The river of tears that erupted from Knowshon Moreno's face as he cried during the national anthem before the Denver Broncos' victory over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday got us thinking. Who exactly are the best, or most notable, criers in NFL history? With that in mind, here is a brief, relatively recent history of crying in the NFL, broken down into several helpful categories.
Peyton Manning -- It was long assumed that Peyton Manning would spend his entire career as an Indianapolis Colt. I mean, the guy was drafted first overall by the Colts, and almost single-handedly turned the fortunes of the franchise around. Sure, he had some help on offense, but Manning was the main reason the Colts had nine straight 10-plus win seasons. So when Manning was released by the Colts before the 2012 season, it was understandable that he'd be a tad emotional. Manning choked up numerous times during the press conference announcing his release in one of the more respectable press conferences of this type. I wish the same could be said for the next entry on the list.
Brett Favre -- Oh, Brett. After years of flip-flopping on whether or not to retire, he finally made it official in the spring of 2008, following the Packers' heart-breaking overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game. Favre's tears were shared by pretty much every cheesehead across the nation. That was, of course, until Favre unretired, played for the Jets, then retired again, only so he could get around the legal lingo preventing him from playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Those cheesehead tears returned when Favre defeated the Packers in Lambeau Field wearing the Viking purple.
There have been plenty of players who expressed emotions on the gridiron over the storied history of the NFL. But I'd argue that none have done it as spectacularly as these two.
Terrell Owens -- Whether he was doing an impromptu press conference in his driveway, or dancing disrespectfully on the blue star at the center of the Texas Stadium, Owens always wore his emotions on his sleeve. Especially when he cried. Through both tragedy and triumph, Owens never held back the waterworks. Take "The Catch II" for instance, where Steve Young improbably hit Owens for the game-winning touchdown pass over the Packers in the 1998 NFC divisional playoff game. As you can see in the video to the right, Owens was pretty much in a glass case of emotion after catching the touchdown, one that seemed to imprison him for much of his career (more on this later).
Ray Lewis -- During his Hall of Fame career, Lewis was always considered the "emotional leader" of the Ravens. Emotional being the operative word. Never one to shy away from his feelings, Lewis was routinely in an emotional fervor on and off the field. This was never more apparent than during his run to a Super Bowl XLVII victory last season. Lewis was emotional in his last game in Baltimore (see right). He cried after the Ravens upset the Broncos in double overtime. And again after the Ravens toppled the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl. Strangely enough, he didn't shed a tear when he held the Lombardi trophy. Perhaps. his tear ducts were finally dried up? Or maybe he was saving those tears for his new media gig with ESPN?
Dick Vermeil -- On the emotional scale, NFL coaches tend to lean more toward the fiery side as opposed to the softy side. Most people associate NFL coaches with red faces and flying spittle more so than for sharing feelings and hugs. They are, after all, tasked with leading a team of 53 grown men into a battle of strength and wit every seven days. No easy task. Yet, Dick Vermeil was one coach who walked a different path, and with great success. During his coaching career with the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs, Vermeil frequently shed tears when addressing his team. Yet, it didn't seem to affect his ability to coach, as Vermeil is one of only five coaches to lead two separate teams to the Super Bowl, winning Super Bowl XXXIV with Kurt Warner and the Rams, but losing Super Bowl XV with the Eagles.
Hall of Fame speeches
There have been a number of players and coaches who have let some tears fly during their Hall of Fame induction speeches. And why shouldn't they? They've reached the pinnacle of their sport, and are being honored for all of the blood, sweat and hard work they endured over the course of their career. I think Ron Swanson should amend his Pyramid of Greatness and add "Hall of Fame speech" under acceptable places to cry along with funerals and the Grand Canyon.
While some NFL players enjoy a relatively pain-free path to the pros (read: the Mannings), most players have to face varying degrees of adversity to achieve their dream. Whether it be overcoming their upbringing (like Michael Oher) or overcoming the perception of their ability (like Tom Brady), most players have to sacrifice a lot to achieve their dreams of playing in the NFL. And when they reflect back on it, they can get emotional, like Tom Brady does to the right. Personally, I'm touched as Brady tears up thinking about the day he was drafted. He clearly worked tremendously hard to get to that point, and even harder after the draft to become the player he is today. So, it's cool to see that those emotions were never lost on him during all of his success.
And then there are tears like this ...
Sometimes, I guess the NFL just gets to people, as they cry or get inexplicably emotional. My personal favorite, was Terrell Owens' now-infamous "That's my quarterback" press conference. To refresh your memory, the Cowboys lost at home to the Giants in the 2008 NFC divisional playoffs on a Tony Romo game-ending interception in the endzone to R.W. McQuarters. It marked Dallas' second consecutive loss in the playoffs in the hands of Tony Romo (he fumbled the snap against Seattle the year before), leading to questions about Romo's "clutch" ability that still permeate the media today. Well, Owens didn't take kindly to those accusations. If you've never seen the video, it's a must-watch.
There you have it. The brief, mostly recent history of crying in the NFL. Really, it's not that big of a deal. Grown men can cry too -- get over it. But it was fun to look back on these moments after Moreno rained tears on the turf at Arrowhead Stadium. Although, no instance of crying in the NFL will ever be as magnificent as this mashup of Moreno crying to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." I'll leave you with that little gem. Until next time.
- Alex writes features and fantasy pieces for NFL.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar.