1. Brian Mitchell
Boasting the longest career of any player on this list, Mitchell played 14 seasons as one of the premier return men in the NFL. But before he was returning kicks, Mitchell was a quarterback at Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), where he became the first collegian to throw for more than 5,000 yards and rush for more than 3,000 yards.
Despite never returning a kick in college, Mitchell was picked by the Washington Redskins in the fifth round of the 1990 NFL Draft to do just that, as well as playing occasionally at running back. Mitchell was a solid third-down back, but he made his mark as a return man, four times leading the league in all-purpose yards.
He still holds NFL records for most career kickoff and punt return yards, and is second only to Jerry Rice in all-purpose yardage. And with the new NFL kickoff rules that limit return opportunities, it is likely Mitchell will remain the NFL’s all-time top return man at least for the foreseeable future.