The Best Neck Roll-Wearing NFL Players of All Time

Dec 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) leaves the field as he talks to head coach Mike McCarthy in the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The neck roll is a staple in NFL history.

It brings back a twinge of nostalgia. When Chris Collinsworth shows the list of NFL all-time rushing leaders, and we get to see highlights of Eric Dickerson, with pads bigger than his head and a neck collar so thick and white that I’m expecting him to serve up communion at halftime.

It reminds us of a time when player safety was the NFL’s last concern, and hitting with your head was “the proper tackling technique.”

Unfortunately, in today’s NFL, the cowboy collar is going extinct. The few players who still wear neck rolls don’t possess the same swagger or intimidation that the old-school players had. See below:

That’s not a pad; that’s a fashion statement. 

To commemorate the awesomeness of the neck roll, I have generated a list of the best neck roll-wearing players to ever set their toes on the turf. To conduct this list, I came up with a new advanced stat that is currently not patented, so Florio, if you’re reading this – The honor system is in place. Please don’t pull a Zuckerberg.

The advanced stat is called CCSC, or Cowboy Collar Swagger to Concussions. The name is still a work in progress, as you start to sound like Mike Tyson if you say “CCSC” too many times. A player’s CCSC is determined by measuring – (neck roll girth + shoulder pad height) x number of concussions.

The neck roll girth and shoulder pad height will be judged by ‘the eye test’ on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the thickest and tallest neck roll and pads. The higher the score, the grittier the player. Is that a good thing? You can decide. That is the great thing about advanced stats; they never lead to one unanimous conclusion.

Brian Bosworth

I have set The Boz as the benchmark for the CCSC. Those shoulder pads are so humongous that they almost cover up how big and beefy that neck roll is. The shoulder pads have earned a 10 and I am giving the neck roll a 7. Sadly, I overlooked the fact that the NFL did not report concussion injuries until the 2000s. From reports though, Brian Bosworth has stated that he suffered multiple concussions during his 3 seasons in the NFL, and based on my research, I estimate that Bosworth had a minimum of 3 concussions during his career in the NFL.

Overall score: 51. That’s gonna be hard to beat.

Leighton Vander Esch

Here we see a more modern version of the cowboy collar. The modern version doesn’t have the girth that most of the classic players used, however, because of how tall and noticeable it is I will give it a score of 6. The shoulder pads, on the other hand, I cannot be so lenient on. They are almost non-existent which earns a measly 3 on the CCSC.

In 2016 it was reported that Vander Esch suffered a concussion pre-draft and in 2019 he sat out for a concussion that was later ruled a neck/back injury. For that, I will give him a 1.5 in the concussion category.

Overall score: 13.5

Howie Long

Howie Long is another neck roller who was not a part of the concussion awareness era. He has experienced mild head trauma since his NFL career and for that, I will give him 1 concussion. The neck pad has immaculate girth and stellar height. For that, he has earned a 10. The pads are nice and bulky but it’s hard to tell since Howie Long was a big and bulky guy. Pad height earns a 7.

Overall score: 17

Takeaways on The SSCS

As I said before, the SSCS is a work in progress. I might have to adjust how much concussions play a part in the calculation, or add a score based on how serious of an injury the player sustained. Overall, I am continuing to revolutionize the sabermetric statistics industry. Your Welcome, and I hope you enjoyed a walk down memory lane.