15 Athletes Who Aren’t Afraid to Lay Their Bodies on the Line

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15 Athletes Who Aren't Afraid to Lay Their Bodies on the Line

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Some of the greatest moments in sports occur when we least expect them. Typically, those great moments are least expected because a player has a serious injury to deal with and an extraordinary performance is far from the mind of everyone around that player. Then there are the players who consistently put their body on the line for the greater good of their team or their own personal achievement.

There are several athletes across numerous sports that are tough as nails. Whether it is a broken bone, concussion, torn muscle or illness, those athletes consistently play when the chips are done. Ironically, for some athletes those are the greatest moments of their career. The moment occurs during either a championship game or an incredible performance in a single contest.

I have to imagine several names on the slideshow will be considered no-brainers by most fans. But hopefully, there are a couple of names that people have never heard of. This way those athletes will get recognized to a wider audience for their unbelievable efforts.

Personally, it is always amazing to watch athletes fight through the pain and never quit on their teammates, even when they are dealing with a very serious injury. It is what defines the brotherhood that comes with sports.

Make sure to click through the slideshow to see 15 athletes who weren’t afraid to lay their bodies on the line. Also, make sure to comment below if you know of an athlete who deserves to be on the list but wasn’t mentioned.

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15. Curt Schilling

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Regardless of how true the “bloody sock” incident truly was in 2004 ALCS, the fact is pitcher Curt Schilling played through pain and put his body on the line when it mattered most. His masterful performance in Game 6 helped propel the Boston Red Sox to victory over the New York Yankees.

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14. Dan Fouts

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Dan Fouts is one of the toughest quarterbacks to ever play the game. In fact, there was a game in which Fouts got his ankle twisted by Lyle Alzado and had to come out of the contest. The backup quarterback for the San Diego Chargers suffered the same fate so Fouts had to come back in the fourth quarter. If that wasn’t enough, a quote from Bill Walsh is all that is needed to sum up Fouts’ toughness.

"Dan Fouts had a cool, steel-like nerve and courage ... He took a lot of beatings, a lot of pounding, but continued to play, hurt or otherwise. He played more physical football than anybody on his team, including the linebackers," Walsh was quoted in the book The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays.

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13. Bobby Baun

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Hockey players are known to be some of the toughest athletes alive and Bobby Baun made no exception. The defenseman broke his right ankle in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1964 and had to be taken off by a stretcher in the third period. However, that didn’t stop Baun from an appearance in overtime in which he knocked in the game winner. Baun also played in Game 7 and helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win the title.

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12. Steve Yzerman

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Like Baun, Steve Yzerman was another very tough hockey player. He missed 30 regular season games in 2002 as well as the first 66 games of the 2003 season with a massive knee injury that required reconstructive surgery. When the playoffs came around in 2003, Yzerman suited up without any worried about his knee. He scored a team-high 23 points as he helped lead the Detroit Red Wings to a win in the Stanley Cup Finals.

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11. Byron Leftwich

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Byron Leftwich showed plenty of toughness in the NFL as he consistently put his body on the line for his team. However, it was his collegiate days at Marshall University that made him most famous. The quarterback broke his shin in a contest against Akron in 2002. Instead of coming out of the game, two linemen carried Leftwich down the field as he attempted a 17-point comeback. Marshall still lost the game but no one forgot how Leftwich left it all on the gridiron.

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10. Kurt Angle

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Kurt Angle might be most known for his days as a professional wrestler for ECW, WWF and TNA. However, Angle is actually an Olympic gold medalist in men’s freestyle wrestling. He won gold after he fractured two of his cervical vertebrae, herniated two discs and pulled four muscles in his neck during the 1996 Olympic Trials. Five months later, Angle was still recovering from the severe neck injury but decided to compete in the Olympics anyways.

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9. Kirk Gibson

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Kirk Gibson suffered from a stomach virus and injuries to both legs, which forced him to have just one plate appearance in the 1988 World Series. However, that’s all he needed as he hit a walk-off home run on a 3-2 pitch in Game 1. Even though Gibson could barely walk, his incredible toughness motivated his teammates. The homer propelled the Los Angeles Dodgers to a World Series title.

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8. Tiger Woods

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Golfer Tiger Woods has played through many injuries, but none as significant as the one in 2008. Two months prior to the U.S. Open, Woods underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to help with his play. He also suffered a double stress fracture on his left tibia during the rehabilitation process. Even though he was still in a tremendous amount of pain and even used his clubs to help keep himself upright, Woods went on to win the major championship in stunning fashion.

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7. Walt Garrison


Walt Garrison was known as an incredibly tough fullback who could block like nobody’s business. He constantly played hurt and put his body on the line for his team. In the 1970 NFC Championship Game, Garrison played with a cracked collarbone and a very damaged ankle. However, he still managed to rush for 71 yards, haul in three receptions for 51 yards and score one touchdown as helped lead the Dallas Cowboys to victory.

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6. Ronnie Lott

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In one of the most intense football injuries in recent memory, Ronnie Lott continued to play in a 1985 playoff game after he crushed his pinky while he made a tackle on running back Timmy Newsome. The finger was damaged so much that it had to be amputated. This is the most famous story of Lott’s toughness, but the reality is he had plenty of moments where he played through pain.

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5. Kerri Strug


Gymnast Kerri Strug became an American hero after she helped Team USA win gold at the 1996 Olympics. Strug sprained her ankle badly and didn’t think she would have to make another attempt. However, she was forced to make a second attempt so that the U.S. team could mathematically clinch the gold medal. She hobbled to the runway and landed a beautiful vault despite a hurt ankle that brought plenty of pain. After she threw her arms in the air for the judges, she collapsed and had to be carried off the landing platform.

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4. Y.A. Tittle

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Look up toughness in the dictionary and you’ll see a photo of Y.A. Tittle. The NFL legend played through so much pain and so many injuries that it got to the point it was hard to watch. One of the reasons his name will live on forever in football history is because he played with a concussion and a cracked sternum in a season in which the New York Giants finished with a 2-10-2 record. That’s right. He laid on his body on the line every game in a losing season.

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3. Jack Youngblood

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Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood broke his fibula courtesy of a chop block in a 1979 playoff game against the Cowboys. Instead of calling it quits, he continued to play in the game and even sacked Roger Staubach. If that wasn’t enough, Youngblood participated in every contest all the way through the Super Bowl. The fact that he didn’t have a care in the world for his own body motivated his teammates to raise their level of play.

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2. Bert Trautmann


One of the most astonishing moments in sports is that of goalkeeper Bert Trautmann. In the 1956 FA Cup Final, Trautmann dove to save an incoming ball and was kneed in the neck by Peter Murphy in the process. Even though Trautmann was in a tremendous amount of pain and didn’t appear to have it all together, he stayed in the game.

He continued to make miraculous saves for the final 15 minutes of play as Manchester City went on to win. It was later revealed that he dislocated five vertebrae. The third vertebrae supported the cracked second one, which was good because it prevented any further damage that could have killed him.

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1. Brett Favre


Brett Favre may not have played with as significant injuries as a broken neck or cracked sternum, but the iron man did play in 297 consecutive games. Over the span of 18 years, Favre dealt with concussions, ankle injuries and elbow injuries among others. The most significant might be when he played with a broken thumb on this throwing hand for an entire season in 2003. He also dealt with severe elbow tendinitis later in his career. This all happened during his days in the NFL. As crazy as it sounds, Favre was even tougher in college.

After a severe car accident that almost cost him his life in 1990, Favre had 30 inches of small intestine removed from his body. Just six weeks later, he was back on the field and led Southern Miss to a comeback victory over Alabama.