Being a Super Bowl champion is something every professional football player dreams of. The recognition that's associated with being a part of a team that won the big game resonates forever.
Though many players have competed in the Super Bowl over the years, it's astonishing how many great players never raised The Lombardi Trophy. Many of the players who've never won a championship have set records that have lasted for over 40 years and have gone on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It's almost unfair for one game to determine who is the best team in their league. In baseball, hockey and basketball there are multiple rounds of playoffs often consisting of a best of seven series. In football, the pivotal one game playoff in each round has a kill or be killed vibe to it. The layout almost resembles the Olympic Games in a sense, where you have one shot to properly represent your home country.
The history of the NFL dates back to 1920 but the Super Bowl has only been around since 1967. This past season, the NFL held its 50th Super Bowl. For half a century, players have competed against one another in a one game playoff that determines eternal glory.
Winning a Super Bowl is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Despite how much talent a player demonstrates during the regular season, the amount of sacks recorded, touchdowns thrown and interceptions made, there is no guarantee the magic will continue into the big game in February. Hundreds of players have had an exceptional regular season performance and have been elected to the Hall of Fame but still have never been crowned a Super Bowl champion.
The following are the greatest players to never win a Super Bowl
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15 Julius Peppers
The defensive line can make or break a football team and Julius Peppers has been a part of many great ones during his 14 year career. He spent eight seasons with his hometown Carolina Panthers and set records that still haven't been broken. Peppers has been the only player in NFL history with 100 or more sacks and 10 or more interceptions.
Peppers fell short of reaching a Super Bowl in 2011 when the Chicago Bears faced off against division rival Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. In 2014, Peppers signed with the Packers on a three-year deal hoping to win a championship. Sadly, it still hasn't happened, but he still has a shot with Aaron Rodgers as his QB.
14 Steve Smith Sr.
Steve Smith Sr. is one of the most versatile wide receivers in the history of the game. In the 12 seasons he played with the Carolina Panthers, he set franchise records in receiving yards, touchdowns, receptions, punt return yards and punt return touchdowns.
He fell short in just his third season in the league as the Panthers lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Let's hope Smith will have another shot at winning a Super Bowl as he rehabs from a season ending injury in 2015. The talent he possesses is just too good to only set regular season records.
13 LaDainian Tomlinson
In Tomlinson's illustrious nine seasons in San Diego, he led the league in rushing twice and led the league in rushing touchdowns three times. He was crowned league MVP in 2006 and holds numerous league records, including the single season rushing touchdown record, when he scored 28 in 2006.
Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets in 2010 with hopes to win a championship but fell short in the 2010 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
12 Brian Dawkins
The Philadelphia Eagles stint of success in the late 1990s and early 2000s was incredibly impressive. None of which could be done without defensive star Brian Dawkins.
Dawkins developed a reputation around the league as being one of the hardest hitting safeties. His aggressive approach got him elected to nine Pro Bowl appearances and helped the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX, where they unfortunately fell short against the New England Patriots.
Dawkins finished his career with 37 interceptions and 36 forced fumbles. This stellar performance led to the Eagles retiring his number 20 jersey.
11 Terrell Owens
The NFL has had quite a cast of characters over the years, but Terrell Owens may have been the biggest. Known for his outspoken personality and brimming overconfidence, the wide receiver fell short of adding a Super Bowl to his list of career achievements.
Owens' touchdown celebrations gained him a lot of notoriety, but his style of play and performance might have warranted that attention anyway. In 2004, he set the franchise record for the Philadelphia Eagles scoring 14 touchdowns in a single season. The following year, he set the franchise record for most receiving yards per game at 109.
The outspoken star was a part of the 2003 Eagles team that lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the New England Patriots and never could get back to the big game.
10 Curtis Martin
It's disappointing when a selfless player never wins a championship. Curtis Martin may have been one of the most dedicated football players of all time who never won a Super Bowl.
In the 11 seasons Martin played in the league, he dazzled fans with his quick style of play and tremendous work ethic. The running back was chosen to the Pro Bowl five times and led the AFC in rushing two times in his career with two different teams.
Martin finished his career in 2006 with the New York Jets never winning a Super Bowl. He is currently number four on the all time rushing yards list and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
9 Larry Fitzgerald
It says a lot about a player's character when they play their entire career with the same NFL team. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals has demonstrated this loyalty for the past 12 seasons.
Fitzgerald holds the NFL record for the most touchdowns in a postseason at seven, most receptions in a postseason at 30 and was the youngest player to reach 7,000 or more career receiving yards at 26 years of age.
Sadly Fitzgerald has never won a ring. His Cardinals came close in 2009 when they faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, but went on to lose 27-23.
8 Donovan McNabb
The quarterback is the most important position on any team. They lead the offense and determine the opposing team's defensive strategy. The Philadelphia Eagles had a hell of a QB in Donovan McNabb.
The dynamic offensive player spent 11 seasons in Philly, helping them reach a Super Bowl in 2004. Regardless of the Super Bowl loss, McNabb's time in the league was a performance for the ages. He holds the Eagles record for passing yards thrown, touchdowns thrown and career wins.
He was also named to the Pro Bowl six times and was the NFC Player of the Year in 2004 when he helped lead his team to the Super Bowl.
7 Tony Gonzalez
There's no doubt that Tony Gonzalez was the best to ever play the position of tight end in the NFL.
Gonzalez holds multiple NFL records that will most likely never be broken. It's unfortunate that Gonzalez never reached a Super Bowl, but what he accomplished in his career is legendary.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl 14 times and is the all time receptions leader among tight ends, along with receiving touchdowns. His consistent performance on the field each season allowed him to climb all the way to second place on the all time career receptions list, ahead of legendary wide receivers like Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison.
6 Randy Moss
Some players never have the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl. Randy Moss was fortunate enough to play in two.
The lively receiver burst onto the scene in 1998 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. His first season in Minnesota was phenomenal where he set the record for most touchdowns receptions as a rookie at 17. This record still hasn't been broken nearly 20 years later.
Moss reached the Super Bowl twice in his career. once with the New England Patriots in 2008 and again in 2013 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Moss was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and still holds the record for more receiving touchdowns in a season at 23.
5 Junior Seau
It's always called into question who the greatest defensive player of all time is. Some say Lawrence Taylor, others say Ray Lewis. And it's probably because they both have Super Bowl rings. However, one player who needs to be recognized is Junior Seau.
For over 10 seasons, Seau was the iron fist of the San Diego Charges defense. Over the course of his career, he was elected to the Pro Bowl 12 times and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.
The year the Chargers reached the Super Bowl (1994), Seau had one of his best seasons ever. Sadly, it still wasn't enough for them to get over the hump, as they got thumped by the 49ers.
4 Fran Tarkenton
It's the dream of a professional NFL quarterback to lead their team to consecutive Super Bowl appearances. It was the Minnesota Vikings' misfortune that those appearances ended up in losses.
None of the team's success in the 1970s could have been accomplished without quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Known for his scrambling style of play, Tarkenton helped lead the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances.
In his 17 year career, Tarkenton was chosen for the Pro Bowl nine times and still holds the Vikings all time records in passing yards, touchdowns thrown and career wins.
3 Jim Kelly
Reaching four consecutive Super Bowls is amazing. However, losing four straight can be devastating. The heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl XXV left Bills fans mortified. Sadly, that was only the beginning as they made it to the Super Bowl in each of the next three seasons, only to lose out again.
He led the league in touchdowns thrown in 1991 and still holds the Bills all time records in passing yards, touchdowns thrown and completions. Though his four consecutive Super Bowl appearances ended in failure, what he has accomplished is still incredible.
2 Barry Sanders
There is no running back in the history of professional football who deserved to win a championship more than Barry Sanders. In his nine seasons with the Detroit Lions, he set records that have not and will not be broken.
Success started early on as Sanders won the Heisman Trophy in 1988. In his career, he was selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times, was a two-time Offensive Player of the Year, NFL MVP and a five-time NFC rushing leader.
Sadly Sanders never got to play in a Super Bowl during his career. Sanders finished his career as the third leading rusher in NFL history.
1 Dan Marino
A quarterback's legacy is often determined by how many Super Bowls they win throughout their career. The impressive resume that Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino established during his career has everything except that elusive Super Bowl win.
In his second year in the league, Marino reached Super Bowl XIX but was annihilated 38-16 by the San Fransisco 49ers. Unfortunately Marino never reached another Super Bowl but went on to have an outstanding career.
In his 16 year NFL career, Marino was elected to the Pro Bowl nine times, won league MVP in 1984, led the league in passing yards five times and in touchdowns three times. He was also the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season and was the first to throw 40 touchdowns in a season twice during his career.
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