In pro sports, few players deserve more praise than those who show longevity. Pro football, more than any other sport, longevity is something to admire because of the physical toll players experience. That’s why we thought it was fitting to pay homage to some of the oldest players in NFL history. But just so we’re clear, kickers don’t count, and I think we all know why.
If you think Tom Brady is old, Testaverde had a couple of years before he hung up his helmet and cleats. The former Heisman winner turned 44 before retiring after the 2007 season. Granted, he was only a backup for the last few seasons of his career. But Testaverde was still the full-time starter in Dallas in 2004, the year he turned 41. The amazing thing is that teams kept wanting Testaverde when he was in his 40s. He was turnover-prone and only won 42.3% of his starts and holds the NFL record for most losses by a starting quarterback with 123.
It’s worth noting that Moon spent the first six seasons of his career in the CFL because NFL teams still refused to believe that a black quarterback could succeed in the league. Obviously, Moon proved them wrong and then some, joining the Houston Oilers when he was already in his 30s but still going to nine Pro Bowls. Much like Brady, he made a Pro Bowl after turning 40. Similar to Testaverde, Moon served as a backup late in his career and ultimately retired at the age of 44.
We had to dig deep into the archives to locate Nesser, who was born in Germany before moving to Ohio as a child. Despite being 5’11’’ and 195 lbs., he played both quarterback and offensive line for the Columbus Panhandles, a charter member of the American Professional Football Association, which ultimately became the NFL. Born in 1876, Nesser played as late as 1921 when he was 45. At least for a few years, he was the oldest player in NFL history.
Bobby Marshall is a name that every football fan should know. Along with Fritz Pollard, he was the first African-American to play in the NFL. However, he didn’t play in the league until 1920, in part because of a pro baseball career. By that point, he was already 40. Marshall played through the 1925 season when he was with the Duluth Kelleys, surpassing Nesser as the oldest player in NFL history until the next guy came along.
Blanda cheats a little because he was a placekicker. But he was also a quarterback who was still throwing a few passes during the 1975 season when he was playing at the age of 48. Just being on the field at that age is something special. Blanda still holds the record for the oldest player in an NFL game and is one of two players to play in four different decades. Blanda played for so long that he was coached in college by Bear Bryant and in the pros by John Madden. He truly had a special career and should not be forgotten.