green space where he could play sports as a boy as “a dreamland for me.” Butkus built upon these games with his brothers and neighborhood friends and played with distinction at the Chicago Vocational High School.

From 1962 through 1964, Butkus played both ways (center and linebacker) for the University of Illinois, twice earning All-American accolades. In 1964, he finished third on the Heisman Trophy ballot. His number is retired by the University of Illinois and his standout play earned him a number of individual awards. In 1985, the Butkus Award was created to honor the nation’s best linebackers at varying levels of play. It remains a prestigious award at all levels.

Though drafted by both NFL and AFL teams, Butkus signed with his hometown Chicago Bears, for whom he played a legendary nine seasons before injuries forced him to retire. He was six times named All League and went to eight Pro Bowls. A hard hitter who was deeply feared by opposing players, Butkus also had a special knack for forcing turnovers and retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in forced fumbles, though the record has since been broken.

Born on Chicago’s south side, Butkus did not grow up a Bears fan. He said, “I became a fan after I played with the Bears.”

A special moment that stood out in his memory as a player-fan was a famous game in his rookie season. On December 12, 1965, the Bears were hosting the San Francisco 49ers at Wrigley Field. A fellow Bears rookie — Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers – ran for six touchdowns, an individual performance still considered among the greatest ever.

But Butkus remembers a fact lost to the history books. He told us:

“Being a fan while I’m out there on the field … as a fan, I was hoping he was going to get seven … I think we had the ball at the two-yard line and Halas took him out.”

Butkus is referring to legendary Bears head coach George S. Halas, known affectionately as “Papa Bear” who substituted Sayers out on that play. His replacement ran the ball in for a touchdown, stealing Sayers’ would-be seventh touchdown away.

Beloved by Bears fans, Butkus told us the admiration and respect is reciprocal.

“The Chicago fans are a certain breed and that’s because they’re loyal and they’re smart – they know what the hell the game’s about.”


Fans can shop for Chicago Bears gear on Fanatics.


What does the GSH stand for on the Chicago Bears uniform

The Chicago Bears have one of the more iconic uniforms in the NFL. They are synonymous with tradition, with the old-school and smashmouth brand of football the Bears have been associated with for decades.

Chicago Bears Howard

Chicago Bears Jordan Howard (#24) – Running Back

Their simple dark blue uniforms, rounded numbers, stark and straightforward logo, and burnt orange accents are easily identifiable for any casual NFL fan. But odds are, if you’re not a Bears fan and didn’t grow up in Chicagoland, you may have noticed a curious element of the Bears’ uniform since 1984, the year before their historic Super Bowl season.

It’s the initials ‘GSH’ prominently displayed in the tell-tale orange stripes on the left sleeve. So, what does GSH stand for on the Chicago Bears’ uniform? Well, they’re the initials of George S. Halas. Who is this Halas guy, you ask? Well, Halas played for, coached, and eventually owned the Bears. He was involved with the team in one capacity or another from 1920 until his death on Halloween in 1983. In his different roles, he had a hand in six NFL championships.

what does gsh stand for on chicago bears uniform

After his death in 1983, the Bears honored his historic legacy with the GSH initials on their left sleeve, where they remain to date. Generally, the evolution of the Bears’ uniform has mirrored the many variations of the team over the years, though certain elements have never vanished.

As uniforms have modernized over the years and manufacturers have changed, every team’s jerseys have changed. But the Bears remain one of the truest to their calling card and their roots, including their honoring of the late great George S. Halas.

The Evolution of the Cincinnati Bengals Jersey


Ohio’s Cincinnati Bengals are a part of the NFL’s American Football Conference (AFC) and are a product of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Cleveland Browns founder Paul Brown.

Under the ownership and guidance of Brown, Cincinnati was granted an expansion franchise in 1967 to bring the team back from a complicated history; the team stuck with the “Bengals” name as a link to its past. Although the Bengals have been a staple in the league for decades, the team has yet to win a Super Bowl during their two appearances.

Bengals Breakouts

Cincinnati has had several legendary players take the gridiron while decked in black and orange. Drafted in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft, Chad Johnson made his mark on the franchise during his 10-season stint. The former wide receiver was noted for making 751 receptions, receiving 10,783 yards, and completing 66 touchdowns. Additionally, the team has recognized former quarterback Ken Anderson as the all-time passing leader within the franchise. During his tenure with the team, Anderson threw for 32,838 yards and 197 passing touchdowns.

The organization has stuck with three primary jersey colors over the years: Orange, black, and white. The team introduced distinctive and simple tiger stripes in 1981, which would remain on the jerseys until present day.

Continue reading to see how the Cincinnati Bengals have shaped their iconic jersey since their inception in the league.

Notable Uniform Changes


1968: For their inaugural jersey, the Bengals have black tops with one orange stripe surrounded by two white stripes on each sleeve. It features white block numerals, appearing on both the front and back. The team also rocks orange helmets with gray facemasks. It’s simple in design: The script “Bengals” arches across both sides of the helmet.

1975: Most notably, the stripes on the sleeves are now separated with black bands.

1981: The Bengals make drastic changes to their home uniform, giving them one of the most unique looks in all of sports. The jersey features tiger stripes on the shoulders with TV numbers added to the sleeves to make the players more identifiable.

1990: Small changes are made to the tiger stripes and helmet.

2001: Instead of TV numbers, the team adds a leaping tiger alternate logo to the sleeves.

2004: The team debuts an orange alternate jersey with partially black sleeves and white striping down the sides. The number styling is changed to be rounder. Black pants are introduced for the first time.

2012: Nike produces uniforms for the NFL; the Bengals introduce a sleek new look featuring a more aggressive tiger stripe pattern on the sides of the pants.

Looking Back to Look Forward

Throughout years of hard work and cooperation, the Cincinnati Bengals have had many greats leave their all on the field while reppin’ orange and black attire. The organization has a lot to be proud of (two championship wins in the AFC and two Super Bowl appearances), but it has been quite particular in retiring jersey numbers.

Currently, the Bengals have only retired one jersey number:

No. 54 – Bob Johnson

The franchise has inducted a total of two players Charlie Joiner and Anthony Muñoz into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With the 2016 NFL season underway, fans are eager to see what the Bengals have in store (and hopefully what additional jersey numbers will accompany that of Bob Johnson). In any case, wearing a team’s jersey is a great way to show your pride.

Are you a part of the #BengalsNation? Prepare for your next football-filled Sunday by heading over to Fanatics – one of the nation’s top online retailers for sports apparel and merchandise!


College Breakdown of NFL Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers


The Pittsburgh Steelers we know today got their start in 1933 as the Pirates. Art Rooney founded the team that year, and the franchise joined the National Football League. The squad would play for seven years under the Pirates moniker, despite being somewhat unsuccessful during these early years (they never fielded a winning season).

In 1940, Rooney changed the team name to the Steelers to reflect the heritage of the city of Pittsburgh. The team finally enjoyed their first winning season in 1942. As with many football teams during this time, many Steelers players went off to fight in WWII.

Success in Steeltown

The Steelers currently hold the record for most Super Bowl wins – six. They experienced most of their victories in the mid- to late-’70s (1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979) under the leadership of legendary head coach Chuck Noll and future Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw. Their other two championships came in 2005 under Bill Cowher’s coaching and again in 2008 under head coach Mike Tomlin. Both were captained by current quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  

Big Ben and Co.

Big Ben, as he’s affectionately known, played college football at Miami University. He was a prolific passer during his college days, going over 3,000 yards his first two years and over 4,000 his third. He was drafted in 2004 as the 11th overall player in the NFL Draft, and while he wasn’t the first quarterback selected (2004 was Eli Manning’s and Philip Rivers’ draft class as well), he has certainly performed just as well in the NFL as he did in college.

Antonio Brown is another standout Steeler. He topped the 1,000 receiving yard mark four times in his career. He played college football at Central Michigan, where he had similar stats. Although he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round in 2010, he’s flourished as a Steeler and has earned a starting spot.

Running back DeAngelo Williams is another Steeler to note. He attended and played football at the University of Memphis, where he pounded the rock for nearly 2,000 yards (not once but twice). He was drafted in 2006 by the Carolina Panthers, but he made his way to Pittsburgh in time for the 2015 season.

Le’Veon Bell also went to college in Michigan, but he attended Michigan State for his academic career. He had a standout year in 2012. Bell ran for over 1,700 yards and was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Steelers.

Finding the right mix of players and backgrounds is a critical part of building a successful franchise. Let’s take a look at where the current Steelers squad suited up during their college playing days.


Ohio River Valley Represent

The standout state in the graphic above is certainly Ohio, where eight current Steelers went to college. Pennsylvania is up there as well; it produced five Steelers players. Other notable states include Florida with six players; Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky with four players each; and California, Maryland, and North Carolina with three Steelers each.

An Even Distribution

The top producing schools for the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to be distributed pretty evenly across a handful of universities. The following have contributed two players each: Central Michigan, Florida State, Florida, Kent State, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford, and Tennessee.

The Sounds of the SEC

The SEC has a strong showing on the Steelers roster; it’s produced 12 players. The ACC is a close second with 11. The Big Ten conference sent eight players to Pittsburgh, while the Mid-American Conference sent seven. Breaking down between offense and defense, of the SEC’s contributions to the Steelers lineup, eight players fall to the offensive side of the ball, while four fall to the defensive side. The ACC players tend to favor the defensive side, while the Big Ten contributed more offensive players. Overall, the offense seems to have a greater diversity of conference roots.

With many different colleges represented, the Steelers have been able to find repeated success using their diverse base of players.

Whether you’re a Pittsburgh fan or you want just to follow your favorite college player’s career through the NFL, Fanatics.com has all the gear your heart desires.


The Evolution of the San Francisco 49ers Jersey


The San Francisco 49ers got their start in the ’40s – not in the NFL, but in the All-America Football Conference, a rival league to the NFL and one of its early competitors. Founder Tony Morabito worked hard to bring his idea of a San Francisco football team to fruition, and once he joined forces with a few other forward thinkers, the AAFC was born… and so too was the San Francisco 49ers.

The team name, of course, came from those who traveled west during the California Gold Rush, during which San Francisco became a boom town and saw its economy soar. The effects of the gold rush was so massive that it helped usher California’s admittance to the United States as a free state in 1850, which made the 49ers a perfect moniker for the new football franchise.

After four seasons of operations, the AAFC folded, and three of its teams were merged into the NFL. In addition to the Niners, AAFC’s Cleveland and Baltimore were awarded NFL franchises and the rest, as we say, is history.

Success in San Francisco

The 49ers have had quite the history, winning five Super Bowls (1994, 1989, 1988, 1984, 1981) in six appearances (their only loss occurring just a few years ago after the 2012 season). They also have had plenty of superstars on their roster over the last seven decades, including Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice, as well as other standout players, like Frank Gore and Terrell Owens.

To go along with their success on the field, the team has maintained a general color scheme over its decades of play, but there have been a few changes here and there – check them out below.

Notable Niners Uniform Changes


1946: When the 49ers took the field for the first time in 1946, they sported plain white leather helmets paired with a plain red jersey which featured white numerals in a traditional semi-block font. This color scheme would stand the test of time, although it would go through a few tweaks later on.

1950: The Niners had switched to a silver helmet with a red stripe in 1948, but abandoned said stripe by the time they joined the NFL. For a game against the Rams, they wore jerseys adorned with triple white stripes.

1958: This was the year TV numbers were added to jersey sleeves for the 49ers.

1962: A 49ers helmet logo finally appears. Player helmets (both sides) sport a large red oval with a thin black outline with a white SF nestled inside.

1964: The 49ers make a final switch from silver to gold for both the helmets and pants.

1970: Last names appear on the back of the Niners’ jerseys for the first time, where they will stay.

1996: Major changes were made this year, starting from the top, where the helmet logo is tweaked a bit to feature a gold outline that is surrounded by a thicker black outline. Not to be outdone, the stripe pattern undergoes a couple changes, including a thick red stripe flanked by thin black stripes. TV numbers? Relocated to the shoulders, and all numbers are changed to a double outline. The SF oval logo is superimposed over the triple sleeve stripes, and pants go from gold to white and a black-red-black stripe pattern. They also celebrate their 50th anniversary with a patch over the left breast.

1998: The name on back lettering goes to a single outline, and the pants go back to the gold standard with a side stripe pattern of red-black-red.

2009: This year ushers in a switch back to the older style of decades past, with helmet stripes going back to a red-white-red pattern and face masks popping back to grey after being red for a number of years. The red of the home jerseys (and the red numbers on the away jerseys) are brighter than they had been since 1996, and the 49ers wordmark is placed above the front number. The numbers and names are a single solid color (no more outlines) and the triple stripe pattern on the sleeves are truncated due to modern sleeve cuts.

2015: The all-black styling of a Niners alternate uniform makes its debut. The jersey is paired with plain red numbers, and the pants feature a single red stripe down the side.

If you have a hankering for a sweet 49ers jersey to sport this NFL season, Fanatics.com is your one stop shop. Whether you’re looking for a throwback Montana jersey or a sweet all-black alternate, they’ve got you covered.


Strategy Game Changers: Buddy Ryan


Getting to Know Buddy Ryan

Buddy Ryan, the inventor of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, was born in 1931. At 17 years old, he enlisted in the National Guard and landed on Korean shores Christmas Day 1951, where he would go on to serve as a master sergeant.

After the war, Ryan enrolled at Oklahoma State University and lettered all four years as a guard and linebacker. Once graduated, he immediately began coaching at the high school level and would eventually climb his way up over the next several decades.

The 46 Defense Dominates Football


Buddy Ryan is best known for orchestrating the 46 defense as the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. The strategy gets its name from strong safety Doug Plank, who wore No. 46 when he played under Ryan. Similar to the 4-3 defense, it calls for four defensive linemen (two defensive ends and two defensive tackles), three linebackers, and four defensive backs (two safeties and two cornerbacks). The linebackers are shifted toward the offense’s weaker side to put more pressure on the backfield.

The 46 defense was super effective at disrupting a team’s running game, which forced opposing quarterbacks into throwing the ball more often. Buddy Ryan’s legendary defensive scheme was a huge part of the reason the 1985 Bears pummeled their way to a victory in Super Bowl XX.

A Career Full of Achievements

While Ryan is perhaps best known for his work as a defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears – which resulted in a Super Bowl victory – he would go on to become the head coach for other teams, taking some to the playoffs (most notably the Philadelphia Eagles, who went three times). He also worked as a defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers between head coaching jobs, where he helped the team advance to the divisional round before they were defeated.


Today, the 46 defense isn’t incorporated much into the modern defensive game plan. While it was a very effective formation overall, it was especially good at stopping up gaps and running lanes and negating the run game. Although defenses have evolved over time, this defensive strategy does occasionally pop up; Buddy Ryan’s contributions to the game will be remembered for a long time to come.

If you’re feeling inspired by Buddy Ryan’s amazing defensive legacy (one that lives on with his twin sons, who are both defensively minded coaches in the NFL), you’ll love the gear that Fanatics.com has on hand. From the Chicago Bears to the Arizona Cardinals, Fanatics has you covered.


Living Legends: NFL


Some NFL players become legends who stand the test of time. Most casual fans are familiar with the greats of the past, such as Walter Payton and Joe Greene, and they’re definitely familiar with newer Hall of Fame inductees like Brett Favre and Jerry Rice. One of the most appealing things about the NFL is the possibility of watching someone who is destined for greatness. The following three players are right in the midst of amazing, legendary careers.

Terrific Tom


New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is considered by many to be the “Greatest Quarterback of All Time.” This four-time Super Bowl champ has a ton of other accomplishments, as if Super Bowl champ four times over isn’t enough, he’s grabbed quite a few other honors, including three Super Bowl MVPs, two first-team All-Pro selections, and has been selected to 11 Pro Bowls. Oh, and we have to mention that he is the current active leader for passing touchdowns, playoff games, game winning drives, and comebacks.

Brady was selected in Round 6 of the 2000 NFL Draft and was the 199th player overall. To say he flew under the radar is an understatement, and the six quarterbacks that went in the draft before him didn’t exactly become household names – in fact, only two experienced solid playing time in the NFL.

Brady’s career stats are very similar to a few very well-known legends themselves, including Dan Marino, John Elway, and Joe Montana, all of which have been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. There is little doubt that Tom Brady will also be selected once his playing career is over, likely on the first ballot.

All Hail J.J. “Swatt”


J.J. Watt is a popular defensive end with a huge wingspan, well known for his aggressive playing style and his ability to bat down passes even with two offensive linemen hanging off him. His efforts have not gone unnoticed, either. He’s snagged the AP Defensive Player of the Year award three times, has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times and has also landed four selections to the first team All-Pro. These are terrific honors, considering he only entered the NFL in 2011.

Watt was selected by the Houston Texans in the first round (11th overall) and made an impact right away, clocking in 20.5 sacks his second season (the most in the league, which he again achieved in 2015 with 17.5 sacks). He was also awarded the Bert Bell Award (Player of the Year) in 2014 and has even brought one interception back to the house (after barreling down 80 yards of field).

His game stats closely resemble a few other amazing players, notably Muhammad Wilkerson, Geno Atkins, and the mighty Warren Sapp, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013. While defensive players aren’t always as well-known as their flashier offensive counterparts, J.J. Watt is one of the most easily recognized defensive ends in the game. He has many good years left in him, and will likely continue to make a positive impact on his team (and the game as a whole).

All Day


Adrian Peterson (nicknamed “All Day”, or “A.D.”) was drafted in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft and has basically never looked back. The agile, quick, and deceptive running back has smashed his way through defensive lines for the past nine seasons. He was selected as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in his inaugural year and is the current active leader for rushing touchdowns and rushing yards per game.

The honors don’t stop there, though. Peterson has been selected to the Pro Bowl seven times, to the First Team All-Pro four times, and was the 2012 AP Offensive Player of the Year. He snagged the league-wide rushing title three times, and topped out at 2,097 yards in 2012 (incidentally, only six other players have ever topped 2K, and Peterson was very close to securing the top overall spot that year).

Peterson’s style and stats are similar to other players, such as Clinton Portis, Shaun Alexander, and Eddie George. Whether any of these fellas wind up in the Hall of Fame is still up in the air, but “A.D.” may wind up with a bust of his own one day considering his continued success (his last rushing title was last season, in fact).

The Legend Continues

Living legends are definitely a sight to see, and it’s a good idea to claim your seat if one of these guys rolls into town. There is no telling the future, but it’s a safe bet that these three players have already secured their places in the history books.

If you’re looking to stock up on Brady, Watt, or Peterson gear, head to Fanatics.com. They’ve got you covered so you can be covered – in the best football gear, that is.