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Top 20 NFL Players Who Are Defeating Father Time

Calling it a career because of old age may be the most difficult challenge football players face, and certainly it's the most difficult decision they have to make. All the players listed here played football or some type of sport when they were younger. They welcomed footballs' rigorous lifestyle and the camaraderie that came along with it. The locker-room atmosphere, the sports' demanding schedule, and the highs and lows are only part of what makes football so appealing. The sport becomes ingrained in the athletes' blood, it's a part of their body.

So imagine yourself as a football player, and your body suddenly tells you it can no longer endure the sport you love. Your brain insists you can still run into that offensive line 25 times a game, but your body begins to break down around 15 carries. We see it all time with athletes as they stand on the edges of the sideline with their helmet on and chin strap still buckled, waiting for their coach to call their number. Instead of them jogging onto the field, they watch helplessly as the younger guy steals their career.

Yes, this is all sounds depressing so far. And it is. However, let me lift your spirits with this thought: Even though an athlete's body breaks down, it doesn't mean they are suddenly useless. If placed into the right situation and with the right team, sometimes they have just enough left to help their organization win that coveted championship. Look at Ravens' former linebacker Ray Lewis a few years back. During his last season, the guy wasn't as good as he used to be. He could barely run latterly, let alone make a tackle, but unlike his body, his heart and spirit never declined. And it was the latter that helped Baltimore beat San Francisco in Super Bowl 47.

The athletes listed here are fighting their bodies' desire to retire. These football players are fighting father time who, with each day, grows stronger. Yet, what makes the players listed here different than the rest is just how damn good they've always been. They've not only been blessed with rare athletic gifts, but they've also taking care of their bodies. Both characteristics have helped them prolong their careers.

Eventually they'll lose the battle, but for now they continue the fight. (Side note: This list was ordered from youngest to oldest. Athletes with the same age have been lumped together for ease. It can also include free agents because they are not technically "retired.")

20 Marshawn Lynch, RB, Age 28

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

19 Adrian Peterson, RB, Age 29

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

18 Frank Gore, RB, Age 31

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

17 Roddy White, WR, Age 32

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

16 Charles Tillman, CB, Age 33

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

15 Fred Jackson, RB, Age 33

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

14 Anquan Boldin, WR, Age 33

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

13 Wes Welker, WR, Age 33

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

12 Michael Vick, QB, Age 34

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

11 Larry Foote, LB, Age 34

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

10 Antonio Gates, TE, Age 34

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

9 Tony Romo, QB, Age 34

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

8 John Abraham, DL, Age 36

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

7 Terence Newman, CB, Age 36

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

6 Charles Woodson, CB, Age 37

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

5 Tom Brady, QB, Age 37

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

4 Peyton Manning, QB, Age 38

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

3 David Akers, K, Age 39

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

2 Matt Bryant, K, Age 39

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

1 Adam Vinatieri, K, Age 42

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not sure what prevents an older kicker from continuing his career, his age or the wear and tear on his kicking leg. Maybe his leg ages as fast as the rest of his body? Last year, Vinatieri kicked a career high 35 field goals. On those 35 attempts, he was 19-23 from 40-plus yards out. You have to be absolutely kidding me with those numbers. He enters his ninth season with the Colts.

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Top 20 NFL Players Who Are Defeating Father Time