Cincinnati Football: 10 Greatest Bearcats in NFL History
The Cincinnati Bearcats have clearly not had as storied a football tradition as many other programs, but they have had their fair share of players who have made it to the next level.
Some of the better ones have started to emerge more recently, but the program has produced some talented players dating back 50 years.
There have been well over 100 Bearcats who have graced the NFL, some for longer periods of time than others.
Here are the top 10 that have come through the University of Cincinnati over the years.
10a. Melvin Jenkins
Melvin Jenkins was a solid cornerback during his seven NFL seasons.
He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1987 and became an instant contributor, starting 16 games from 1988-1992.
Jenkins also played two seasons with Detroit and one with Atlanta at the end of his career.
He totaled 11 interceptions for his career also finished with one sack.
10b. Artrell Hawkins
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The careers of Hawkins and Jenkins were so similar, just a decade apart that they are tied for No. 10 on the list.
Hawkins was drafted in the second round with the 43rd overall pick by the hometown Cincinnati Bengals and played six years with the Bengals before a season with the Carolina Panthers.
He then signed with New England and moved to safety for the final two years of his career.
Like Jenkins, Hawkins finished his career with 11 interceptions. He also totaled 303 tackles and four sacks.
9. Troy Evans
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After being signed as an undrafted free agent by the St. Louis Rams in 2001, Evans spent his rookie season on the St. Louis Rams practice squad.
He signed with the Houston Texans in 2002 and played five seasons with them before signing with the Saints in 2007.
He was a key cog on the Saints special teams unit during his four seasons with the team and even called the coin toss in Super Bowl XLIV.
Evans was a team captain on New Orleans before retiring in 2010.
8. Connor Barwin
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Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin is quickly developing into one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
After being drafted with the 46th overall pick in the second round by the Houston Texans in 2009, Barwin spent his rookie season learning the system, before missing most of 2010 with a leg injury.
Last year he burst onto the scene and finished the season with 11.5 sacks.
A few years down the line, Barwin may be a little higher on the list.
7. Brent Celek
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Brent Celek was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
After spending his first two seasons as a backup, Celek burst onto the starting scene in 2009 and finished the season with 971 yards and eight touchdowns on 76 receptions.
He has followed that up with two solid seasons since and is quickly becoming one of the top tight ends in the NFL.
Like Barwin, Celek also has a chance to move up the list in the coming years.
6. Sam Garnes
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Sam Garnes was selected in the fifth-round of the 1997 NFL draft by the New York Jets.
He spent the first five years of his seven-year career with the Jets before jumping ship to the Giants for his final two seasons.
Garnes was a solid safety who could hit hard and made a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball.
He finished his career with 528 tackles, 10 interceptions and three sacks.
Garnes is currently serving as a special teams assistant with the Denver Broncos.
5. Jason Fabini
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Jason Fabini is without question the best offensive lineman to ever play at Cincinnati.
After being a three-time all-conference selection while at Cincinnati, Fabini was taken No. 111 overall in the fourth round by the New York Jets.
He was a staple on the offensive line for the Jets, starting from 1998-2005. He then spent a year in Dallas with the Cowboys before finishing his career playing his final two seasons with the Washington Redskins.
He was voted to the New York Jets all-time four decade team as well.
4. Ron Kostelnik
Ron Kostelnik spent eight of his nine NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers after being drafted in the second round with the 26th overall pick in the 1961 NFL draft.
At 6'4" and 260 pounds, he was large, even for a defensive tackle of his time. He served as the big run stopper in the middle of the Green Bay 4-3 defense and helped lead the Packers to three NFL Championships during his eight years in Green Bay.
He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1989 and is perhaps the best defensive lineman ever to attend Cincinnati.
3. Trent Cole
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Trent Cole was selected in the fifth round, No. 146 overall of the 2005 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been quite a surprise in his seven years in Philadelphia.
Cole has come on strong the past couple of seasons and has been a two-time Pro Bowl selection as well as an All-Pro in 2009.
He was also voted to the all-rookie team in 2005 and has already recorded 66 career sacks.
Cole has a chance to be No. 1 on the list with a few more dominating seasons.
2. Greg Cook
The story of Greg Cook never fully materialized, as he was only able to play one full season in the NFL due to a devastating shoulder injury.
Cook had all the tools to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and showed off all of that form in his rookie season.
He was selected No. 5 overall by the hometown Cincinnati Bengals in the 1969 NFL draft and during the third game of his rookie season felt a pop in his shoulder and was never the same.
Cook missed three games, but finished his rookie season with 1,854 yards and was the Rookie of the Year.
He averaged 9.411 yards per pass attempt, still an NFL record.
His 15 touchdown passes further detailed how good Cook could have been.
1. Brig Owens
Brig Owens was selected No. 89 overall in the seventh round of the 1965 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, but was then traded to the Washington Redskins before the season began.
Owens played all 12 of his NFL seasons with the Redskins and helped lead them to Super Bowl VII in 1972, where he had an interception on a pass thrown by Brian Griese.
Owens was a safety who finished his career with 36 interceptions and eight touchdowns. He once scored two defensive touchdowns in a game, one on a 62-yard fumble recovery and another on a 62-yard interception return.
He is second all-time on the Redskins interception list and has the most interception yards in Redskins history.
Owens was voted one of the 70 greatest Redskins of all time and is in the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame.