Nearly all sports, when played at the highest level, are pursuits for the young. Professional careers overlap with athletic peaks, which tend to occur early, and the aging process will eventually force everyone, no matter their skill level or determination, to retire. That said, retirement comes at different times for everyone, and for every Rashard Mendenhall, who retired at 26 to travel the world and write, there’s a Brett Favre, who, well, couldn’t stay gone.
The game of football isn’t easy for anyone, and it’s particularly difficult for quarterbacks, who spend the start of every possession staring down 11 guys who are being paid to take him off his feet with extreme prejudice. When we look at the already injury-riddled careers of guys like Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin III, the idea that anyone could play as long as someone like Favre, who retired, for the last time, at 41, seems absurd. Even Peyton Manning, who everyone agreed was more or less gassed, was ‘just’ 39 when he played his last NFL game. And that’s in the modern-day NFL, which is routinely dressed down as “touch football” or “flag football” by those in the fandom who don’t see why making a game safer is probably a good thing.
What’s really wild about Favre is that he doesn’t even come close to the oldest quarterbacks ever to suit up in the NFL. Using information gathered by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, here are the seven oldest quarterbacks in league history.