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NFL Player vs Army Ranger: Who’s Tougher?

If an NFL player squared off against an Army Ranger, who would win?

NFL Player vs Army Ranger

The NFL player vs Army Ranger might seem like a strange match, but if you think about it, there’s some real similarities. NFL players and Army Rangers are both groups of elite and highly-respected people. They’re world-class athletes at the top of their respective fields — men who have dedicated their lives to their careers, and serve as role models to millions of Americans. 

In this battle of the best, we’re pitting the famous footballer against the rugged Ranger. Hypothetically, of course. We’ll be examining their daily life, training regimen, physical prowess, mental fortitude, and, of course, their “cool” factor. 

So who takes the cake? 


Daily Life 

NFL Player

While the rest of us experience four seasons, the footballer has two: On-season and off-season. And it’s a rough life. During football season, the highest-paid player — usually the quarterback — will average over $123,000 per game (and he’ll play 16 of them in just four months). The lowest-paid player — someone like the tight end — will average around $54,000 per game. Of course, there’s all the pressure that comes with high-stakes football, and the possibility of serious injury after every snap. There’s also probably a lot of kale, and every Thanksgiving is spent on the turf. But at the end of the day, a lot of people would trade their lives to be in the cleats of a star football player, who has all the money, fame, and picture-perfect biceps a guy could ask for. 

Army Ranger

The Ranger’s year isn’t split into two seasons. And if it was, they would be more like hurricane or monsoon season — unpredictable and dangerous as Hell. Due to the Ranger’s elite status and skill set, he’s usually on deployment or waiting for his next one. His pay depends on his rank and years of service. An enlisted Ranger with two years of service can expect to earn about $2,014 a month. An officer with the same experience will earn $3,653. And they may receive perks like parachute jump pay, which totals $150 per month, or hostile fire pay, which totals $225. Overall, it’s not the glamorous life of an NFL player, and it comes with a lot more risk. But the Ranger doesn’t wear his patch for money or spotlight. He wears it for the honor, the service, and the brotherhood. And sometimes that’s the best reward. 

Credit: U.S. Army/Spc. Steven Hitchcock.

Winner: Ranger 

Reason: Selfless service.

NFL Player  — 0 Army Ranger  — 1 

Training Regimen

NFL Player

It’s no secret that you have to be in impeccable physical condition to play in the NFL. And to actually compete, you need to be the level up from impeccable. If you lounged around eating hot cheetos during the off-season, you’re probably not gonna make it through the first day of training camp, let alone a real game. Football players are dedicated athletes year-round; and when it comes to workouts, they’re unparalleled. They train in some of the country’s best gyms with the best personal trainers, and one thing’s for sure: They never miss leg day. 

Army Ranger 

The Ranger version of training camp is known as Ranger School, and it’s a b*tch. Its dropout rate is almost 70 percent and it’s one of the most grueling courses on the face of the planet. And before Rangers are even allowed to try Ranger School, they must first pass through RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program), which is aptly named, if you ask me. If the goal of basic military training is to break you down and then build you back up to a soldier, the goal of RIP is to break you, period. They’ll try anything and everything to exhaust you physically, mentally, and emotionally, because the Rangers don’t have room for anyone who’s not exceptional. And it’s not elitism or frat club hazing; if you’re not the best, you die or get someone killed, and it’s as simple as that. 

Credit: Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP.

Winner: Ranger

Reason: They’re training to kill and to avoid being killed. There’s no higher level.

NFL Player  — 0 Army Ranger  — 2 

Physical Prowess

NFL Player

The sheer power behind an NFL lineman is the stuff of legends, and could tip the scale in our NFL player vs Army Ranger matchup. Justin Ernest, a defensive tackle out of Eastern Kentucky, set the NFL Combine record for the bench press when he benched 225 pounds 51 times in a row in 1999. And superhuman feats like this aren’t contained to one person. To hold your own in the NFL as a lineman, you’ll need to be well above six feet tall, hopefully over 300 pounds, and freakishly strong. (Seriously, what kind of GMOs did these guys eat growing up?) The force of two lineman colliding on the field is often compared to a car crash. God help you if you’re in the middle somehow. 

Army Ranger 

The fitness standards for a Ranger would be tough for a regular civilian to match. They include: 58 push-ups, 69 sit-ups, six pull-ups, a five-mile run in 40 minutes or less, and a 12-mile ruck with a 35-pound rucksack and weapon in less than three hours. It’s hyper-focused on endurance and overall physical aptitude. But arguably, the most challenging part of being a Ranger is the mental aspect; being able to push yourself past your breaking point, when you haven’t slept or ate and your sergeant’s been screaming at you for the past week. Or when you’re in a combat zone with all the same factors. 

Credit: The New York Times.

Winner: NFL player 

Reason: Their strongest are stronger. You can’t be a 350-pound Ranger. 

NFL Player  — 1 Army Ranger  — 2 

Mental Fortitude

NFL Player

As evidenced by players like Russell Wilson, greatness doesn’t just mean preternatural height and strength. Football is a strategy game — a very physical one, but still a strategy game. You have to be smart enough to visualize different play routes and combinations, and to adjust on a dime when something goes wrong. To be a truly successful NFL player you need to have a mind for the game. You’ve also got to stand up in front of millions of people who are expecting you to win, no matter what you’re up against. It’s definitely not as easy as it looks on TV. 

Army Ranger 

What does the Ranger have on the footballer? For starters, probably a few less knocks on the head. But the real difference between NFL strategy and Ranger strategy is that one of them is literally life or death. If you make the wrong move you stand to lose everything — which is a hell of a motivator not to make the wrong move. The Ranger is not only smart and forward thinking, but he’s all grit. He knows that he can make it through anything because that’s what he tells himself. 

Credit: DoDLive.

Winner: Ranger

Reason: There’s no pressure like life or death.

NFL Player  — 1 Army Ranger  — 3 

Cool Factor

NFL Player

Our final category for NFL player vs Army Ranger is, of course, the cool factor. And NFL players have a lot of fans; it comes with the title. They’re advertised on national television every week, and their talent is preached to the masses. Not only are they the faces of a multi-billion dollar industry, but they’re role models to kids across America. It’s a big mantle to assume, and luckily, a lot of them are very gracious about it. Take Larry Fitzgerald, for example. The 36-year-old receiver is not only a legend on the field, but a class act off of it. He’s turned his fame into funding for kids’ education and sports, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS awareness, financial support for injured soldiers, and economic development for struggling foreign nations. He epitomizes “cool” — and I’m not just saying that as a Tucson native (go Cardinals!). 

Army Ranger 

When you really get down to it, what does someone get out of being an Army Ranger? Not that much money. Not really any fame. Certainly not safety, or extra time to spend with family. Being a Ranger isn’t about what you get out of it, because all those things that people value in their jobs aren’t the same for Rangers. It’s not their job, it’s their life. 

Being a Ranger is about patriotism. Not just love for their country, but love for all of its people — the ones they love, and the ones they’ve never met. It’s an oath to protect and serve in spite of anything that may happen. This level of bravery and selflessness is impossible to measure and nearly impossible to find, and that’s why there’s only 3,566 people on Earth who call themselves Army Rangers. It’s why the 329,781,000-some odd Americans who aren’t Rangers should ask themselves: What does my freedom mean to me? Military service isn’t always pretty, but it’s one of the most honorable things a person can do, and also one of the coolest. 

Who’s the winner of the NFL player vs Army Ranger? Drum roll…

Credit: Newsweek.

Winner: Ranger

Reason: They’re a freaking Army Ranger.

NFL Player  — 1 Army Ranger  — 4 

For more, read our exclusive interview with Steven Elliott: An ex-Army Ranger who may have been the person that shot Pat Tillman. 


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