It takes a special professional athlete to excel at their sport into their 30s. They must combine unique physical ability with a commitment to training. This gives them the best opportunity to stay in top condition and avoid major injuries that can quickly derail a career. Other key ingredients are a willingness to work hard in practice, high motor, productivity in games and leadership.
Here are my top 14 NFL players who fit the above description. They’ve stayed at the peak of the profession past the pivotal age of 30 when so many others falter.
Top 14 Players Over 30
14. Justin Tucker, 33, Baltimore Ravens, K
Justin Tucker represents the kickers/punters/special teamers on this list as the NFL record holder in career field goal percentage (90.5) and longest field goal (66 yards). He’s an eight-time First or Second-Team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler. He is also the only undrafted player on this list.
13. Von Miller, 34, Buffalo Bills, DE
Von Miller would rank higher on this list if he weren’t coming off an ACL injury. He still managed to have eight sacks in 11 games last season, bringing his career sack total to 123.5. He had four sacks in the 2021 postseason, helping lead the Rams to a Super Bowl title.
Miller was MVP in Super Bowl 50 when he had 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the Denver Broncos’ victory. He was the second overall pick by Denver in the 2011 draft due to his great speed off the edge and his ability to play well against the run and pass. He’s now a seven-time All-Pro and earned eight Pro Bowl selections.
12. DeAndre Hopkins, 31, Free Agent, WR
After his recent salary-cap-motivated release from the Arizona Cardinals, DeAndre Hopkins is the only free agent on this list. Still, several teams are currently recruiting him. Originally a first-round pick of the Houston Texans, the five-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler comes off a season where he missed six games for violating the league’s PED policy.
He proved he is still a top receiver who runs great routes and makes contested catches when he racked up 64 receptions for 717 yards and three touchdowns in the nine games he played in 2022 (many without starting QB Kyler Murray).
11. Lane Johnson, 33, Philadelphia Eagles, OT
Lane Johnson is the first of three Philadelphia Eagles on this list. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 Draft and comes off the Eagles’ Super Bowl season, where the offensive line’s fine play was one of the keys to the team’s success. Johnson was selected All-Pro for the third time (his second as a first-teamer) last season, along with earning his fourth Pro Bowl selection. He is one of the NFL’s most physical and athletic right tackles.
10. Cameron Heyward, 34, Pittsburgh Steelers, DE/DT
He’s the tough, physical heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Cameron Heyward is coming off a sixth straight Pro Bowl season in which he had 10.5 sacks and 74 tackles. He has missed just 11 games during his entire 13-year career, spent entirely in his hometown of Pittsburgh as a former first-round pick. He’s a four-time All-Pro (three times a first-teamer).
9. Darius Slay, 32, Philadelphia Eagles, CB
Darius Slay began his career as a Detroit Lions second-round pick, where he was the NFL co-leader with eight interceptions in 2017 as a First-Team All-Pro. He was traded to the Eagles in 202o and was a Pro Bowl player the past two seasons.
He played a major role as a shutdown corner for the league’s best pass defense last season. Slay had three interceptions, 14 passes defended and 55 tackles in 2022 and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time.
8. Matthew Judon, 30, New England Patriots, Edge/OLB
Matthew Judon began his NFL career as a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler. The New England Patriots signed him as a free agent in 2021. He had a then career-high 12.5 sacks before becoming more productive with 15.5 sacks (tied for fourth in the league), 28 QB hits, 14 tackles-for-loss, 60 tackles and two forced fumbles last season. He’s a versatile and highly productive defender selected to four straight Pro Bowls.
7. Jason Kelce, 35, Philadelphia Eagles, C
He’s the leader of perhaps the NFL’s best offensive line and started his second Super Bowl — including a win in Super Bowl LII — at center last season, earning his fifth All-Pro First-Team and sixth Pro Bowl selection. Jason Kelce was a sixth-round pick in 2011 and has been with the Eagles his entire career.
His strengths are his quickness and excellent balance, which help him against bigger defensive tackles. He also has a rather famous younger brother, Travis, who makes this list. Good genes in the Kelce family.
6. Zack Martin, 32, Dallas Cowboys, OG
He’s long been considered one of the best guards of all time and a backbone of many excellent Dallas Cowboys offensive lines in recent years. He’s a technician who plays with great leverage and agility as an elite run blocker and pass protector.
Zack Martin joined the Cowboys as a 2014 first-round pick and has played his entire career in Dallas. He’s a six-time First-Team All-Pro (plus two Second-Team selections) and an eight-time Pro Bowler.
5. Davante Adams, 30, Las Vegas Raiders, WR
He’s been a consummate receiver with remarkable consistency in his career, starting with eight years in Green Bay, where he was a five-time Pro Bowler as a former second-round pick. Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers were virtually unstoppable before Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Adams still produced his third straight All-Pro season and was picked for his sixth Pro Bowl. He had 100 receptions for 1,516 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Adams has also been a force in the postseason with 72 catches for 910 yards and eight TDs in 11 playoff games.
4. Aaron Donald, 32, Los Angeles Rams, DT/DE
Aaron Donald probably would lead this list if he weren’t coming off a down season by his high standards, in which he missed six games with an ankle injury. His sack total fell to five after producing double-digit sacks in the previous five seasons (including 20.5 in 2018). With his quickness and strength, Donald is a pass-rushing force and a terrific run defender.
A first-round pick of the Rams in 2013, he is one of the best defensive linemen in NFL history. He’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a seven-time First-Team All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowler. He had two sacks, three QB hits and a game-sealing pressure on Joe Burrow in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI victory.
3. Aaron Rodgers, 39, New York Jets, QB
The mercurial but highly talented Rodgers has moved on to the New York Jets after his tremendous Green Bay Packers career, which began as a first-round pick in 2005. He is a four-time MVP who made five All-Pro teams and was selected to 10 Pro Bowls in Green Bay. Rodgers also won Super Bowl XLV, taking home the game’s MVP award after throwing for 304 yards and three TDs.
Rodgers has great arm strength and accuracy along with mobility. He’s been the league passer-rating leader four times, including a record 122.5 rating in 2011. His performance with the Jets will be one of the biggest storylines in the upcoming season, following a losing season with Rodgers missing out on Pro Bowl honors for the first time since his injury-shortened 2017 campaign.
2. Trent Williams, 34, San Francisco 49ers, OT
Washington drafted Trent Williams No. 4 overall in 2010. He’s a three-time All-Pro and has made 10 Pro Bowl teams, seven in Washington and three in San Francisco. After an acrimonious finish to his Washington years (he held out the entire 2019 season due to a disagreement over his contract and the team’s treatment of a growth on his head), the 49ers stole him for third- and fifth-round picks in 2020.
He rewarded the San Francisco 49ers with exceptional play at the critical left tackle spot. He’s a physical and athletic tackle who plays with a mean edge.
1. Travis Kelce, 33, Kansas City Chiefs, TE
The younger Kelce brother was a third-round pick in 2013. He is the NFL record-holder among tight ends for most seasons over 1,000 yards receiving with seven (the last seven years) and most yards receiving in a season with 1,416 in 2020. He won two Super Bowls as Patrick Mahomes’ leading target, made seven straight All-Pro teams (four First-Team) and eight consecutive Pro Bowls.
Travis Kelce‘s size, speed, route running and overall savvy as a receiver make him a huge matchup issue for defenses. He’s coming off a 2022 season with 110 receptions for 1,338 yards and 12 TDs (including four touchdowns in a Monday night win over the Raiders) with an additional 27 catches, 257 yards and four touchdowns in the Chiefs’ run to their Super Bowl LVII win.
Jeff Diamond is a former Minnesota Vikings general manager and Titans team president. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffdiamondnfl.