Larry Eugene Centers
(born June 1
in Tyler, Texas
) was a fullback
in American football
. He was a professional NFL player for 14 seasons, mostly for his first team, the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals
(1990-1998). Centers then played for the Washington Redskins
(1999-2000), Buffalo Bills
(2001-2002), and finally was a member of the New England Patriots
for the (2003) season, when the team won their second Super Bowl.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1995, 1996, and 2001.
Centers played little league football during his elementary school years and advanced to the middle school and high school levels showing the talent which earned him a scholarship invitation to nearby Stephen F. Austin State University, among others, as he approached graduation from high school in Tatum, Texas.
After graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University, Centers was drafted
by the Phoenix Cardinals in the 1990 NFL Draft
. He saw limited playing time in his first two seasons but had an excellent season in his third year, rushing for 139 yards and catching 50 passes for 417 yards.
The role of the fullback as a ball carrier was starting to diminish as the NFL game evolved during the 1990's. Yet, Centers' offensive numbers only increased as the years went by, especially his receptions. He caught 66 passes in his third NFL season, then 77 the year after that. In 1995, Centers had one of the greatest seasons of any fullback, recording a whopping 101 receptions for 962 yards, now the all-time single season record for a running back. He also rushed for 254 yards, scored four touchdowns, and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time. Unfortunately, his team was not successful despite his contributions; they finished the 1995 season with a 4-12 record. Centers had another spectacular season in 1996, recording 99 receptions for 766 yards and 7 touchdowns, while also gaining a career high 425 yards, and he scored 2 touchdowns on the ground.
In 1996, Centers was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row, but once again his team had a disappointing season, finishing with a 7-9 record. Centers continued to be a major contributor to the Cardinals, recording 123 receptions and 386 rushing yards over the next 2 seasons. In his final year with Arizona(1998), the team had recorded a 9-7 record and made the playoffs as a "wild card" entry. The Cards made it all the way to the divisional playoffs before being eliminated in a 41-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
- Altercation with Bill Romanowski in 1995
In 1999, Centers signed with the Redskins and had another superb season, recording 69 receptions. During a crucial game against the 49ers, Centers caught a 33 yard touchdown pass in overtime which made the Redskins the NFC Eastern division champs for the first time since 1991. The Redskins finished the season with a 10-6 record, but were eliminated from the Super Bowl chase in the divisional playoffs after an ever so close 14-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
. The next year, 2000, was another fine Centers season for the Washington's offense. He caught 81 passes for 600 yards, rushed occasionally for 103 yards, and again used his blocking to help Davis achieve star numbers, 1,318 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. However, the Redskins recorded only an 8-8 record that year and did not make the playoffs.
In 2001, Centers signed with the Bills and made it to his third Pro Bowl
appearance, catching another 80 passes, this time for a total of 620 yards, with 160 yards rushing and 4 TDs.
New England Patriots
After spending another year with Buffalo, Centers joined the Patriots in 2003. By this time, 35-year old Centers' role as a receiver (along with ball carrier) had greatly diminished. He recorded just 19 receptions for 106 yards and rushed for just 82 yards. Still, his blocking contributions as part of the Patriots offense allowed him to earn a Super Bowl ring; New England finished the season with a 14-2 record and went on to defeat the Carolina Panthers
32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII
Centers retired before the start of the 2004 season.
In his 14 NFL seasons, Centers rushed for 2,188 yards, caught 827 passes for 6,797 yards, returned 5 punts for 30 yards, returned 33 kickoffs for 617 yards. and scored 42 touchdowns (14 rushing/28 receiving).
Centers' 827 receptions are currently the second most by any non-wide receiver in NFL history, with tight end Tony Gonzalez having surpassed his mark in 2008. Because NFL fullbacks are now almost exclusively used as blockers, Centers may be remembered as the greatest pass receiving fullback, if not runningbacks in general, ever, and one of the last to be used as a ball carrier.
Centers currently resides in Tatum, Texas
, with his wife Vanessa, and their children, Larry, Sydni, Kennedi.