Aug 2, 2014; Canton, OH, USA; Willie Lanier waves to the crowd at the TimkenSteel Grand Parade on Cleveland Avenue in advance of the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1. Willie Lanier
Lanier tops the list, and it was no easy feat. Lanier is perhaps the greatest middle linebacker of all-time, despite many who will point to Ray Lewis and Dick Butkus. Lanier did not play with the flash of either man, but certainly has the credentials and hardware to back up his case. On a loaded 1969 Chiefs defense with five Hall of Famers (and Robinson ought to be the sixth), Lanier stood alone as the leader and top player.
Lanier began his career with the Chiefs in 1967 after being drafted out of Morgan State in the second round. Lanier won the middle linebacker job over Jim Lynch, making him the first black man to ever play the position in the AFL or NFL. Lanier would prove to be an exceptional choice, earning eight consecutive All-Pro selections from 1968-75. Lanier also was a two-time All-AFL selection and made the Pro Bowl six times.
In his illustrious career, Lanier showed off great hands with 27 interceptions. He is a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team and won the NFL Man of the Year award in 1972. Lanier only missed four games throughout his career, which ultimately ended in 1977. Lanier was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and of course, is in the Chiefs Hall of Fame with his No. 63 retired.