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Rutgers' Top 5 Players to Play in NFL

David AbelContributor IIIJanuary 24, 2012

Rutgers' Top 5 Players to Play in NFL

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    In High Point Solutions Stadium, a quote reins “The Birth of College Football.”

    The issue is even, though Rutgers has been around just as long as anyone, their accolades, recruits and records are obsolete in comparison to many of its rivals.

    Recently, Rutgers has become a more prominent program with better players who eventually enter the NFL.

    Today, we will examine the top five players to play at Rutgers University and compete in the National Football League.

5. Devin McCourtey

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    Devin McCourty, RU class of 2010, is fifth on the list if only for the fact that he has been in the league for two years.

    McCourty was a two time All-Big East Academic selection and a 2009 All-Big East performer. Months later, he was drafted 27th overall by the New England Patriots.

    In his first year, McCourtey garnered Pro Bowl and All-Pro accolades totaling 82 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles and seven interceptions.

    This past season, due to his early success, his numbers decline slightly just because he was performing at such a high level. He finished the year with 87 tackles and two picks.

    With the possibility of winning a Super Bowl ring, McCourtey could rise on this list in the near future. He is a young talent with plenty of years ahead of him to become one of the best.

4. Gary Brackett

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    Gary Brackett, RU class of 2003, began his career as a Scarlet Knight walk-on. Four years later, he was the team’s defensive MVP and team captain.

    Brackett went undrafted but was later signed as a free agent by the Indianapolis Colts.

    Brackett wasn’t a starter his first two years but still saw significant playing time. In his first full-year as a starter in 2005, he recorded 127 tackles, one sack and nabbed three interceptions.

    The following year he was named one of the team’s captains and helped lead the Colts to a Super Bowl win against the Bears.

    His production has still been one of the best on the unit, minus this year due to injury. Overall, Brackett has amassed 709 tackles, four sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 12 INTs.

    Gary Brackett is also a recipient of the 2009 Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian Award.

3. Shaun O'Hara

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    Shaun O’Hara, RU class of 2000, was a key member and anchor of the Rutgers’ offensive line for years.

    After graduation, he went undrafted but was later signed by the Cleveland Browns where he played in 38 of 54 games, including starting 34 games in a row .

    After Cleveland, he signed a three-year deal with the New York Giants where he developed an infection that almost cost him his career. After recovery, O’Hara played a major role in the growth of the G-Men’s offensive line.

    He was center and one of the team captains in their 2007 Super Bowl winning season season.

    For his career, O’Hara has played in 151 games, including 135 starts. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (08-10), a 2008 All-Pro selection and a Super Bowl Champion.

    Sean was 2005 Giants Man of the Year for his work with the community and was honored by the American Ireland Fund in 2009 as being a successful Irish-American figure.

2. Ray Rice

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    Ray Rice was drafted in 2008 by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round.

    At Rutgers his accomplishments are endless: two time All-Big East performer, a two time Maxwell award finalist, a Sporting News Freshman All-American, a 2007 All-American and Doak Walker Award finalist.

    During his first year as a Raven, Rice sat behind starter Willis McGahee. Rice accumulated 454 yards on 107 carries but no touchdowns.

    The following year he was named the starter and excelled. Since then, Rice has had no fewer than 1,200 yards and five rushing TDs. He has also had at least 60 receptions and 500+ yards.

    For his career, Rice has totaled 4,377 yards and 24 TDs. He’s grabbed 250 balls for 2,235 yards and has become a key contributor for the offense. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection (’09, ’11) and two-time All Pro (’09, ’11) selection.

    Rice should continue to flourish in this offense and should be one of the best when it is all said and done. Easy choice for number two, but not quite number one…

1. Deron Cherry

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    I’m sure most of you are expecting a name such as Ray Rice, but not here.

    Deron Cherry played for the Scarlet Knights and went undrafted in 1981. That season and next, Cherry only played in a total of 20 games, registering only one interception and recording limited tackles.

    That all changed in 1983, when the legend of Deron Cherry was made.

    In five of 11 seasons, he recorded at least seven interceptions (7,7,7,9,7) and he became one of the NFL's elite safeties.

    For his career, Cherry finished with 50 interceptions and 3.5 sacks. He was named to six Pro Bowls (83-88), three first-team All-Pro selections (’84, ’86, ’88), 1986 Defensive Player of the Year and most honorable of all the 1980’s All-Decade team.

    Cherry was a pioneer of sorts in creating the mold for the free safety position. Many Rutgers brethren forget about this guy because of his age, but his accolades speak for themselves.

Overview and Honorable Mentions

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    As you can see Rutgers has produced some of the league’s best. Some other names could include: Anthony Davis, Brian Leonard, Tyronne Stowe, LJ Smith and Kenny Britt.

    This list is pretty good and hopefully can improve as the years pass. Coach Greg Schiano recruits talented players and now has to put it all together on the field.

    If that happens, Rutgers can and will be elite.

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