American football has always enjoyed a loyal following south of the border in Mexico. The game is played here, while the NFL is watched by millions of fans across the country.
The National Football League has also played a number of official games in Mexico, and that arrangement is set to continue. With such interest, it’s no surprise that the country has supplied several NFL stars over the years, but who are the best players with Mexican heritage?
Joe Cardona: New England Patriots
While Joe Cardona may not spend many minutes on the football field, he remains one of the most vital players in the Patriots’ team. Cardona is a long snapper, which means he is required to snap the ball on those occasions when it needs to be delivered over longer distances.
Joe Cardona is considered a Mexican American with distinct Latino roots. He’s also one of the most successful players of NFL heritage, with two Super Bowl wins in 2017 and 2019. Although New England have struggled to achieve the same success since the departure of Tom Brady, the team enjoys a loyal following and are among the favorites in any Super Bowl odds market.
He’s also set some notable milestones for any NFL player. He became only the fourth college man to ever be drafted as a long snapper when he turned pro in 2015, and Cardona was also the second-highest drafted player in his position.
Chris Olave: New Orleans Saints
One of the more recent players on this list, Chris Olave drafted from Ohio State into the Saints’ roster at the start of the 2022 season. He was claimed as the 11th pick in round one of that 2022 draft, and a number of franchises had been monitoring his progress.
Olave plays as a wide receiver, and he has already made an impact in his short time in the NFL. On the back of good stats, he made the Rookie Team of the Season in 2022. He made four touchdowns in his first campaign, but those levels should increase as Chris Olave develops.
From the current crop of NFL players, we now travel back in time. Anthony Munoz played for 13 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before finishing his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993.
While he couldn’t quite drive either of his teams to the biggest prize of all, there are some who feel that Munoz was the best player of Mexican descent of all time. An Offensive Tackle, he ranked highly for receptions and receiving yards, and was included in several best performing teams during his time with the Bengals.
One of the earliest Mexican-descended players to have made an impact on the NFL, Tom Fears played for the Los Angeles Rams between 1948 and 1956. It was a relatively brief playing career, but he returned some impressive stats during that time.
Fears is the first player on this list to move across from Mexico, and he was born in Guadalajara in 1922. In 1950, he was the leading receiver in the league, with a total of 1,116 yards. He led the NFL in receptions in three separate seasons.
When he retired as a player, Tom Fears went into coaching and would stay involved in the sport until his eventual retirement in 1975. There were many career highlights, but nothing would top Fear’s NFL Championship game win in 1951.
Ron Rivera has Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, and he graced the NFL as a player and a coach. His association with the league began in 1984 when he was picked in round two of the draft by the Chicago Bears.
Playing as a linebacker, he would stay with the Bears until 1992 and, in that time, he became another player of Mexican descent to win the Super Bowl. Ron Rivera was part of the Chicago team that won Super Bowl XX in 1986, defeating the New England Patriots 46-10 in the final game.
The second part of Rivera’s career began in 1997, when he rejoined the Bears as a Quality Control Coach. He subsequently took on roles at several teams, including the San Diego Chargers and the Carolina Panthers, and he’s currently the Head Coach of the Washington Commanders.
While he has yet to repeat that success from the Super Bowl of 1986, Ron Rivera remains a respected figure in the game, and was voted as the Associated Press National Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2015.
This list shows that there is a long history of competitive Mexican players in the NFL. They’ve been involved since the sport began, and many have made significant contributions to their teams.
There have been Super Bowl wins, MVP performances, and hopefully there will be much more to come from current and future NFL players of Mexican descent.