Giants receiver Brandon Marshall recently dubbed new teammate Odell Beckham Jr. the “biggest superstar our game has ever seen in the history of football.” While there’s not much agreement on who deserves that title, most believe it’s not Beckham.
Superstardom can mean various things, and longevity of that status may not necessarily be one of the key ingredients. Former Raiders running back Bo Jackson became a two-sport superstar for a brief but brilliants stretch, before a freak hip injury derailed his career. Former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was indeed a true superstar, albeit for a matter of weeks.
Jets quarterback Joe Namath was arguably the original superstar, a crossover celebrity who brought football into the mainstream as effectively as anyone ever has. Following him, though eventually a pariah, was Bills running back O.J. Simpson, and others who have reached that status for portions of their careers were Bears running back Walter Payton, 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, 49ers receiver Jerry Rice, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, and even Bears defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry, who became a household name for a portion of 1985 based on his household-appliance alter ego, his size, and his periodic forays into the offensive backfield.
Other superstars included players like Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, carpetbagging cornerback Deion Sanders, Colts and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose excellence has been on display for 17 years — and who seems to be getting better as he gets closer to 40.
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