Football fans – this one’s for you! The National Football League is now a few weeks into the 2021 season, and as it’s getting into full swing we can think about some of the league’s athletes who have connections to Hudson County. There are a ton of current and former players from both Northeast and country-wide teams who were born or have lived in Hoboken and Jersey City. Read on to learn more about which players have a history in Hoboken + Jersey City.
(Photo credit: NFL)
Robert Ayers started his football tenure at Hoboken High School before moving to South Carolina after his freshman year in 2000. The former defensive end was born in Jersey City in September 1985. After a college career at the University of Tennessee, Robert was drafted 18th overall by the Denver Broncos in 2009 and went on to play nine seasons in the NFL. He spent his first five years in Denver before signing a two-year contract with the New York Giants in 2014 and ended his time in the league with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Over the span of his career, Robert recorded 192 solo tackles, 51 tackles for loss, and 108 quarterback hits. He is also one of the few NFL athletes to play with both Peyton Manning and Eli Manning during his career. Robert was released by Tampa Bay in 2018 as well as the Detroit Lions that same year after signing a one-year contract with the team and officially retired in July 2019. Currently, Robert is the Defensive Coordinator for Knoxville Catholic High School football in Tennessee.
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Linebacker Jonathan Casillas was born in Jersey City but attended North Brunswick High School in Middlesex County before going on to play football at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The undrafted former linebacker played eight seasons in the NFL from 2009-2017, appearing on the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jonathan has two Super Bowl wins to his name: one with New Orleans in 2010 and another with New England in 2015. Over his 102 games, he recorded 263 solo tackles and 122 assists on tackles along with 21 tackles for loss. Jonathan spent three years with the Giants to end his time in the league, recording a career-high 96 tackles in the 2016 season while emerging as one of the team’s standout players. His tenure in the NFL ended with injuries in 2017.
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Jersey City’s own Frank Darby made his NFL debut during the 2021 season. Frank, a wide receiver, went to Lincoln High School in Jersey City and graduated in 2016 before playing at Arizona State University. He was drafted in the 2021 NFL draft in the sixth round by the Atlanta Falcons.
(Photo credit: The Big Red Zone)
Center Bob DeMarco was born in Jersey City in 1938 and went on to become one of the longest-lasting players during the early days of the NFL. Bob was drafted in 1960 by the St. Louis Cardinals and played in the NFL until 1975. During that time, he played for four teams (the St. Louis Cardinals, the Miami Dolphins, the Cleveland Browns, and the Los Angeles Rams), went to three Pro Bowls, and was All-Pro twice. He played in seven playoff games and one SuperBowl. Bob played for the Miami Dolphins in the 1971 AFC Championship Game, which became known as ‘The Longest Game‘ because it took over three hours to declare a winner after two overtimes. In 2018 Bob was inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.
(Photo credit: @mathius_kiwanuka)
G-Man Mathias Kiwanuka lived in Hoboken during his time with the New York Giants. Mathias, who played in college at Boston College, was drafted in 2006 as a defensive end and moved over to strongside linebacker. Mathias’ nickname is ‘Kiwi’ and he played with the Giants from 2006-2014, including the 2007 and 2011 Superbowl Championship teams. Throughout the course of his career, he logged 412 tackles and 38.5 sacks. After retiring from the NFL, Mathias has become the CEO of Wandering Wines, a travel-inspired wine company, and is a board member of The Smile Train, a non-profit that provides cleft-lip repair surgeries for children worldwide. He often contributes to Giants coverage on YouTube and ESPN radio.
(Photo credit: @nygiants)
Probably the most well-known NFL player on this list, Eli Manning was a star quarterback for the New York Giants from 2004-2019. He is Louisiana-born but lived in an elegant Hoboken condo with breathtaking views while with the Giants. The residence was recently sold for $3.55 million dollars in 2020.
Since being drafted first overall by the San Diego Chargers in 2004 after playing at Ole Miss, Eli led New York to two championships: Super Bowl XLII in 2007 and Super Bowl XLVI in 2011. He’s been selected to four Pro Bowls, was the MVP of both Super Bowls he won and holds the Giants records for passing yards (57,023), touchdowns (373), and pass completions (4,895). Eli also ranks eighth in passing yards and ninth in touchdowns all-time in the NFL. His accolades continue to add up, as Eli is one of five NFL athletes to win multiple Super Bowl MVPs, and holds the third-longest consecutive games played in the league by a quarterback (210). Additionally, Eli led the NFL in interceptions in 2007, 2010, and 2013.
Eli retired from the Giants in 2020. . His jersey is retired by New York and although he is not eligible for NFL Hall of Fame induction yet, Eli was inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor in September 2021. Currently, he serves in a front-office role with the Giants in addition to contributing to football broadcasts on ESPN.
(Photo credit: ESPN)
Safety Brandon McGown was born in Jersey City, graduated from Lincoln High School, and went to the University of Maine before joining the NFL in 2005. He played for the Chicago Bears from 2005-2008 and the New England Patriots from 2009-2011. Over the course of his career, Brandon recorded 184 tackles.
(Photo credit: @jessepalmer)
Jesse Palmer was a quarterback for the New York Giants from 2002-2003, appearing in eight games. Following his college football career at the University of Florida, Jesse was selected in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Giants. He resided in Hoboken during his time with the team. Jesse has transitioned his focus into a television career.
He first appeared as The Bachelor in the show’s fifth season, the first professional athlete to do so. He was recently announced as the Season 26 host of the show. Additionally, Jesse has been a contributor to Good Morning America, a college football analyst for ESPN, and a contributor to The Sports Network (TSN). His other television show appearances include hosting DailyMailTV from 2017-2020, hosting The Proposal in 2018, and currently hosts The Holiday Baking Championship.
(Photo credit: @justinpugh67)
Justin Pugh is a current NFL offensive guard for the Arizona Cardinals. A long-time New York Giant before going over to Arizona, Justin lived in a sleek Jersey City penthouse. The home was recently in the news as Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop purchased it.
A native of Holland, Pennsylvania, Justin was not far from his roots while playing in New York. After participating in high school football he continued his career at Syracuse University and was eventually picked up by the Giants 19th overall at the 2013 NFL Draft. He went on to play five years with the team before signing a contract with the Cardinals in 2018 and has been there since. Justin has kept his ties with New Jersey as a partial owner of Tony Boloney’s, a popular pizzeria spot with locations in Jersey City and Hoboken. He owns pieces of both the restaurant’s holding company as well as two of the four stores.
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Punter Steve Weatherford played in the NFL from 2006 to 2015, logging over 30,000 total yards. Steve played for the New Orleans Saints, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to the tri-state area in 2009 when he joined the New York Jets. He played for the Jets from 2009-2010, then for the Giants from 2011-2014, including the team’s 2011 Superbowl win, and then went back to the Jets for his final season in 2015. While in New Jersey, Steve was involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs of New Jersey and was an ambassador for the program Wellness in Schools. He regularly contributes to NFL coverage, hosts his own podcast, and does motivational speaking.
(Photo credit: @t_dub90)
Tahir Whitehead is another Jersey City-born NFL player. The linebacker is an unsigned free agent right now but has been in the league since 2012 after being drafted 138th overall that year by the Detroit Lions. Tahir attended West Side High School in Newark and eventually went on to play football at Temple University before being selected into the NFL. Tahir has spent most of his years with Detroit, playing there for six years before going to the Oakland Raiders for two seasons. He most recently played on a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers. Over his career, Tahir has added up 490 solo tackles and 194 tackle assists.
(Photo credit: Green Bay Packers)
Frank Winters played 16 seasons as a center in the NFL from 1987-2002. He was born in Hoboken and grew up around Union City before playing football at Western Illinois University. Frank participated in the 1987 NFL draft in the tenth round by the Cleveland Browns. He started his career with Cleveland and played two years there before going to the New York Giants for a year. He continued to play for the Kansas City Chiefs for two seasons and spent the majority of his tenure with the Green Bay Packers. Frank played 11 seasons with Green Bay and eventually retired after the 2002 season. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1997 and has been inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
(Photo credit: NY Giants)
Zak DeOssie is a retired long snapper for the New York Giants – drafted in 2007. A successful player, Zak was chosen twice as a Pro Bowl long snapper and earned two Super Bowl rings – Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI. In 2020, he announced his retirement from the NFL after a 13-year run. He lived in Hoboken for several years during the time Eli Manning live here.
(Photo credit: NY Giants)
Mike Glennon is a quarterback for the New York Giants and currently lives in Hoboken with his family. He was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. In 2017, he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Bears. The following year, in 2018, he signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. In 2020, Mike signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and in March of this year, he officially become part of the Giants nation.
Daniel Stephen Jones III
(Photo credit: NY Giants)
Daniel Jones aka Danny Dimes is a quarterback for the New York Giants, his first NFL team. He was drafted in 2019 with a four-year rookie contract. He was the first rookie quarterback to a career start since the 80s, as well as broke several rookie records for the franchise – a promising player for the Giants. Shortly after making his debut, Daniel was named team captain during his second season. The young player currently lives in Hoboken.