With last week’s athletic football catches by Brandon Marshall in the Bears-49ers matchup, among others, the sports world is already talking about the “catch of the year.” Is it insanely early to start that discussion? Yes. Are we going to do it anyway? Yes. No. Sort of. Since we’ve got the best grabs on our mind, we figured we would walk through some of the most athletic football catches in football history. However, we didn’t just want to limit the theatrics to the NFL. So we’ve got athletic football catches from the CFL, college, and even high school.
We might as well start off with this catch that got us all talking. It’s probably not the best catch ever, and it may not even be the best catch THIS YEAR, but it’s the best catch so far this season. And it helped the Bears shock the 49ers early on in the season, so we’re putting it in there. Also, you’ll see we’re suckers for one-handed end zone grabs. But who isn’t?
20. Brandon Marshall’s End Zone Grab
Chris Moore of Western Washington doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit." Or if he does, he's keeping it to himself. The receiver made one of the most mind-boggling catches ever, tumbling forward, but somehow keeping the ball of the ground using his feet, back, and hands. There was definitely some luck involved in this Western Washington catch.
19. Chris Moore's Foot Catch
From back in the day from Alabama, a defensive player for Southern Miss is turned into an accessory to help Tyrone Prothro pull in a LOOOOOONG pass. It's hard to examine exactly what's so cool with this catch, but you know there's a lot that went into it.
18. Tyrone Prothro Pulls in a Hail Mary
Devin Smith combines a ridiculous vertical leap with a one-handed grab and a twist. Oh, and it all happens in the end zone coming from a 40-yard pass. It looks like Smith is playing a different game out there than everyone else. Terrific catch.
Devin Smith just gets upandupandupandup
17. Devin Smith Gets High with One Hand
Sure, we’re grading on a curve for this one. Extra points for a tight end getting up THAT high to make a grab. Extra points because it was in a championship game. And definitely extra points because it was in a Niners-Cowboys rivalry game. Maybe not the most athletic catch, but possibly still the most iconic. Like Jordan’s pull-up jumper as the clock ran out, this image is etched into the fans’ brains.
16. Dwight Clark’s TD Grab vs. Cowboys
It’s hard to see what’s going on, even from two different angles, but that’s just a testament to the focus of Ben Cahoon, one of the CFL’s best receivers, who risked life and limb in the middle of the field to make the catch. Slow-motion wouldn’t even help much, but dodging the defender while snagging the line drive is certainly commendable.
15. Ben Cahoon vs. Saskatchewan
Recently, a Bears-Lions matchup hasn’t been a high-stakes affair. I mean, they’re sworn rivals, so the fanbases live and die by it, but the league at large isn’t really affected. However, when Marty Booker went inverted (almost) in 2009 to make a one-hand snag while draped in a defender, it put the game under the national spotlight, if only for that one play.
14. Marty Booker’s Grab vs. Lions
On a list of twenty entries, it would be a bit tedious if we explained why each catch was so great. You know greatness when you see it, normally. However, this catch has something else. Aside from the concentration, and the stakes, and all that other stuff, we see Wallace stretch out AS FAR AS HUMANLY possible, and it’s just barely enough to scoop the ball in for the TD. It’s pretty fantastic to watch.
13. Roethlisburger to Wallace vs. Chiefs
You know those tip ball drills that seemed to unlikely in a game scenario? The ones that taught you focus, to keep your eye on the ball, and to be ready to react…immediately? Remember those? Dominique Hickson clearly does. (*nodding*)
12. Dominique Hickson vs. the Rams
AJ Green is a great receiver for the Bengals of Cincinnati. But he wasn’t always. Before that, he was a great receiver in college for Georgia. And before that, he was a great receiver in high school for Summerville, which is where this amazing grab took place. It’s natural to continue to expect greatness from someone who does this.
11.AJ Green’s High School Catch
Anything done in the snow is automatically ten times more memorable and impressive than it would be in normal weather. That’s nothing to take away from Ronald Curry, athlete extraordinaire, but it does speak to how awesome and iconic this play was. I’m not gonna spoil this one by talking about it. Just watch and let it take you away to a winter wonderland.
10. Ronald Curry’s Snowy Grab
There are many instances where getting two points is as important as getting a touchdown. When a team elects to go for two, not only is the game on the line, but the coach's judgment as well. So it's nice to be able to save some face for the gipper. Green was able to do this with an amazing endzone catch that wasn't a touchdown, but was just as important.
9. Green’s Two Point Conversion
So time’s running down, which adds some drama, but this catch can largely stand context-free. Brandon Lloyd managed to not only make an incredibly athletic catch, but then he managed to come down in bounds, seemingly dragging his feet halfway across the field to get both sets of toes down. He succeeds and keeps his team in the hunt.
8. Brandon Lloyd’s Last Minute Grab Against San Diego
Tip drill redux: the randomness of a tipped ball increases the excitement of a catch by about tenfold. Which is why this catch, while not the most impressive, is likely the most remembered catch of the past couple decades. Well, this and the helmet catch (see below). It's a great catch, and the tipping makes it seem to last forever.
7. Joe Jervecius Tip Catch
Take many features of the best catches we’ve seen on this list. Sprinkle in a random lower-tier school. Add one flip during the catch process. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serve. (You'll get four stars on Yelp!, cause this catch is amazing.)
6. Edwin Baptista’s Grab for…Morgan State?
This one would top the list if there hadn’t been so much luck behind it. Eli made an amazing play, but the very fact that this thing is referred to as the “helmet catch” and not the “David Tyree catch” isn’t indicative of what people think of the play. However, it upset the Pats (that’s good) in the Super Bowl, causing the ’72 Dolphins to keep celebrating their undefeated season. (That’s bad.)
5. David Tyree’s Helmet Catch
Lil’ Megatron still had all the hallmarks of full-size Megatron.
4. Calvin Johnson’s Georgia Tech Grab
With :44 left in the half, down by seven, Marshall lobs the ball up to Dobson. Dobson manages to arm bar the defender (legally?), then perform a backhanded, single-handed snag of the ball. Delicious AND healthy. He is Marshall.
3. Aaron Dobson’s End Zone Catch for Marshall
When it comes to athletic catches, this one may take the cake. There's something about a one-handed catch, this one-handed catch in particular, that demonstrates many facets of an athlete's ability. Focus? Yup. Strength? Uh-huh. Concentration? You bet. Grace? Tons of it.
It's the holy grail of receptions, and this one may be the best. Even if it was by a guy from Central Florida.
2. JJ Worton’s One-Handed Game Winner for UCF
Is this a better hail mary than the one tossed by Flutie earlier on this list? I think so. It doesn’t get as much recognition, but this is as textbook as hail maries get. Team is down with one play left. QB chucks the ball…stuff happens…WR somehow comes down with it and wins the game. Yes, please.
1. Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary to Michael Westbrook