So last year, we did a countdown of the top five Hurricanes at each position, though we only ranked them based off their accomplishments while at Miami. This summer, we’re again doing a countdown of top five Hurricanes at each position, though this time we’re judging them off their accomplishments in the NFL.
Today, we’re looking at the best from the heart of every defense, the linebackers.
One of the most underrated members of the Cowboys dynasty in the 1990’s, Smith was a constant producer for coaches Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. As a rookie in 1993, Smith found his way into the starting lineup, and helped Dallas beat the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, and was named to the All-Rookie team. In 1995, Smith again aided in the Cowboys path to a a championship, as they downed the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.
Smith is also the only professional football player to have won two national championships and two Super Bowls.
While he’s mostly known for destroying Tamarick Vanover of FSU in college, Barrow carved out an impressive 13-year career for the Oilers, Panthers, Giants, Redskins and Cowboys. Even though this is a pro countdown, let’s just see that Vanover hit one more time, shall we?
In 13 seasons, Barrow recorded 1,125 tackles and led the NFC with 150 tackles in 2003.
Morgan was the hardest player to leave off the top-five, and I hope he forgives me. A fan-favorite both at UM and then for the Panthers, Morgan was a throwback type of linebacker who would strike you at any second. If injuries didn’t serve as a roadblock, Morgan’s career would’ve been a lot longer too. He was apart of the 2003 Panthers team that appeared in the franchise’s first Super Bowl, where Morgan set a Super Bowl record with 18 total tackles. More recently, Morgan was hired by the Buffalo Bills as Director of Player Personnel.
The Bills are expected to hire Dan Morgan as a high-ranking member of their front office, sources say. The former All-Pro Panthers LB is set to join longtime Panthers exec Brandon Beane in Buffalo. Fills the hole created when Brian Gaine left to become Texans GM.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 4, 2018
5. Jon Beason
To put Beason ahead of Morgan on this list was controversial, so let the debating begin. Beason, who retired in 2016, was an absolute stud for the Panthers and Giants, just like he was for the Canes in college. From 2007 to 2013, Beason became one of the greatest players in Carolina history.
Then for three seasons, from 2013 to 2015, Beason was the same productive workhorse when he came to New York.
In total, Beason was a three-time Pro Bowler and twice was named All-Pro.
4. Jonathan Vilma
Playing for both the Jets and Saints during a nine-year NFL career, Vilma was just as ferocious in the pros as he was at UM. More than anything, Vilma was a leader, and a big reason why New Orleans was able to take the next step in winning the Super Bowl in 2009.
The NFL Rookie of the Year in 2004, Vilma was also a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 2017.
3. Jessie Armstead
Armstead is a player whose known for demolishing receivers and running backs while he was at Miami, though his pro career is rarely talked about. Playing for the Giants and Redskins, Armstead was as steady and productive as they come.
In 11 full seasons, Armstead was a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, and along with Michael Strahan, helped the Giants reach the Super Bowl in 2000. Armstead is also apart of the New York Giants Ring of Honor, and is considered one of the greatest players in franchise history.
2. Ted Hendricks
There was much debate to putting Hendricks in this, mainly because most people think of him as a defensive lineman instead of a linebacker. Though he was drafted as a DL, Baltimore coach Don Shula moved Hendricks to LB during his rookie season. As apart of the Colts, Packers and of course, the Raiders, the “Mad Stork” put together a career that ultimately landed him in the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Hendricks was an eight-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro, was apart of the NFL’s 75th All-Time Anniversary team, and was named to both the NFL 1970’s and 1980’s all-decade team. With the Colts and Raiders, Hendricks was also a four-time Super Bowl champion.
- Ray Lewis
Honestly, did this come as a surprise to anyone? Lewis is arguably the greatest linebacker in NFL history, and he’s a Miami Hurricane, which makes it so much better. Right after Jonathan Ogden, Lewis was the second draft choice in Ravens history, and was the king of Baltimore for 17-seasons. In 2000, Lewis was the leader of what many call the greatest defense in NFL history, a team that gave up the fewest points allowed in a 16-game schedule 165) on their way to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV, where Lewis was named MVP. In his final year in 2012, Lewis’ historic career came to an end in perfect fashion, capturing Super Bowl XLVII over the 49ers alongside fellow Hurricane Ed Reed.
Lewis’ stats speak for themself, and they’re absolutely jaw-dropping. 13-time Pro Bowler, seven-time first-team All-Pro, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and also a two-time Super Bowl champion. Above all else, Lewis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.