For us average “Joe Six-Packs” watching the NFL on television, the athletic feats and prowess our favorite athletes have are virtually unfathomable to us. What these guys can accomplish on their worst days far exceeds anything the majority of us could accomplish even in our athletic primes.
But even given that, there’s a hierarchy of athletes within the NFL itself. While the league is home to some of the most exceptional athletic talents on the planet, there are those select players who are true “freaks of nature.” Whether it’s their size, strength, speed, or combination of those three, some of these athletes are able to perform feats that we can’t even image.
Here are some of the strongest NFL athletes – both in recent memory, and currently in the NFL.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
It’s borderline absurd to think that a running back who ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.55 seconds could actually stand 6’3 and weigh just under 250lbs. But that’s the exact specifications of current Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. An absolute bulldozer of a running back, who still has remarkably nimble feet, Henry is a monstrously strong athlete.
His 22 repetitions of 225lbs on the bench press (at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine) are one thing, but the videos of him flipping monster truck tires and pushing around pickup trucks as part of his off-season training regimens are another. It’s that type of off-season work that helped him run for a career-high 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018.
Josh Gordon, New England Patriots
The reason why NFL teams keep giving Josh Gordon so many chances, despite his ridiculously long list of transgressions, is because of his unbelievable physical gifts. We throw the term around quite a bit, but Gordon is truly a “freak of nature” athlete.
Prior to the start of the 2019 NFL season, Gordon actually trained with Olympic gold medalist Tim Montgomery. In other words, we could see Gordon — who already ran the 40 yard dash in under 4.6 seconds while standing 6’3 and 225lbs — play even faster on the field, once he returns from suspension.
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
A picture of former Ole Miss wide receiver DK Metcalf made the rounds prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, and when it did, said photo basically had a “break the internet” effect, because Metcalf looked more like the Greek God of wide receivers, as opposed to some mortal football player. The alleged numbers around Metcalf were almost superhuman: a 4.33 40-yard dash, 40.5 inch vertical, 11′ 2″ broad jump, and even less than 2% body fat (which might not even be biologically possible).
At the 2019 NFL Combine, Metcalf completed 27 reps on the bench press (at 225lbs), tied for the most among wide receivers. While Metcalf attributes a lot of physical gifts to just being blessed by nature, he did admit that after coming to Ole Miss, he would work out with strength coaches twice a day for months on end.
Montez Sweat, Washington Redskins
At the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, former Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat was the defensive player whose workout made people rub their eyes to check if they weren’t seeing fictional things, when observing the numbers he put up. Sweat set a record at the NFL scouting combine for the fastest 40-yard dash by a defensive lineman: 4.41 seconds. At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds. The scouting world took notice.
And lest you think Sweat’s game is only about speed: at the Senior Bowl, in the weeks prior to the Combine, Sweat looked like a man among boys in practices, using his powerful hands to knock offensive linemen to the ground. While Sweat put on almost 12lbs in the off-season to boost his draft stock in the eyes of NFL scouts, he maintained a body fat level of under 6%.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
When Saquon Barkley was a superstar running back at Penn State, many of his teammates said that he would prefer to work out with the tight ends and linebackers — who tend to be stronger than the skill position guys — and he would absolutely humiliate everyone when he walked in the weight room.
At the NFL combine, he did 29 repetitions of 225lbs on the bench press (that’s 10 more reps than linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, one of the top linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft). In the off-season, Barkley was recorded carrying a 225lb “trap bar” up a steep hill, as part of a workout.
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Former Pro Bowl running back David Johnson’s off-season workouts are renowned enough to where his regimen was featured in a popular men’s fitness magazine. Given some of the work he performs in the off-season to stay in shape, that’s not surprising.
You’ll find all the key weight room workouts that are part of any training regimen (including 600lb back squats), but Johnson also does things like sprinting 30 second on a treadmill going at 15 miles per hour, box jumps that clear over four feet of height, and even standing jumps out of a swimming pool and onto the deck (which require absolutely ridiculous lower body strength).
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
If you think Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints is spending his off-season resting after his early success in the NFL, you’re dead wrong.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, after establishing himself as the league’s next star running back, Kamara posted a video of himself by literally pulling a weight rack with four plates (of 45 lbs. each) AND a full Jeep, doing a Farmer’s Walk.
JJ Watt, Houston Texans
It’s entirely possible that J.J. Watt is a super soldier, secretly engineered in the farmlands of Wisconsin. That’s the only possible explanation for a man who stands 6-foot-6, weighs 290 pounds, squats 700 pounds, and barely has an ounce of fat on his body. At the 2011 NFL combine, Watt did 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press (incredible strength) and then cleared a 61-inch box jump (incredible athleticism).
He’s the only player in NFL history to have multiple seasons with 20 or more sacks; not even Reggie White or Lawrence Taylor can say that. There might be guys who are faster, and there might be guys who are stronger, but there might not be a single player in NFL history with the insane combination of strength and athleticism that J.J. Watt possesses.
Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
The 2018 NFL Defensive Player of the Year isn’t just a product of God-given physical gifts. Rather, Aaron Donald’s incredible burst off the line and speed to wreck offensive plays before they even happen comes from countless hours o speed and agility work he does with his trainers in the off-season.
And to improve his hand fighting technique when engaging with offensive linemen (an under-appreciated art to the common fan), Donald’s trainer DeWayne Brown of Two Tenths Speed and Agility actually had Donald train to protect himself with someone swinging a knife at him. If you’re a LA Rams fan, you shouldn’t watch that video if you have a weak heart.
Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
With the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the “Bad News Browns” selected defensive end Myles Garrett. Prior to the draft, several NFL scouts criticized Garrett’s effort at Texas A&M, accusing him of taking plays off. But whatever doubt Cleveland may have had before the draft, was quietly silenced by his freakish performance at the combine. At 6-foot-5 and 274 pounds, Garrett somehow managed to run a 4.64 in the 40-yard dash and had a 41″ vertical.
Let me put that into perspective for you… Most NFL fans would say Odell Beckham is by far one of the most freakish athletes in the NFL — well guess what — his vertical jump was only 38.5″ (compared to Garrett’s 41″) and OBJ weighs almost 100 pounds LESS than Garrett! In addition to his freakish athleticism, Garrett performed 33 reps in the 225 lb. bench press. Fun Fact: In his spare time, Garrett spends his time writing poetry (that’s not a joke).
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
Von Miller is one of the most explosive pass rushers in the NFL, and he’s honed that ability through literally hundreds of hours of work in the gym every off-season. Miller reportedly works out as much as five hours per day in the off-season, prioritizing the two parts of the body with the largest muscle groups: the core and the lower body (legs).
But to ensure he retains his explosive ability, Miller also incorporates a lot of high-intensity exercises designed to burn fat and boost his metabolism. One of his favorite workouts of that nature is pulling tires.
Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins
Even in the twilight of his career, Adrian Peterson is still, pound for pound, one of the strongest players in the NFL. There are very few running backs in NFL history who run with the same speed, power, and anger that Adrian Peterson does. Peterson uses his freakish strength and explosiveness to burst through the line of scrimmage, as if he were shot out of a cannon.
An athletic trainer who worked with Peterson during his time at the University of Oklahoma, swears that Peterson could hold 80-pound dumbbells in each hand while making a standing jump to the top of a 36-inch high wooden box. While that story seems nearly impossible, Peterson has proven time and time again that he’s capable of almost anything.
At this point, I’m willing to believe anything about a guy who rushed for 2,097 yards in a single season, while opposing defenses stacked 8 or 9 men in the box because they weren’t intimidated by Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
Ndamukong Suh, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ndamukong Suh’s game isn’t all about just psychologically intimidating his opponents and finishing them off with cheap shots right as the refs blow the whistle. Suh works his tail off in the off-season, to come into the season ready to wreak havoc on his opponents.
He reportedly spends much of his off-season training in a “top secret” chamber on the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon (where Suh lives much of the off-season), beginning many of his workouts before 5:00am. When he’s not on the Nike campus, Suh works out in his home gym, which includes modern exercises bikes and a whole host of other gym equipment.
Andrew Billings, Cincinnati Bengals
When you’re capable of lifting so much weight that your own training staff believes you could be a liability to yourself, that brings being called “strong” to a whole new level. Such is the case for Bengals rookie Andrew Billings, the team’s fourth round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. In college, his training staff at Baylor University actually had to put restrictions on him, in terms of how heavy he was allowed to lift. Why would they do that?
Because Billings was strong enough to break a 22-year Texas state high school weightlifting record, by lifting a total of 2,010 pounds (805 squat, 500 bench press, 705 deadlift) — and that was when he was in high school! That 22-year-old record was previously held by WWE star Mark Henry, who’s known as “The World’s Strongest Man.”
Cameron Wake, Tennessee Titans
5x Pro Bowler Cameron Wake somehow went undrafted. Standing 6-foot-3, and a ripped 263 pounds, Wake still managed to clock a 4.55 in the 40. With little interest from NFL teams, Wake spent the first two seasons of his pro career tearing up the Canadian Football League (CFL). In two seasons in the CFL, Wake recorded a league high 39 sacks.
Impressed by this late bloomer, the Dolphins signed wake before the 2009 season. From 2009 to 2017, Wake terrorized opposing quarterbacks, recording 92 sacks. Wake turned 35-years old during the 2017, but still managed to lead the Dolphins with 10.5 sacks.
Clay Matthews Jr., Los Angeles Rams
Considering he came to USC as a 166-pound linebacker, with only Idaho offering him a D-I scholarship, his rise to stardom has been remarkable. Matthews might have been a string bean during his teenager years, but he has since sprouted to 6-foot-3 and a rock solid 255 pounds of chiseled muscle. This late bloomer credits his success to hours of hard work in the weight room. And it shows…
At the NFL combine, Matthews benched 225 pounds for 23 reps (the same as Rob Gronkowski) and was still athletic enough to clock a 40-yard dash under 4.7 seconds — which is incredible for a linebacker! NFL scouts and GM’s spend their entire careers searching for a player with that mixture of world-class speed and strength.
Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons struck gold when they drafted Clemson pass rusher Vic Beasley. At 6-foot-3 and “only” 235 pounds, some worried whether or not Beasley was strong enough to “transfer speed to power” at the pro level. At the 2015 NFL Combine Beasley made it crystal clear that he was just as strong as he was athletic. He shocked scouts and GM’s by pounding out 35 reps on the bench, the 3rd highest total out of any prospect in the entire draft class.
Beasley benched more than defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who weighs 339 pounds, and is widely considered one of the NFL’s strongest players. In addition to his brute strength, Beasley clocked a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash, a time that most running backs would be happy with. With all that in mind, it’s not much of a surprise that Beasley has quickly emerged as one of the top pass rushers in the NFL.
Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins
What Vernon Davis did in the weight room during his junior year in college is absolutely breathtaking. As a prospect at the University of Maryland, Davis broke schools records with a 460-pound bench, 686-pound squat, and a 355-pound clean. The most impressive part? All of this came from a guy who was 6-foot-3 who weighed less than 250 pounds.
Even though he’s now 35-years old, Davis still has the physique of a Greek God. In addition to his incredible strength, he is ridiculously lean (4% body fat), and unbelievably fast. His 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash was faster than Adrian Peterson’s 4.4 seconds.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is not your normal quarterback. As a matter of fact, Cam Newton is not your normal human. Newton is built like a universal soldier, with a cannon for an arm. He is 6-foot-6, and completely shredded at 260 pounds. He’s faster than most safeties, stronger than most linebackers, and as big as most defensive ends.
Imagine being a defensive player trying to chase down, and tackle, a guy who runs a 4.5 second 40, and is built like a brick wall. It’s common to see an opposing tackler end up face down on the field after a failed attempt to bring down the beast of a man that is Cam Newton.
Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the NFL is slowly phasing out the “run dominant” defensive tackles from being in demand, an exception was certainly made for someone with the physical gifts of Vita Vea of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In Vea’s scouting report, prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, some scout wrote that Vea “pummels (opposing) centers when isolated on them.”
Said pummeling is likely fueled, at least in large part, from the strength that allowed him to crank out a staggering 41 repetitions of 225lbs on the bench press. But Vea is much more than just “weight room strength.” Former Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter is on record as saying Vea would “300-pound men off the ground with one arm.”
Rob Gronkowski (Retired / Honorable Mention)
Few players in NFL history have ever possessed the combination of strength and speed displayed by former New England Patriots superhuman tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Gronk’s highlight reel is filled with incredible catches, followed by an army of defenders holding on for dear life as he drags them down the field.
He looks like an oversized dad playing backyard football with his kids. The fact that he weighs 265 pounds, runs a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash, and threw up 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press is a testament to his world-class athletic ability. Still not convinced? Ask any defender whose ever tried to tackle him.
Terrell Owens (Retired / Honorable Mention)
Even though he was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame (even after he refused to attend the ceremony in Canton), Terrell Owens has constantly talked about his desire to play professional football again. There are many guys currently in the NFL who swear that the 44-year old Owens, who’s always been one of most in-shape players throughout his playing days, could still be highly effective if he were to play today.
Such conjecture was confirmed by the fact that Owens was recently timed in running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, which would put him in the upper tier of receivers in the game today.
Marshawn Lynch (Retired / Honorable Mention)
There are two things we know about Marshawn Lynch: 1) he is as ferocious a running back as we’ve seen in recent memory, and 2) he marches to the beat of his own drum. His off-season workouts are a testament to both of those.
After being away from football, when Lynch was preparing to rejoin the Oakland Raiders prior to the 2017 season, he got in shape by performing all his workouts on the beach, but while wearing combat boots to up the difficulty level of training on sand. He did everything from ladder drills, jumping over obstacles, and even catching passes with one hand.
James Harrison (Retired / Honorable Mention)
Though he recently decided to call it quits, the recently retired Harrison still deserves a spot on this list. After all, very few (if any) 38-year old men can leg press 1,200 pounds. In 2014, he recorded a video of himself benching 405 pounds, then “taking a rest” between sets by doing 10 push-ups with a teammate sitting on his back.
His incredible strength and tenacity enabled him to go from being an undrafted free agent out of Kent State University to a 15-year NFL veteran, five-time Pro Bowl selection, and four-time All-Pro selection.
LaRon Landry (Retired / Honorable Mention)
As the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Redskins selected LSU safety LaRon Landry. At the time, Landry weighed in at 214 pounds. But as you can see, Landry has packed on at least 20-30 pounds of muscle to his already hulking frame. At one point, he was able to run a 4.35 second 40-yard dash, then hit the weight room and bench 425 pounds and squat 500 pounds.
Landry became so obsessed with bulking up; he eventually lost most of the speed and athleticism that made him a top-level talent. It also didn’t help that he was eventually linked to PEDs (which should come as no surprise). Landry hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2014.
Steve Weatherford (Retired / Honorable Mention)
Punters aren’t supposed to look like Steve Weatherford. Punters are supposed to be scrawny ex-soccer players who thought they’d give football a try. But not every punter is Steve Weatherford, who stands 6-foot-2, weights 211 pounds and has 4% body fat. But if you think his jacked physique is the product of God-given genetics, think again…
“I entered my freshman year of high school weighing 107 pounds. I was the lightest person in the entire school, except for a couple of girls,” says Weatherford. Weatherford loved sports, and realized his only chance to play was to get serious about bulking up. Here’s a taste of his favorite lifts at the gym; Squat (420 pounds for 10 reps), Bench Press (525 pounds for 1 rep), and Deadlift (335 pounds for 5 reps). So much for punters being “soft”.
Brian Cushing (Retired / Honorable Mention)
With the 15th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected USC workout warrior, Brian Cushing. NFL scouts described Cushing as a player who was fast enough to play linebacker and strong enough to play defensive end. In 2009 a video surfaced of Cushing muscling through 35 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, breaking the all-time record at Joe DeFranco’s legendary athletic training facility that has served as a training grounds for elite NFL players.
But there might be a good explanation as to why Cushing is an absolutely beast in the gym… In 2017, Cushing was hit with a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy. This marks Cushing’s second suspension for testing positive for PEDs.
Vernon Gholston (Retired / Honorable Mention)
Even though he was an all-time bust, there’s no denying that Vernon Gholston was an all-time BEAST. At the 2008 NFL Combine, Gholston put up 37 reps on the bench, which was the most of any player that year. Standing 6-foot-3, weighing 266 pounds, Gholston looked like a Marvel action hero who was carved from stone.
The Jets thought they found a player who would terrorize NFL quarterbacks for the next decade. But the story of Vernon Gholston goes to show you that size doesn’t always matter in the NFL. Despite being an absolute freak of nature, Gholston NEVER records a single sack in the NFL (that’s not a typo).
Haloti Ngata (Retired / Honorable Mention)
Haloti Ngata is a nightmare of a human being (for opposing offensive linemen) because of the combination of size (6’4 and 345 pound), strength, and athleticism he presents. He recently made waves on the internet by posting a video performing an exercise called “Turkish Get Ups,” while holding a dumbbell that was 150 pounds (as seen in photo above). Most people would struggle to perform the same exercise with a 25-pound dumbbell.
His 495 pound bench press that he put up in college ranks second all time among all Oregon Ducks football players, and he put up 37 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press at the 2006 NFL Combine. Yet, he’s athletic enough to dunk a basketball (which he later posted of himself doing). That’s a terrifying amount of physical ability wrapped up in one human being.
Kam Chancellor (Retired / Honorable Mention)
No member of the vaunted secondary of the Seattle Seahawks personifies the “Legion of Boom” moniker like Kam Chancellor. Wide receivers dread going into the middle of the field when they play Seattle. Chancellor, who resembles a Marvel Superhero, is bigger, badder, and scarier than any other NFL safety.
It’s not just about the weight room numbers for Chancellor. Rather, it’s’ about the way he inspires fear within opposing receivers, and the way he hits ball carriers so hard that it rattles the bones of their ancestors. Offensive players who can’t outrun him would be wise to step out of bounds or go down when they see this 6-foot-3, 239-pound enforcer heading in their direction. Opposing pass catchers were thrilled when Chancellor announced his retirement this past off-season.