Tom Brady is now 45 years old, yet he is still playing at the top level of American Football. And he’s not alone when it comes to NFL players who continued playing after they hit 40, which shows that football is a sport where the best players can continue to have success for a lot longer than in some other elite sports.
Brady is an example of a player who can totally transform a team’s NFL odds when they sign. A team with Brady on its roster is bound to do well.
Here’s a list of 5 NFL stars who played into their 40s.
Let’s start with the most exceptional tale of a player who is still playing in the big league well into his fifth decade: Tom Brady.
After playing for 22 seasons, having started 363 games, Brady looked like he was ready to call time on his illustrious career, and announced his retirement in February 2022. However, just 40 days later, he was back.
Brady tweeted: “These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business LFG.”
Brady continues to play in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and who knows when he will retire. He is showing that he still has plenty to offer, even though he may not be at the level he reached a few years ago.
For anyone to play at the top level for as long as Brady has, is truly impressive. He has admitted playing on through injuries at times, and he may be reaching for the pain relief spray to get through one more season of hard, physical football.
Whenever you look at a list of NFL stars who kept playing into their 40s, you’ll see the name George Blanda cropping up time and time again.
He was exclusively used as a kicker when he was in his older years, but he was still playing as a quarterback at the age of 43, when he led the Oakland Raiders to the second ever Superbowl.
Blanda is an absolute legend of the NFL. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981 (the first year he was eligible), in recognition of his incredible performances and his service to the game over an extended period of time.
He holds a myriad of football records, including most seasons played (26) and oldest player in an NFL game (48 years, 109 days).
Darrell Green managed seven Pro Bowls in his 20-year stint playing as a cornerback for the Washington Redskins.
Green was an interesting talent. He didn’t have a huge frame, but was incredibly quick. In fact, he posted the fastest 40-yard dash in NFL history.
Among the many NFL records held by Green are most games by a defensive player (295) and most consecutive seasons with an interception (19).
He remained in great shape even after his retirement, and is rumoured to have run the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds when he turned 50! It seems his nickname of the “Ageless Wonder” is definitely appropriate.
The Ohio State youngster started his professional football career in Canada, where he played one season for the Saskatchewan franchise in the CFL before being traded to the Browns. One season later, he headed to the Minnesota Vikings, where he found his football home.
Marshall played 19 seasons for the Vikings, and was known as one of the most dependable players of his time. He played in a defense that was dubbed the “Purple People Eaters”.
Despite his longevity in the game and the many records he holds as a defensive player, Marshall will perhaps be remembered by many football followers for the fact that he once ran the wrong way. After recovering a fumble, he ran nearly 70 yards into his own team’s end zone! To his credit, he quickly recovered from this embarrassment and went on to help his team win the game.
Jerry Rice was an icon of the 49ers offense that took them to three Super Bowl titles in just seven years from 1988 to 1994. He also managed 13 Pro Bowls and won the MVP trophy at Super Bowl XXIII.
It’s fair to say that he is still one of the greats, and continued to offer plenty until he retired at age 42. The list of NFL records that he still holds is certainly a long one, and when the NFL released a TV series in 2010 ranking the top 100 players of all time, they put Rice at number one.
We’ll leave you to debate whether, 12 years later, he is still the best of all time (some would argue that title now belongs to Tom Brady), but Rice was certainly one of the very best to have played into his 40s.
Unitas is the “youngster” of this club, as he retired at the age of 40.
His career got off to a bumpy start: after being drafted by the Steelers in 1955, he was cut before the start of the season and he had to find a job working in construction while playing semi-professional football.
He had to borrow money to make the trip to Baltimore to try out for the Colts in 1956. The rest, as they say, is history. He made the team and stayed with them for 18 seasons.
He would go on to play the Pro Bowl 10 times, and won three NFL titles as well as three MVP awards. He has been in the Hall of Fame for over 40 years now.
With modern advances in training methods, nutrition, and even protective equipment, there is every chance that the 40+ club will gain several new members over the coming decades.