As we continue in our rankings of the all-time greatest Giants by position, we’ve come to the linebacking corps.
First off, honorable mentions to Gary Reasons, best remembered for his game-saving hit on Denver’s Bobby Humphrey in 1989. We also have to include among our honorable mentions Brian Kelley, part of the famed "Crunch Bunch," along with Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and Brad Van Pelt, who are included on this list.
Now on to our list.
No. 7: Brad Van Pelt (1973-1983)
Van Pelt was a one-person wrecking crew all by his lonesome. A five-time Pro Bowler (1976-1980) and second-team All-Pro in 1978, Van Pelt was named the player of the decade for the 1970s by the Giants.
While with the Giants, Van Pelt started in 135 of the 143 games he played. A second-round draft pick in 1973 out of Michigan State, Van Pelt recorded 20 interceptions and ten sacks over his entire NFL career.
Van Pelt, who played in four different hoe stadiums while with the Giants, finished his NFL career with the Cleveland Browns in 1986 after previously spending the 1984-1985 seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders.
No. 6: Jessie Armstead, 1993-2001
Armstead was an eighth-round selection out of Miami in 1993, the same year the Giants drafted Michael Strahan.
Like Strahan, it took Armstead a few years to prove his worth, but he became an All-Pro in 1997 as part of a Giants team that stunningly won the NFC East. That year, Armstead notched 132 tackles. He was then voted to the Pro Bowl in each of the following four seasons before signing with Washington.
No. 5: Pepper Johnson, 1986-1992
The Giants’ second-round draftee from Ohio State in 1986 rode the bench for most of his rookie year but was an integral part of the second Super Bowl team of 1990.
That year, Johnson received the only All-Pro vote of his career and contributed to an impressive showing by the Giants’ defense in Super Bowl XXV, holding Buffalo’s league-leading offense to just 19 points.
No. 4: Carl Banks, 1984-1992
While looking at Banks’ statistics, I was surprised to find that he was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler only once, that coming in the strike-shortened season of 1987. That year, he tallied nine sacks and 101 tackles while only playing in 12 games.
As the third overall selection in the 1984 draft out of Michigan State, Banks arrived in time to win two Super Bowls and is fondly remembered as one of the best linebackers in Giants history.
No. 3: Harry Carson, 1976-1988
A nine-time Pro Bowler, Carson is the first Hall of Famer on this list, inducted in 2006. Not bad for a fourth-round selection from South Carolina State, whom the late Marty Schottenheimer converted from a defensive lineman to a middle linebacker.
There were few players on the 1986 Giants that deserved a Super Bowl victory more than Carson, who had been with the franchise dating back to the dark ages of the 70s.
No. 2: Sam Huff, 1956-1963
One of the most recognizable names and faces of the legendary 1950s Giants, Huff was drafted in the third round out of West Virginia, just in time for the championship season of 1956.
He was an All-Pro in 1958 and 1959 and a Pro Bowler in each of the next two seasons. Along with the likes of Frank Gifford and Rosey Brown, Huff evokes terrific memories of autumn afternoons at Yankee Stadium, when the Giants were the toast of the NFL.
No. 1: Lawrence Taylor, 1981-1993
Seriously, were you expecting someone else in this spot? After all, what else can be said about the second overall choice of the 1981 draft?
Eight All-Pro selections, 10 Pro Bowl appearances, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, two Super Bowl championships, 20.5 sacks in his MVP season of 1986, and 132.5 sacks for his career.
Watch the following clip of LT's dominating 1982 Thanksgiving Day performance against the Lions which shows just what a special kind of player he was--I promise you won't be disappointed.
In case you were wondering, the top overall draft pick in 1981 belonged to New Orleans. They chose South Carolina running back George Rogers, who had just won the Heisman Trophy.
It was probably the right choice at the time, and Rogers had a solid pro career, but given how the careers of Rogers and Taylor went, would anyone blame New Orleans if they wanted a mulligan?