The Mount Rushmore of NFL players

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
8:00
AM ET
The other day, retiring Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez gave his Mount Rushmore of elite quarterbacks in naming Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

Then LeBron James followed with the same in terms of NBA greats: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson, with James pushing someone out the group in the future.

It got us to thinking about the NFL all-time Mount Rushmore of players. Here's mine, strictly based on those I got to watch on television over the years:

Walter Payton: I grew up watching the Chicago Bears running back and used to wash his car at Woodfield Lexus car dealership, so my opinion might be a little biased. Still, no one can deny what "Sweetness" accomplished over his illustrious career. The Hall of Famer was the league's all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards until Emmitt Smith (18,355) set a new standard. Payton's breathtaking goal-line leaps will never been duplicated, in my opinion.

Jerry Rice: He was so silky smooth with his routes and caught passes with ease, particularly during his days with the San Francisco 49ers. The Hall of Famer compiled 4,247 yards after the catch over the course of his career. As good as Rice was, Calvin Johnson will surpass him some day. Johnson already overtook Rice for the most receiving yards in a single season (1,964).

Joe Montana: This could be a toss-up between Montana, John Elway, Manning and Brady. I give Montana the nod because he won four Super Bowls. His touchdown hookup with Dwight Clark in the NFC Championship Game win over the Dallas Cowboys for "The Catch" is the play I remembered most as a kid. Montana had 100 wins and just 39 losses with the 49ers. I won't hold playing at Notre Dame against him.

Reggie White: I debated this one between White and Deion Sanders, but it's hard to ignore how dominating White was as a pass-rusher. His 198 career sacks are second all-time behind Bruce Smith (200). Not to mention White was just a likeable guy and a guy you wanted leading your locker room. You can't help but love the nickname "Minister of Defense" since he became an ordained minister at the age of 17.

Feel free to debate these selections. Again, just my opinion based on what I saw.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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