Records are made to be broken, especially in the NFL. Those high-water marks are eyed by the sport’s best, who aim to surpass them. Some of these records, however, are so magnificent that topping them is essentially out of the question. These three NFL records are likely to stand the test of time, even as others fall.
A Ball-Hawking Night Train
Born in 1928 and abandoned as an infant, Dick “Night Train” Lane walked into the head offices of the Los Angeles Rams in the ’50s and asked for a tryout as a wide receiver. The Rams, who already had that position filled, instead made him a defensive back. And they were not disappointed. During his rookie season in 1952, he made history by capturing an astounding 14 picks (a feat even more amazing in context, as the NFL season then only included 12 games).
In the intervening years, his record remained untouched. This happened despite the NFL season expanding to 14 games in the ’60s and 16 games in 1978. The runners-up on the most picks – with 13 interceptions in a season – are Dan Sandifer in 1948, Spec Sanders in 1950, and Lester Hayes in 1980. Antonio Cromartie (currently an unsigned free agent) is the only “modern” player anywhere near that mark; he’s secured 10 interceptions while playing for the Chargers in 2007. The chances of anyone topping Lane’s record? Pretty low.
Reed Runs ’Em Back
Picking off a pass is one thing; running it back is another. And not every defender makes it very far. But some take it yards and yards in the other direction – and even take it to the house. The longest interception return in NFL history belongs to Ed Reed, longtime Baltimore Raven, who rumbled 107 yards for a score after picking off Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb in the end zone in 2008.
Ironically, the record he broke to achieve this feat was his own, a 106-yard mark set in 2004 during a Ravens-Browns match. The No. 3 spot (103 yards) is occupied by just a few players, including Vencie Glenn in 1987 and Louis Oliver in 1992. Although several players have returned balls 102 yards, the list drifts downward from that point. Reed’s record will probably never be broken. Picking off a pass from deep in the end zone and running it all the way to the other side? That’s insanely difficult to do.
Favre Goes the Distance
When Brett Favre was drafted by Atlanta in 1991, nobody suspected he would become one of the best-known quarterbacks in NFL history. Following his rookie year where he took just a few snaps with the Falcons, he landed in Wisconsin with the Green Bay Packers. From there, Favre developed into a record-breaking NFL quarterback. He suited up for decades, taking snaps as he helped propel the Packers to two Super Bowls and one Super Bowl victory (Super Bowl XXXI) after the 1996 NFL season.
While being in the league for a couple decades isn’t completely unheard of, Favre has clinched a highly unusual record. He is the NFL’s Iron Man, and he’s started in a mammoth 321 NFL games. During his streak, Favre started games with broken bones and other injuries; he even started while grieving his father’s recent death.
The runner-up for Favre’s record is former Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall, whose streak ran 289 games in the ’60s and ’70s. The likelihood of anyone surpassing Favre on the NFL’s consecutive start list is slim to none.
Records That Last
It’s difficult to break a long-standing professional sports records, but these NFL superstars have set solid records that may stand the test of time. Whether it’s a season of pickoffs, returning an interception all the way down the field, or never sitting out a game, these guys have set the mark pretty high.
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