Oklahoma Football: 10 Greatest Sooners Players in NFL History
Throughout the years, there has been a plethora of talent come and go through the University of Oklahoma football program. All that talent helped account for seven national championships, 43 conference titles, 153 All-Americans and five Heisman Trophy winners.
Yes, there's no arguing Oklahoma's legacy amongst the rest of the collegiate powerhouses, but how many of these talented Sooners actually went on and produced at a high level in the NFL?
A lot fewer than you might imagine. However, for those that did go on and have productive careers after college, they sure didn't disappoint.
Here's a list of the 10 Oklahoma Sooners who had the best NFL careers.
10. Curtis Lofton
You may remember Curtis Lofton as one of the many great linebackers to play for the Sooners under Bob Stoops, but unlike most that came through the system, Lofton has actually had a productive NFL career.
Lofton was drafted in the second round (37th overall) in the 2008 NFL draft to the Atlanta Falcons. In just four seasons, Lofton has already racked up 351 tackles.
He has started in all but one (63 of 64) game in his career so far, and he appears to be heading down a successful path. To go along with his 351 tackles, Lofton has also managed seven forced fumbles.
Not to mention, Lofton was the beneficiary of his first defensive touchdown this past season. Things are looking good for the former Sooner.
9. Jammal Brown
Here's a fun fact: Jammal Brown actually started his career off as a defensive tackle. However, he was quickly flipped around to the offensive line where he excelled from his sophomore year on.
After winning the Outland Trophy for being the NCAA's most outstanding lineman in 2004, Brown entered the NFL draft. He was drafted in the first round (13th overall) by the New Orleans Saints, where he became an immediate starter and impact player.
In his four-year stint with the Saints, Brown made the Pro Bowl twice (2006, 2008) and was named to the All-NFL First Team once (2006).
Brown was sidelined for the 2009 season with a torn ACL, and he was then traded to the Washington Redskins where he currently resides as the starting right tackle.
8. Joe Washington
After a sensational career at the University of Oklahoma, running back Joe Washington was taken fourth overall in the 1976 draft to the San Diego Chargers.
Due to an average rookie campaign, the Chargers traded Washington to the Baltimore Colts a month prior to the 1978 season for already proven running back Lydell Mitchell. Let's just say that the Colts got the better deal.
Washington went on to have a nice four-year stint in Baltimore, highlighted by his one Pro Bowl appearance in 1979 when he led the NFL in receptions (82).
Washington's ability to catch passes out of the backfield made him a special player in the NFL. In his nine-year career, Washington amassed 4,839 rushing yards, 3,413 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns.
7. Billy Sims
While Billy Sims may now be most recognized for either his barbecue chain or his propensity to yell "Boomer" at any given opportunity, his illustrious collegiate and professional career shouldn't go overlooked.
After winning the Heisman Trophy as a junior and placing second in the voting during his senior season, Sims was drafted with the first overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 1980. Sims spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Lions, and if it weren't for a career-ending knee injury, Sims would likely be much higher on this list.
In just five seasons, Sims ran for 5,106 yards, caught 186 passes for 2,072 yards and accounted for 47 touchdowns.
Sims was a three-time selection to the Pro Bowl (1980,1981,1982) and was named the NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year (1980).
6. Roy Williams
Look at the picture. You all remember "The Play" against Texas where Roy Williams literally flew over the offensive line to disrupt Texas quarterback Chris Simms' throwing motion, leading to a Teddy Lehman interception and touchdown, sealing the game for the Sooners.
But do you really remember how good Roy Williams was, both at Oklahoma and in the NFL? Williams left Oklahoma after his junior season, but it was hard to argue after he won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Jim Thorpe Award.
After being drafted eighth overall to the Dallas Cowboys in the 2002 draft, Williams went on to have a stellar rookie season. In that season, Williams started all 16 games for the Cowboys, accounted for 85 tackles, two sacks, five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
It was by far his best season in the NFL, but Williams actually didn't receive any recognition for it. However, Williams went on to be selected to five Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2003. After a season-ending forearm injury in 2008, Williams was released by the Dallas Cowboys and picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals.
After playing in just four games, Williams was forced to sit out the 2009 season with the Bengals due to the same forearm injury. Williams played in 12 games in the 2010 season and appeared to be back on track, but he decided to call it quits following that season.
Williams finished his career with 472 tackles, 20 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and three defensive touchdowns.
5. Keith Jackson
Former Oklahoma standout tight end Keith Jackson spent nine seasons in the NFL, and he definitely made the most of his time.
After being drafted in the first round (13th overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988, Jackson started in 15 of 16 games during his rookie season and caught 81 passes for 869 yards and six touchdowns. Jackson's sensational debut earned him both Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors.
This was just the beginning of Jackson's decorated career. Even though Jackson moved around frequently, playing for three different teams in his nine seasons, he played at a high level no matter the scenery.
Even during his last season with the Green Bay Packers, Jackson only started five games but finished with 40 catches for 505 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns.
Jackson's consistently stellar play gave way for his five Pro Bowl appearances, three first-team All-Pro selections and 441 career receptions for 5,283 yards and 49 touchdowns.
Jackson retired after playing a major part in Green Bay's 1997 Super Bowl victory.
4. Tommy McDonald
I know what you're thinking: "Who the heck is Tommy McDonald?" It's okay if this happened to you. Being that McDonald spent his entire career in the NFL 20 to 30 years before I was even born, I too had to do some research on the wide receiver.
Before being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1957, McDonald was a highly touted running back in college. McDonald was named as an All-American in 1955 and 1956, and he finished his college career by winning the Maxwell Award.
The awards didn't stop in college, though. During his 12-year career in the NFL, McDonald was a six-time Pro Bowler, leading the league in touchdown receptions twice (1958, 1960) and receiving yards once (1960).
To go along with being a big-time wide receiver, McDonald also excelled as a return man. To put things into perspective, here are his career stats: 9,891 career all-purpose yards (8,410 receiving yards) and 85 career touchdowns.
Needless to say, McDonald was an easy nominee into the Football Hall of Fame, and he was officially inducted in 1998.
3. Greg Pruitt
Running back Greg Pruitt was the definition of a "do everything" type of player. As an All-American at Oklahoma in 1971 and 1972, Pruitt still ranks third among all Sooners in all-purpose yards.
Pruitt was able to bring his multi-talented skill set to the NFL, where he excelled as a running back, receiver, kick returner and punt returner. Drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Browns in the 1973 draft, Pruitt turned out to be a huge steal.
Pruitt is another Sooner on this list that made his first Pro Bowl during his rookie campaign. Pruitt went on to play in four other Pro Bowls in 1974, 1976, 1977 and 1983.
During his 12-year career in the NFL, Pruitt garnered 5,672 rushing yards, 3,069 receiving yards, 2,007 punt return yards, 2,514 kick return yards and 47 total touchdowns.
For those counting at home, that's a total of 13,262 all-purpose yards. Not too shabby for a second-round draft pick.
2. Adrian Peterson
Stop me if you think I'm putting Adrian Peterson too high on this list. I mean, I am putting him in front of a Hall of Famer (McDonald) and a guy who has over 13,000 all-purpose yards (Pruitt), but I think Peterson is an exception.
While Peterson isn't as decorated as some on this list, he has had a better five-year career in the NFL than most players have in their entire career. He has already made four Pro Bowls and was on his way to his fifth before tearing both his ACL and MCL in a game against the Washington Redskins this past season.
Due to the season-ending injury, this past season was the first time Peterson hasn't recorded 1,000 rushing yards. Instead, he finished just shy with 970 yards in 12 games.
In college, Peterson looked like a man amongst boys, and upon entering the NFL, that trend continued. There hasn't been a better running back in the NFL since his rookie debut in 2007, and the fact that the Vikings haven't gone to a "running back by committee" style of offense really speaks highly to Peterson's workhorse-type efforts.
In just five years, Peterson has already rushed for 6,752 yards (more than any running back on this list), caught 137 passes for 1,309 yards and managed a total of 67 touchdowns.
Peterson was named the 2007 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and the 2008 NFL Bert Bell Award winner.
Here's hoping that AD comes back next season with no lingering injuries, because he has a long, productive career waiting for him.
1. Lee Roy Selmon
If Adrian Peterson can stay healthy and produce at the same level for the next five to 10 years, then he will like surpass Lee Roy Selmon for the top spot on this list. However, until then, the "Gentle Giant" still gets all the glory.
Selmon was an absolute monster in college with the Sooners. He anchored the defensive line that won the national championship in both 1974 and 1975, and he topped his collegiate career off by winning both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy in 1975.
Rightfully, Selmon was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1976 NFL Draft. Selmon became an immediate impact player for the Bucs in 1976, and he remained a starter in Tampa Bay throughout his career. He retired after nine seasons in Tampa Bay and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
On September 4, 2011, Selmon died at the age of 56 from complications of a stroke that had occurred two days previous. His legacy lives on through the record books both at Oklahoma and in the NFL. To make it easier, I'm just going to list his accomplishments below.
- Six-time Pro Bowl selection (1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984)
- Three-time first-team All-Pro selection (1979, 1980, 1982)
- Two-time second-team All-Pro selection (1978, 1984)
- Six-time first-team All-NFC selection (1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984)
- One-time second-team All-NFC selection (1983)
- NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
- 1979 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
- 1982 Co-Pro Bowl MVP
- 1979 NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers No. 63 retired
- 742 career tackles, 78.5 career sacks, 28.5 career forced fumbles
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