Even though safeties are the last line of defense and their job is straightforward, the play of safeties has evolved a lot through the years. Schemes, nowadays, are more complex, and players in this position not only have to force turnovers and deliver punishment, but they are also responsible for preventing the big play. The role of a safety man is essential in football, as defensive back snaps are, without any doubt, do-or-die situations.
The names we have included in this list are the all-time best safeties who made their presence on the field felt every time they played. Let’s have a look at who made our list.
5. Emlen Tunnel
When we talk about football players from the 50s, Emlen Tunnel undoubtedly stands out. He played 14 seasons in the NFL and not only was he a great hitter and left safety, but he also owned proper technique on his tackles, was very intelligent and was always in a position to defend a pass.
In terms of firsts, Emlen Tunnel has a few. He was the first African American to be part of the New York Giants, and also the first to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
From 1959 to 1961 he also played for the Green Bay Packers. He played for NFL championship teams in both 1956 and 1961. When he retired as a player, Tunnel, or “The Gremlin” as he was called, held NFL career records for interception return yards (1,282), interceptions (79), punt return yards (2,209), and punt returns (258). He was named a first-team All-Pro six times and participated in 9 Pro Bowls.
4. Brian Dawkins
Playing college football at Clemson, Brian Dawkins was later on drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and entered the NFL. He spent 13 seasons in that team, but in his last three seasons, he had a change of hearts and played for the Denver Broncos.
Brian had great range, and he forced a huge number of fumbles during his career. He was considered to be the leader of the Eagles' defence, and not for nothing he is now regarded as one of the best safeties of all time.
Brian was named first-team All-Pro five times and was named to nine Pro Bowls. At the end of his career, he had 26 sacks, 37 picks, and 36 forced fumbles, 1,131 tackles and 47.5 run/pass stuffs. Last year-2018, he also entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In addition to the fact that he was an excellent player, it turned out that he was also an excellent executive of football operations for player development, as that was his position with the Eagles from 2016 to 2018. He was with the team when they won Super Bowl LII in 2017.
3. Ronnie Lott
Lott, as all professional football players started his career in the university playing for the University of Southern California. He was so good that he was honored as a consensus All-American, and in 1981 entered the NFL. At first, he played a left corner, and he sure knew how to hit at that spot. Still, some scouts believed he could be better at safety, so in 1985 he moved permanently to this position
Ronnie Lott might not have had the range Reed had but was still great at his position, and the numerous awards and honors prove that. Lot played for four different teams while he was in the NFL -Los Angeles Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, and Kansas City Chiefs.
For his fourteen seasons in the NFL, Ronnie Lott recorded many sacks and interceptions, returned many yards and touchdowns, and won many hearts. The American football star was also named All-NFC six times, All-Pro eight times, and All-AFC once. With his sharp mind, and awareness of how each game was developing, Ronnie Lott earned a reputation as one of the best and most effective open-field tacklers in the NFL's history. In 2000 he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. Jack Christiansen
John LeRoy Christiansen or Jack Christiansen is without any doubt one of the best safeties of all time, and especially during the 50s. In 1951 he started playing for the Detroit Lions in the NFL, and the following year he helped lead the team to an NFL championship. During that season he also set a record with his average of 21.5 yards per punt return.
If you are still not convinced that he deserves the second place, you should know that Christiansen is not only the first player in NFL history to make two punt touchdowns in one game, but he is also tied with Lem Barney for the most touchdowns in the history of Detroit- 11.
Christiansen is known for his great range and speed, and even though he began his football journey as a cornerback, he, later on, moved to safety and is now remembered as one of the best safeties to have ever existed.
1. Ed Reed
If you have watched a game in which this legend played, then you know that there isn’t a thing this man cannot do. He can hit, run, cover, and dominate the field. Reed’s professional football career started in college where he became a two-time consensus All-American.
In 2002 he entered the National Football League (NFL) and started playing for the Baltimore Ravens. Before signing with the Houston Texans and New York Jets in 2013, Ed Reed had already played eleven seasons for the Ravens.
When It comes to titles, honors, and awards, Ed Reed has his fair share. He was selected to nine total Pro Bowls, and in 2004 he even won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Aside from his numerous awards, Reed also likes to set records, and he is currently holding the NFL record for interception return yards, postseason interceptions, and the record for the longest interception return.
The football star is also very smart and is known for studying videos to memorize the tendencies of the other teams. This year, he became part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.