Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top 10 Football Factories

Every NFL great starts somewhere
Now that football season is officially over, the next thing fans have to look forward to is the quandary known as the NFL draft. As hit or miss as the draft can be, there are some NCAA programs that seem to consistently put some of the best talent on NFL fields. Since it is entirely too early to start any kind blog coverage for this years draft, I have decided to pay homage to some of these programs in a countdown of the 10 best All-Time Football Factories. Countless legends in the pros have come from smaller schools such as Walter Payton (Jackson State), Jerry Rice (Mississsipi Valley State), or my beloved LT (TCU). But some bigger programs have seemed to always produce players in bulk that have had great success on the next level.

The key to my top ten is not only sheer quantity of players drafted, but the percentage of those players that went on to have very successful careers. Let the countdown begin!

10. Pittsburgh: 
Current Players: 24
Hall of Fame: Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Joe Schmidt
Super Bowl MVPs: None
Other Noteworthy Players: Darrelle Revis, Larry Fitzgerald, Mark May, Mark Stepnoski, LeSean McCoy
Synopsis: Although they may not turn any heads now-a-days in the Big East, Pittsburgh has a history of producing pro-caliber athletes. They have made good use of a fairly rich recruiting base in the Midwest, producing both key Super Bowl Champs and runners-up. Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino are names that particularly stand out.

9. Oklahoma:
Current Players: 31 
Hall of Fame: Tommy McDonald, Lee Roy Selmon, Troy Aikman (UCLA grad)
Super Bowl MVPs: Troy Aikman (UCLA grad)
Other Noteworthy Players: Adrian Peterson, Keith Jackson, Roy Williams, Tommie Harris, Sam Bradford, Mark Clayton, Andre Woolfolk
Synopsis: Despite being one of college football's most celebrated programs, Oklahoma has not produced great NFL talent as consistently as many would think. With 334 total players drafted all-time, a relative few of them turned out to be true studs in the League. Lee Roy Selmon, Adrian Peteron, and Keith Jackson have all left definitive marks. Then again players like Roy Williams are largely over-rated. There have also been so many players that were outstanding at OU, but never really shined in the pros, such as Billy Sims, Brian Bosworth, or Josh Huepel to name a few.

8. Syracuse:
Current Players: 24
Hall of Fame: Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Floyd Little, Art Monk, John Mackey, Jim Ringo, Al Davis
Super Bowl MVPs: Larry Csonka
Other Noteworthy Players: Donovan McNabb, Keith Bullock, Dwight Freeney, Marvin Harrison, Daryl Johnston, Joe Morris, David Tyree
Synopsis: The Orange have seen a considerable slip in recent years both on the field and in the draft, but their legacy precedes them. There is of course the incomparable Jim Brown, and many other fine RBs. Larry Csonka is a legend in his own right, as is Floyd Little. What makes Syracuse have a place on this list however, is not only its older talent, but the talent that they have produced recently enough to still be making an impact in the NFL. Marvin Harrison is now retired, but Bullock, Freeney, McNabb, and Tyree are all still key contributors. Thus keeping Syracuse relevant and on my list.

7. Michigan:
Current Players: 51
Hall of Fame: Elroy (Crazylegs) Hirsch, Dan Dierdorf, Tom Mack, Len Ford, Benny Friedman, George Allen, Bill Hewitt, Ralph Wilson Jr. 
Super Bowl MVPs: Desmond Howard, Tom Brady (twice)
Other Noteworthy Players: Charles Woodson, Ty Law, Braylon Edwards
Synopsis: The majority of celebrated Wolverines have come in recent years. Charles Woodson is one of the best DBs in the League and has been for sometime and Tom Brady's reputation precedes him. Also in recent years, Michigan his seeing a gradual decline in their number of successful NFL players, but they have produced enough through history to earn the 7th spot on my list. 

6. Texas:
Current Players: 49
Hall of Fame: Earl Campbell, Bobby Lane, Tom Landry, Tex Schramm
Super Bowl MVPs: None
Other Noteworthy Players: Ricky Williams, Steve McMichael, Roy Williams, Vince Young, Nathan Vasher, Quentin Jammer, Jerry Sisemore, Brian Orakpo, Tommy Nobis, Priest Holmes, Casey Hampton, Michael Griffin, Jerry Gray, Jamaal Charles, Cedric Benson
Synopsis: Texas owes it's spot on this list thanks to the recruiting Eden that is the State of Texas. A place where the Longhorns have seemed to have first pick for most of history. Texas continues to churn out  NFL talent year in and year out. The only problem with University of Texas players, is many of them (especially in recent years) have had a tendency to flame out and not stay consistent throughout their career. This is due to anything from personal issues (Vince Young, Ricky Williams) to discipline issues (Cedric Benson) to who knows what's wrong with them (Roy Williams). A lot of this is due to the culture at UT, one of zero discipline, where players have a sense of entitlement and that they are bullet-proof. This attitude doesn't often translate to the next level or real world. This is a Mack Brown era trend. If it weren't for this embarrassment, Texas would probably be higher on my list. Earl Campbell for example, is an exception to this rule. He gave of himself completely for his entire career and is rightfully regarded as one of history's best RBs.

5. Ohio State: 
Current Players: 49
Hall of Fame: Paul Warfield, Lou Groza, Bill Willis, Sid Gillman, Dick LeBeau, Jim Parker, Dante Lavelli, Ed Sabol
Super Bowl MVPs: Santonio Holmes
Other Noteworthy Players: Eddie George, Matt Snell, Orlando Pace, Jack Tatum, AJ Hawk, Mike Vrabel
Synopsis: Ohio State players have always been regulars in the Draft. The majority of successful Buckeyes in the pros have been linemen throughout the years, but recently a lot more skill players have risen to the top. Santonio Holmes and Eddie George are names that immediately come to mind. But for every success, there have been plenty of busts (Troy Smith, Ted Ginn). Ohio State has most consistently produced defensive talent, with names like Jack Tatum, AJ Hawk, and Mike Vrabel. OSU players have had a tendency to be hit or miss, like OU, but with 383 players drafted, they have a much higher percentage of success.

4. Alabama:
Current Players: 25
Hall of Fame: Joe Namath, Bart Starr, John Hannah, Don Hutson, Ozzie Newsome, Dwight Stephenson, Derrick Thomas
Super Bowl MVPs: Bart Starr (twice), Joe Namath
Other Noteworthy Players: Ken Stabler, Shaun Alexander, Demeco Ryans, Cornelius Bennett
Synopsis: Alabama is 4th on this list because although they have not produced the same sheer numbers of draftees as Ohio State, (Bama has had 276 drafted), there are far more Alabama products that are considered some of the best ever at their positions. Joe Namath, Bart Starr, and Ken Stabler are all Super Bowl Champion QBs and are all HOF caliber (Stabler isn't in yet, but should be). Before the Jerry Rice era, Don Hutson was easily considered one of the best receivers of all time. He pioneered the WR position similar to the way Sam Baugh pioneered QB. Ozzie Newsome is a legend at TE. Shaun Alexander had a largely successful career and Demeco Ryans continues to be a successful LB for the Texans. With the resurgence of Alabama's football program, there are certain to be more NFL studs coming out of Tuscaloosa in the future.

3. Notre Dame:
Current Players: 40
Hall of Fame: Joe Montana, Nick Buoniconti, Paul Hornung, Alan Page, Dave Casper, John (Blood) McNally, George Connor, Wayne Milner, George Trafton, Earl (Curly) Lambeau
Super Bowl MVPs: Joe Montana (3)
Other Noteworthy Players: Joe Theismann, Tim Brown, Jerome Bettis, Mark Bavaro, Chris Zorich, Mike Golic, Aaron Taylor
Synopsis: Despite taking a serious dip in production lately, Notre Dame is 3rd on this list because few schools can match the amount of solid, legendary players that Notre Dame has fathered in the past. Only USC can claim more Hall of Famers than the Irish. Every Notre Dame Hall of Famer is a recognizable name and a phenomenal talent. Those not yet in the Hall are equally impressive names: Tim Brown, Mark Bavaro, Jerome Bettis. There's no telling how long Notre Dame will be in the hole, but they will have to spend a long time without any NFL talent to move down on this list.

2. Miami:
Current Players: 53
Hall of Fame: Ted Hendricks, Michael Irvin, Jim Kelly, Jim Otto
Super Bowl MVPs: Ray Lewis, Otis Anderson
Other Noteworthy Players: Sean Taylor, Edgerrin James, Chuck Foreman, Clinton Portis, Devin Hester, Russell Maryland, Brandon Meriweather, Santana Moss, Warren Sapp, Reggie Wayne, Vince Wilfork, Antrel Rolle, Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Jonathan Vilma, Jeremy Shockey
Synopsis: It is an extremely rare occurrence to be watching pregame introductions of any NFL game, and not hear at least three players say they are from "The U". Miami players are everywhere and they are all really good. Every player I have listed above is most likely a future Hall of Famer. Even mediocre Miami teams have produced solid NFL players. The Hurricanes are every bit deserving of 2nd on this list.

1. USC:
Current Players: 43
Hall of Fame: Marcus Allen, Lynn Swann, OJ Simpson, Ronnie Lott, Ron Mix, Fran Gifford, Morris (Red) Badgro, Willie Wood, Anthony Munoz, Ron Yary, Bruce Matthews
Super Bowl MVPs: Marcus Allen, Lynn Swann
Other Noteworthy Players: Troy Polamalu, Clay Matthews, Junior Seau, Keyshawn Johnson, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Sam Cunningham, Lofa Tatupu, Mark Sanchez, Brian Cushing, Steve Smith (Giants)
Synopsis: The only reason that USC is above Miami on my list is that they have managed to produce stellar talent not only in the last 25 years, but throughout all of NFL history. USC claims more Hall of Famers than any other university (11). And as with Miami, all of the noteworthy players I listed are also likely future Hall of Famers. What's is amazing about USC is, good or bad, they have always consistently churned out talent. There have been few, if any, lulls in production as with many other schools on this list. This is truly an achievement that USC can hang their collective hats on.

No comments:

Post a Comment