NFL: 7 Players Who Changed the Cornerback Position Forever

Vincent Laforet/AFP/Getty Images

Cornerback is a role that many American football enthusiasts have called the most difficult position to play at the professional level. Guarding wide receivers step for step as they run at top speed, shift direction, and jump to make acrobatic catches is not the easiest defensive assignment.

To be an effective CB requires much more than just physical talent — it takes a unique instinct for the game that many players fail to develop during their careers. After all, effectively defending some of today’s athletes — think Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, or Josh Gordon — can be a complete nightmare.

Usually the fastest players in the defensive secondary, good cornerbacks have a combination of size, speed, and agility, and have stellar coverage and tackling skills. Throughout history, a number of National Football League greats have showed why it’s one of the most coveted positions.

Here are seven players who made their mark as NFL cornerbacks.

1. Willie Brown

After entering the league in 1963, Willie Brown became one of the most feared shutdown cornerbacks in the AFL and NFL. Acquired by Oakland via a trade with Denver, he did most of his damage on opposing offenses during his tenure with the Raiders from 1967 to 1978. Brown totaled 54 interceptions over 16 years as a pro and excelled at bump-and-run coverage. Quarterbacks hated to throw the ball in his direction, and when they did, Brown made them pay for it. One of the many plays Brown is known for is his 75-yard interception return TD against Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.