Oklahoma Football: The best Sooners in NFL history

Oklahoma Sooners

With the news of former Sooners running back, and current Dallas Cowboy DeMarco Murray making his first trip the Pro Bowl, I thought it only be fitting to talk about OU’s impact in NFL history.

oklahoma sooners

DeMarco Murray will be making his first trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii on Jan. 26.

Since the NFL draft first began in 1936, 363 Sooners have been drafted.

Offensive tackle J.W. Wheeler was the first Sooner drafted, going in the second round to the Packers in ’36.

This year’s Pro Bowl features four former-Oklahoma Sooners. Along with Murray, running back Adrian Peterson, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and offensive tackle Trent Williams were selected.

McCoy and Williams are making their second appearance, while Peterson, his sixth selection, had to skip the event due to injury.

Since 1950, 43 Sooners have gone in the first round of the draft.

Two of the best drafts for OU came in 1976 and 2010.

Three players went in the first round in ’76, led by the No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Lee Roy Selmon to the Buccaneers. Running back Joe Washington went fourth to the Chargers, while receiver Billy Brooks went to the Bengals with the 11th pick.

2010 produced one better as four players went in the first 21 picks, three in the top five, led by another No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Sam Bradford to the Rams. McCoy went third to the Bucs and Williams went fourth to the Redskins. Tight end Jermaine Gresham finished off a great first round for the Sooners by going 21st to the Bengals.

Another No. 1 overall pick came in the 1980 NFL draft, when the Lions selected running back Billy Sims.

It might be no surprise to most Sooner fans, but to others, they may have a hard time believing that some of the greatest NFL players to wear a Sooners jersey aren’t of the quarterback kind.

In fact, current head coach Bob Stoops hasn’t had one successful NFL quarterback under his wing. Landry Jones, who played at OU from 2009-13, is a backup on the Steelers. Paul Thompson had a short stint with the Packers; Josh Hepuel is on Stoops’ staff; and Heisman winner Jason White had to retire early due to knee injuries.

Heisman winner Bradford, who has suffered multiple injuries in his four NFL seasons, probably is Stoops’ best quarterback to play pro ball. He has time to grow, but Bradford did win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2010. During that season, he set NFL records for most completions by a rookie in a season, and for most consecutive passes without an interception by a rookie.

The only two starting quarterbacks that I can recall to have some relevance in pro football before Bradford are J.C. Watts (1979-80) and Troy Aikman (1985). Watts, who led the Sooners to back-to-back Orange Bowl victories, went on to have some success in the CFL with the Ottawa Rough Riders and led the team to the 1981 Grey Cup game.

Most people forget the fact that Aikman came to Norman for one year before going to UCLA. I won’t go into detail of Aikman’s professional success, but Aikman started four games under Barry Switzer before suffering a season-ending injury in 1985, and opted to transfer the following season.

oklahoma sooners

In seven seasons, Adrian Peterson holds the record for most yards in a game, second in rush yards for a season, and won the 2012 MVP award.

Peterson, in his seventh season, has a chance to go down as the greatest NFL player from Oklahoma. At 10,115-career rushing yards, Peterson sits in 27th place all time, and is just shy of 8,300 yards from the career leader Emmitt Smith. Already named the 2007 Rookie of the Year, and the 2012 NFL MVP, Peterson also holds the distinction for most yards in a game with 296 in 2007 against the Chargers. He also holds 12 records for the Vikings, as well as the most career rush touchdowns in Pro Bowl history with four. During his MVP season, Peterson eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark and fell eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s 1984 record.

oklahoma sooners

Despite a short career, Lee Roy Selmon made his impact felt with the Buccaneers, and was named to the 1980s All-Decade Team.

Some people may say that if there was such a list, Peterson would be chasing Selmon. Despite playing just nine seasons, Selmon left his mark as a defensive end. Selmon was a 5-time All-Pro selection (3 first-team, 2 second-team), and made the Pro Bowl six times, earning Co-MVP honors in 1981. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979, but was forced to retire in 1984 due to a back injury. Two years later, and his number was retired by the Bucs. He was also the first player to be inducted into the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor.

In 1988, Selmon was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Barry Switzer called him “the greatest player he’d coach.” He was then inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. “The Gentle Giant” ranked 39th by College Football News for best college players all time, while a survey by NFL Network ranked Selmon 98th of the top 100 players in NFL history. He was also named to the 1980s All-Decade team. Sadly, Selmon suffered a stroke and died on Sept. 4, 2011 at the young age of 56.

Tight end Keith Jackson and receiver Tommy McDonald went on to start their careers with the Philadelphia Eagles.

McDonald had the better career between the two, earning six Pro Bowl selections and was part of the Eagles’ 1960 championship team. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Eagles Hall of Fame, and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

McDonald is one of the few Sooners to play his entire collegiate career without a loss, playing for the legendary Bud Wilkinson in the mid-50s. He was also named to the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team.

oklahoma sooners

Tommy McDonald had a great career with the Eagles, winning the 1960 NFL Championship and inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame

Jackson had his best years wearing the no. 88 jersey for the Eagles from 1988-91, earning six Pro Bowl selections and being named to the All-Pro First Team three times. He was named NFC Rookie of the Year after catching 81 passes for 869 yards, a record that stood until DeSean Jackson broke it in 2008. Jackson would go on to play for the Packers, where he had a career-high 10 touchdowns, and helped Green Bay win Super Bowl XXXI.

Joe Washington played 10 years, most of which with the Redskins. He was named one of the 70 greatest Redskins, and played in Super Bowl XVII and XVIII, winning in the former. He finished with over 8,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns.

Being an avid Eagles fan, I really appreciate what McDonald and Jackson did for Philly, and as an Eagles fan, it means I despise the Dallas Cowboys. If I had to pick a favorite Cowboy all time, it would have to be safety Roy Williams.

Williams, known as Superman for his game-sealing touchdown against Texas in 2001, played for Dallas in his first seven years. Drafted eighth overall in 2002, Williams went to five Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro in 2003. He finished his playing days in Cincinnati, starting 110 out of 114 career games, and recorded 596 tackles and 20 interceptions.

Some of those Oklahoma greats either had their careers cut short, couldn’t transition to the pro game as well as some of their colleagues, or couldn’t have long careers as they may have hoped.

oklahoma sooners

“Superman” played most of his NFL career with the Cowboys, finishing with 20 interceptions and five Pro Bowl appearances.

Sims, who also won the Heisman, had to call it quits midway through the 1984 season after a horrific knee injury. In five years, Sims would gain a little more than 5,000 yards rushing and made the Pro Bowl three times, also being named the 1980 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Linebacker Brian Bosworth was drafted No. 1 overall in the 1987 Supplemental Draft by the Seahawks and signed the biggest rookie contract in NFL history at the time at 10 years and $11 million. He would only play two years after suffering a shoulder injury in 1989, an injury his doctor said, “Brian is a 25-year-old with shoulders of a 60-year-old.” Bosworth only played 24 games.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was selected by the Bears with the 14th pick and played in Chicago from 2004-10. He was second in voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and played in three Pro Bowls.

Receiver Mark Clayton played seven years with the Ravens and Rams. He had his best season in his second year with 939 yards and five touchdowns. Clayton finished his career with 3,448 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Offensive lineman might be the most dominating and consistent position from former Sooners. Along with Trent Williams, the Sooners are represented by Phil Loadholt of the Vikings (has started all 73 career games), Lane Johnson of the Eagles (No. 4 pick of 2013 draft), Chris Chester of the Redskins (has started 95 of 121 games), Super Bowl champ Jammal Brown (formerly of the Saints and Redskins), and 2-time Pro Bowler Davin Joseph of the Bucs (has started 97 of 98 games).

oklahoma sooners

Billy Sims only played five seasons with the Lions, but made the Pro Bowl three times, and averaged more than 1,000 yards a season.

A long list of NFL greats from OU, but I’m sure there is a lot more. Peterson has played less than 10 years, but his impact around the league has been felt as he tries to go down as the best running back ever. If Bradford can stay healthy and play a long career, he’ll definitely go down as the best quarterback to graduate from OU.

We could also see more success from the Sooners in the NFL in the future. McCoy is off to a great start, anchoring the Bucs’ defensive line, and could we possibly see Trevor Knight running a successful NFL offense one day? The questions will be answered, but one thing is for sure; what ever the position, the impact OU will have on the NFL will continue, and continue to grow.

 

 

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