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Wednesday, August 29, 2001
Updated: September 6, 7:46 PM ET
The Readers' List:
Least likable footballer


From the Page 2 mailbag

On Monday, Page 2 ran its list of the least likable football players in history. We asked for your take, and you filled our mailbag with plenty of despicable choices.

OUR TOP 10
Here's how the Page 2 staff ranked the least likable football players in history:

1. Jack Tatum
2. Conrad Dobler
3. Bill Romanowski
4. Ray Lewis
5. Christian Peter
6. Ben Davidson
7. Deion Sanders
8. Michael Irvin
9. Ryan Leaf
10. Shannon Sharpe

Dishonorable mentions: Jeff George, Jim Brown, Hardy Nickerson, Jason Sehorn, Joe Don Looney, Andre Rison, Randy Moss, Lawrence Phillips

After going through more than 2,400 letters, we've listed a rundown of the Top 10 vote-getters, along with some of the best letters about each player. Check out the list, then be sure to cast your vote in the poll at left to choose the least likable football player of all-time.


1. Deion Sanders
(209 letters)

Somehow, this overrated, useless piece of ... err ... ahem ... football player, managed to sham owners, coaches, and teammates into thinking that he was a Dream Cornerback.

The simple truth is this: Every interception he had was the result of either a fallen receiver or a rushed QB, as a result of the awesome pass rush that Dallas had in its glory years. There was never, never, any reaching in and fighting for the pick from a receiver. I never saw him run toward the ball-carrier and deliver a run-stopping hit, never saw him run an opposing player down and dive to tackle him from behind, either. He will be remembered more for his arm-tacklng techniques, and shoving out of bounds, than for the hits he put on people.

Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders took the Redskins' money and ran away.
Just what was it that made him so good in so many people's eyes? Oh, let me guess, it must be those punt and kickoff returns for a few TDs. Let me see some tape that shows him breaking tackles and refusing to go down after some slight contact with an opposing player. I happen to think that there is no such game film in existence.

Deion has had more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame.
Bryce Henry
Las Vegas

Despite his speed and cover skills, you gotta hate this guy. He gave himself not one, but two nicknames, he couldn't tackle most of the Eagles cheerleaders, and who could forget that helmet clad slap fight with Andre Rison? But, hey, at least now he's "found God."
Noah Kutzy
Delray Beach, Fla.


2. Bill Romanowski (146 letters)
Romo wins hands down. Growing up near Romanowski, we were all led to believe that the guy who got lights for the stadium was a standup hero. All lies.

Bill Romanowski
Bill Romanowski won't win any sportsmanship awards.
Here's a guy who can't decide if he's a racist or Robby Alomar. His totally classless displays have left me simultaneously ashamed and angry. He's quite the poster child for problems in big-time sports.
Jonathan Dunn
Springfield, Mass.

The cheap shot personified.
Alex Rodriguez
Philadelphia

As if the racial slurs, and prescription drug fiasco wasn't enough to land him the No. 1 spot, he took it to another level and spat in J.J. Stokes' face! If Stokes had any backbone, he would have given this jerk what he deserves-- a "deep-cleat enema"!
Michael L. Johnson
College Park, Ga.


3. Ray Lewis (132 letters)
Gotta be Ray Lewis. A cocky poor sport, win or lose. Disgraces what little class the game has left with his self-promoting dancing and other displays after tackles. Hey, jackass: you're supposed to make tackles -- that's what linebackers do. Get over yourself. Off the field -- need I even mention the infamous knife fight?
Jon Stanford
Albuquerque, N.M.

Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis is at once the best and worst embodiment of an NFL player.
Without a doubt it has to be Ray Lewis! All the others on your list might have been dirty players, motor mouths, egomaniacs, pill poppers, etc. But this man was involved in a highly publicized murder trial.

He rats out his supposed friends, only to get a fine?! Players who use an illegal substance get suspended for four games, but someone who is involved in a murder case (or whatever Ray Lewis wants to call it), gets no suspension and then gets babied by the NFL and the media.
Aaron
Mount Orab, Ohio


4. O.J. Simpson (114 letters)
That little "incident" a couple of years back. Need we say, "white Bronco?"
Kevin
Dallas

Either I'm blind as an NFL referee or you somehow left O.J.'s name off your list!
Mark Emblidge
Rochester, N.Y.

This should be a no-brainer: Any player who is found liable in civil court for hacking his ex-wife and her lover to death should easily win the "least likable" football player award. The act makes Jack Tatum's forearms and Conrad Dobler's biting look like patty-cake. O.J. wins, in a walk.
Nick Stocking
Minneapolis

Give me a break. You're more offended by the antics of Neon Deion and Shannon Sharpe than by a guy who allegedly murders his ex-wife and a young man?
Dave Sheehan
Mansfield, Mass.


5. Ryan Leaf (81 letters)
It is impossible to hate any football player more than Ryan Leaf. I am from Eastern Washington near WSU -- where Leaf went to college. As good as Leaf was at WAZZU, he was hated. He was never allowed in parties and was regularly kicked out of bars.

After his experience with the Chargers and now the Buccaneers, how can you not hate Ryan Leaf, even if you didn't know about all of these other things?
W.R.
Washington

This baby makes Paul O'Neill look like Mean Joe Greene.
Matt Ross
Columbus, Ohio


6. Michael Irvin (69 letters)
Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin's antics caused some to feel no sympathy when his career ended.
Michael Irvin wins. He is unlikable for so many reasons, but, since you asked:
1.) His extremely annoying pose on one knee after every first down.
2.) Fur coats and diamond earrings.
3.) Hookers, drugs and other illegalities.
4.) The fact that he was lucky enough to be on a good team, which led to even more showboating.
5.) More drugs and indictments.

Then, there's the way he left the game. This might be an unpopular view but I believe that Michael Irvin copped out. First, he asks to be traded and is rebuffed, due to the large hit the Cowboys would take against the salary cap. Then, he bumps his head on the turf at the vet and suddenly he needs a stretcher. Then, he, and amazingly others, are surprised when the very fans to whom he has acted like the world's biggest jerk in front of applaud as he gets carted off into oblivion.

Then, that's it! Never again tries to play football. Someone needs to show me the X-rays before I'll believe that Irvin suffered a debilitating neck injury at the Vet that day. My take -- Irvin knew his act wouldn't fly on a losing team, and he could read the tea leaves (see the trade request, for one), so his only way out where the 'Boys would still be able to spread his salary cap hit over the ridiculous number of years he was signed for was the phantom injury and the "poor, poor pitiful me" exit from the game.
Joe Horowitz
Pittsburgh


7. Bryan Cox (56 letters)
He said the same things about Buffalo in the early 1990s that John Rocker said about New York last year. The only difference was that he didn't use the magic words. Bryan insulted Buffalonians off-field and flipped obscene gestures to us on-field, and for that he will always be the most hated man in the city.
Jason Muller
Buffalo, N.Y.

What a whiner. He wasted all the talent he had because he was stubborn and would quit when things didn't go his way. He stood on the field and pouted without his helmet on in front of 40,000 fans in Chicago. To me that's a showup.

Plus, he fought with Carwell Gardner in a Buffalo playoff game because he is a sore loser, a mean guy and real unlikable player.
Matt Baumer
Tualatin, Ore.


8. Brian Bosworth (51 letters)
Brian Bosworth
Few fans liked Brian Bosworth's act.
Loud, rude and opinionated, he signed a 10-year, $11 million contract and stunk for three injury-filled years. The only thing worse than his NFL carreer was his acting stint.
Steve Zacher
Seattle.

Bo knows Brian.
Bo ran over Brian.
Had to love it.
David Wyatt
Taylor Mill, Ky.


9. Jack Tatum (48 letters)
Jack Tatum ended Daryl Stingley's football career and forced him to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life with one hit -- during the preseason!

While Stingley was battling for his life, nearly every player from both the Patriots and the Raiders visited him and expressed their sorrow -- except for Tatum, the man who made the hit. "The Assassin" never once talked to Stingley about the incident -- until he was promoting his autobiography.

This is one of the many reasons why Tatum has to be, by far, the most despicable football player of all time.
John McNulty
Marshfield, Mass.


10. Keyshawn Johnson (47 letters)
Ever since he left my beloved Jets, he has become the biggest motor mouth in the NFL. He talks the talk but can't walk the walk.

Week 4, 2000 : Keyshawn says he will "kill the Jets." Results after the game: One catch, 1 yard. Learn to back it up, Keysh.
Jed Moody
Derby, Conn.

Keyshawn Johnson has never been about anyone but himself.

Has he helped a team win the Super Bowl? No. Has he even helped a team get to the Super Bowl? No. Has he helped a team make an impact in the playoffs? Of course not.

Some people might contend that the Bucs have really benefited from having him, but that is not true. The Bucs are great because of their defense. And their defense is great because Keyshawn is on the sideline talking to his agent to schedule the next photo shoot instead of getting in the way on the field.

The Jets are better without that huge headache in the locker room, and the Bucs would be wise to follow suit. Hey, Tampa, do you want to win a Super Bowl? Then drop that lazy prima donna and spend all that money getting two fast receivers with some semblance of a work ethic!
Mike Brown
Cedar Rapids, Iowa


Dishonorable mention:
Randy Moss, Jeff George, Mark Gastineau, Cade McNown, Rae Carruth, Andre Waters, John Elway, Terrell Owens, David Beckham