That old adage about everybody being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day gets annoying once you start looking up players of Irish descent who have even been remotely meaningful in the NFL. Suddenly, everybody with “Brady” or “Quinn” in their name has some vague connection dating back several generations to a grandmother who once spent a few weeks on vacation in Hillsborough. Heck, there’s even a Brady Quinn.
It would have been far too easy to rhyme off Tom Brady, Ken O’Brien, and Jim Kelly, but we wanted to dig down to the true Irish roots. We wanted the players whose roots are so deep that today they aren’t just slugging back green beers, they’re leading Gaelic dances.
Unfortunately, those players barely exist in the NFL, so if you have Irish parents and once touched a football, you may qualify for this list.
The List: Top NFL players with any connection whatsoever to Ireland
5. Brady Quinn
Quinn doesn’t fall in the category of those with green blood running through their veins, but how could we not include a player whose full name is a combination of the two names first created in Ireland? The NFL bust does indeed have Irish ties, and he starred for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in college. Bonus!
His Irish luck couldn’t bring home the Heisman. Quinn finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2005, and third in 2006. The bust label is an easy one to slap on Quinn, and the football graveyard is littered with first-round quarterbacks who faded quickly. But in fairness, after being drafted 22nd overall by the Browns in 2007 and later getting traded to Denver, Quinn hasn’t ever been given much of a chance. He’s appeared in just 14 regular season games.
4. J.T O’Sullivan
We’re going for true Irish authenticity here (really, I’m trying), but it’s impossible to leave off such a vintage Irish name. O’Sullivan does have an Irish background, and I’m sure he’s frequented bars with some combination of Flanagan and McGee in the name.
O’Sullivan has bounced around as a backup throughout his eight years in the league, with his most notable contribution coming in 2008 when he threw 1,678 passing yards and eight touchdowns for the 49ers. He’s currently the Raiders’ third-stringer, and when you’re behind Kyle Boller on any depth chart, just be happy you’re still in the league.
3. Shaun O’Hara
A three-time Pro Bowler with the Giants, O’Hara went undrafted in 2000. After spending the first four years of his career in Cleveland, he’s become the veteran stalwart and anchor of the Giants offensive line.
O’Hara was born in Chicago (hey, it’s in the same hemisphere), but his Irish ties and presence in the Irish community are strongly respected. Last year he was honoured by the American Ireland Fund and given the Young Leadership Irish Spirit Award.
Whatever that is, it sounds important.
2. Neil O’Donoghue
And now we get to the guys who eat Lucky Charms three meals a day.
Straight from Dublin, Neil O’Donoghue kicked his way to third in points scored in the 1984 season, finishing with 117. Spreading his nine-year career between the Bills, Rams, and Buccaneers, O’Donoghue is easily the most pure Irish player in NFL history.
He would get the top spot on this list, but he’s still just a kicker.
1. John “Paddy” Driscoll
Position: Everything (almost)
Ahh the glory days of football, when men wore little more than pajamas on gameday, played nearly every position, and the star player was known only as “Paddy.”
Driscoll played from 1920 to 1929 and was named a First Team All Pro six times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.