Most of my “Team for the Ages” positions have had at least a little new-school feel to them. Defensive tackle, I went way old school.
Granted, I only was a living, breathing football fan to have seen one of my four here play live. But I’ve studied the game long enough — and talked to enough people from that era — to know just how good these guys of yesteryear were.
Junious "Buck" Buchanan was, at 6-foot-7 and 270-plus pounds, one of the best intimidators of his time. With his height he could swat down opposing passers’ passes with ease — a whopping 16 in a single season (1967). And with his exceptional speed (timed at 4.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash in college), he could make plays in the backfield or track down runners from behind.
Buchanan did so with an edge, too. And despite injuries, he played in 166 straight games, one of the longest of his time for a man his size. A truly unique defender in his time.
Thirteen years, 10 Pro Bowl bids, five first-team All-Pro team nominations and twice the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year winner. Greene unquestionably was the cornerstone of the “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970s. There was no way I was leaving him off my team. I’d be shocked if I saw he didn’t make most people’s “Ages” squads.
A few years ago, I chatted with former Patriots great Jon Morris — an offensive guard who was one of the best in their early franchise’s history — for a story, and without prompting he offered up this: “Bob Lilly. The best I ever faced or saw. Incredible. You couldn’t stop him for four quarters. Just too good.”
And that was good enough for me. Lilly was an 11-time Pro Bowler in his 14-year career, and he made even more All-Pro teams than Green did: an incredible seven. The man just wrecked teams back then, starting every game in his career. Amazing.
The kid of this group, Hampton no doubt was served well by playing next to a who’s who of amazing defensive linemen — among them Alan Page, William Perry, Richard Dent, Steve McMichael, the list goes on. But in my opinion, Hampton was the best of the bunch. He could play in just about any technique along the line and beat you with speed, strength or sheer tenacity.
Oh, and he was a big-game performer — eight sacks in his first nine playoff games. The “Danimal” was a rare beast.