- Inducted: 2011
- Guard: 1997-2004
- Height: 6-4; Weight: 309
- College: Penn State, 1992-95
- Pro Bowl Selection (played since 1950): 2002, '03, '04
Marco Rivera's steady climb from a season-long inactive as a rookie to a developmental season with the Scottish Claymores of the World League followed by another year on the bench in Green Bay – in uniform, at least – to a fulltime starter in his third year to a three-time Pro Bowl guard was a testament to his resolve, grit and all the other intangibles he brought to the game.
It also was confirmation that while he was a classic example of a self-made player, he was more talented than he was given credit for during his nearly decade-long stay in Green Bay.
"His toughness is a model for other players to mimic," Larry Beightol, offensive line coach for Rivera's final six seasons with the Packers, once said. "He is the epitome of what I think a professional football player should be. He's a consummate pro. He takes his game very seriously. He's a hardworking guy who has great character. And he loves the Packers and he loves his teammates."
Drafted in the sixth round in 1996, Rivera showed enough promise to make the roster as a fourth guard. But he didn't appear in a single game throughout the regular season and the postseason as the Packers won their first Super Bowl in 29 years. Following his stint in the World League in the spring of 1997, Rivera appeared in 14 games for the Packers that fall primarily on special teams in what was technically his rookie season in the NFL.
In 1998, Rivera beat out Joe Andruzzi in training camp for the left guard position and started 15 games but struggled in pass protection. The following season, Rivera moved to right guard, where he started all 16 games. Finally, in 2000, he made a big leap in terms of performance, and his career took off from there.
"He just kept getting better and better …," Packers general manager Ron Wolf said shortly after Rivera's career was abruptly ended by a back injury. "He was kind of a late bloomer, but you don't get as good as he got without having the ability. … He was one of my favorites. He took his ability and made himself into a Pro Bowl player."
In the vernacular of offensive line play, Rivera was a mauler, pure and simple. His mental toughness and tenacity were off the charts. Yet at the same time, he was a sound technician in all phases of his game. While his strength might have been his most obvious physical asset, he was nifty enough with his hands and feet to become a superb pass blocker, and also effective in space when he pulled and trapped as a run blocker.
To top it all off, Rivera was a finisher, a hard-nosed competitor who battled to the whistle every play.
He was named to his first Pro Bowl when he was 30 years old and then made it three straight years. "Marco may be the toughest guy in the National Football League," Beightol said when Rivera was chosen for the first time in 2002. "He's just an old throwback. He just likes to mix it up play after play after play. But the bottom line is production."
While the awards continued piling up for Rivera during his final three seasons with the Packers, so did his injuries. He tore his medial collateral ligament in his right knee for the first time in 1998. In 2002, he tore his left MCL in the third game but started the next week. Seven weeks later, he tore his right MCL and, again, started the next week. Despite the injuries and chronic pain, Rivera didn't miss a game over his final six seasons with the Packers and started the last 99 regular-season games.
But it all took a toll on his body, and the Packers decided not to engage in a bidding contest for his services following the 2004 season. Rivera signed with Dallas as an unrestricted free agent and shortly thereafter injured his back during an offseason workout and underwent surgery to repair a bulging disc. He also strained his neck late in the 2005 season and missed two games. Still, Rivera managed to start 30 games over two seasons for the Cowboys before being released in June 2007.
In eight seasons with the Packers, Rivera played in 125 regular-season games and started 111. He also started seven of 10 postseason games.
Born April 26, 1972. Give name Marco Anthony Rivera.