A local radio station had a show recently on the top four Baltimore sports people of all time. To me, the top three were easy: Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken. The fourth could be a slew of people, such as Frank Robinson, Ray Lewis or even someone outside the main sports, such as a Michael Phelps.
This led me to think of whom I'd pick as my top Baltimore football players of all time. For purposes of time and space, I'm looking at the top five list. Five is a decent number, because the first two might be pretty easy to pick, but numbers 3-5 will be extremely debateable. So here's my top five:
1. Johnny Unitas: This is an easy number one and I doubt anyone would ever even try to debate this choice, as Unitas is arguably one of the greatest QB's to ever play the game. He certainly is the one that modernized it and was the measuring stick of all other QB's for decades.
2. Ray Lewis: I'm picking Ray as number two, as he is also one of the greatest middle linebackers to ever play the game and is currently the measuring stick for his generation of players. His jersey is by far the most popular one worn by fans here and is a certain first ballot Hall of Famer when he retires. After 12 years in the league, there is still not another MLB I'd rather have on my team than Ray, including the Chicago Bears' Brian Uhrlacher.
(Wow, it gets hard now!)
3. John Mackey: At 225 pounds, he was almost as big as the lineman next to him and bigger than most of the defensive players trying to tackle him. He revolutionized the tight end position from a pure blocker to a key pass catching option. Mackey is slowly dying from Alzheimer's Disease related dementia. He is a mere replica of the bulldozing tight end that terrorized defensive secondaries of the mid-sixties to early seventies.
4. Artie Donovan: Yes, I'm picking Fatso! He might not be well known to the younger generation, but the old-timers and true Baltimore sports fans know him as one tough SOB. He's played defensive tackle with a broken leg and was a huge part of the 1958-59 Baltimore Colts NFL Championship teams. He's also one of the funniest guys around and is David Letterman's #1 returning guest on his show.
5. Jonathon Ogden: JO was the Baltimore Ravens very first draft pick in 1996 (Ray Lewis was picked in the same year, but later in the first round), their first season in Baltimore after relocating from Cleveland. Since then, he has been a fixture on the left side of the offensive line and perrennial Pro-Bowler. While he is still contemplating retirement as of this posting, there is no contemplating that he will shortly be in Canton, Ohio shortly after retiring.
The next five players would take all day and would continue to spur debate between the current Ravens and the old Baltimore Colts. However, these five should raise enough comments to last awhile. Let me know your top five and why, and we can trade comments on what should be great dialogue on a fun subject.