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Published: July 1, 2012 at 01:44 p.m.
Updated: July 4, 2012 at 09:59 a.m.

If NFL stars were fireworks

The 4th of July is upon us once again, America's favorite celebration. Barbeques and fireworks will reign supreme on Wednesday, reminding us of all the great freedoms we enjoy in this country. The 4th also signals a return to America's game -- football. With NFL training camps opening in the next weeks, the sight of a burning grill will transition to the sight of the pigskin spiraling through the air. So let's take a look at the players who light up the field, and most resemble the fireworks soon to light up the night sky.

7 Photos Total

  • THE SPARKLER 7

    Kevin Terrell/Associated Press

    THE SPARKLER

    Sure it's not the biggest or baddest, but the sparkler holds a place in Americana; everyone has lit one up and watched its magic. It's affordable, durable, holds attention and lasts. All those other guys pack a big punch but disintegrate within seconds. Not the sparkler.

    New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles holds all the characteristics of the sparkler. Set to earn only $2.4 million in 2012, Sproles is affordable. His total contract worth pales in comparison to other multidimensional backs like Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and even Reggie Bush, yet he held his own with the big boys, totaling 10 touchdowns and 1,313 total yards in 2011. Want durability? How about a player who was the Saints' leading rusher, kick returner and punt returner, and finished third in receiving yards? When you're zipping that stick through the night sky, think of Sproles, his gold helmet jetting through opposing defenses.

  • THE CHERRY BOMB 6

    Tom DiPace/Associated Press

    THE CHERRY BOMB

    They're illegal to sell in the United States, but everyone has heard about these "booming" taboo pyrotechnics. Their original intention was to simulate gunfire during military exercises, but since they possess more than 50mg of pyrotechnic composition, you'll never get your hands on one. It's a good thing too: They don't do much in terms of flash, but they shake you to your core when set off (so I'm told).

    When it comes to players hard to get a hold off, LeGarrette Blount ranks among the best. Winner of the Pizza Hut Play of the Year, Blount earned the award when he bulldozed through six Green Bay Packers defenders en route to a 54-yard touchdown. The back has also shown a knack for leaping over would-be tacklers, earning a reputation as one of the toughest players to bring down. If that's not enough, see how your chest feels once his nearly 250-pound frame hammers into it.

  • THE BOTTLE ROCKET 5

    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    THE BOTTLE ROCKET

    Lean and faster than your dad's Corvette, bottle rockets take off from a standstill, leaving you in the dust. They're reliable and leave those other ground-pounders jealous of their ability to cut through the night sky. Want to know the fastest route from point A to point B? Ask the bottle rocket.

    Who else deserves such a comparison more than Megatron? Calvin Johnson topped all wide receivers in 2011 with 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. He finished first at his position in plays of 20-plus yards (32) and plays of 40-plus yards (10). He's a defensive back's worst nightmare, but the envy of all other pass-catchers. The Lions should once again be contenders in 2012, and a big part of their success will be Megatron's freakish abilities.

  • THE FOUNTAIN 4

    David Stluka/Associated Press

    THE FOUNTAIN

    You know, it's the candle-looking tube you set down and watch as it spits out a "fountain" of blinding sparks. Usually found flattened in the middle of the street the next day, they're popular because they are long-lasting and remind us of the pyro used at our favorite '80s hair band concert. They're old-school entertainment and never go out of style, even if you do.

    Entering his 13th season at one of the most grueling positions, Brian Ulracher is that throwback, hard-nosed player who reminds you what football is all about. He's failed to play an entire season only twice in his career, and plans on playing two or three more before calling it quits. While not as flashy as other current linebackers, soak in the fact Ulracher has recorded 41.5 career sacks and 21 interceptions. Like the fountain, he gets the job done and you know he'll be part of the action.

  • THE PARTY POPPER 3

    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    THE PARTY POPPER

    These miniature plastic fireworks that resemble apple cider jugs yearn for you to pull their string and make it rain confetti. Don't sleep on these guys -- you know you can't ignore them.

    The Philadelphia Eagles had a down year in 2011, but all signs point to a focused and energized Michael Vick in 2012. It was only two seasons ago that Vick rushed for nine touchdowns, threw 21 touchdowns (with only 6 interceptions) and racked up 3,694 total yards. Like the party popper, once he pulls the cord, there's no containing him. He's back to full health, as are Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. With a season to learn from its mistakes, this team has too much talent to lie dormant two years in a row. Vick seems as hungry as he's ever been, and a return to the "human highlight reel" days could be in store.

  • THE ROMAN CANDLE 2

    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    THE ROMAN CANDLE

    A super-charged "fountain," the Roman Candle adds exploding shells to the mix. It gives off a constant stream of pyro, but stand back, because you have no clue when it's going to set off a charge. Surprise explosiveness is its modus operandi. It's impossible to predict and if you try, you will get burned.

    Not only is Adrian Peterson hard to bring down, he's nearly impossible to catch once he explodes through a hole. You just don't know when he's going to come shooting your way. By the time defenses notice, it's usually too late. Four straight seasons of more than 1,609 total yards and 10 touchdowns doesn't come easy, unless you're Peterson. Keep in mind that in just 12 games last year, A.P. still finished tied for seventh in touchdowns among all wide receivers and running backs. Despite coming off an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Peterson has amazed with his rehab and is hoping to be ready for Week 1.

  • THE GOOD OLE' BRICK OF FIRECRACKERS 1

    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    THE GOOD OLE' BRICK OF FIRECRACKERS

    They're the real-deal originals. Without them, there would be no celebration. You know exactly what to expect when they're ignited, and they never fail. They command the scene; just one look at them lets you know it's time to get down to business. You know you draped them across your chest, headband on, and pretended you were John Rambo (OK, maybe that was just me).

    The scowl, the name and the Super Bowl rings make Tom Brady the pick here. Though Aaron Rodgers is right there with him, who else has been doing it longer and so consistently? You know what to expect from him and he delivers. He commands attention when on the field, a fierce competitor who's a threat until the last snap. It's that competitiveness that will see Brady carry his team into contention once again.

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