For over 100 years in the NFL, #21 has become so popular, it's considered purely legendary. Other players have made their respective numbers just as well-known. There's Tom Brady, Jim Kelly, and Terry Bradshaw to name just a few, who have made #12, a number of legends. You can't think of #80 without thinking of Jerry Rice or Steve Largent. And Ray Lewis is always going to be the first #52, before anyone else.
Without much ado, let us take a look at:
5 greatest NFL players to wear the #21 jersey:
#1 Deion Sanders - Worn for the Falcons, 49ers, and Cowboys
Deion is going to be first on anyone's list, simply because his swagger was just as legendary as his talent on the field. When he played it was truly "Prime Time", a nickname he earned almost instantly after being drafted by the Falcons, in 1989.
His natural athletic talent made him a versatile player, something not seen much during his time as he was able to play not just at cornerback, but as a return man, and also a wide receiver. That versatility also reached into baseball, where he became the only player to have appeared in both a Super Bowl (XXIX and XXX) and a World Series (1992), a record that still stands to this day.
#2 LaDainian Tomlinson - Worn for the Chargers and Jets
Perhaps the second-best player to have worn this number, Tomlinson was one of the greatest offensive players of his era and is often considered one of the greatest running backs of all time. Drafted in 2001, he played 9 nine seasons for the then San Diego Chargers, before playing the last 2 years of his career for the New York Jets.
He earned the NFL's MVP Award in 2006, after breaking numerous offensive records that season, including being the fastest to rush for 100 touchdowns. His extraordinary play led him straight to a first-ballot Hame of Fame induction, in 2017.
#3 Charles Woodson - Worn for the Packers
By the time Woodson donned the famed #21, he had already made a name for himself in the NFL with the then Oakland Raiders.
Originally listed as #24, he quickly became the best cover cornerback during his time there, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, as well as All-Pro honors, for three straight seasons (1999-2001). Though like many great players in the modern NFL, Woodson moved on to a new team and this time, a new number in Green Bay.
His legendary play continued, helping the Packers win Super Bowl XLV, after the 2010 season.
#4 Ezekiel Elliott - Currently active for the Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott has the good fortune of being currently active, and adding to what could be a career for the record books. He previously led the league in rushing both 2016 and in 2018, respectively. He's wearing #21 well, following in another Cowboy's footsteps, one Deion Sanders.
#5 Frank Gore - Worn for the 49ers, Dolphins, and Jets
Another currently active player, Frank Gore is (still) adding to an unstoppable career. As this past regular season came to an end, Gore still sits at 3rd all-time in rushing yards (16,000). If he plays one more season, he has a real chance to pass rushing legend Walter Payton who has 16,726 yards.
He'll be coming into the 2021 season at 38 years of age, but if he's as healthy as he's always seemed to have been, he should have no problem reaching Payton.