The National Football League has gone through many changes in the 50 years since Paul Brown brought his brand of football to Cincinnati. But no one position has undergone more of a transition than that of tight end. Today’s tight end is bigger, stronger and faster than ever, but he can never forget the place from which his role originated.
Three tight ends make this edition of our ranking of the top 50 Bengals players of all time. We’ve gone through the players ranked 50-21 and now it’s time to reveal the players ranked between 20-16.
20. Dan Ross, Tight end
Ross was selected by the Bengals with the 30th pick in the second round of the 1979 NFL Draft. His best season was in 1981, when he grabbed 71 receptions for 910 yards and five touchdowns and helped lead the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI. His 71 receptions stood as a single-season franchise record until eclipsed by Carl Pickens with 99 catches in 1995.
Ross had an outstanding performance in the Super Bowl with a record 11 receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns. His receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns were the most by a tight end in Super Bowl history. Only the Bengals eventual loss to the 49ers prevented Ross from winning the Super Bowl MVP award.
In addition to his impressive Super Bowl performance, Ross was the Bengals' leading receiver in both playoff wins that year. He had six receptions for 71 yards in Cincinnati’s 28-21 win over the Buffalo Bills and five receptions for 69 yards in the AFC title win over the San Diego Chargers, a game known as the Freezer Bowl, the coldest game ever played in the NFL in terms of wind chill.
Ross went on to receive his first and only Pro Bowl selection in 1982 after making 47 receptions for 508 yards and three touchdowns in a nine-game season that was shortened by a players’ strike.
19. Bob Trumpy, Tight end
Trumpy was selected by the Bengals in the 12th round with the 301st overall pick of the 1968 Common Draft. He worked hard in the offseason and earned the starting tight end spot in his rookie season, recording 37 receptions for 639 yards and three touchdowns. His performance earned him a spot on the AFL Western Division All-Star team.
In 1969, Trumpy was selected by The Sporting News as the AFL’s All-League tight end. The following year, with the Bengals now a part of the National Football League following the AFL-NFL merger, Trumpy had the best season of his career, catching 37 passes for 835 yards (a franchise record 22.6 yards per catch average) and nine touchdowns. In a game against the Houston Oilers, Trumpy became the first Bengals tight end to record three receiving touchdowns in a single game.
Trumpy continued to play for the Bengals until 1977, earning two trips to the Pro Bowl in 1970 and 1973. He finished his 10-year career with 298 receptions for 4,600 yards and 35 touchdowns in 128 games. His 4,600 receiving yards, 35 touchdown receptions, and 15.4 yards per catch average are the most ever by a Bengals tight end.
In 2015, current Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert matched Trumpy's three touchdowns in one game record and 100 or more receiving yards and multiple touchdown catches in the same game record. He also beat his record for touchdowns in a single season (13, previous record was 9). But, Trumpy played in a very different NFL when no tight ends were recording the type of stats Eifert accumulated in 2015. Trumpy is undoubtedly one of the greatest to ever play the position.
18. Bruce Kozerski, Offensive line
Kozerski, who was drafted in the ninth round with the 231st selection of the 1984 NFL Draft, played his entire 12-year career with the Bengals. He was an extremely versatile player who played center, guard and tackle (hence the nickname “Mr. Versatile”) and was an alternate in the 1988, 1989, and 1990 Pro Bowls.
After starting primarily at left guard in 1986, he started four games at center in 1987 and took over for Dave Rimington at center in 1988, when the Bengals reached the Super Bowl. He started at center for each of the next three seasons, moved to left guard in 1992, then back to center in 1993 before ending his career at tackle and guard. Kozerski retired in 1995 and will go down as one of the Bengals’ best-ever linemen.
17. David Fulcher, Defensive back
Fulcher was selected by the Bengals in the third round of the 1986 NFL Draft. After just two NFL seasons, he was viewed as one of the top defensive backs in the NFL.
In 1988, he recorded five interceptions and one touchdown and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. The Bengals finished the season with a 12-4 record and went on to a narrow loss to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIII. In the game, Fulcher recorded several key tackles and a sack. He also forced a fumble that the Bengals recovered.
In 1989, Fulcher recorded eight interceptions, at the time the second-highest single-season total by a Bengals player. He also tied a Bengals record by recording three interceptions in one game, a feat he accomplished twice. Fulcher once again was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, but the Bengals finished the year with an 8-8 record and failed to make the playoffs.
In 1990 Fulcher made the Pro Bowl for the third year in a row. He intercepted four passes, forced three fumbles and recorded 53 solo tackles. The Bengals finished the season 9-7 and made it to the divisional playoffs, with Fulcher recording an interception in both of their playoff games. That would be the last winning season Fulcher would experience while playing for the Bengals, who would not field a winning record again until 2005.
In 1991, Fulcher led the team with 68 solo tackles, four forced fumbles, three of which he recovered. He also intercepted four passes, returning them for 51 yards and a touchdown. In his final season in Cincinnati in 1992, he intercepted three passes and recovered five fumbles. It was unfortunate to see his career end with such an unsuccessful Bengals team (5-11 record, 4th place in the AFC Central) but that shouldn’t cloud what was a great career for Fulcher in Cincinnati.
16. Rodney Holman, Tight end
Holman was selected by the Bengals in the third round of the 1982 NFL Draft. He made the Pro Bowl every year from 1988 through 1990, and featured superb blocking and pass catching abilities, which helped the Bengals reach Super Bowl XXIII.
By the time he retired in 1996, Holman had played in 213 games, the second most games played by a tight end in NFL history behind Pete Metzelaars (234). In his 14 seasons, Holman amassed 365 receptions for 4,771 yards and 36 touchdowns. Holman's 318 receptions with the Bengals are the most by a tight end in franchise history and rank him as the team’s 11th all-time leading receiver.