Top 10 ‘celebrities’ in the NFL

On Wednesday, I looked at the latest edition of the Forbes ‘Celebrity 100′ with a particular take on the two — that’s right, only two — NFL players on the list: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

And in the process, I was inspired to do a new GLS list looking at the top celebrities from the world of football. I waffled on it for a few hours, but then pressure from popular commenter Carlos tipped the scale.

In trying to determine who the most powerful celebrities from the NFL world were, I decided to conduct a series a mini fame audits. The idea, originally put to use by the guys at, was recently excavated by my colleagues at the Getting Blanked baseball blog.

Each Getting Blanked fame audit delves deep into the fame — deserved or not — achieved by an individual player. Then they wrap it all up with five blunt fame indicators, if you will. Here they are:

Fame Assets: What makes the player famous.
Fame Deterrents: What prevents the player from achieving more fame than he has.
Current level of fame: A historical comparison
Deserved level of fame: A historical comparison
Nana Index: Number of nanas, out of 100, who could offer a working knowledge of who the player in question could possibly be.

Using that criteria (I’m not an original thinker), let’s cut to the chase…

1. Tom Brady

Fame Assets: The two-time Super Bowl MVP is also really, really, ridiculously good looking. He’s the quarterback of a team based in one of the most popular markets in the country, and he’s damn good at football. Oh, and he’s dating a supermodel.
Fame Deterrents: Bill Belichick has rubbed off on him. He’s not a big talker and often shies away from media attention.
Current level of fame: Joe Montana
Deserved level of fame: Joe Montana
Nana Index: 72

2. Peyton Manning

Fame Assets: He might be the most marketable professional athlete on the planet. He’s funny, engaging and actually a pretty good actor. On the field, he’s constantly compared to Brady in a classic debate regarding who the best quarterback in football is.
Fame Deterrents: He doesn’t look like Brady, his wife’s not hot or famous and he’s also pretty quiet. He also doesn’t play in a major media market.
Current level of fame: Johnny Unitas
Deserved level of fame: Dan Marino
Nana Index: 60

3. Tim Tebow

Fame Assets: He is one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time. His fascinating back story and his willingness to openly discuss his religious beliefs publicly has gained him a massive fan base outside of the football world.
Fame Deterrents: Um, he has made three career NFL starts.
Current level of fame: Steve Young
Deserved level of fame: Archie Manning
Nana Index: 58

4. Drew Brees

Fame Assets: Decided to become both a stellar leader and an elite, borderline unstoppable quarterback immediately upon his arrival in New Orleans — a city that was still recovering from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Won the city its first Super Bowl four years later.
Fame Deterrents: More of a reserved family man. Plus, poor timing has left him in the shadows created by Brady and Manning.
Current level of fame: Kurt Warner
Deserved level of fame: Roger Staubach
Nana Index: 55

5. Cam Newton

Fame Assets: In the last five months, he won the Heisman Trophy, won the BCS National Championship and was selected first overall in the NFL draft. Throw in that world-famous smile and you have a media superstar already.
Fame Deterrents: He has yet to throw an NFL pass.
Current level of fame: Phil Simms
Deserved level of fame: Vince Young
Nana Index: 45

6. Chad Ochocinco

Fame Assets: For nearly a decade, he’s been the most flamboyant player at the most flamboyant position in football. His world-famous Twitter account has given him quite the boost, too.
Fame Deterrents: He isn’t a quarterback and he’s been stuck in Cincinnati his whole career. But most importantly, he decided to change his surname at the height of his fame. Big mistake.
Current level of fame: Randy Moss
Deserved level of fame: Rod Smith
Nana Index: 41

7. Terrell Owens

Fame Assets: In addition to being the most productive receiver in the league over the last decade, he’s found himself in the national spotlight for his off-field theatrics on several occasions. He defines “drama queen receiver.”
Fame Deterrents: Despite co-hosting a show with Ochocinco and establishing himself as a hit on Twitter, Owens just isn’t as relevant as he was five years ago. Back-to-back seasons in Buffalo and Cincinnati and rapidly declining stats will do that.
Current level of fame: Michael Irvin
Deserved level of fame: Tim Brown
Nana Index: 39

8. Tony Romo

Fame Assets: He’s the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, which is probably the most famous position in the history of American sports. He’s also pretty good at football and has dated a multitude of hot blonde celebrities.
Fame Deterrents: He wasn’t highly touted coming out of school and wasn’t drafted. He faded from the public consciousness after suffering a season-ending injury midway through the 2010 season. Oh, and he has only one career playoff victory.
Current level of fame: Jim Kelly
Deserved level of fame: Steve McNair
Nana Index: 36

9. Adrian Peterson

Fame Assets: Fantasy football gets him on this list. Since coming into the league in 2007, Peterson has been the king of the fantasy football world, which makes sense because he’s also been the best running back in the league during that span. As a result, he’s gained lots of media attention. A cameo on “Entourage” and appearances in several big-time commercials have helped immensely.
Fame Deterrents: He’s not a quarterback or a wide receiver and he spent the last two seasons in Brett Favre’s media shadow.
Current level of fame: Marcus Allen
Deserved level of fame: Franco Harris
Nana Index: 23

10. Donovan McNabb

Fame Assets: As the face of one of the most popular teams in the league, McNabb was — until recently — one of the NFL’s most successful quarterbacks on and off the field. In addition to leading the Eagles to four straight conference championship games, he became a commercial success, too. Just think: Campbell’s Chunky Soup.
Fame Deterrents: His star has faded as a result of diminishing on-field performances and his departure from Philadelphia.
Current level of fame: John Elway
Deserved level of fame: Troy Aikman
Nana Index: 20


Honorable mentions: Super Bowl XLV quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger placed 11th and 12th.

Quarterbacks dominate: There’s no way around it. I predicted that eight of the 10 players to make the list would be pivots. I settled for seven (and nine of the top 12 when taking Rodgers and Roethlisberger into account). This is why the league takes such drastic measures to keep these guys from taking hits. They’re extremely valuable as the men who represent the game on and off the field.

Explaining the absence of Michael Vick: Vick’s Nana Index number would probably be the highest in the league, and I suppose infamy is a version of fame. That said, Vick is actually less of a celebrity now than he was prior to the dogfighting fiasco that truly landed him on the national radar. He isn’t marketable. He isn’t liked. He doesn’t have the celebrity power that the 10 guys on this list do.