Every football fan knows that linebacker is not only one of the most critical positions in the game, but also one of the hardest. You need to be able to track down any ball-carrier, set the defensive scheme, read the offense, defend the pass, and so many other things, aside from running fast.

Many linebackers throughout NFL history can be called ‘great', and there is no specific formula that states what makes a linebacker a legend. However, there are some players who undoubtedly differ from all others with their achievements and excellent game, and today we have prepared an all-time list with all of them. 

6. Derrik Thomas 

Drafted fourth in the 1989 NFL draft, Derik Thomas quickly asserted himself as a dominant player and a great linebacker. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs and is considered to be one of the greatest pass rushers in history. 

Derrik Thomas has numerous honors and awards, including NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Man of the Year, NFL sacks leader. He was also made a record for most sacks in a single game at seven. 

Unfortunately, during the 1999–2000 NFL playoffs, Derrik was involved in a car accident, and he died a couple of days later.  Posthumously, the American football star was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

5. Mike Singletary

After playing for the Baylor University’s football team, Mike Singletary was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1981. He was known as “The Heart of the Defense”, and that alone is proof of how great of a player he was.

In his 12-year career, playing for the Bears, Singletary started 172 games- that is the second most in the history of the club. Focus and intensity are essential not only on the field but in life as well, and Mike surely knows that for he earned the nickname Samurai Mike during his professional career. 

Singletary was NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice in 1985 and 1988. He is also part of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

After his retirement, Mike pursued a career as a coach, and he got the head coaching position for the San Francisco 49ers. Later on, however, he was fired because the 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention. 

4. Jack Lambert

Never give up, no matter what other people tell you… that’s what we can learn from Jack Lambert. He started his NFL career playing linebacker for the Steelers, but many scouts and pro football coaches claimed that he is too small for that position, as he had played quarterback before. 

However, Lambert proved them all wrong and not only did he won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award but he was also the starting middle linebacker of the team for eleven seasons. He has several other awards and honors, such as ‘the toughest football player of all time’, “the 8th Most Feared Tackler”, and more.

In 1990 Jack Lambert entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was recognized as “the premier linebacker of his era”. Nowadays, he is a baseball and basketball children coach and a volunteer deputy wildlife officer. 

3. Ray Lewis 

You just cannot dislike Ray Lewis and his signature squirrel-dance. Don't get confused, though, Lewis has a great sense of humor, and excellent dance moves, but he is a beast when it comes to football. He started his career in college when he played for the University of Miami and earned All-America honors- and honor given to the best college football players. 

In 1996 Lewis was drafted by the Ravens and started playing as a middle linebacker in the NFL. He played at this position his entire career and retired in 2012. Nowadays, he is considered to be the greatest Baltimore Raven, and one of the best middle linebackers of all time.

In terms of awards and career highlights, Ray Lewis has more than enough. He is two times Super Baw champion, Super Bowl MVP, two times First-team All-American, two times NFL Defensive Player of Year, seven times First-team All-Pro, and a lot more. In February 2018, he also entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

2. Richard Marvin Butkus / Dick Butkus/ 

Dick Butkus was the linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1973. If you think that for eight years he couldn't have achieved that much, you are terribly wrong. For the nine seasons he was at NFL, Butkus was named a first-team All-Pro whole SIX times. The American football star was invited to eight Pro Bowls and was also recognized as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.

His career started in high school, but titles and awards started appearing as soon as he entered college- college football's Lineman of the Year, most valuable player in the Big Ten Conference, and more. 

Being in the Hall of Fame, no matter which one, surely says a lot for you. Well, Richard Marvin Butkus has entered not one but two different Hall of Fames- Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, and College Football Hall of Fame in 1983, so he definitely deserves number 2 in our list. 

1. Lawrence Taylor

L.T. was a linebacker for the New York Giants throughout his whole football career. That, however, does not mean that the American star had difficulties in winning recognition as the greatest defensive player in league history. 

Taylor is loved and appreciated by everyone- coaches, fans, former players, media members, and so on. And can we blame them?!  He has three AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, and in 1983 he became the first NFL player to be First-Team All-Pro at two positions, inside and outside linebacker. 

And, if you are not impressed by now, keep in mind that Lawrence Tylor is one of the two defensive players who have ever won the NFL MVP award.