Oldest NFL Players of All Time
Playing in the NFL is a young man's game — the average NFL career lasts around three seasons and is slightly longer for quarterbacks. They play for around four years.
That's why it's so utterly remarkable when an NFL career stretches into a decade, much less two decades. But sometimes it happens. Sometimes, a player is either so good or so valuable (or a kicker) that the staying power begins to creep into the record books.
Here's a look at the oldest NFL players of all time — including some quarterbacks who played within the shadow of their 50th birthday. Some of these guys you probably already know pretty well, and some of them you are probably hearing of for the first time ... all of them legends.
10. Steve DeBerg
Born: Jan. 19, 1954 (Oakland, California)
Age at last game: 44 years, 279 days
Career: San Francisco 49ers (1977-80), Denver Broncos (1981-83), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1984-87, 1992-93), Kansas City Chiefs (1988-91), Miami Dolphins (1993), Atlanta Falcons (1998)
Bottom Line: Steve DeBerg
Steve DeBerg's NFL career didn't get off to the best start. After he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 10th round of the 1977 NFL Draft, he was cut by the team before the season even started.
DeBerg would go on to play 21 seasons in the NFL — mostly as a backup — and notably was the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers right before Joe Montana replaced him as the starter, then again with the Kansas City Chiefs as a starter before Montana replaced him once again in the early 1990s.
DeBerg retired after the 1993 season but returned to the NFL in 1998 with the Atlanta Falcons and was their backup quarterback on the way to an NFC Championship.
9. Ben Agajanian
Born: Aug. 28, 1919 (Santa Ana, California)
Died: Feb. 8, 2018, 98 years old (Cathedral City, California)
Age at last game: 45 years, 119 days
Career: Hollywood Bears (1942), Hollywood Rangers (1944), Philadelphia Eagles (1945), Pittsburgh Steelers (1945), Los Angeles Dons (1947-48), New York Giants (1949, 1954-57), Los Angeles Rams (1953), Los Angeles Chargers (1960), Dallas Texans (1961), Green Bay Packers (1961), Oakland Raiders (1962), San Diego Chargers (1964)
Bottom Line: Ben Agajanian
Few football players had to overcome what Ben Agajanian did to make it to the NFL — much less to become one of the great kickers of his era.
That's because Agajanian had to have four toes amputated on his kicking foot after a work accident while he was in college, but he still went on to play for 10 different NFL teams and won a pair of NFL championships with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. After he retired in 1964, Agajanian was the kicking coach for the Dallas Cowboys for 20 years.
Agajanian died in 2018, at 98 years old.
8. John Nesser
Position: Offensive Line
Born: April 25, 1876 (Trier, Rhine Province, German Empire)
Died: July 29, 1931, 55 years old (Columbus, Ohio)
Age at last game: 45 years, 137 days
Career: Columbus Panhandles (1909-21)
Bottom Line: John Nesser
John Nesser was part of the founding of the NFL — the oldest of the famous "Nesser Brothers," seven brothers who worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad and helped form the base for the Columbus Panhandles in the early days of the NFL. All seven would play in the NFL.
Nesser was only 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds … but was fierce. Originally a quarterback, which mainly required blocking back in the day, Nesser's pro career came in the trenches as an offensive lineman. He died in 1931, at 55 years old.
7. Tom Brady
Born: Aug. 3, 1977 (San Mateo, California)
Age at last game: 45 years, 66 days
Career: New England Patriots (2000-19), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-22)
Bottom Line: Tom Brady
Tom Brady's seven Super Bowl wins are the most of any player in NFL history, and the 2022-23 season marks his 23rd NFL season.
Brady's career came to a brief end following the 2021 offseason when he announced his retirement on Feb. 1, 2022 … before he decided to come out of retirement just 40 days later. (You better believed it sparked a lot of memes.)
In Tampa Bay's season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 11, 2022, Brady became the oldest quarterback to start a game in NFL history.
6. Gary Anderson
Born: July 16, 1959 (Parys, Orange Free State, South Africa)
Age at last game: 45 years, 167 days
Career: Pittsburgh Steelers (1982-94), Philadelphia Eagles (1995-96), San Francisco 49ers (1997), Minnesota Vikings (1998-2002), Tennessee Titans (2003-04)
Bottom Line: Gary Anderson
Sadly, Gary Anderson's 21 seasons in the NFL came to be defined by an infamous moment when the Atlanta Falcons pulled off one of the biggest upsets in football history. They defeated the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.
Anderson became the first NFL kicker to convert every field goal and PAT during the regular season in 1998 but missed a 39-yard attempt that would have sealed the win for the Vikings with just over two minutes left in regulation.
The loss demoralized the Vikings' fanbase for the next decade — the team had seemed almost invincible following a 15-1 regular season.
5. Bobby Marshall
Position: Tight End
Born: March 12, 1980 (Milwaukee Wisconsin)
Died: Aug. 27, 1958, 78 years old (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Age at last game: 45 years, 230 days
Career: Rock Island Independents (1920), Minneapolis Marines (1921-24), Duluth Kelleys (1925)
Bottom Line: Bobby Marshall
Bobby Marshall didn't just make history by becoming one of the oldest NFL players in history — he was also one of the first African-American NFL players and the first African-American to play football in the Big Ten.
The grandson of a former slave, Marshall starred in baseball and football at the University of Minnesota and also played pre-Negro Leagues National League baseball before playing in the NFL … all the while also keeping up a day job as a practicing attorney in the Minneapolis area.
Marshall died in 1958, at 78 years old, and was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
4. John Carney
Born: April 20, 1964 (Hartford, Connecticut)
Age at last game: 46 years, 9 days
Career: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987-89), Los Angeles Rams (1990), San Diego Chargers (1990-2000), New Orleans Saints (2001-06, 2009-10), Jacksonville Jaguars (2007), Kansas City Chiefs (2007), New York Giants (2008)
Bottom Line: John Carney
John Carney had to scrap to get into the NFL — after going undrafted out of Notre Dame in 1986, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals, cut, then spent a year away from the game before landing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987.
Carney had his best years with the San Diego Chargers, where he played for 11 seasons, was a two-time NFL All-Pro and capped his career by winning a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. When Carney retired, he was the last active NFL player from the 1980s.
3. Adam Vinatieri
Born: Dec. 28, 1972 (Yankton, South Dakota)
Age at last game: 46 years, 338 days
Career: New England Patriots (1996-2005), Indianapolis Colts (2006-19)
Bottom Line: Adam Vinatieri
One of the most clutch players in NFL history regardless of position, Adam Vinatieri should become the third kicker to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, following Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen.
Vinatieri, a South Dakota native, played 24 seasons and won four Super Bowls in his career with two different franchises — three with the New England Patriots and one with the Indianapolis Colts. He even kicked the game-winning field goal in two Super Bowls with the Patriots.
Vinatieri is the NFL's all-time scoring leader (2,673 points) and also holds NFL records for most field goals (599), postseason points and overtime field goals. He was also named to the NFL 100th Anniversary Team.
2. Morten Andersen
Born: Aug. 19, 1969 (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Age at last game: 47 years, 131 days
Career: New Orleans Saints (1982-94), Atlanta Falcons (1995-2000, 2006-07), New York Giants (2001), Kansas City Chiefs (2002-03), Minnesota Vikings (2004)
Bottom Line: Morten Andersen
Along with Jan Stenerud, Morten Andersen is one of only two players who were kickers as their primary position to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Andersen came to the U.S. as an exchange student from Denmark in 1977, and his one year of high school football was so impressive that he earned a scholarship at Michigan State, where he rewrote the Big Ten's kicking records.
Andersen spent the first 13 seasons of his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints and would eventually play for five teams over 23 seasons, made six NFL All-Pro teams and was named to NFL All-Decade Teams in both the 1980s and 1990s.
1. George Blanda
Born: Sept. 17, 1927 (Youngwood, Pennsylvania)
Died: Sept. 27, 2010, 83 years old (Alameda, California)
Age at last game: 48 years, 109 days
Career: Chicago Bears (1949, 1950-58), Baltimore Colts (1950), Houston Oilers (1960-66), Oakland Raiders (1967-75)
Bottom Line: George Blanda
George Blanda played in the NFL for 26 seasons over four different decades. The former University of Kentucky star quarterback and kicker began his career in 1949 with the Chicago Bears. After Blanda butted heads with Bears owner George Halas over being primarily used as a kicker — and money — he briefly retired after the 1958 season before returning to play in the AFL with the Houston Oilers, where he led the franchise to three AFL titles and was even named AFL Most Valuable Player in 1961.
Blanda extended his career because of his ability to kick and be a serviceable backup quarterback — he played his final nine seasons with the Oakland Raiders and retired following the 1975 season with the NFL record for most PATs made.