It is understandable that casual sports fans would expect that a professional athlete such as a National Football League player would be in top physical condition. Part of the job of a NFL player, of course, is to be able to make it through an entire contest without getting winded or gassed before the final whistle blows. Logic would suggest that a player who is carrying excess weight in the wrong places would probably be prone to injuries, particularly in a sport such as the NFL where guys are downed for an entire season all because they take one wrong step during a game or even during a practice session.
One might automatically assume upon seeing a list of the “fattest NFL players” that each of those athletes would have been letdowns or even busts for their teams. That has not, throughout history, always been the case. Some of the NFL players mentioned in this piece found ways to not only carry those extra pounds during a season, but use that weight as an advantage. In fact, a quarterback who is certainly headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame not long after he calls time on his playing days could, in some circles, be considered to be fat. One has to wonder what he will look like a decade or so after he retires, but that's another story for another day.
Then, of course, there are the cases of the fattest NFL players who never made it as mainstays on rosters. Some likely would never have evolved into All-Pro players even if they had managed to lay off of certain foods and remained in shape. Others, however, have to feel as if they let themselves down and wasted what should have been golden opportunities. The first name that may come to mind could be that belonging to a quarterback who was a first overall draft pick, a man who didn't do enough to be a good player and who failed his team and also himself.
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15 Aaron Gibson
It seems only fitting that a list of some of the fattest NFL players would begin with a player who carried a historic amount of weight. Offensive lineman Aaron Gibson is widely regarded as the heaviest player to ever feature for a NFL club, as it is believed that he weighed over 400 pounds during points of his career. Gibson did manage to hang around in the league for six seasons, but he never found a long-term home with a club. It was reported in 2012 that Gibson was playing in a “developmental league” and that he weighed around 500 pounds at that time.
14 Tom Dempsey
The first of two kickers to make the list, and knowledgeable football fans can probably guess the other kicker, Tom Dempsey spent a decade in pro football. Dempsey was bigger than the majority of placekickers in the NFL today, as he reportedly tipped the scales at over 250 pounds during his career. This is not to say that Dempsey did not carry his weight well. In fact, Dempsey famously booted a 63-yard field goal during a game in 1970. That was the longest field goal in the history of the NFL for decades until Matt Prater converted a kick from 64 yards out for the Denver Broncos in 2013.
13 Mike Williams
Some diehard football fans may see the name of Mike Williams and assume that one is discussing the wide receiver who has been labeled a bust. However, this Mike Williams is a former offensive lineman who was selected in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. Williams was a massive letdown with the Bills and things got so out of hand that he reportedly weighed over 400 pounds when he was out of the NFL for a couple of years. Williams did complete a successful comeback to the NFL, but he was not long for the league because of health problems. He is now seen as one of the biggest draft busts in history.
12 Jerome Bettis
Some NFL running backs would probably shy away from having a reputation for being one of the fattest players at this position. Jerome Bettis was not only an exception. Bettis seemed to embrace his physique and his nickname “The Bus.” It is easy to understand why Bettis approached life this way, as he would become one of the best running backs of his generation in part because opposing defenders could not bring the big man down. Bettis was rightfully voted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, an honor that he earned with his years of service to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
11 Craig Heyward
Craig Heyward was a throwback to NFL running games of old that included fullbacks delivering punishing blows to defensive players. Heyward, nicknamed “Iron Head” before NFL fans had ever heard of him, was also known to have problems controlling his weight for a time. Exactly how big Heyward got during his career has been debated, but it has been suggested that there was a point when he was well over 300 pounds. Heyward did well to slim down, however, and he enjoyed a lengthy career in pro football. His story does not have a happy ending, as Heyward passed away in 2006 following a battle with bone cancer. Heyward was just 39-years-old.
10 Nate Newton
Nate Newton has led a fascinating life. Newton won the Super Bowl on three occasions as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, and the guard was an active player in the NFL for over a decade in total. His impressive resume as a player also includes infamous arrests on marijuana charges and also Newton blowing up to over 400 pounds following his career. Newton dropped the excess weight with the help of a vertical gastrectomy, but he was in the headlines again in the fall of 2015 when his ex-wife stated that Newton was an abusive husband during their relationship. She also claimed that the Cowboys knew about the abuse, but did nothing to stop Newton.
9 William Perry
The man's nicknames were “The Refrigerator” and “The Fridge” all because of his massive size. You just had to know that William Perry was going to check in on a list of the fattest NFL players. Casual observers would not have known just by looking at him, but Perry was a gifted athlete who was able to use his size to his advantage on the football field. Who could forget seeing Perry line up in the backfield of the Chicago Bears as both a ball carrier and a blocker? Perry has since gone through his fair share of troubles following his playing days, including being hospitalized in January 2016 because of a leg infection.
8 Dan Wilkinson
Dan Wilkinson, known as “Big Daddy” during his days at Ohio State, was always a larger-than-life defensive tackle. Wilkinson was also a productive player early in his career, one who was worth the millions of dollars played to him. Time, injury setbacks and also a perceived lack of work ethic resulted in Wilkinson wearing out his welcome with multiple NFL clubs. Perhaps the funniest story of Wilkinson's career occurred in the spring of 2007 when the Miami Dolphins tried to trade him to the Denver Broncos. Wilkinson failed to report to either team, and the deal with canceled.
7 J'Marcus Webb
J'Marcus Webb could be seen as somewhat of a redemption story among some of the fattest NFL players in history. The offensive lineman who struggled while with the Chicago Bears and who had a reputation for not being in the best of shape once angered some Chicago fans when he uploaded a picture that showed him enjoying some Taco Bell. Webb being arrested on marijuana possession charges in 2013, charges that were eventually dropped, also did him few favors in the eyes of fans. To his credit, Webb found a home with the Oakland Raiders, where he has worked to repair his reputation.
6 Albert Haynesworth
Albert Haynesworth will, so long as the NFL exists, forever exist as a cautionary tale for why franchises are afraid of giving certain players massive free agency contracts. Haynesworth, who was always a big man when he was a dominant defensive tackle, enjoyed his money too much after the Washington Redskins signed him in 2009. Haynesworth was reportedly out of shape throughout his tenure with the Redskins, and even a stint with the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick was not enough to set Haynesworth straight. For what it's worth, Haynesworth still take shots at the Redskins via websites such as Twitter to this day. He seems like a great guy.
5 Ben Roethlisberger
Whether or not Ben Roethlisberger should be considered to be “fat” could be a matter of opinion. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick poked some fun at Roethlisberger's weight before the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers battled it out in September of 2015. While there have been multiple allegations of Roethlisberger gaining weight during offseasons, one cannot question that his size has been a benefit during his career. “Big Ben” is not just a nickname, after all, and Roethlisberger's frame and toughness have allowed him to evade pass-rushers since his rookie season.
4 Sebastian Janikowski
Sebastian Janikowski has been living the life since being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 2000 NFL Draft. Janikowski has made millions upon millions of dollars kicking a football for a living, and he has been able to do so while still maintaining a physique that one might expect to see had by an offensive lineman. Nobody can say that Janikowski, who even joked about his own fatness with his “Chewing the Fat” weekly blog, has been slowed down because of his weight. At 37-years-old and counting, Janikowski kept on kicking right through the end of the 2015 NFL season.
3 Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy could be in danger of eating himself out of the NFL if he is not careful. While Lacy had some bright moments during the 2015 NFL season, the running back of the Green Bay Packers was mostly a disappointment. Even Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy explained, when speaking to reporters following Green Bay's last loss of the campaign, that Lacy needed to shed some weight and be in better shape. Lacy has allegedly seen the writing on the wall, as it has been reported that he could be working with the P90X creator in order to lose weight. Best of luck to him.
2 JaMarcus Russell
JaMarcus Russell is probably the most famous example of a NFL player who wasted his talents and gifts all because he had an appetite for things other than winning. The Oakland Raiders spent the first overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft on Russell, and what the Raiders got in return was a quarterback who cared more about getting the most money possible and about enjoying what he could purchase with that money than he cared about winning football games. Russell ballooned after being drafted, so much so that he was allegedly close to 300 pounds at one point of his career. He is seen as arguably the biggest bust in the history of the NFL.
1 Jared Lorenzen
You have your pick of nicknames for the quarterback who was on the roster of the New York Giants. The Hefty Lefty. The Pillsbury Throwboy. J-Load. Lorenzen will always be remembered for being one of the fattest NFL quarterbacks many had ever seen, but do not think that Lorenzen was vilified by fans because of his size. In fact, there are pockets of Giants supporters who still fondly recall seeing Lorenzen taking the “Big Blue” name to a different level. Lorenzen never made it past being a backup in the NFL, but he continued playing in indoor football leagues. Good for him.
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