Ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay in Febuary – which the Kansas City Chiefs are the favourites in the NFL odds to win – we have put together the all-time Super Bowl team, made up of the greatest performers in the history of the big game.
The players selected are the career leaders in the major statistical categories for their position.
Here are the players who made the cut, along with their career statistics in the Super Bowl.
Quarterback: Tom Brady | 2838 passing yards, 18 passing TDs
We begin with the team’s most obvious choice.
Brady leads all quarterbacks in Super Bowl passing touchdowns and has more than double the amount of completions and passing yards than anyone else.
Having won a record six Lombardi Trophies in nine Super Bowl appearances with the New England Patriots, Brady is the most successful player in the history of the game.
Running back: Franco Harris | 354 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
Harris is the all-time leader in Super Bowl rushing yards, having amassed 354 in four trips to the big game between 1975 and 1980.
He led the Pittsburgh Steelers to victory in all four of those Super Bowls, at a time when the full back was among the most valuable positions in the game.
Harris also scored four rushing touchdowns – the joint-second most of any player – including two in his final Super Bowl appearance against the Los Angeles Rams.
Running back: Emmitt Smith | 289 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs
Smith is the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns in the Super Bowl, with five in just three appearances.
Like Harris, Smith has a perfect record of three wins from three trips to the Super Bowl between 1993 and 1996, and he’s the only player ever to score two rushing touchdowns in two separate Super Bowls.
The Dallas Cowboys legend also ranks third in all-time Super Bowl rushing yards, averaging 96.3 per game, which is even higher than Harris.
Wide receiver: Jerry Rice | 589 receiving yards, 8 receiving touchdowns
Rice smashed countless records over the course of his career to become the undisputed greatest receiver of all time, and he did his best work when the games mattered the most.
The former San Francisco 49er holds the record for the most Super Bowl receiving yards, yards from scrimmage and receptions, and his eight receiving touchdowns are five more than any other player has managed.
He won three Super Bowls out of three with the 49ers between 1989 and 1995, but lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2003.
Wide receiver: Lynn Swann | 364 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs
As the star wide receiver for the dominant Steelers team of the 1970s, Swann was the greatest pass catcher in Super Bowl history before Rice came along.
He ranks second all-time for receiving yards and joint-second for receiving touchdowns, which is remarkable considering he didn’t record a catch in the first of his four Super Bowl appearances.
Swann’s Steelers won all four of the Super Bowls in which he played, and he put up huge numbers despite being on a team that was built around the running game.
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski | 297 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs
No tight end has even come close to matching Gronkowski’s numbers in the Super Bowl.
The former New England Patriots star gained 297 receiving yards – the most for his position and sixth-most of any player in history – and scored three touchdowns, another record for tight ends.
Gronkowski was Tom Brady’s favourite target and reached four Super Bowls during his time in New England, winning on two occasions.
Offensive line: 1987 Washington Football Team | 280 rushing yards, 2 sacks allowed
The lack of offensive line statistics mean it’s difficult to pick individual players here, so we’ve opted for the line that produced the finest one-game performance in Super Bowl history.
At Super Bowl XXII in 1987, Washington gained a record 280 rushing yards while giving up just two sacks against the Denver Broncos.
Joe Jacoby, Raleigh McKenzie, Jeff Bostic, R.C. Thielemann and Mark May were the linemen who powered Washington to victory in that game, and they earned their spots in the trenches in this team.
Defensive end: L.C. Greenwood | 5 sacks, 11 tackles
Sacks are the main currency for defensive ends, so the all-time leader in that category is a straightforward choice to kick off the defence.
Greenwood racked up five sacks in four Super Bowls as part of Pittsburgh’s famous ‘Steel Curtain’ defensive line in the 1970s.
Four of those sacks came in one game, when Greenwood completely dominated the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line as Pittsburgh won Super Bowl X 21-17.
Defensive end: Charles Haley | 4.5 sacks, 7 tackles
Sitting just below Greenwood with 4.5 career sacks in the Super Bowl is Haley, who built a Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
Haley was the first player to win five Super Bowls and remains the only player aside from Tom Brady to have done so.
He began his career as an outside linebacker with the 49ers and won two Super Bowls in San Francisco, but three of his rings – and 2.5 of his 4.5 Super Bowl sacks – came as a defensive end with the Dallas Cowboys.
Defensive tackle: Willie Davis | 4.5 sacks, 4 tackles
Davis is the first of two players on this team who took part in the first ever Super Bowl.
The defensive tackle won back-to-back rings with the Green Bay Packers in 1967 and 1968 and was instrumental to a defence that allowed just 24 points across those two games.
Davis played in an era when sacks weren’t an official statistic, but he had 4.5 in total across his two Super Bowl appearances, which is tied with Haley for the second-most of all time.
Defensive tackle: Justin Tuck | 4 sacks, 9 tackles
Two players are tied for fourth with four sacks in Super Bowl history, but Tuck’s nine total tackles across two games mean he beats Randy White to the final defensive line spot.
Tuck was a member of the New York Giants team that beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI in 2008 and 2012.
The defensive lineman sacked Tom Brady twice in each game and forced a fumble as the Giants pulled off two huge upsets.
Middle linebacker: Jeff Siemon | 30 tackles
Middle linebackers are often tackling machines, and Siemon was the best of the bunch in that regard when it comes to the Super Bowl.
The former Minnesota Viking racked up 30 tackles in three appearances – the second-most of any player and the most at his position.
Siemon’s Vikings reached the Super Bowl three times in four seasons between 1974 and 1977, but never managed to win the big game.
Outside linebacker: Wally Hilgenberg | 26 tackles
Hilgenberg was another member of that Minnesota Vikings team, playing alongside Siemon as a right outside linebacker.
He actually made one Super Bowl appearance more than Siemon, having also played against the Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl IV in 1970, but Minnesota lost that game, too.
Nevertheless, Hilgenberg earned a spot in this team with 26 career tackles in the Super Bowl, which is the second-most of any linebacker.
Outside linebacker: Cornelius Bennett | 25 tackles
Rounding out the linebackers is Bennett, who played in four Super Bowls for the Buffalo Bills and one for the Atlanta Falcons.
Incredibly, Bennett also never won a championship ring as the Bills lost in four consecutive years between 1991 and 1994, and Atlanta also fell just short in 1999.
Bennett can’t be blamed for those defeats, though, as he amassed 25 tackles, the third-most of any linebacker.
Cornerback: Larry Brown | 3 interceptions
No player has picked off more passes in the Super Bowl than Brown, who made three appearances in four years with the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s.
The cornerback picked off one pass at Super Bowl XXVII in 1992 and two more at Super Bowl XXX in 1995.
His ball hawking ability helped the Cowboys win all three games that he played in, establishing them as the dominant team of the early ‘90s.
Cornerback: Darrien Gordon | 2 interceptions
With several cornerbacks having made two interceptions in Super Bowls, we’ve used interception return yards as the tiebreaker here.
Gordon holds the record in that category, having gained 108 interception return yards in Super Bowl XXXIII alone, when he picked off two passes for the Denver Broncos against the Atlanta Falcons.
He also won Super Bowl XXXII with the Broncos a year earlier and featured in a losing effort for the San Diego Chargers at Super Bowl XXIX.
Free safety: Jake Scott | 2 interceptions, 7 tackles
Three free safeties are tied with two Super Bowl interceptions and seven total tackles, so interception return yards function as a tiebreaker again.
For that reason, Scott earns a place in the team, having gained 63 return yards on his two Super Bowl interceptions, both of which came at Super Bowl VII in 1973.
The Dolphins won that game14-7, and triumphed in two of the three Super Bowls in which Scott started at free safety.
Strong safety: Rodney Harrison | 2 interceptions, 34 tackles
Harrison is an automatic choice at strong safety as he holds two Super Bowl records for his position.
The former New England Patriot has two career interceptions, the joint-most of any safety, and the most tackles of any player at any position in Super Bowl history.
Harrison played for the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX but will always be remembered as a foundational part of the Patriots dynasty, winning two Super Bowls and appearing in a third with New England between 2003 and 2007.
Kicker: Adam Vinatieri | 7 field goals made, 13 extra points
Vinatieri is the highest points scorer in NFL history and will always be remembered for his clutch kicking in the Super Bowl.
He made game-winning kicks in the final seconds of both Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 and Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, earning the New England Patriots their first two titles.
Vinatieri is the most prolific kicker in Super Bowl history, ranking first for both field goals and extra points made.
Punter: Jerrel Wilson | 11 punts, 46.5 yards per punt
Rounding out the team is Wilson, whose Super Bowl punt average of 46.5 yards is the highest of any player.
The second member of this all-time team to have featured in Super Bowl I, Wilson played for the Kansas City Chiefs and punted seven times in their 35-10 defeat to the Green Bay Packers.
He and the Chiefs returned three years later in Super Bowl IV and managed to lift the Lombardi Trophy on that occasion, beating the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.