Identifying just three inside linebackers for my Team For The Ages was really tough because of the number of Hall of Famers I had to leave off my squad, but in the end there are three who truly stand out for me.
In 1995, when the NFL celebrated its 75th anniversary, it had all of its former players pick the greatest team of all-time and teams of each decade. Those who came before him, his peers and those who came after voted Dick Butkus the greatest defensive player of all time regardless of position.
Butkus played on a number of bad Chicago Bears teams but was always the most dominant player on the field, and while he is most famous for his nasty temperament and nasty intentions – Butkus could easily be the star of his very own NFL crunch-time film – he was a remarkable athlete at 6-3, 245 pounds until his knees deserted him, able to drop into coverage, blitz with ferocity and make plays from sideline to sideline.
Jack Lambert was a next-generation Butkus who played the game with the identical style and temperament and dominated his position for the better part of his career.
I’ve talked to a number of folks who covered the Steelers in the ‘70s who insist he was the focal point of the “Steel Curtain” defense, and Pittsburgh probably doesn't win all four Super Bowls without him.
My third choice was the most difficult, but I went with Junior Seau. Unlike true middle linebackers in a 4-3 set, Seau was the dominant player at his position playing inside in 3-4 packages for a decade-and-a-half.
There was nothing Seau couldn’t do on a football field, and like Butkus and Lambert, he was always the focal point of the opposing offense.