List of all pro football players since 1920

Dear Pro Football Players:

I have always wanted to know how many men have played professional football in the U.S.  – how many have died – and how many are still living, so I decided to conduct some research to see if I could find the answer.  

Here are the results:  

  • 23,204 men have played pro football
  • 6,066 have died – as of today
  • 17,138 players are still living

Click on this link: Excel List to see every player that has been on a team’s “active” roster from 1920 to 2012. The list has an x sign next to every player that has died and a + sign next to every Hall of Fame player. The list of players was compiled using information obtained from Pro Football

If you open the attached excel list, it is arranged alphabetically – by first name. If you click on a player’s name, it will go to the Pro Football website and give you the player’s statistics. The list only includes players that have been on an “active” roster during the course of a year. It does not include the years that a player was on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) or IR (Injured Reserve) lists. I should note that the NFL gives a player a “credited” season toward their pension for any year they were on the PUP or IR list. Unfortunately, I do not have access to that information.

If you don’t see your name on the list, or the years you played appears to be inaccurate, please let me know. I cannot say that this is a totally accurate list, but it is my best attempt. My apologies to any player that was inadvertently left off the list, or has erroneous information.   

I want to thank Kenneth Crippen, the Executive Director of the Pro Football Researchers Association for identifying all of the players that have died over the last 92 years. Here is a link to his website:  Pro Football Researchers Association. It took him an entire month to complete his part of the research, so if you want to, you can send him a thank you at this email address:  His website has a wealth of information on Pro Football and I encourage you to become a member and receive a subscription to his newsletter, the “Coffin Corner” and other great information.

The origin of professional football can be traced back to 1892, with William “Pudge” Heffelfinger’s $500 contract to play in a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. In 1920 the American Professional Football Association was formed. This league changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) two years later, and eventually became the major league of American football. Primarily a sport of Midwestern industrial towns in the United States, professional football eventually became a national phenomenon. Football’s increasing popularity is usually traced to the 1958 NFL Championship Game, a contest that has been dubbed the “Greatest Game Ever Played”. A rival league to the NFL, the American Football League (AFL), began play in 1960; the pressure it put on the senior league led to a merger between the two leagues and the creation of the Super Bowl, which has become the most watched television event in the United States on an annual basis.

“He who knows only his own generation – remains always a child” George Norlin


About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on July 14, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Jeff, Great job, thank you for the time and energy spent to get this info out. I appreciate ALL your efforts in helping your fellow former players.

  2. Jeff, thanks to you and everybody who worked on this list. I too have always wondered how many men have done battle in the history of the NFL. I will keep this one for posterity.   Scott Kozak ( Houston Oilers 89′-93′ )


  3. Kevin Hancock

    Thanks Jeff. Ditto on the 2 posts above. 1 thing that I don’t quite understand is why the NFL Alumni Association doesn’t try to have a method by which former teammates could reconnect. I know there is a privacy issue, but seems it could be circumvented somehow. Just a way to say “hello” would be great.

    Hope all is well Eric. Haven’t seen you in a long time.

    Take Care,
    Kevin Hancock

  4. Great research good information for all .

  5. Jeff,

    Thanks for all your efforts and dedication in keeping the brothers informed…Good Man!!!

    Ed White

  6. Jeff: Super job! Thank you.

  7. Always wondered about the number of players that played. Now I know, thanks Jeff.

    Gail Cogdill
    Lions, Colts, Falcons

  8. Outstanding work, as usual Jeff. We are all in your debt for all of the work that you do for our retired player community.
    Bob Grant

  9. God bless you! Carl Mauck

  10. Great Job Mr Nixon.

  11. Thanks Jeff, great info to know. It would be nice if our Union would keep us as informed as you do instead of organizing countless golf tournaments.

  12. Thanks Jeff ! for the information about the names of all the players who have played this great game. your are to be commented for keeping former players like myself tied to the game !!!

  13. Thanks, Outstanding Job! (Charlie King)

  1. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys on Pro-Football-Reference's All-Decade Teams | Know Your Dallas Cowboys

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: