100-Yard Dash: the NFL’s Best All-Time Kick Returners

Image credit: Flickr by GolowaState
While continuous rule changes have somewhat altered the feel of the kickoff in the NFL, there are still few things in sports more riveting than watching a skilled return-man take one to the house. Seeing one man dart, dodge, and duck for 90 yards while eluding an entire team devoted to stopping him is really something to behold.
A kickoff touchdown here and there can sometimes be attributed to great blocking, or terrible defense, but the few who have managed to find that path to the end zone again and again are truly the all-time greats.

5 Brian Mitchell

4 Touchdowns, 14,014 Yards

A former college quarterback at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Brian Mitchell was drafted by Washington in the fifth round of the 1990 draft, and was quickly converted into a return specialist. Over the course of his career he proved that the Redskins made the right move by going over 1,000 yards nine times and never averaging less than 20.1 yards per return in 14 years in the league. Mitchell was a one-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro, who also led the NFL in all-purpose yards four different times.

4 Leon Washington

8 Touchdowns, 6,315 Yards

In just seven short seasons in the league, Leon Washington, a fourth-round pick out of Florida State, has proven himself to be one of the league’s most dynamic and explosive weapons with the ball in his hands. Save for his rookie season, Washington has never averaged less than 24.1 yards per kick return, and has racked up more than 1,000 yards four different times. He’s a two-time Pro-Bowler, once with the Jets and once with the Seahawks, and is still the only player in NFL history to tally three kick-return touchdowns in two different seasons.

3 Dante Hall

6 Touchdowns, 10,136 Yards

Nicknamed the “Human Joystick,” Dante Hall was an impossibly shifty return man that dominated the highlight reels throughout the early 2000s, when he seemed to make a big-time play for the Chiefs each and every week. Over his nine-year career with Kansas City and St. Louis, Hall was known as a legitimate game-changer, averaging 23.8 yards per return, going to two Pro-Bowls, and earning First-Team All-Pro honors. He currently sits in fourth and third (tied with four others) on the lists for career kick-return yards and kick-return touchdowns, respectively.

2 Mel J. Gray

6 Touchdowns, 10,250 Yards

An absolute blur of a runner who spent time in New Orleans, Detroit, Houston, Tennessee, and Philadelphia, Melvin Junius Gray was easily one of the most prolific return men of all time. Over his 13-year NFL career, Gray never averaged less than 21.4 yards per return and went over the 1,000-yard mark four different times. He led the league in returns for touchdowns and yards per return twice each, and was voted a three-time First-Team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, all in his time with the Detroit Lions from 1989 to 1994.

1 Josh Cribbs

8 Touchdowns, 10,015 Yards

In just eight seasons in the league, Josh Cribbs has already established himself as an all-time great, and served as pretty much the only bright spot in a rather dismal Cleveland Browns franchise. As a return man, Cribbs has gone over 1,000 yards in all but two seasons, never averaged below 20.4 yards per return, and even averaged more than 30 yards per return in 2007 when he totaled an astonishing 1,800 yards. Cribbs has taken at least one kick to the house in five different seasons, and been voted into two Pro Bowls as a return man.

Next: Field Flippers: the NFL’s Best All-Time Punt Returners