There are always those guys. The players who demonstrate excellence both on and off the field. They are the athletes who make up what the NFL is all about.
Here’s a list of the league’s most indispensable players from all eight offensive positions.
Center: Jason Kelce
Kelce, the 31-year-old center who has been with the Philadelphia Eagles for is entire eight-year career, is not only a good athlete but also a good guy.
Kelce, along with teammate Chris Long and former teammates Haloti Ngata and Beau Allen, successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in March in an effort to raise awareness about Tanzania’s clean water crisis. The quest is tied to the Conquering Kili program, which was developed by Long and former Seattle Seahawk and active-duty Green Beret Nate Boyer. The program gives combat veterans a new mission that serves people in need. All funds raised form the mission benefit communities in East Africa.
Of course, on the field, Kelce is not your average football player. The two-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro has started all 110 games he has been active for — including all 64 Eagles games over the past four seasons. Kelce also won the NFL’s weekly Way To Play award during Week 13 of the 2018 season. The award’s criteria for offensive lineman include footwork, pad level, block sustainability, and proper posture at contact. Winning the award gives him an extra $2,500 from the league to donate to a high school or youth football program of his choice.
Kelce, whose brother in Kansas City has quite some street cred to his name, too, is an important part of the league.
Offensive Guard: Marshal Yanda
Yanda, 34, was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft, and has been with the team ever since. A seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All Pro, Yanda has started 151 of the 162 games he has been active for. That list includes a streak of Yanda starting each of the last 125 games he as been active for.
Yanda was consecutively named the best guard in the league by Pro Football Focus in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Also in 2016, Yanda was listed 37th on the league’s list of Top 100 players, as voted on by his fellow peers. He was ranked 43rd in 2017.
Every year, the Ravens media votes for nominees and a winner for two awards: the Media MVP, and the Media Good Guy. While Marlon Humphries and Brandon Carr won those awards, respectively, Yanda was the only player up for the running in both categories.
Yanda has been a key piece of the NFL on and off the field for several years.
Offensive Tackle: Mitchell Schwartz
Schwartz, 30, has been a key piece of the Chiefs ever since he joined the squad in 2016. Originally drafted by the Browns in the 2012 NFL Draft, Schwartz did not only just start every game during his four seasons with Cleveland, but he actually appeared in all of the team’s offensive snaps over those years. He is the only Browns rookie in the franchise’s history to play in all offensive snaps in their rookie year. Schwartz was named to Pro Football Focus’ 2012 All-Rookie Team, with the site crediting his “top-notch pass blocking.”
In 2016, Schwartz signed a five-year, $33 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, making him one of the highest-paid right tackles in the league. He appeared in all but one snap in 2016, ending his snaps streak, but his games started streak remained active. In fact, that streak still exists — Schwartz has been on a roster for 112 games, and has started all of them.
Last month, Schwartz signed a one-year contract extension with the Chiefs through the 2021 season, so he remains in Kansas City for at least three more years before he could chose to take his talents elsewhere.
Quarterback: Tom Brady
You’d think with someone as amazing as Tom Brady, there would be many large paragraphs here. But it’s really not that complicated. Brady is the greatest player in NFL history, and his actions on and off the field make him a role model for countless football fans across the world. Is that a good-enough explanation?
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph, who has been a Minnesota Viking ever since he was drafted by the team in the second round of the 2011 draft, is a valuable asset for the league and the franchise he plays for, as represented by the multi-year extension he signed to stay with the Vikings for even linger this offseason.
Rudolph has started 104 of the 112 games he has been active for, with all eight of the games he did not start coming in the 2018 season. In his career, Rudolph has hauled in 386 of the 580 passes thrown his way, amassing 3,787 yards and 41 touchdowns. He has never fumbled the football. The 29-year-old Notre Dame product has eight years of NFL experience under his belt and is due to bring that number to at least 13 by the time his contract expires.
Rudolph has also positively represented the Vikings off the field. He was the team’s 2018 representative for Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge, earning him $25,000 for the charity of his choice. A positive role model across the community, Rudolph was the centerpiece of a very touching video released by the Vikings last year.
The Vikings are lucky to have such a wonderful representative like Rudolph.
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald, easily the active wide receiver with the best career, and one of the best wide receivers of all time, has been a bright spot for the Cardinals through their ups and downs over the years.
Drafted by the Cardinals with the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, Fitzgerald has spent 15 years with the Cardinals, starting all but two of the 234 games he has appeared in. He has started more than 13 games in every season in the league. Fitzgerald has hauled in 1,303 of the 2,154 passes thrown his way for 16,279 yards and 116 touchdowns. The 11-time Pro Bowler and one-time First Team All-Pro has led the league in receptions twice and touchdowns twice.
Fitzgerald was named co-winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2017 after spending time off the field participating in several philanthropic initiatives. He shared the honors with Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Fitzgerald is the founder of the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund and the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund. The First Down Fund mainly helps kids in both Phoenix and his hometown of Minneapolis by donating money to fund books, field trips, supplies and technology to underprivileged youth. Fitzgerald also finished in the top three for the honor in 2012.
Running Back: Mark Ingram
Mark Ingram, who has spent his entire eight-season career with the Saints but joined the Ravens this past offseason, is a powerful running back whose skills in the backfield have earned him two Pro Bowl honors.
In 64 starts over 106 games (due to being a late bloomer and later splitting time with Alvin Kamara), Ingram has rushed for 6,007 yards on 1,321 carries, picking up 50 touchdowns. He’s also hauled in 228 of the 286 passes thrown his way for a total of 1,598 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
Ingram has also been a solid role model for the public. While he did get in a bit of trouble early in 2018 when he was handed a four-game suspension for usage of performance-enhancing drugs, Ingram was named the club’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee the same year. He started the Mark Ingram Foundation in 2011, with the goal of helping children who have a parent or both parents in jail. During the annual holiday giveaway, each child is partnered with a Saints player or a foundation volunteer to choose gifts for themselves and their family. Ingram has also sponsored an annual back to school giveaway in New Orleans to ensure that every child, regardless of their home environment, has the necessary supplies to be ready and excited to learn.
“It’s something that’s dear to my heart, something that I lived through with my father being incarcerated for a number of my years growing up,” Ingram said of his inspiration. “Despite that he was my number one supporter, mentor and advisor. My aim is that for these kids even if they have a parent or two that are incarcerated, they can still have a great relationship with them and still accomplish the goals and achieve the aspirations that they want. They have to keep their goals high, keep close to the ones around them and their guardians and stay away from the wrong crowd.”
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk
Kyle Juszczyk is the 49ers’ dominant blocking back who has received Pro Bowl nods in each of the past three seasons. A six-year veteran, Juszczyk has started 54 of 96 games and, while his a dominant blocker, has also been a reliable player in the receiving game, hauling in 160 passes on 216 targets for 1,408 yards and seven touchdowns. As a running back, he has been somewhat quiet, rushing for 86 yards and one touchdown on just 22 carries.
Juszczyk was named the winner of The Bill Walsh Award in 2017. According to the 49ers, the award was established in 2004 in honor of San Francisco’s Hall of Fame Head Coach. “The award, which is voted on by the coaching staff, is given to the 49er who has best represented the standard of professional excellence established by Walsh,” according to the team’s site. “Walsh served as the team’s head coach for 10 seasons from 1979-88. In that time, he compiled a record of 102-63-1 and led the team to three Super Bowls. He was twice named Coach of the Year (1981, 1984) and was later named Coach of the Decade for the 1980s.”
Juszczyk also participated in the My Cause, My Cleats program as he sported cleats that supported Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
While he isn’t the guy making the flashy plays on the field, he’s a crucial member of the team both on and off the field.