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List of Famous Football Defensive Backs

Updated June 14, 2019 12.0k views1.0k items

List of the most famous (American) football defensive backs in the history of the sport, listed by popularity with photos of the players when available. There have been many legendary defensive backs in the NFL and NCAA, and you'll find all of them on this list below. Some of these men are considered to be the best defensive backs to ever play the game, and if you're looking for a specific football player you can look for them by using the "search" function on this list. These amazing defensive backs may currently be active while others have been retired for quite sometime. This list of the top defensive backs in American football includes all the greats from both the NFL and college football.

List includes Joe Biden, Ronnie Lott, more.

This list answers the questions, "Who is the greatest defensive back of all time?" and "Who are the best defensive backs of all time?"
  • Sammy Baugh1

    Sammy Baugh

    Punter, Quarterback

    BirthplaceTemple, Texas, United States of America

    AgeDied at 94 (1914-2008)

    TeamsTCU Horned Frogs football, Washington Redskins, Columbus Red Birds

    Samuel Adrian Baugh (March 17, 1914 – December 17, 2008) was an American football player and...  more

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    #1338 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time#4 of 115 The Greatest Washington Redskins of All Time

  • Ronnie Lott2

    Ronnie Lott

    Cornerback, Safety

    BirthplaceAlbuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America


    TeamsUSC Trojans football, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs

    Ronald Mandel Lott (born May 8, 1959) is an American former professional football player who...  more

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    #2 of 104 The Best USC Trojans Players of All Time#66 of 173 The Best Oakland Raiders Of All Time

  • Charles Woodson3

    Charles Woodson

    Cornerback, Return specialist

    BirthplaceSebring, Ohio, United States of America


    TeamsMichigan Wolverines football, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers

    Charles Cameron Woodson (born October 7, 1976) is a former American football player. He played...  more

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    #5 of 83 The Best Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time#45 of 106 The Fastest NFL Players of All Time

  • Mel Blount4

    Mel Blount

    Cornerback, Defensive back

    BirthplaceVidalia, Georgia


    TeamsPittsburgh Steelers, Southern Jaguars football

    Melvin Cornell Blount (born April 10, 1948) is a former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback,...  more

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    #5 of 127 The Best Pittsburgh Steelers of All Time#1 of 35 The Best Pittsburgh Steelers Cornerbacks Of All Time

  • Rodney Harrison5

    Rodney Harrison

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceMarkham, Illinois


    TeamsNew England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Western Illinois Leathernecks football

    Rodney Scott Harrison (born December 15, 1971) is an American former professional football...  more

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    #11 of 55 The Best NFL Buys for the Money#11 of 120 The Best Chargers Players of All Time

  • Steve Atwater6

    Steve Atwater

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois


    TeamsDenver Broncos, New York Jets, Arkansas Razorbacks football

    Stephen Dennis Atwater (born October 28, 1966) is a former American football player who spent...  more

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    #2 of 322 People Who Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame#104 of 1,323 The Best Football Players Ever

  • Emlen Tunnell7

    Emlen Tunnell

    Return specialist, Safety

    BirthplaceBryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

    AgeDied at 50 (1925-1975)

    Emlen Lewis Tunnell (March 29, 1924 – July 23, 1975), sometimes known by the nickname "The...  more
  • Steve Van Buren8

    Steve Van Buren

    Running back, Safety

    BirthplaceLa Ceiba, Honduras

    AgeDied at 92 (1920-2012)

    TeamsLSU Tigers football

    Stephen Wood Van Buren (December 28, 1920 − August 23, 2012) was an American football halfback...  more

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    #34 of 146 The Best LSU Football Players of All Time#6 of 121 The Best Philadelphia Eagles of All Time

  • Jack Tatum9

    Jack Tatum

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceCherryville, North Carolina

    AgeDied at 62 (1948-2010)

    TeamsHouston Oilers, Oakland Raiders, Ohio State Buckeyes football

    John David Tatum (November 18, 1948 – July 27, 2010) was an American football safety who...  more

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    #16 of 80 The Best NFL Player Nicknames#233 of 329 The Most Obnoxious Athletes

  • Eugene Robinson10

    Eugene Robinson

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceHartford, Connecticut


    Eugene Keefe Robinson (born May 28, 1963) is a former professional American football player...  more

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    #105 of 286 The Best Green Bay Packers Of All Time#27 of 213 The Best Seattle Seahawks of All Time

  • Ty Law11

    Ty Law

    Cornerback, Safety

    BirthplaceAliquippa, Pennsylvania, United States of America


    TeamsDenver Broncos, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs

    Tajuan E. "Ty" Law (born February 10, 1974) is a former American football cornerback who...  more

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    #11 of 246 The Best New England Patriots Of All Time#27 of 86 The Best NFL Players From Pennsylvania

  • Ronde Barber12

    Ronde Barber

    Cornerback, Safety

    BirthplaceBlacksburg, Virginia, United States of America


    TeamsTampa Bay Buccaneers, Virginia Cavaliers football

    Jamael Orondé "Rondé" Barber (born April 7, 1975) is a former American football defensive back...  more

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    #1 of 80 Twins in Sports#7 of 77 The Best Tampa Bay Buccaneers of All Time

  • Jim Thorpe13

    Jim Thorpe

    Running back, Punter

    BirthplaceOklahoma, United States of America

    AgeDied at 65 (1888-1953)

    TeamsCleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Canton Bulldogs, Arizona Cardinals, Rock Island Independents

    James Francis Thorpe (May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete and Olympic...  more

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    The Life And Legacy Of Jim Thorpe#14 of 206 The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time

  • Cortland Finnegan14

    Cortland Finnegan

    Cornerback, Defensive back

    BirthplaceDaytona Beach, Florida


    TeamsSamford Bulldogs, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans

    Cortland Temujin Finnegan (born February 2, 1984) is a former American football cornerback. He...  more
  • Willie Wood15

    Willie Wood

    Return specialist, Safety

    BirthplaceWashington, D.C., United States of America


    William Vernell Wood Sr. (born December 23, 1936) is a former American football safety for the...  more
  • Paul Krause16

    Paul Krause

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceFlint, Michigan, United States of America


    TeamsWashington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings

    Paul James Krause (born February 19, 1942) is a former American football safety who played in...  more

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    #5 of 134 The Best Minnesota Vikings Of All Time#19 of 61 The Best NFL Players From Michigan

  • Tom Landry17

    Tom Landry

    Cornerback, Kickoff returner

    BirthplaceMission, Texas

    AgeDied at 76 (1924-2000)

    TeamsNew York Yankees, Texas Longhorns football, New York Giants

    Thomas Wade Landry (September 11, 1924 – February 12, 2000) was an American football player...  more

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    #7 of 61 The Best NFL Coaches of All Time#14 of 63 The Best NFL Head Coaches to Have a Beer With

  • George Atkinson18

    George Atkinson

    Cornerback, Safety

    BirthplaceSavannah, Georgia


    TeamsDenver Broncos, Oakland Raiders

    George "Butch" Henry Atkinson Jr. (born January 4, 1947) is a former professional American...  more
  • Darren Woodson19

    Darren Woodson

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplacePhoenix, Arizona


    Darren Ray Woodson (born April 25, 1969) is a former American football safety in the National...  more


    #12 of 139 The Best Dallas Cowboys Of All Time#2 of 37 The Best NFL Players From Arizona

  • Lawyer Milloy20

    Lawyer Milloy

    Strong Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceSt. Louis, Missouri, United States of America


    TeamsSeattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Washington Huskies football, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots

    Lawyer Marzell Milloy (born November 14, 1973) is an American former professional football...  more
  • Kenny Easley21

    Kenny Easley

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceChesapeake, Virginia


    TeamsSeattle Seahawks, UCLA Bruins football

    Kenneth Mason Easley Jr. (born January 15, 1959) is an American former professional football...  more
  • Danieal Manning22

    Danieal Manning

    Cornerback, Return specialist

    BirthplaceCorsicana, Texas


    TeamsHouston Texans, Chicago Bears

    Danieal LaCraig Manning (born August 9, 1982) is a former American football safety. He was...  more
  • Eric Berry23

    Eric Berry

    Cornerback, Safety

    BirthplaceFairburn, Georgia


    TeamsTennessee Volunteers football, Kansas City Chiefs

    Eric Berry (born December 29, 1988) is an American football safety who is currently a free...  more

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    #3 of 48 The Best University of Tennessee Football Players Ever#6 of 60 The Best NFL Players From Georgia

  • Mike Minter24

    Mike Minter

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceCleveland, Ohio, United States of America


    Michael Christopher Minter (born January 15, 1974) is an American football coach, retired...  more
  • Jake Scott25

    Jake Scott

    Safety, Defensive back

    BirthplaceGreenwood, South Carolina, United States of America


    Jacob E. "Jake" Scott III (born July 20, 1945) is a former American football free safety and...  more