Numbers have a certain magic, especially to sports fans. They have special meaning – whether it be a jersey number that will always be associated with a particular athlete (like Michael Jordan’s number 23), or a seemingly unbreakable milestone (like Dan Marino’s 5,084 yard-season, which was finally broken by Drew Brees after 27 years). Some numbers have a power without fans even realizing it.
While everyone will watch with rapt attention the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, few will still be watching when pick number 199 rolls around. But looking back at NFL history, not just one but TWO of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league were selected with the 199th pick in the draft.
By now, most NFL fans know that Tom Brady was a late round steal by the New England Patriots, taken with the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He has gone on to play in 5 Super Bowls, winning three and putting together a Hall-of-Fame career. At age 34, he’s far from done, and will go down as one of the greatest to ever play his position.
Forty-four years before Brady got the call, Bart Starr was also selected with the 199th pick in the 1956 NFL Draft. Starr would lead the Green Bay Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls, under the direction of the coach who eventually gave his name to the Super Bowl trophy, Vince Lombardi.
And if Brady’s sixth round pick wasn’t insulting enough in retrospect, Starr was the 199th pick in a draft with far fewer teams – there were only 12 NFL teams back then. So Starr’s 199th pick was in the 17th round. There are only 7 rounds in the NFL Draft now, but back then there were 30.
Starr is a Hall of Famer already, having not only won the first two Super Bowls, but also the first two Super Bowl MVP awards. He won a total of 5 NFL Championships (the Super Bowl started in 1967, well into Starr’s career). He passed for over 24,000 yards in an era when the game was very different from the way it is today. He played quarterback for the Packers from 1956 to 1971, and then was their head coach from 1975 to 1983, putting together an amazing long-term relationship with the city of Green Bay.
Brady also has two Super Bowl MVP awards, and has 3 Super Bowl trophies under his belt. He currently stands at 39,979 passing yards and in the first game of the 2012 season, with 21 passing yards he will become the 14th player in NFL history to break the 40,000 yard mark. This season, he will likely pass three Hall of Famers and NFL legends in passing yardage – Johnny Unitas (40,239), Joe Montana (40,551) and Dan Fouts (43,040).
And as an interesting footnote to NFL history – the year Starr was taken, the first overall pick was Gary Glick, a quarterback from Colorado State who was converted to safety by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He only started 9 games in his seven year career. The year Brady was drafted, the first overall pick was Courtney Brown, a defensive end who was selected by the Browns and finished his career five years later in Denver with 156 career tackles.
So don’t forget to keep an eye on those later rounds this week. There are always a few gems hidden later in the draft, including two of the greatest men to ever play quarterback in the NFL.