Not since Yao Ming, perhaps, has one player been so important to a league's effort at expanding and entrenching itself into virtually un-mined gold. The Jets rookie quarterback will be following in the footsteps of these other prominent Hispanics in NFL history.
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Tom Fears (1948-1956)
Often overlooked in the discussion of all-time greatest, Fears put up astounding numbers and was considered fearless across the middle. Once had 18 receptions in a game and caught the game-winning 73-yard TD pass to win the 1951 NFL title. Imagine had his college career not been delayed three years because of World War II.
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Rick Casares (1955-1966)
He is yet another often-forgotten star. Casares, a tough, hard-running former Golden Gloves boxing champion, held virtually every Bears rushing record until Walter Payton came along. He still ranks third all-time in franchise history, and was a Pro Bowl player five consecutive years, All Pro once.
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Tom Flores (1960-1969)
NFL writers should be ashamed for not yet inducting Flores into the Hall of Fame. He is one of only two people (Mike Ditka) to win Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach. He was the first Hispanic quarterback in the NFL and the first Hispanic coach to lead a team to a Super Bowl title (twice).
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Joe Kapp (1967-1970)
Kapp was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 18th round of the 1959 NFL draft, but never was contacted by anyone in the organization. He took the hint and wound up playing in Canada for eight years. After leading the B.C. Lions to the Grey Cup and putting up huge numbers in Canada, Kapp entered the NFL in 1967 and led the Vikings to their first division title and Super Bowl, losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
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Ted Hendricks (1969-1983)
One of the most devastating impact players in NFL history, Hendricks, whose mother is Guatemalan and was born in Guatemala City, earned Hall of Fame status in 1990. He dominated as a pass-rushing linebacker and end, earning eight Pro Bowl appearances and being named first-team All Pro four times. He finished with 60.5 sacks, 26 interceptions and was a member of four Super Bowl-winning teams.
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Jim Plunkett (1971-1986)
He is the only retired NFL player to start and win two Super Bowls who has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Plunkett, who grew up on welfare, also is one of only four Heisman Trophy winners to also be named MVP of the Super Bowl (Roger Staubach, Marcus Allen, Desmond Howard).
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Anthony Munoz (1980-1993)
Perhaps the most dominating lineman in NFL history. Former USC and NFL coach John Robinson once called Munoz the greatest player he's ever seen, regardless of position. An 11-time Pro Bowl selection, Munoz was selected into the NFL Hall of Fame on the first ballot, in 1998.
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Tony Casillas (1986-1997)
The No. 2 overall selection in the '86 draft, Casillas was twice named All Pro and blossomed as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, helping the Cowboys to a pair of Super Bowl victories.
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Tony Gonzalez (1997-Present)
A certain Hall of Fame tight end, Gonzalez has earned Pro Bowl honors 10 times and first-team All Pro six times. Along with Donnie Edwards, who is of Mexican-American descent, Gonzalez has spearheaded several NFL outreach programs to Hispanics.
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Jeff Garcia (1999-Present)
Garcia began his career in Canada, but since arriving to the NFL in 1999 has amassed more than 25,000 yards passing and has become one of the league's most accurate passers, earning a pair of Pro Bowl appearances.
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Roberto Garza (2001-Present)
When Garza told a Marine recruiter at tiny Rio Hondo (Texas) High that he wanted to play in the NFL, the recruiter told him, "Mexicans don't play in the NFL." Garza is entering his ninth season in the NFL and is the coverboy for Madden 2009 Espanol.
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Tony Romo (2005-Present)
Romo, like Garcia, is of Hispanic descent on his father's side. Leading America's team, Romo has twice been named to the Pro Bowl. When he faced off against the Eagles and Garcia in 2006, it marked the first time quarterbacks of Hispanic descent faced off in the NFL.
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Anthony Gonzalez (2007-Present)
A game-changer coming out of Ohio State, Gonzalez, who is Cuban-American, is fast becoming one of Peyton Manning's most reliable targets. In just two seasons, Gonzalez has amassed 94 receptions and 1,240-yards.
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