In a few weeks, if not already, every rookie draft pick will be an alumni from somewhere.
No matter where their careers take them, they’ll never forget where they came from. Before they officially play their first snap on an NFL stage, we’ll evaluate the NFL careers of players at the same position, from the same alma mater as the Dallas Cowboys’ 2016 draft class. Maybe it’s an indication on how their careers will unfold.
Ohio State University Running Backs
Before Eliott, another notable Buckeye running back to be drafted in the NFL would be Archie Griffin. In the 1976 NFL Draft, Archie Griffin was drafted in the first round – like Elliott – by the Cincinnati Bengals and helped them reach Super Bowl XVI.
During his seven NFL seasons, he rushed for 2,808 yards and seven touchdowns, and caught 193 passes for 1607 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Another Ohio State first rounder, Eddie George was taken 14th overall in the 1996 draft by the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). He received the NFL Rookie of the Year award and went to the Pro Bowl four consecutive years (1997 – 2000). George also helped the Titans get to Super Bowl XXXIV where they lost 23 – 16 to the St. Louis Rams.
Eddie George is only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start. Only Walter Payton started more regular season games.
Notre Dame University Linebackers
Drafted by the Boston Patriots in the 1962 AFL college draft, Nick Buoniconti made an immediate impact, as he was named the team’s rookie of the year. The following year, he helped Boston to the 1963 AFL Eastern Division title. With Boston, he appeared in five AFL All-Star Games and recorded 24 interceptions, which is still the seventh-most in team history.
He was traded to the AFL’s Miami Dolphins in 1969 and continued to excell. During his time there, Miami advanced to three consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
Buoniconti ended his career with an unofficial 24 sacks, eighteen with the Patriots and six while with the Dolphins.
He was named the Dolphins’ Most Valuable Player three times and in 1990, he was voted as a linebacker on the Dolphins’ Silver Anniversary All-Time team.
Another Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Te’o, was selected in the second round, 38th overall by the San Diego Chargers in 2013. He was the highest selected Notre Dame linebacker since Demetrius DuBose in 1993. To date, he has 204 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 9 pass deflections, and 1 forced fumble.
University of Nebraska Defensive Tackles
Drafted in 1988 by the Kansas City Chiefs, Neil Smith became one of the top defensive linemen of his era. Neil Smith made the Pro Bowl 6 times during his career and led the NFL with 15 sacks in the 1993 season.
With the Broncos, Smith won 2 NFL championships, Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII, and finished his 13 NFL seasons with 105 sacks, 30 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries, 19 return yards, and 1 touchdown. He also intercepted 4 passes, returning them for 68 yards and a touchdown.
On October 22, 2006, Smith was inducted to the Chiefs’s Hall of Fame.
Ndamukong Suh was selected second overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, becoming the first defensive linemen selected by the team in the first round since 1995 (Luther Elliss) He was the highest selected Cornhusker defender since Neil Smith in 1988.
After four seasons with the Lions, he was signed by the Miami Dolphins, to a six-year, $114 million contract with $60 million guaranteed. The contract made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, passing J.J. Watt. To date, Suh has 298 tackles, 48 sacks and 20 pass deflections.
University of Oklahoma Defensive Ends
Probably the most notable Defensive End to come out of Oklahoma is Lee Roy Selmon. Salmon, who dueled as a Defensive Tackle as well as a DE, was the first pick in the in the 1976 NFL draft. He was the first-ever pick for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his first year, Selmon won the team’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ and MVP awards. He went to six straight Pro Bowls and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979.
In 1986, the Bucs retired his number, 63. He was the first player to be inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor on November 8, 2009.
The most recent Sooner defensive end drafted in the NFL, was Geneo Grissom. He was picked in the third round of the 2015 draft by the New England Patriots. So far, Grissom has six tackles and a sack after one season with the Patriots.
Mississippi State University Quarterbacks
Dak Prescott joins Joe Reed and Bruce Threadgill on the list of Mississippi State University QBs to play in the NFL.
The most notable Mississippi State University quarterback, Joe Reed, was drafted in 1972 by the 49ers but finished his career in Detroit. Although he spent his entire career mostly as QB2, he amassed 18 touchdowns for over 2,800 yards.
Purdue University Cornerbacks
In 1987, Rod Woodson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 10 overall draft pick. He is one of the more notable cornerbacks to come out Purdue as he is among the NFL’s all-time leaders in games played as a defensive back. He holds the league record for interceptions returned for touchdowns with 12 and is tied with 11 other players for the record for most fumble recoveries in a single game with 3. His 1,483 interception return yards is the second most in NFL history (Ed Reed 1,590 yards). His 32 fumble recoveries are a record amongst defensive players. His 71 interceptions rank third all time.
He was named to the Pro Bowl eleven times, a record for his position. He was also the first player to earn trips to the Pro Bowl at cornerback, safety and kick returner.
Another notable Purdue Cornerback is Cris Dishman. Dishman was selected in the 5th round with the 125th pick of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. In the 1991 season, Dishman had a seven-game stretch where he forced at least one turnover in each contest.
He finished his career with 739 tackles, 43 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, and 3 touchdowns.
Central Michigan University Free Safeties
Robert Jackson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 11th round of the 1981 NFL Draft. He played seven seasons with the Bengals and finished his career with 15 interceptions and two touchdowns.
Eastern Michigan University Running backs
The list of running backs to come out of Eastern Michigan is even shorter.
Baylor University Tight Ends
Tight end, out of Baylor Ronnie Lee was drafted in 1979 by the Miami Dolphins. He started his career as a tight end, but then switched to right guard in 1983. As a tight end he had 25 receptions, for 167 yards and three touchdowns.
Greg Hawthorne, another TE taken in the 1979 draft, played TE, RB and WR. Hawthorne played 9 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as a rookie, he won a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, the New England Patriots, played in Super Bowl XX, and the Indianapolis Colts. As a running back, tight end, and wide receiver, he accumulated 527 rushing yards and 92 receptions between 1979 and 1987.
While some could start a new chapter in their college’s NFL alumni history, others have a lot to live up to. I look forward to following the rookies’ careers unfold and how they compare to their predecessors.