Familiar faces

Kyle Riviere
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

The sports world has been infected with "Mount Rushmore Fever." We have all been rendered helpless to the desire to rank the best of the best--the true masters of their respective crafts.

The epidemic all started with LeBron James last week when he said that it's his goal to one day have his face occupying the Mount Rushmore of NBA greats.

But he's not there yet. In his mind, those four coveted spots are currently taken by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robinson.

This instantly ignited a nationwide debate by others. Before you knew it, Mount Rushmores began popping up all over the country.

People began creating them for baseball, boxing, professional wrestling, movies, actors, "Sportscenter" commercials, "Seinfeld" episodes and fast food chains. There were even the sharp-witted that posed the brilliant question, "Is Mount Rushmore on the Mount Rushmore of national monuments?"

I fell back and watched the other sheep frolic, but whenever I saw NFL Mount Rushmores being erected on the horizon, I officially became part of the flock.

Doing one with football players is a little more of a challenge, because they're not as individualized as players from other sports.

With their faces being hidden inside helmets for most of the game, football players rarely reach that marketable superstardom that achieves them icon status like NBA players such as MJ, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

Also, football players are so much more dependent on their teammates. In basketball, a great player can put his team on his back and carry them to the promised land. In the NFL, it takes a total team effort to win a title.

With all of that said, my NFL Mount Rushmore would include: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Dick Butkus.

Montana and Rice were pretty much unanimous selections in all the lists I saw last week. Why not? They're no-brainers. They have seven Super Bowl rings between them.

"Joe Cool" is widely-regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time, has won four championships and has given us iconic moments like "The Catch" and the amazing game-winning drive against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

Rice is pretty much a unanimous pick as the greatest receiver of all time. He holds nearly all major NFL records for the position. And Along with his three Super Bowl rings, he made the Pro Bowl 13 times.

Outside of those two Hall of Famers, the debate was much more contentious. Many people had running backs on their lists. Three names that kept popping up were Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith.

No doubt, those three were great, but Jim Brown was the greatest.

I guess he's getting lost in the shuffle because of how long ago he played but to me, the argument isn't even close.

Brown put up big numbers and set so many records that took decades to break despite only playing nine seasons--which were only made up of 12 and 14-game schedules.

He won the rushing title in eight of his nine years in the league and made the Pro Bowl every single season he played.

Along the way, he won four NFL MVP Awards and led the Browns to a title in 1964. Last but not least, he is the only player in NFL history to retire with a career average of over 100 rushing yards per game.

Continuing with the old school flair, I felt that I had to go defense with one of my picks and to me, when I think "D," Dick Butkus is the first person that comes to mind.

Lawrence Taylor may have revolutionized the flashy modern 3-4 outside linebacker position that rushed the passer, but Butkus was that hard-nosed middle backer that was the backbone of the defense--like Patrick Willis or Luke Kuechly of today.

He was the meat and potatoes of the defensive unit, the guy that did all the dirty work and took charging offensive lineman head on. And after he got through them, he was tackling your running back into the third row.

Besides making the Pro Bowl in eight of his nine years and being named Defensive Player of the Year twice, he was a notoriously mean, scary and intimidating player that was always the baddest, most-feared man on the field.