The 10 Best Nose Tackles of All Time in the NFL

NFL, one of the most exciting sports leagues in the world, is the gathering place of all American football legends. To be the best in the league, one needs to be fast, athletic, dedicated, hard-working, and have exceptional talent.

Nose tackle is an underappreciated and selfless position in American football. However, the proliferation of 3-4 fronts in recent seasons has made the position more important. What does it need to be a good nose tackle?

Well, a player needs to have the mentality to sacrifice himself for the team’s achievement. A nose tackle has to occupy multiple blockers to create a lane of pursuit for fellow defenders.

Defensive nose tackles do not have flashy statistics or bouquets of trophies on their accolades; rather, they silently distribute for the team’s wins. This article features the ten best nose tackles of all time in the NFL who set examples of how to contribute from the back.

Best Nose Tackles of All time 

As mentioned above, the best feature of a nose tackle is that he sacrifices himself for the greater good of the team. Therefore, he does not have a lot of individual achievements to boast about. However, here are ten players who were not just great nose tackles but also great defensive backs of all time.

Player NameCareer
Curley Culp1968-1981
Fred Smerlas1979-1992
Ted Washington1991-2007
Bill Willis1946-1953
Henry Thomas1987-2000
Michael Carter1984-1992
Pat Williams1997-2010
Charlie Johnson1977-1984
Vince Wilfork2004-2016
Jerry Ball1987-1999
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Let’s see why these players are considered the best nose tackles of all time.

1. Curley Culp

Curley Culp
Full NameCurley Culp 
Date of BirthMarch 10, 1946 
Place of BirthYuma, Arizona
Height6 ft 1 in 
Weight265 lb
NFL Draft1968 (Denver Broncos,  Round: 2 / Pick: 31)
Teams Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, Detroit Lions 
DeathNovember 27, 2021

Career Highlights:

Super Bowl Champion: 1 time (IV)

AFL Champion: 1 time  (1969)

First-team All-Pro: 1 time (1975)

Pro Bowl: 6 times (1969, 1971, 1975–1978)

Defensive Player of the Year: 1 time (1975)

You can guess from his career highlights how much we could write about him. However, we are going to keep it short. He debuted in 1968 with the Kansas City Chiefs. During his stay in Kansas, Culp shined as a defensive nose tackle. 

The six-time pro bowler is also an AFL and Super Bowl champion. It is not easy for the nose tackles to be the best defender, but Culp did it in 1975 after joining the Houston Oilers. He played a total of 179 and recorded 68.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles.

The over six ft tall was like a mad bull himself. It used to take three blockers to stop him. He had great strength, along with skills and techniques. Curly Clip is, undoubtedly, the flag bearer for the best nose tackles of all time. 

Career stats of:


2. Fred Smerlas

Fred Smerlas
Full NameFrederic Charles Smerlas
Date of BirthApril 8, 1957
Place of BirthWaltham, Massachusetts
Height6 ft 4 in 
Weight295 lb 
NFL Draft1979 (Buffalo Bills, Round: 2 / Pick: 32)
Teams Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, and San Francisco 49ers

Career Highlights:

First-team All-Pro: 5 times (1980, 1981, 82, 83, 88)

Pro Bowl: 5 times (1980–1983, 88)

Smears was an exceptional talent. He has been an all-pro or pro bowler more than any other nose tackle. Being five times first-pro and the five-times pro bowler is a rare achievement in the NFL for a nose tackle. Smears also played and started the most number of matches as a nose tackle.

Smears was a very durable nose tackle and had played 149 consecutive matches. He has played a total of 200 games and recorded 29 sacks and two interceptions. Despite being a 5-time pro bowler, he is still not in the hall of fame. However, his contribution to the team’s victories earned him four all-pro awards.

Career stats of Fred Smerlas:


3. Ted Washington

Ted Washington
Full NameTheodore Washington Jr.
Date of BirthApril 13, 1968
Place of BirthTampa, Florida
Height6 ft 5 in
Weight375 lb 
NFL Draft1991 (San Francisco 49ers, Round: 1 / Pick: 25)
Teams San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns

Career Highlights:

Super Bowl champion: 1 time (XXXVIII)

First-team All-Pro: 1 time  (2001)

Pro Bowl: 4 times  (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001)

NFL players are large in size. Still, only a few of them are as large as Ted Washington. He weighs 375 pounds and still ran so fast. Washington had played for several teams in his 17-year-long career. 

He won the super bowl once and was named all-pro once in 2001. He used his size to his advantage and made the lives of the blockers impossible.

The San Francisco 49ers signed him in the 1991 NFL draft, where he was overall 25th.

Career stats of Ted Washington:


4. Bill Willis

Bill Willis
Full NameWilliam Karnet Willis
Date of BirthOctober 5, 1921
Place of BirthColumbus, Ohio
Height6 ft 2 in 
Weight210 lb
NFL Draft1946, undrafted
Teams Cleveland Browns

Career Highlights:

NFL Champion: 1 time (1950)

First-team All-Pro: 4 times (1950–1953)

Pro Bowl: 3 times (1950–1952)

NFL 1940s All-Decade Team 

Sometimes even experts fail to recognize talent. Bill Wills is one such example, he was undrafted in the 1946 draft! But he got the opportunity to join the newly formed Cleveland Browns, and there he proved how good he was.

The dynamic 6ft 2 inches tall and 210 pounder middle and noseguard was the key player in the defensive back for the browns. Wills was exceptionally quick for his size, and so he was nicknamed “The Cat.” 

Till 1949, The Browns were playing in the AAFC, and then the team joined the NFL. The change of league did not have much impact on the team as the team continued to dominate, and in 19450, they became the NFL champion. Wills played a key role in the defense and was all-pro once and a pro bowler.

Bills, in his career, became a total of a three-time pro bowler and a four times all-pro. His pro career started as remaining undrafted and ended as one of the best nose tackles of all time!

Career stats of:


5. Henry Thomas

Henry Thomas
Full NameHenry Lee Thomas Jr.
Date of BirthJanuary 12, 1965
Place of BirthHouston, Texas
Height6 ft 2 in
Weight275 lb 
NFL Draft1987 (Minnesota Vikings, Round: 3 / Pick: 72)
Teams Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots andDetroit Lions 

Career Highlights:

Pro Bowl: 2 times (1991, 1992)

The two-time pro bowler Hank Thomas is often underappreciated and is one of the most underrated players of recent times. Thomas was a solid defensive nose and could have been a terrific 3-technique.

He was drafted into the NFL in 1987 and remained active till 2000. By this time, he played over 200 games to record 93.3 sacks, 1007 tackles, and four touchdowns, so many for a defensive nose tackle. Thomas was great at tackling and arguably the best among all nose tackles.

Career stats of Henry Thomas:


6. Michael Carter

Michael Carter
Full NameMichael D’Andrea Carter 
Date of BirthOctober 29, 1960
Place of BirthDallas, Texas
Height6 ft 2 in
Weight285 lb
NFL Draft1984 (San Francisco 49ers, Round: 5 / Pick: 121)
Teams San Francisco 49ers, 

Career Highlights:

Super Bowl champion: 3 times (XIX, XXIII, XXIV)

First-team All-Pro: 3 times (1986, 1987, 1988)

Pro Bowl: 3 times (1985, 1987, 1988)

After getting drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1984, Michael Carter remained unmoved throughout his pro football career. 

Carter knew what his job was as a nose tackle, and he did it perfectly. He had the ability, strength, and quickness to be one of the top defensive backs in the tournament. From his 121 games, he recorded 121 sacks. Besides, he had been a part of the 49ers’ three super bowl winning teams and a three-time first-team all-pro and three-time pro bowler.

Career stats of Michael Carter:


7. Pat Williams

Pat Williams
Full NamePatrick Williams Sr
Date of BirthOctober 24, 1972
Place of BirthMonroe, Louisiana
Height6 ft 3 in 
Weight317 lb 
NFL Draft1997, undrafted
Teams Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings

Career Highlights:

Second-team All-Pro: 1 time (2007)

Pro Bowl: 3 times (2006–2008)

Pat Williams is a perfect example that nose tackles are selfless and dedicated to the team’s benefits. Williams would rush into the offense and occupy multiple blockers to create a lane of pursuit for fellow defenders.

Like Bill Wills, Pat Williams was also undrafted in 1997. Then he was signed by the Buffalo Bills, but it was with Minnesota Vikings where he shined and reached his full potential.

Williams became a three times pro bowler in three consecutive seasons, from 2006 to 2008. He played a total of 200 games and recorded 20.5 sacks and 8 forced fumbles.

Career stats of Pat Williams:


8. Charlie Johnson

Charlie Johnson
Full NameCharles Johnson 
Date of BirthJanuary 17, 1952
Place of BirthBeaumont, Texas
Height6 ft 3 in 
Weight262 lb 
NFL Draft1977 (Philadelphia Eagles, Round: 7 / Pick: 175)
Teams Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings 
DeathAugust 13, 2021

Career Highlights:

First-team All-Pro: 2 times (1980, 1981)

Pro Bowl: 3 times (1979–1981)

Charlie Johnson had a short career in the NFL, but he still managed to cement his preposition among the best nose tackles of all time in NFL history. His professional football career began in 1977 when he was picked by the Philadelphia Eagles 1977.

Johnson’s primary duty was to stop the run, and he did it so well. He did not focus on personal achievements, which is one of the reasons that his stats are not filled with rich numbers.

Career stats of Charlie Johnson:


9. Vince Wilfork

Vince Wilfork
Full NameVincent Lamar Wilfork
Date of BirthNovember 4, 1981
Place of BirthBoynton Beach, Florida, U.S.
Height6 ft 2 in
Weight325 lb 
NFL Draft2004 (New England Patriots, Round: 1 / Pick: 21)
Teams New England Patriots and Houston Texans

Career Highlights:

Super Bowl champion: 2 times (XXXIX, XLIX)

First-team All-Pro: 1 time  (2012)

Pro Bowl: 5 times (2007, 2009–2012)

Vince Wilfork was born in 1981 in Florida. He was drafted into the NFL in 2004 by the New England Patriots. In his rookie year, he had to share his position with Keith Traylor. The next year, Taylor was released, and this became the season Wilfork made his name known by recording 54 tackles in only 16 games.

Wilfork played more than 100 games for the Patriots and is considered the best player in the nose tackle position for the Patriots. He received a Hall of Fame induction from the New England Patriots soon after his retirement in 2017.

Career stats of Vince Wilfork:


10. Jerry Ball

Jerry Ball
Full NameJerry Ball Jr. 
Date of BirthDecember 15, 1964
Place of BirthBeaumont, Texas
Height6 ft 1 in 
Weight330 lb 
NFL Draft1987 (Detroit Lions, Round: 3 / Pick: 63)
Teams Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings 

Career Highlights:

First-team All-Pro: 1 time (1991)

Pro Bowl: 3 times (1989–1991)

A 375-pounder as a defensive tackle is something not everyone can expect. But Ball did it. He

started his career with the Detroit Lions in 1987 and later played in three more teams, including  Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, and Minnesota Vikings.

He played in the NFL for 13 seasons and recorded 32.5 sacks. The ball was so dominant that the opposition had to make a change in their alignment to bring their best player in the middle to face the pressure Ball created.

Though he played as a run stuffer in the later part of his career, he is mostly known for his role as a nose tackle. Balls retired from the game in 1999, leaving behind a dominant legacy.

Career stats of Jerry Ball:



Defensive tackles are mostly the silent killer of a team. They silently contribute and help their team to win. Being a team player is their primary characteristic. From Culp to Jerry Ball, everyone featured in this article has played major roles in their teams’ success, which established them as the best defensive nose tackles of all time in the NFL.

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Al Amin Sagor is simply a movie freak who is passionate about writing entertainment content. He loves to watch web series, and movies and write on celebrity gossip or trendy movie news. He also covers media and entertainment news on various online platforms. He is one of the "Jewel" of The News Titan.


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