Posted: Tuesday April 1, 2008 2:22PM; Updated: Tuesday April 8, 2008 12:45PM
What makes him tough: The NFL's best guard, 30, led the way for Shaun Alexander while in Seattle and now plows holes for Vikings star Adrian Peterson. The Seahawks have not recovered since losing him.
Defining moment: When the Vikings signed him to a seven-year, $49-million deal in March 2006, the richest contract ever for a guard.
Old school match: Joe DeLamielleure, the Hall of Famer who helped turn the Juice loose in Buffalo during the '70s.
What makes him tough: He's aggressive, tireless, driven to win in anything with wheels (titles from karting and midgets to IRL and NASCAR) and relishes slugging it out, physically or verbally. Besides his run-ins with Kurt Busch and photographers, T-Stew wasn't afraid to let Sprint Cup sponsor/supplier Goodyear have it for the "pathetic" tires it provided at Atlanta in March.
Defining moment: He's pulled Double Duty twice, but the second time (2001) testified to his brass-plated endurance and skill: sixth in the Indy 500 and third in the Coca-Cola 600 while completing all 1,100 grueling miles that day.
Old school match: Junior Johnson, NASCAR star of the '50s and '60s was also aggressive and outspoken yet somewhat reclusive and he excelled on dirt tracks, one of Stewart's sidelines.
What makes him tough: Filthy, overpowering stuff and a cocky, trash-talking refusal to give in to hitters in the toughest situations.
Defining moment: With the Marlins on the brink in Game 5 of the 2003 NLCS, he whitewashed the Cubs on two hits with 11 strikeouts and one walk, continuing Florida's epic comeback and march to the World Series, where he was MVP. (He replicated the feat in Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS, limiting Cleveland to five hits with 11 Ks and a walk while the Red Sox were in a 3-2 hole.)
Old school match: Nolan Ryan, a rawhide Texan like Beckett with a wicked heater, blister problems, and a mean streak.
What makes him tough: The 21-year-old is a relentless punisher of the ball, and when you combine that with exceptional court coverage, he makes it impossible for opponents to breathe. He grinds them to death.
Defining moment: After dropping the opening set 6-1 to Roger Federer in the 2006 French Open final, Nadal pinned him to the baseline and wor down the Swiss master. Nadal took his second consecutive French with a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) win.
Old school match: Andre Agassi, the personalification of physicality while wearing down opponents with deep groundstrokes during the latter part of his career.
What makes him tough: Intestinal fortitude of the highest order. Aptly nicknamed "Jaws", this dynamo of competitive eating last year ingested -- among other things -- 8.6 pounds of asparagus in 10 minutes, 182 chicken wings in half an hour, 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes, and 103 Krystal hamburgers in eight minutes, living to tell each time.
Defining moment: Ending Kobayashi's six-year hold on the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island last year. Only one month after setting a world record of 59 ˝ tubes of beef, sodium, fat and nitrates in 12 minutes, Chestnut inhaled 66 in the same span without reviewing any of them.
Old school match: Babe Ruth, who was renowned for gargantuan appetites that moved a teammate to say, "If you cut that fat slob open, half the concessions at Yankee Stadium would come pouring out."