Being a Clutch Performer means coming through for your team in key moments and throughout your career. That can mean you either come up with a big play when the game is on the line, or you're the foundation on which your team builds success.
5. Ray Lewis
For the better part of two decades, the Baltimore Ravens have been loaded with defensive studs. But one player was the team's unquestioned leader. Ray Lewis could take over a game. He didn't just try to hit you hard, he tried to destroy your will to play with every hit. Not only could he hit, but he was able to cover a great deal of the field on his own. He's the only player in NFL history with at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions. He's Baltimore's all-time leader in tackles and games started.
For his efforts, postseason and regular, Lewis was named to the Pro Bowl 12 times, is a two-time defensive player of the year, a two-time Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl MVP. He's just the second player in NFL history to win Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP. He was inducted into the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor on September 22, 2013.
4. Willie McGinest
When thinking of the New England Patriots' era of success, the first two names that come to mind are likely Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. But one player that did a great deal of heavy lifting was Willie McGinest. While the Pats' D always showed up in the playoffs, McGinest was a force in the postseason. He set the record for most sacks in a postseason game (vs JAX in 2005 WC). McGinest also holds the record for most postseason sacks in a career with 16. McGinest was a key player in making the Patriots the dynasty they are today.
3. Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor. You're not just talking about a clutch player. You're talking about one of the best players that's ever played football. This is a player that changed the way offenses dealt with linebackers. This a player that solidified the legacy of Bill Parcells. People call Rob Gronkowski the human cheat code. Those people never watched LT dominate. Basically, if you assigned a running back to block LT, you lost.
The Hall of Famer had a combination of size, speed and strength that was just inhuman. He's one of two players to be a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Only J.J. Watt shares that honor with LT. Taylor is a 10-time Pro Bowler and a two-time Super Bowl champ. He's also one of only two defensive players to win NFL MVP.
2. "Mean" Joe Greene
It's a rare thing in sports when an athlete comes along and is just a level above the competition. "Mean" Joe Greene was one of those athletes. Part of the famed "Steel Curtain," Greene was arguably THE foundation that the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty was built on. He'd shred one-on-one matchups at the line and would often attract double, even triple teams.
The Steelers would win four Super Bowls with Greene leading the charge on defense over 13 seasons. He was named to 10 Pro Bowls and was twice named Defensive Player of the year. It didn't take him long to make an impact, he was 1969 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Being a clutch performer means showing up in key moments. Greene showed up for 13 years.
1. Ronnie Lott
"He's what the game is all about. Ronnie is the heart and soul of the National Football League." That's high praise coming from NFL great and Hall of Famer Marcus Allen. It doesn't come without merit. Few defensive players carried the impact of Lott. Lott was able to play from any position in the secondary. He had a natural instinct for reading plays to create interceptions. And luck be with you if you made the catch, because Lott was one of the fiercest hitters the game has ever seen. He's one of those players that believed you can change the game with a single hit. He proved that fact on several occasions.
Lott is the stuff of legend. He was the eighth overall pick in the 1981 draft when he was selected by the 49ers. From that point on, Lott helped transform the Niners from lowly franchise to the dynasty of the 80s. Lott is eighth all-time in career INTs. He's the 49ers' all-time leader in INTs (53) and INTs returned for TDs (5). And if we're looking at a definition of clutch, Lott led the NFL in INTs in 1986 after having his left pinky finger amputated in the offseason. That's just another level of greatness.