Fans always love big men and no position features more big men than defensive tackle/nose tackle. The Green Bay Packers have had a lot of great big defensive tackles and nose tackles in their history and we look at the best of them now.
Keep in mind only interior defensive linemen are eligible so you won’t see a Reggie White or a Willie Davis on this list. Also, to qualify, players need to have been big for era they played in. That means a 275-pounnd player would be huge in the 50s or 60s but not in the 1990s or 2000s.
Here are the best big defensive tackles/nose tackles in Packers history:
- Ron Kostelnik (1961-1968)
Kostelnik is often overlooked because of the great defensive players that were on the Lombardi dynasty teams of the 1960s. The 6’4”, 260-pound former University of Cincinnati star was a great run stuffer who clogged up the middle of the Packers defensive line. His strong play allowed his teammates to make more plays because he occupied blockers and was able to penetrate to stop the run.
Kostelnik played on all five of the Packers title teams of the 1960s and the first two Super Bowls. He started for six seasons and gave the Packers consistent play.
In 1989, Kostelnik was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. He passed away at the age of 53 in 1993.
- Mike McCoy (1970-1976)
Mike McCoy was selected second overall by the Packers in the 1970 NFL Draft. The former Notre Dame star played seven seasons with the Packers and led the team in sacks in 1973 and 1976 (although sacks were not yet an official statistic at that time). He also was named the Packers Rookie of the Year in 1970.
McCoy was a better run stuffer than pass rusher and he did a good job of clogging up the middle of the Green Bay defensive line. He was an integral part of the team’s 1972 division-winning team, the only time the Packers made the playoffs in the 1970s.
McCoy finished his career with the Raiders, Giants and Lions before retiring after the 1980 season.
- Dave Hanner (1952-1964)
“Hawg” Hanner joined the Packers in 1952 and spent 13 seasons with the team as a defensive tackle. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 1953 and 1954. Although Hanner played on some mediocre Packers teams in the 50s, his career lasted long enough that he won two NFL Championships under Vince Lombardi in 1961 and 1962.
Hanner then spent time with the Packers as an assistant coach and a scout. He was defensive coordinator under Bart Starr and remained a part of the organization until 1996, nearly five decades of time with the Packers.
Hanner was respected for his enthusiasm and knowledge of the game. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1974.
- Ryan Pickett (2006-2013)
Ryan Pickett was one of the Packers better free agent signings, joining the team before the 2006 season. At 6’2” and 338 pounds, Pickett was tough to move from the middle of the line. He wasn’t a standout pass rusher, but his ability to stop the run helped the Packers defense excel for eight seasons.
Pickett was a starter on the Packers 2010 Super Bowl winning team and he played in 11 playoff games with the Packers during his tenure with the team.
The former Ohio State star finished his career with the Houston Texans in 2014.
Pickett was often overlooked by fans but he was a steady presence for the Packers and should be a candidate for the Packers Hall of Fame.
- B.J. Raji (2009-2015)
The Packers selected B.J. Raji in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft with the ninth overall pick and he became a starter in his second season in the league. Raji had the perfect size for a nose tackle at 6’2” and 334 pounds but he had good agility for a big man.
In the 2010 NFC Championship Game, he made his most famous play, a pick six against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter that helped clinch the Packers 21-14 win and sent the team to Super Bowl XLV.
In 2011, Raji made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. He had the ability to rush the passer from the inside and had a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2010.
Unfortunately, injuries soon took their toll on Raji. He missed the entire 2014 season with a torn bicep and although he returned in 2015, he retired following that season at the age of 29.
Raji may have ranked even higher on this list if he had played longer but his big play in the NFC title game will make him a part of Packers lore forever.
- Gilbert Brown (1993-2003)
Gilbert Brown was a fan favorite in the 1990s and early 2000s and became a folk hero after John Madden took notice of his size and ability to stuff the run.
Brown was listed as 6’2” and 340 pounds but his weight often went higher than that. He went from a free agent pickup after being cut by the Vikings to starting on a Super Bowl team.
He earned the nickname “The Gravedigger” and used to mimic digging after he made a sack or a tackle for loss.
Brown was such a popular player in Green Bay that a local fast food restaurant introduced “The Gilbert Burger” which had double everything but no pickles.
Brown was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2008 and remains a fan favorite long after his retirement.
- Kenny Clark (2016-present)
Kenny Clark gives the Packers a rare commodity: a player who can clog up the middle of the line to stuff the run, can penetrate to make tackles for loss and can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the interior defensive line.
Clark has earned Pro Bowl honors twice in his NFL career after the 2019 and 2021 seasons even though the Packers had little other talent around him on the defensive line.
The UCLA alum had a career-high six sacks in 2018 and 2019. He also has 33 career tackles for loss.
Clark has played six seasons and is still only 26. He should have several more seasons to play at the top of his game. With all the talent the Packers have now surrounded him with, the 2022 campaign may be an excellent opportunity for Clark to have a career year.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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