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US States With Most NFL Hall of Famers

Larry Rankin is a sports analyst with an especially strong penchant for statistical breakdowns.

Have you ever got into an argument about which state produces the greatest football players? If you’re a football fan, you probably have. It was this line of thought that brought me to the question, "Well, who has the most Pro Football Hall of Famers?" With a little research, I was able to extract the following results. So, enough said. The debate is over. Well, no, not really. But what the following information does provide is one level of important statistical data in the debate of the best football state. The Hall of Fame, in many regards, is the pinnacle achievement for a football player, but there are certainly more factors that could be employed to settle the argument once and for all.

Even in doing the research, there are some gray areas, such as ownership. For example, Troy Aikman was born in California, but for much of his youth, he lived in Oklahoma. Both states claim him. Many of the players on this list are in the same boat, some having moved around a lot more than twice. Though some refinement could be used in the data collection process, say the giving of a percentage of credit to all states the player lived in through high school, I believe birthplace suffices in the purest sense of the question: What state produces the most Hall of Famers?

The next question, probably the biggest question, is whether to arrange the data in a per capita list or just a list of the number of Hall of Famers per state. In my way of thinking, the best football state is not so much about who has the most as it is about which grounds are the most fertile. For example, if Texas has over 27 million people and Kansas has less than 3, well, of course, Texas should have more Hall of Famers. It is for this reason that I chose to put my list in order of per capita score rather than the number of inductees, though the number of Hall of Famers and state rank in regards of sheer number is provided.

In the below table you will see a per capita score. This score is based on the number of Hall of Famers from each state divided by the estimated population for each state in 2015. I took out the 5 or 6 zeros that go before each number to make the data more palatable. Most the results were decisive, but there are a few states that are so close that a slight fluctuation or decrease in population, or even if the population estimates were slightly off, would move the state up or down a spot.

State by State Hall of Fame Statistics

Inductees Per Capita RankPer Capita ScoreInductees RankTotal Inductees

1. Mississippi

267

t-9

8

2. West Virginia

217

t-21

4

3. Pennsylvania

211

2

27

4. Ohio

189

3

22

5. Kansas

172

t-17

5

6. Louisiana

171

t-9

8

7. Arkansas

168

t-17

5

8. Nebraska

158

t-25

3

9. Alabama

144

t-11

7

10. Oklahoma

128

t-17

5

11. Virginia

119

7

10

12. Wisconsin

117

t-11

7

13. South Dakota

116

t-34

1

14. Texas

109

1

30

15. Illinois

101

5

13

16. Missouri

99

t-15

6

17. Montana

97

t-34

1

18. New Mexico

96

t-30

2

19. Georgia

88

8

9

20. Connecticut

84

t-25

3

21. Tennessee

76

t-17

5

22. Minnesota

73

t-21

4

23. North Carolina

70

t-11

7

24. Kentucky

68

t-25

3

25. New Jersey

67.0

t-15

6

26. Utah

66.8

t-30

2

27. Idaho

60

t-34

1

28. Massachusetts

59

t-21

4

29. Florida

54

6

11

30. California

49

4

19

31. Indiana

45

t-25

3

32. Washington

42

t-25

3

33. South Carolina

41

t-30

2

34. Michigan

40

t-21

4

35. New York

35

t-11

7

36. Arizona

29

t-30

2

37. Oregon

25

t-34

1

38. Colorado

18

t-34

1

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

1. Mississippi

Per Capita Score: 267

Inductees Rank: t-9

Hall of Famers: 8 (Bruiser Kinard, Lem Barney, Walter Payton, Jackie Smith, Billy Shaw, Jackie Slater, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre)

Though 8 Hall of Famers is not nearly as many as some more populous states, Mississippi is the clear leader in inductees per capita, and you also can’t fault them on quality. Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, and Brett Favre are considered by many the best ever at their positions.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

2. West Virginia

Per Capita Score: 217

Inductees Rank: t-21

Hall of Famers: 4 (Joe Stydahar, Gino Marchetti, Sam Huff, Frank Gatski)

West Virginia, with well under 2 million people and not an inductee since 1985, still is in firm command of 2nd place on our list. The most recognizable name on their short list, probably Sam Huff.

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3. Pennsylvania

Per Capita Score: 211

Inductee Rank: 2

Hall of Famers: 27 (Red Grange, Emlen Tunnell, Chuck Bednarik, Charlie Trippi, Joe Schmidt, Bill George, Lenny Moore, Johnny Unitas, Herb Adderly, George Blanda, Joe Namath, Jack Ham, Mike Ditka, Fred Biletnikoff, Stan Jones, Randy White, Leroy Kelly, Tony Dorsett, Joe Montana, Mike Munchak, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Russ Grimm, Curtis Martin, Jack Butler, Andre Reed, Marvin Harrison)

Pennsylvania’s illustrious list of Hall of Famers reads like a who’s who of great quarterbacks. Their 26 inductees is 2nd only to Texas in sheer number.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

4. Ohio

Per Capita Score: 189

Inductee Rank: 3

Hall of Famers: 22 (Pete Henry, Mike Michalske, Clarke Hinkle, Cliff Battles, Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli, Bill Willis, Paul Warfield, Roger Staubach, Len Dawson, Larry Csonka, Alan Page, Jack Lambert, Chuck Noll, Dan Dierdorf, Don Shula, Tom Mack, Bob Brown, Benny Friedman, Dick LeBeau, Chris Carter, Orlando Pace)

Ohio, home state to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ranks among only 3 states with over 20 Hall of Famers, but has very few inductees from the modern era.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

5. Kansas

Per Capita Score: 172

Inductee Rank: t-17

Hall of Famers: 5 (Jack Christiansen, Gale Sayers, John Riggins, Barry Sanders, Will Shields)

Something about Kansas, I don’t know if it’s the water, the waving plains, or what, just produces the greatest running backs in the world.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

6. Louisiana

Per Capita Score: 171

Inductee Rank: t-9

Hall of Famers: 8 (Jim Taylor, Willie Davis, John Henry Johnson, Terry Bradshaw, Charlie Joiner, Fred Dean, Marshall Faulk, Aeneas Williams)

When one talks of great states for football talent, Louisiana simply can’t be overlooked. The wide variety of positions that make up their Hall of Fame list reinforces this sentiment.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

7. Arkansas

Per Capita Score: 168

Inductee Rank: t-17

Hall of Famers: 5 (Don Hutson, Joe Perry, Bobby Mitchell, Willie Roaf, Cortez Kennedy)

Over the history of football Arkansas has consistently produced great players despite its small population.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

8. Nebraska

Per Capita Score: 158

Inductee Rank: t-25

Hall of Famers: 3 (Link Lyman, Guy Chamberlin, Mick Tingelhoff)

Nebraska, a great football state with fewer then 3 million residents, ranks 8th on our list in per capita Hall of Famers despite the brevity of their list.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

9. Alabama

Per Capita Score: 144

Inductee Rank: t-11

Hall of Famers: 7 (Bart Starr, Buck Buchanan, Ozzie Newsome, John Stallworth, Andre Tippett, Walter Jones, Ken Stabler)

A state rich in football tradition, Alabama comes in at number 9.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

10. Oklahoma

Per Capita Score: 128

Inductee Rank: t-17

Hall of Famers: 5 (Jim Thorpe, Steve Own, Lee Roy Selmon, Steve Largent, Don Hampton)

Wrapping up our top 10, apparently Oklahoma can do more than just recruit athletes from Texas.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

11. Virginia

Per Capita Score: 119

Inductee Rank: 7

Hall of Famers: 10 (Bill Dudley, Turk Edwards, Ace Parker, Rosey Brown, Fran Tarkenton. Willie Lanier, Henry Jordan, Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith, Charles Haley)

Virginia has produced some of the all-time greats on defensive.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

12. Wisconsin

Per Capita Score: 117

Inductee Rank: t-11

Hall of Famers: 7 (Curly Lambeau, Johnny Blood, Arnie Herber, Elroy Hirsch, Tuffy Leemans, Jim Otto, Mike Webster)

Cows, cheese, and football, Wisconsin comes in at 12.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

13. South Dakota

Per Capita Score: 116

Inductee Rank: t-34

Hall of Famers: 1 (Norm Van Brocklin)

A state this uninhabited, just imagine how high they’d rank if they had 2 inductees.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

14. Texas

Per Capita Score: 109

Inductee Rank: 1

Hall of Famers: 30 (Sammy Baugh, Bulldog Turner, Bobby Layne, Y.A. Tittle, Ollie Matson, Raymond Berry, Night Train Lane, Forrest Gregg, Lance Alworth, Yale Lary, Bob Lilly, Charley Taylor, Doak Walker, Ken Houston, Gene Upshaw, Don Maynard, Joe Greene, Tom Landry, Earl Campbell, Jimmy Johnson, Mel Renfro, Mike Haynes, Mike Singletary, Eric Dickerson, Thurman Thomas, Emmitt Thomas, Darrell Green, John Randle, Michael Strahan, Tim Brown)

Texas takes the crown for producing the most Hall of Fame athletes, but falls well short of that distinction on a per capita basis.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

15. Illinois

Per Capita Score: 101

Inductee Rank: 5

Hall of Famers: 13 (George Halas, George Trafton, Otto Graham, Paddy Driscoll, Tony Canadeo, George Connor, Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, George Musso, Mike McCormack, Ron Yary, Fritz Pollard, Shannon Sharpe)

Illinois ranks in the top 5 for number of inductees, but 1st in all categories for people named George.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

16. Missouri

Per Capita Score: 99

Inductee Rank: t-15

Hall of Famers: 6 (Cal Hubbard, Jimmy Conzelman, Willie Brown, Kellen Winslow, Jim Finks, Roger Wehrli)

Missouri holds the 16th position on our illustrious list.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

17. Montana

Per Capita Score: 97

Inductee Rank: t-34

Hall of Famers: 1 (Ernie Nevers)

The only thing keeping Montana from not making this list is the 1963 induction of Ernie Nevers.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

18. New Mexico

Per Capita Score: 96

Inductee Rank: t-30

Hall of Famers: 2 (Tommy McDonald, Ronnie Lott)

New Mexico comes in at 18th with a receiver and defensive back.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

19. Georgia

Per Capita Score: 88

Inductee Rank: 8

Hall of Famers: 9 (Marion Motley, Jim Brown, Jim Parker, Mel Blount, John Hannah, Larry Little, Rayfield Wright, Richard Dent, Ray Guy)

Georgia has produced arguably the best 2 fullbacks in NFL history with Marion Motley and Jim Brown.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

20. Connecticut

Per Capita Score: 84

Inductee Rank: t-25

Hall of Famers: 3 (Ken Strong, Andy Robustelli, Floyd Little)

Chances are if you’ve heard of any of these players you’re either very old or from Connecticut.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

21. Tennessee

Per Capita Score: 76

Inductee Rank: t-17

Hall of Famers: 5 (Doug Atkins, Lynn Swann, Reggie White, Gene Hickerson, Claude Humphrey)

Reggie White, the Minister of Defense, is perhaps the best defensive end ever.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

22. Minnesota

Per Capita Score: 73

Inductee Rank: t-21

Hall of Famers: 4 (Walt Kiesling, Joe Guyon, Jim Langer, Dave Casper)

A guard, a center, and a tight end, Minnesota gets a few more inductees and it will represent a darn good offensive line.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

23. North Carolina

Per Capita Score: 70

Inductee Rank: t-11

Hall of Famers: 7 (Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Bell, Dwight Stephenson, Carl Eller, Charlie Saunders, Bruce Matthews, Chris Harburger)

7 inductees, not bad for a state known for basketball.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

24. Kentucky

Per Capita Score: 68

Inductee Rank: t-25

Hall of Famers: 3 (George McAfee, Paul Hornung, Dermontti Dawson)

Another basketball state representing in football.

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25. New Jersey

Per Capita Score: 67

Inductee Rank: t-15

Hall of Famers: 6 (Alex Wojciechowicz, Jim Ringo, Franco Harris, Lou Creekmur, Elvin Bethea, Dave Robinson)

There is one 1st ballot Hall of Famer on this list. Care to take a guess? I’ll give you a hint, his name rhymes with Franco Harris.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

26. Utah

Per Capita Score: 66.8

Inductee Rank: t-30

Hall of Famers: 2 (Merlin Olsen, Steve Young)

A short list, but two of the better players to ever be in the league.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

27. Idaho

Per Capita Score: 60

Inductee Rank: t-34

Hall of Famers: 1 (Larry Wilson)

Idaho is mainly known for growing potatoes, but they also produced a very good defensive back in Larry Wilson.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

28. Massachusetts

Per Capita Score: 59

Inductee Rank: t-21

Hall of Famers: 4 (Ed Healy, Wayne Millner, Howie Long, Nick Buoniconti)

Howie Long is the only player on this list inducted within a decade of his retirement.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

29. Florida

Per Capita Score: 54

Inductee Rank: 6

Hall of Famers: 11 (Pete Pihos, Deacon Jones, Jack Youngblood, Michael Irvin, Derrick Thomas, Bob Hayes, Emmitt Smith, Rickey Jackson, Deion Sanders, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks)

Florida doesn’t rank very high on our list, but they were not always such a populous state, and until the 80’s they were not known for football. With all the recent inductions, the state of Florida is coming on strong and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

30. California

Per Capita Score: 49

Inductee Rank: 4

Hall of Famers: 19 (Mel Hein, Leo Nomellini, Hugh McElhenny, Tom Fears, Frank Gifford, Ron Mix, O.J. Simpson, Bob St. Clair, Dan Fouts, Anthony Munoz, James Lofton, Marcus Allen, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Gary Zimmerman, Les Richter, Larry Allen, Junior Seau, Dick Stanfel)

At over 39 million residents, California is by far the most populous state, and pound for pound it just doesn’t stack up. Its 19 Hall of Famers make for an impressive list of athletes and rank California 4th for Hall of Fame inductees, but it almost seems a state of this size would hit 20 by accident.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

31. Indiana

Per Capita Score: 45

Inductee Rank: t-25

Hall of Famers: 3 (Bob Griese, Rod Woodson, Chris Doleman)

When you think of Indiana, the first thing that pops to mind, sports-wise, is basketball, but their short list of Hall of Fame players are all quality inductions.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

32. Washington

Per Capita Score: 42

Inductee Rank: t-25

Hall of Famers: 3 (Ray Flaherty, Red Badgio, John Elway)

Washington’s list of Hall of Famers boasts 2 players who played before World War II, but they also were the birth state of John Elway, one of the all time great quarterbacks.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

33. South Carolina

Per Capita Score: 41

Inductee Rank: t-30

Hall of Famers: 2 (Art Shell, Harry Carson)

South Carolina has produced 2 Hall of Famers; neither of which were slam dunk 1st year of eligibility type candidates.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

34. Michigan

Per Capita Score: 40

Inductee Rank: t-21

Hall of Famers: 4 (Bill Hewitt, Paul Krause, Joe DeLamielleure, Jerome Bettis)

With its rich and long running history of college football, you would figure Michigan would rank higher than this.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

35. New York

Per Capita Score: 35

Inductee Rank: t-11

Hall of Famers: 7 (Bob Waterfield, Sid Luckman, Danny Fortmann, Art Donovan, John Mackey, Art Monk, Kevin Greene)

I don’t know if it is the dirty air or lack of places to run and play, but America’s 3rd most populous state simply hasn’t produced many Hall of Fame caliber players per capita.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

36. Arizona

Per Capita Score: 29

Inductee Rank: t-30

Hall of Famers: 2 (Randall McDaniel, Curley Culp)

Arizona is another state that was once populated by few and is now populated by many, but even though that skews the stats a bit, a state of almost 7 million with only 2 Hall of Fame inductees is an underachievement.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

37. Oregon

Per Capita Score: 25

Inductee Rank: t-34

Hall of Famers: 1 (Dave Wilcox)

Dave Wilcox was a linebacker who last played in 1974 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000; this from the state that bore the world’s most popular maker of athletic shoes.

us-states-with-most-nfl-hall-of-famers

38. Colorado

Per Capita Score: 18

Inductee Rank: t-34

Hall of Famers: 1 (Dutch Clark)

Dutch Clark was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963 at tailback, the first year of the Hall’s existence, an achievement the state of Colorado has not seen since.

Assessment Methods

And the Rest...

Twelve states (Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming) all as of yet have failed to produce a Hall of Fame player. Six Hall of Famers were born outside of the United States: Bronko Nagurski and Arnie Weinmeister in Canada, Steve Van Buren in Honduras, Ernie Statner in Germany, Ted Hendrix in Guatemala, and Jan Stenrud in Norway.

In addition, 3 players were born in our nation’s capital, which is technically not a part of any U.S. state. Those players are Len Ford, Willie Wood, and Jonathan Ogden.

© 2014 Larry Rankin

Comments

Jacob on August 31, 2020:

Texas wasn't always a large state Population wise

They have doubled their population since 1990.

So you point would be true if you don't see an increase in the # of HoFs in the state.

Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson were born before 1990.

The players born after 1990 are the ones to watch in regards to Texas

Win Gates on September 11, 2018:

Arkansas has 6...you left out Dan Hampton of the Bears. He was born in Oklahoma City, but he grew up in Jacksonville, AR. Hell, you even misspelled his name when you did include him with Oklahoma's list!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 03, 2018:

Ollie Matson: born Trinity, TX

David on February 15, 2016:

Ollie Matson should be listed under California and not Texas.

LarryLopez on August 22, 2015:

You're absolutely right. It would get messy. I just think it makes more sense going with high school alum then birthplace. Yes, its cut and dry, but its also misleading. I think if we did go with "players claim," the numbers would be closer to the high school list then birthplace.

Like you said "any system one choose has its pros and cons." The HOF should try and narrow this issue down, so there won't be this huge debate. Maxpreps also went with high school alums, and Ive seen other outlets go with birthplace. I guess its all perspective and opinion, until the HOF does something about it. I appreciate your response.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on August 22, 2015:

Larry: I don't disagree with you, because you're not wrong, but I'm not either.

The reason I went with birth state, is because when you don't, things get messy. What about players who moved all over the place? What about the place the players claim? Aikman could have as easily claimed a California influence as an Oklahoma one.

I choose to go with birth state because it is cut and dry. At this juncture in my analysis I feel it is the best criteria, but as I said, this is my opinion. Any system one would choose has pros and cons.

LarryLopez on August 22, 2015:

I think your list is wrong. We should'nt go by birthplace, because like you stated Troy Aikman was born in California, but his family moved to Oklahoma when he was in the 8th grade. Troy even admitted that "if it wasnt for his family moving to Oklahoma, he probably wouldnt be playing football in the NFL." I think the real rankings is where they went to high school at. That would put California at 32, Pennsyvania-27, Ohio-24 and Texas-23. Its obvious the reason their high school Alum state should get that credit. Maxpreps has the real rankings.

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on July 29, 2015:

Bobby: thanks so much for the positive feedback. I haven't had as much time for these research based hubs since we've had our first child, but yes, I was researching every waking moment when I was working on these sports statistics hubs.

Robert Morgan from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ on July 29, 2015:

You are amazing. I can't believe how awesome your hubs are. You must be writing and researching 24hrs a day. Great job Larry, I am learning a lot from you. Have the best day ever. Bobby

Jane on December 20, 2014:

The letters have dieenrfft values, so it is possible to get a dieenrfft score despite finding the same number of words. Scan the board when you first start so you can focus on making words with the highest scoring letters. Thanks for playing!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on May 16, 2014:

Almost is where I'm from too, lol. Oklahoma is known for poaching athletes from Texas, but all in all, per capita we do all right producing our own. Thanks for the comment. Btw, Texas is number one in shear production.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2014:

I knew before reading the breakdown that Texas would rank highly and even accounting for the per capita numbers...being #12 is not a bad spot. Football is almost a religion down here! Ha!

Larry Rankin (author) from Oklahoma on April 03, 2014:

Thanks for the kind words.

Richard Parr from Australia on April 02, 2014:

Well done with your Hubpot challenge achievement. This hub is a great example of the right way to do things. Voted up and awesome.