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List of Famous Football Punt Returners

Updated June 14, 2019 6.9k views54 items

List of the most famous (American) football punt returners in the history of the sport, listed by popularity with photos of the players when available. There have been many legendary punt returners 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 punt returners 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 punt returners may currently be active while others have been retired for quite sometime. This list of the top punt returners in American football includes all the greats from both the NFL and college football.

List items range from Deion Sanders to Desmond Howard.

This list answers the questions, "Who is the greatest punt returner of all time?" and "Who are the best punt returners of all time?"
  • Deion Sanders1

    Deion Sanders

    Cornerback, Punt returner

    BirthplaceFort Myers, Florida, United States of America


    TeamsFlorida State Seminoles baseball, Washington Redskins, San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons

    Deion Luwynn Sanders Sr. (; born August 9, 1967), nicknamed "Prime Time" and "Neon Deion", is...  more

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    #997 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time#132 of 149 The Greatest New York Yankees Of All Time

  • Desmond Howard2

    Desmond Howard

    Return specialist, Punt returner

    BirthplaceCleveland, Ohio, USA


    TeamsMichigan Wolverines football, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers

    Desmond Kevin Howard (born May 15, 1970) is an American former professional football player in...  more

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    #780 of 1,323 The Best Football Players Ever#25 of 83 The Best Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time

  • Billy Johnson3

    Billy Johnson

    Return specialist, Punt returner

    BirthplaceBoothwyn, Pennsylvania


    TeamsHouston Oilers, Washington Redskins, Montreal Alouettes, Atlanta Falcons

    William Arthur Johnson (born January 27, 1952), better known as Billy "White Shoes" Johnson,...  more

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    #76 of 214 The Best Wide Receivers of All Time#171 of 322 People Who Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

  • Mel Gray4

    Mel Gray

    Running back, Return specialist

    BirthplaceWilliamsburg, Virginia


    This page refers to the Detroit Lions kick returner. For the St. Louis Cardinals wide...  more
  • Troy Brown5

    Troy Brown

    Cornerback, Return specialist

    BirthplaceBarnwell, South Carolina


    TeamsNew England Patriots, Marshall Thundering Herd football

    Troy Fitzgerald Brown (born July 2, 1971) is a former American football wide receiver in the...  more
  • Charley Trippi6

    Charley Trippi

    Running back, Return specialist

    BirthplacePittston, Pennsylvania


    Charles Louis Trippi (born December 14, 1921) is a former American football player. He played...  more

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    #43 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021#65 of 86 The Best NFL Players From Pennsylvania

  • Brian Mitchell7

    Brian Mitchell

    Running back, Return specialist

    BirthplaceFort Polk, Louisiana, United States of America


    TeamsLouisiana Ragin' Cajuns football, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants

    Brian Keith Mitchell (born August 18, 1968) is a former American football running back and...  more

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    #22 of 115 The Greatest Washington Redskins of All Time#31 of 60 The Best NFL Players From Louisiana

  • Darius Reynaud8

    Darius Reynaud

    Running back, Return specialist

    BirthplaceLuling, Louisiana


    TeamsNew York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings

    Darius Reynaud (born December 29, 1984) is a former American football running back and return...  more
  • Eddie Royal9

    Eddie Royal

    Return specialist, Flanker



    TeamsDenver Broncos, Virginia Tech Hokies football, San Diego Chargers

    William Edward "Eddie" Royal (born May 21, 1986) is a former American football wide receiver...  more

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    #14 of 42 The Best Los Angeles Chargers Wide Receivers of All Time#31 of 46 The Best Chicago Bears Wide Receivers of All Time

  • Steve Breaston10

    Steve Breaston

    Wide receiver

    BirthplaceNorth Braddock, Pennsylvania, United States of America


    TeamsMichigan Wolverines football, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs

    Steven William Breaston (born August 20, 1983) is a former American football wide receiver....  more
  • Brian Westbrook11

    Brian Westbrook

    Running back, Punt returner

    BirthplaceFort Washington, Maryland, United States of America


    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Villanova Wildcats football

    Brian Collins Westbrook (born September 2, 1979) is a former American football running back...  more

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    #67 of 206 The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time#1 of 21 The Best Philadelphia Eagles Running Backs of All Time

  • Justin Forsett12

    Justin Forsett

    Running back, Punt returner

    BirthplaceLakeland, Florida


    TeamsSeattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Justin Forsett (born October 14, 1985) is a former American football running back. He played...  more
  • Cory Ross13

    Cory Ross

    Running back, Return specialist

    BirthplaceDenver, Colorado


    Cory Ross (born September 22, 1982) is a former American football, Canadian football and...  more
  • Mercury Hayes14

    Mercury Hayes

    Return specialist, Punt returner

    BirthplaceHouston, Texas


    Mercury Wayne Hayes (born January 1, 1973) is a former professional American football and...  more
  • Bruce Harper15

    Bruce Harper

    Running back, Punt returner

    BirthplaceEnglewood, New Jersey


    Bruce Harper (born June 20, 1955) is a retired American football running back and kick...  more
  • Clarence Verdin16

    Clarence Verdin

    Return specialist, Punt returner

    BirthplaceHouma, Louisiana


    Clarence Verdin (born June 14, 1963) is a former American football wide receiver and kick...  more
  • Chris Carr17

    Chris Carr

    Cornerback, Kickoff returner

    BirthplaceReno, Nevada


    TeamsNew Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers

    Charles Christopher "Chris" Carr (born April 30, 1983) is a former American football...  more
  • Marquise Walker18

    Marquise Walker

    Punt returner, Wide receiver

    BirthplaceSyracuse, New York


    Marquise Walker (born December 11, 1978) is a former professional American football wide...  more
  • B. J. Sams19

    B. J. Sams

    Running back, Cornerback

    BirthplaceNew Orleans, Louisiana


    Bradley Jamar "B. J." Sams (born October 29, 1980 is a former American football player who was...  more
  • 20

    Mike Nelms

    Return specialist, Punt returner

    BirthplaceFort Worth, Texas


    Michael Craig Nelms (born April 8, 1955) is a former American football defensive back and kick...  more
  • Chuck Ortmann21

    Chuck Ortmann

    Halfback, Punt returner

    BirthplaceMilwaukee, Wisconsin


    Charles H. Ortmann (June 1, 1929 – March 7, 2018) was an American football player who played...  more
  • Jon Arnett22

    Jon Arnett

    Running back, Return specialist

    BirthplaceLos Angeles, California


    Jon Dwane "Jaguar Jon" Arnett (born April 20, 1935 - January 16, 2021) was a former American...  more
  • Thom Darden23

    Thom Darden

    Cornerback, Punt returner

    BirthplaceSandusky, Ohio


    Thomas Vincent Darden (born August 28, 1950) is a former American football safety and punt...  more
  • Bob Grim24

    Bob Grim

    Running back, Punt returner

    BirthplaceOakland, California


    Robert Lee Grim (born May 8, 1945) is a former American football player in the National...  more
  • 25

    Rollie Miles

    Running back, Punt returner

    BirthplaceWashington, D.C.

    AgeDec. at 68 (1927-1995)

    Elmer Roland "Rollie" Miles (February 16, 1927 - August 17, 1995) was a professional football...  more