These Are the 5 Best North Carolina Born NFL Players of All-Time

When you speak the words “North Carolina” to someone in the sports world, most times their mind goes straight to basketball. As we’re about to show below, North Carolina has its fair share of football talent as well. Below is a list of the 5 best players to suit up in the NFL who were born in North Carolina. If you click the name of the player, you will be sent to their ProFootball reference page where you can check out all their information and stats. This list wasn’t easy to pick, and we’re sure folks have some strong opinions on this, so we welcome you to drop your thoughts in the comment section.

  1. Bruce Matthews – Offensive Line – (Born: Raleigh, North Carolina)
    1983-2001 (NFL Hall of Fame)
    Matthews longevity in the NFL is something to marvel, but he wasn’t just a body, he was a impact player on the offensive line. In his 19 year NFL career, Matthews was a 14 time Pro-Bowler and was selected to the First Team All Pro team seven times. He was also inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2007. From 1988 to 2001, Matthews did not miss a start on the offensive line. He was 40 years old during his last season in the NFL. (Wiki)
  2. Bobby Bell – Linebacker – (Born: Shelby, North Carolina)
    1963-1974 (NFL Hall of Fame)

    The title reads NFL players, so it should be noted that Bobby Bell spent more than half of his career playing in the AFL before the two leagues merged in 1970. That fact does not take away the fact that Bell was an absolute athlete from his linebacker position. In his playing days, he stood 6’4, weighed in at 230 pounds and was reported to run a 4.5 40 yard dash. Those numbers today may be a little more frequent in today’s NFL, but we’re talking about the 60’s and 70’s here. His coach was quoted as saying, “He could play all 22 positions on the field, and play them well.” In addition to being a nine time Pro Bowler, being voted to the First-Team All Pro team, being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1983, Bell was a member of two AFL Championship teams and one Super Bowl Championship team. (Wiki)
  3. Carl Eller – Defensive End – (Born: Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
    1964-1979 (NFL Hall of Fame)

    We mentioned size in Bobby Bell’s profile above and we’ll talk about it again here when it comes to 6’6′ defensive end Carl Eller. Eller was part of the defensive line for the Minnesota Vikings know as the “Purple People Eaters.” The defensive front with the funny name did not disappoint as they led the Vikings to 10 Central division titles in 11 seasons from 1968 to 1978. In that time frame the Vikings went to four Super Bowl, but were unable to get a victory. Eller was a six time Pro Bowler and was voted to the First Team All Pro team five times. After being a finalist many years, Eller was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2004. (Wiki)
  4. Sonny Jurgenson – Quarterback – (Born: Wilmington, North Carolina)
    1957-1974 (NFL Hall of Fame)
    There must be something in the water down in Wilmington. In addition to bringing the world one the best, if not the best, basketball players of all time, they produced one of the first outstanding passing QB’s in the NFL. Before the Dan Marino’s, Peyton Manning’s, Tom Brady’s and Drew Brees’ of the passing world, there was Sonny Jurgenson. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler and was voted to the First-Team All Pro Team twice in his career. He was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1983. (Wiki)
  5. Dwight Stephenson – Center – (Born: Murfreesboro, North Carolina)
    1980-1987 (NFL Hall of Fame)

    He has the shortest NFL career on this list, but he produced results. His bust sets in the NFL Hall of Fame, which he was inducted to in 1998, to prove it. Coming from Alabama where legendary coach Bear Bryant said Stephenson was the best player he ever coached, he quickly became the offensive captain and starting center of the Miami Dolphins. In the 80’s the Dolphins’ offensive line had an amazing streak of the least QB sacks given up for nine years in a row. Six of those years, Stephenson manned the center position. Stephenson was a five time Pro Bowler and voted to the First Team All Pro team four times. (Wiki)

This post is the second in a five part series of a celebration of the Super Bowl. Be sure to check in each day as we visit a topic associated with football.

About the Author

Hardison & Cochran was established based on the conviction that a modern approach was essential in today’s legal landscape. Focused on delivering exceptional results through a skilled team, the firm prioritizes personal attention, integrity, and client needs. Each attorney, paralegal, and staff member is dedicated to this vision. Over three decades, with Ben Cochran overseeing daily operations, the firm has evolved into a highly respected practice.

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