Over the years, the NFL has seen many players follow in the footsteps of their fathers in advancing to the sport's highest level. Some have lived up to the legacy laid out before them, while many others have fallen well short. There are a few father-son combinations, however, that stand out amongst the rest. And in a couple cases it goes even deeper with multiple family members reaching elite status during their NFL careers.
Below we look at the best of the best and rank the top five father-son combinations in NFL history.
1. The Matthews Family
Few families come close to matching the success of the Matthews family on the football field. Clay Matthews Sr. started it all with a four-year career as an offensive tackle and linebacker in the 1950s. After one season with the San Francisco 49ers, his career was interrupted by the Korean War, but he returned to play three more seasons following his service.
Matthews Sr. is the father of Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews Jr., who played 19 seasons in the NFL, spending time with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons. Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, who also played 19 seasons (Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans), is his son as well.
Grandson Clay Matthews III has made a name for himself as well for the Green Bay Packers.
2. The Mannings
A talented passer who played 14 years in the NFL, Archie Manning spent most of his career with the New Orleans Saints before his career wound down with the Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings. Manning is better know today, of course, as the father of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, both of whom have won Super Bowls with their respective teams.
While Archie never won a title during his playing days, he was a respected signal caller on a lot of teams that were sorely lacking in talent. Peyton, of course, developed into one of the best pure passers the game has ever seen. And while Eli has had his ups and downs, he has enjoyed his fair share of successes at the NFL level.
3. Kellen Winslow and Kellen Winslow II
Kellen Winslow, who played nine years for the San Diego Chargers, was one of a handful of tight ends who helped revolutionize the way the position is utilized in the pro passing attack today. At a position that was generally filled by blockers who occasionally ran short routes, Winslow led the NFL in receiving in 1980 and 1981. He also played in five Pro Bowls and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
Winslow II was a first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2004 who currently plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A leg injury his rookie season and a motorcycle accident the following year threatened to derail his career, but he bounced back over the next couple seasons and earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 2007.
4. Howie and Chris Long
Howie Long, a cerebral defensive lineman for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, terrorized quarterbacks and stuffed running games throughout his 13-year NFL career. He was selected to play in the Pro Bowl eight times, was named All Pro on three occasions, won one Super Bowl, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000. Long was also named to the 1980s All-Decade team.
Son Chris was the No 2 overall draft pick in 2008, and has recently begun to come into his own as a terror at defensive end as well.
5. Tony and Anthony Dorsett
The only player in history to win the Heisman Trophy, a Super Bowl, the College National Championship, and be inducted into both the College Football and Pro Football Hall Of Fame, Tony Dorsett spent nearly all of his career as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. As the No. 2 overall pick in 1977, he was highly decorated coming out of college and didn't disappoint his new team, displaying an explosiveness that won him Rookie of the Year honors. He went on to play in four Pro Bowls and was an All Pro selection in 1981.
Anthony didn't have near the career his father did, but he put together some quality seasons at safety nonetheless. Drafted in the sixth round in 1996, he spent time with the Houston/Tennessee Oilers and Oakland Raiders.