Top 10 Hispanic NFL players of all time
In honor of Latino Heritage month, we celebrate the greatest Hispanic players in NFL history by ranking the 10 best players of all time.
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The NFL is honoring Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15. Por La Cultura will be highlighting Hispanic players, coaches, and staff, and the NFL have also partnered with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement.
There have been a lot of great Hispanic players that have played in the National Football League, but these 10 are those who have stood out and made a major impact on the game of football. A recent name that has caught people's attention is Chris Olave, who was the first Latino player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. Olave was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 11th overall pick.
Ranking the Top 10 Hispanic NFL players of all time
10. Joe Kapp
Years active: 4 seasons
Teams: Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots
Joe Kapp was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and his heritage was Mexican-American. Kapp was drafted in 1959 and was selected by the Washington Redskins, but Kapp didn’t go to the NFL at first. Instead, he went to the Canadian Football League and played for the Calgary Stampeders. It wasn’t until eight years later that he decided to make the return to the U.S. to play professional football, signing with the Minnesota Vikings. During his time in the NFL, Kapp won a championship with the Vikings and is tied for the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a game (7).
9. Tom Fears
Position: Wide receiver
Years active: 9 seasons
Teams: LA Rams
Thomas Jesse Fears was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and his background is Mexican-American. He is well known for being the first Mexican-born player to be drafted into the National Football League. Fears was drafted by the Cleveland Rams in 1945 as a defensive back, but found success at wide receiver as the franchise moved to Los Angeles in the same year. During his career, he won three championships (1951, 1962, 1965). Fears also led the NFL in receiving yards (1950) and led the league in receptions twice (1949, 1950).
8. Arian Foster
Position: Running back
Years active: 7 seasons
Teams: Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins
Arian Foster was born in Albuquerque, NM and is of Mexican-American descent. Foster was known for his signature Namaste bow, which he would do after he scored a touchdown. He played in the NFL for seven seasons, including six seasons with the Houston Texans and one season with the Miami Dolphins. In 2010 and 2012 he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns. He finished his career with 6,527 rushing yards, 54 rushing touchdowns, and 2,346 receiving yards, which is impressive for a running back.
7. Steve Van Buren
Position: Running back
Years active: 8 seasons
Teams: Philadelphia Eagles
Steve Van Buren was born in La Ceiba, Honduras and was a man of many nicknames, including “The Flying Dutchman” and “Supersonic Steve.” Van Buren’s background was of Honduran descent. Drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1944, Van Buren played all eight seasons in the NFL with the Eagles. During his time in Philadelphia, he helped them win two championships (1948, 1949). He also led the NFL in rushing four times throughout his career, as well as rushing touchdowns (1945, 1947-1949). After he retired, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965 and also got his jersey retired by the Eagles (No. 15).
6. Tom Flores
Years active: 11 seasons
Teams: Bakersfield Spoilers, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs
Tom Flores was born in Sanger, California and became the first ever Hispanic starting quarterback in professional football when he played for the Oakland Raiders in the inaugural season of the AFL in 1960. After winning an AFL championship with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1970, Flores went on to win three Super Bowls with the Raiders as a coach - one as an assistant coach, and two as a head coach. Flores was also the NFL’s first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl. Flores won 83 games as a head coach for the Raiders, which is second in franchise history behind John Madden.
5. Jim Plunkett
Years active: 16 seasons
Teams: New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Jim Plunkett was born in San Jose, California of Mexican-American heritage, and was drafted No. 1 overall in 1971 by the New England Patriots. Plunkett didn’t have an easy path to the draft - while attending Stanford University, a tumor was found in his neck. The growth was benign and removed, and this setback didn’t stop Plunkett from reaching the NFL. During his time in the NFL, Plunkett found a home with the Oakland Raiders, although he initially sat on the bench as backup quarterback. Head coach and fellow Chicano Tom Flores eventually gave Plunkett his shot at the starting quarterback position, and he became the first Hispanic signal caller to lead his team to a Super Bowl in 1981. He was also named the Super Bowl MVP. Three years later, Plunkett led the relocated Los Angeles Raiders to a second Super Bowl win.
4. Tony Romo
Years active: 14 seasons
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
One of the most overlooked players in NFL history, Tony Romo was born in San Diego and went undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in the 2003 NFL Draft. Romo joined the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, but it was not until October 2006 that Romo saw his first action as a quarterback in the National Football League. From that day on, Romo secured numerous franchise records, including the most passing yards, as well as the most passing touchdowns, yards, and completions in a season. Romo finished his career with 34,183 yards, 248 touchdowns, 2,829 completions, and 117 interceptions over 13 years in the NFL. Although Romo has never been vocal about his Mexican heritage, he is of Mexican descent.
3. Ted Hendricks
Years active: 14 seasons
Teams: Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, LA Raiders
Theodore Paul Hendricks, also known as “The Mad Stork”, is the first Guatemalan-born player to play in the NFL. Born in Guatemala City, Hendricks attended the University of Miami from 1966 to 1968. Hendricks went on to play 15 seasons as an outside linebacker in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers, and the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. Hendricks's NFL career was nothing but success - he won four Super Bowls and was selected to eight Pro Bowls. After retirement, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and was then inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame three years later. Hendricks is the only player in Miami Hurricanes football history to be inducted into the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fame, and also the first to have his number retired by the Hurricanes.
2. Anthony Munoz
Position: Offensive lineman
Years active: 13 seasons
Teams: Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arguably the greatest offensive lineman ever to play in the National Football League, Anthony Munoz comes from a Mexican-American background and was born in Ontario, California. He was drafted third overall in the 1980 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, and went on to play 13 seasons for the Bengals (1980-1992) before finishing his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993). Munoz was as reliable as they come, only missing three games during his first 12 seasons. Munoz also was a three-time Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
1. Tony Gonzalez
Position: Tight end
Years active: 17 seasons
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons
If you are a diehard football fan and you hear the name Tony Gonzalez, you immediately think of arguably the best tight end of all time. Gonzalez was born in Torrance, California. His roots from his father’s side are Cape Verdean, Jamaican and Scottish, while his roots from his mother’s side are Mexican-American, African American, Native American, and Caucasian. He was drafted in the first round at No. 13 overall in the 1997 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, and went on to have a great career, playing for 17 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs (1997-2008) and the Atlanta Falcons (2009-2013). Gonzalez was a six-time First-Team All-Pro (1999-2001, 2003, 2008, 2012), and also holds the most yards (15,127) and most career receptions (1,325) ever for a tight end. Gonzalez also racked up 111 career touchdowns, which ranks second on the all-time list for tight ends. Quite simply, Gonzalez has basically every accolade there is for the position.