There are states throughout the country that we can refer to as “football states.” These states have produced some incredibly talented professional football players throughout history. One state that comes to mind is Tennessee.
Tennessee might not have the most big-name players out of all 50 states, but they have an impressive top five. Let’s rank the top five football players from Tennessee to see who the best of the best is.
5. Henry “Gizmo” Williams
The NFL is the superior pro football league, but some players from the CFL are also worth mentioning. One of which is Henry “Gizmo” Williams, who was born in Memphis. He was an electric 5’6 wide receiver, but he was known more for his returning. Gizmo won two Grey Cups throughout his career and was named as an all-star five times. Many of his records still stand today. His punt return yards are nearly 5,000 more than the next closest player at a staggering 11,257.
He also has the records for career kick return yards (7,354) and punt return yards in a single season (1,440). CFL players deserve some love here, but he only settles in at the 5 spot in my rankings.
4. Jalen Ramsey
Jalen Ramsey is the only current player on the list, but he still deserves a mention. He’s been a lockdown corner since he debuted in 2016. The 29-year-old has six Pro Bowls and three All-Pro First Team selections.
He helped the Rams win the Super Bowl in 2021 and has 22 career interceptions, with six forced fumbles. The Smyrna-born cornerback still has plenty of time to add to his already impressive resume.
In fact, he’s on a Miami Dolphins team that has Super Bowl aspirations. If you want to back this hometown here just make sure you know all the gambling laws in Tennessee if you plan to place some bets.
3. Jason Witten
It’s not all about who’s the most dominant player. Sometimes, it’s about who is the most consistent and reliable. When it comes to longevity, Jason Witten is one of the NFL’s best, regardless of their birthplace.
Speaking of which, Witten was born in Elizabethton. He played 271 games in the NFL, more than any other player from Tennessee. Witten was named an All-Pro twice and a Pro Bowler 11 times.
Jason Witten made the decision to turn down NFL and college jobs three years ago to coach his kids at Argyle Liberty Christian.— Lia Assimakopoulos (@Lassimak) November 30, 2023
After going 2-8 in his first year, he’s won 23 of his last 25 and, alongside his sons, led the program back to state.
2. Patrick Willis
Patrick Willis was one of the league’s most intimidating players during his career. The Bruceton-born linebacker played 112 games with the 49ers over eight years. He didn’t waste any time making an impact either, leading the NFL in solo and combined tackles with 136 and 174, respectively, in his rookie season.
Willis was a First Team All-Pro five times and made the Pro Bowl in all but one season of his career. He racked up 950 tackles, 20.5 sacks, eight interceptions, and 16 forced fumbles with San Francisco.
1. Reggie White
#90 T.J. Watt joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White as the only players with 90.0+ sacks over their first 100 career NFL games since individual sacks were first tracked in 1982! #YinzFact#HereWeGopic.twitter.com/y36EwDn5xS— YinzChat (@YinzChat) November 28, 2023
If you’re going to be the best football player in Tennessee, you must be good with nicknames. That’s exactly what Reggie White was. Not only was he credited with coming up with Henry Williams’ nickname “Gizmo,” but he was also called “The Minister of Defense.”
White was born in Chattanooga and destroyed opposing offenses for 15 years in the NFL. He was a Pro Bowler for 13 of those seasons and all All-Pro First Teamer in eight.
The defensive end had the NFL sack record with 198 when he retired, and also forced 33 fumbles, and had 1,111 combined tackles.