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Stanford Football: Top 10 Stanford Alumni in NFL History

Ryan ReedCorrespondent IIJanuary 9, 2017

Stanford Football: Top 10 Stanford Alumni in NFL History

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    Recently, Stanford Football has had a lot of success sending players to the NFL, including No. 1 pick Andrew Luck and three other players in the first two rounds of last year’s draft.

    While only time will tell how well they pan out as pros, Stanford football has given them a long history of NFL football players to follow.

    In the spirit of the Cardinals recent success in the NFL, as well as the upcoming season, I have made a list of the top 10 Stanford alumni in NFL history.

    The criteria is pretty basic. It compares players who played college football at Stanford and lasted in the NFL for at least eight years. Stanford has had a lot of talented players pass through their halls, so let’s see who makes the cut.

Honorable Mention: Ernie Nevers (FB)

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    Nevers is player that very few have probably heard of, but is also one of only three Stanford players to be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Nevers didn’t make my team because he only played for six years in the NFL along with a career in professional baseball.

    Unfortunately, Nevers career was cut short for a few reasons. He played for a team who had no home field and eventually skipped a season. He also spent a year attempting to form a team in Jacksonville, Florida but failed.

    Nevers was also named to the NFL All-Pro team five of the six years he played and is a part of the NFL 1920’s All-Decade Team as a fullback, although he also played kicker.

    He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, and has recently been ranked the 89th best player of all time by NFL Network.

10. Pat Donovan (OT)

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    Donovan was a tackle picked in the fourth round of the 1975 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He played in 129 games over his nine-year career, all with the Cowboys.

    Pat makes the list for a few reasons. First, he was one of the “Dirty Dozen” rookies for the Cowboys who ultimately helped lead the team to the Super Bowl in 1975.

    Donovan was also a four-time Pro Bowler and started for seven of his seasons.

    That makes him one of only four Cowboys' linemen to make at least four Pro Bowls and he is still considered one of the top linemen Dallas has ever had.

9. Paul Wiggin (DE)

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    Wiggin is a defensive end out of Stanford who was drafted in the sixth round of the 1956 draft. He played in 146 games and started for nine of his 11 seasons in the league.

    Unfortunately, the NFL didn’t keep statistics on defensive sacks while Wiggin played, so it is impossible to know just how well he stacks up statistically against his more current competition.

    Wiggin makes the list because he made the Pro Bowl twice and was a key member of a championship team in 1964, when the Cleveland Browns won.

8. Jeff Siemon (LB)

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    Siemon was the No. 10 pick in the 1972 by the Minnesota Vikings. He started 123 games in the NFL and managed 11 interceptions, with his sack totals also not being counted.

    In his 11 seasons, Siemon made the Pro Bowl four times and was the starting linebacker for three teams which made it to the Super Bowl. While he never won a championship, Siemon clearly proved his worth as a player by starting on such consistently good teams.

    He was also named one of the Top 100 Minnesota Vikings players of all time on Vikings.com

7. John Brodie (QB)

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    John Brodie was drafted out of Stanford with the No. 3 pick in the 1957 draft and enjoyed a 17-year career with the San Francisco 49ers.

    Brodie's best statistical year was 1965, when he led the league in passing yards with 3112 and touchdowns with 30. That was his first Pro Bowl year and he earned another 1970.

    The case for Brodie is that he was a two time pro bowler who also won an MVP in 1970, passed for 31,546 yards and was an All-Pro selection two years.

    It is also pretty cool that he became a professional golfer and won the Champions Tour on the Senior PGA tour in 1991.

6. Bruno Banducci (OT)

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    Bruno Banducci is a name most casual fans probably won’t know. He was an offensive lineman drafted in the sixth round of the 1943 NFL draft to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Banducci makes this team because he was chosen for the Pro Bowl in six separate years and was a member of the NFL’s 1940’s All-Decade Team, something that cannot be overlooked.

    While his name is not well known, Banducci was a great offensive lineman and should be remembered by all Stanford fans.

5. Gene Washington (WR)

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    Gene Washington was selected with the No. 16 pick in the 1969 NFL draft and enjoyed a 10-year career with the 49ers and Detroit Lions.

    Washington had 385 career receptions for 6856 yards and 60 touchdowns. More importantly, he was selected to both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro squads in four of his ten years.  

    Even after his career, Washington has managed to stay close to football. He is currently the director of football operations for the NFL and was a commentator for NBC’s NFL coverage.

    While his numbers aren’t great, his four All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, as well as his later connections to the game, give him the number five spot on this list.

4. Jim Plunkett (QB)

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    Plunkett was a very good quarterback, drafted with the No. 1 pick in the 1971 draft. He was the only Stanford player in their long history to be given the Heisman Trophy.

    Plunkett definitely did a lot of winning, which puts him this high on the list. He won two Super Bowls in his career, one Super Bowl MVP, the 1971 Rookie of the Year and 1980 NFL Comeback Player of the Year throughout his career.

    The downside on Plunkett is that his numbers aren’t great. His QB rating is at a career average of 67.5, with 25,882 passing yards and only 52.5 percent passing. He also threw for 164 touchdowns compared to 198 interceptions in his career.

    Despite all of that, he is at least in the top five of Stanford alumni because of his winning ways in the NFL.

3. John Lynch (DB)

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    The last seven Stanford alumni were all good players, but could be somewhat interchangeable. The top three, however, were pretty much a lock.

    John Lynch gets this spot for a few reasons. First, he was a great guy. He won both the Bart Starr Man of the Year award and the “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year award in 2006, two awards given to players who have exemplified great character on and off the field.

    Lynch was also a great player. Over his 15-year career, John racked up over 1000 tackles to go along with 13 sacks and 26 interceptions.

    To pad those stats, Lynch was picked for nine Pro Bowls, four All-Pro teams, the Defensive Back of the Year award in 2000 and won a Super Bowl. He was also named the No. 10 most feared tackler in NFL history by the NFL Films movie “Top 10 Most Feared Tacklers.”

    Lynch is the number three best alumni of Stanford that the NFL has seen because of his great football skills as well as his off the field character.

    Plunkett was a very good quarterback, drafted with the No. 1 pick in the 1971 draft. He was the only Stanford player in their long history to be given the Heisman Trophy.

2. James Lofton (WR)

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    James Lofton was a wide receiver drafted with the No. 6 pick in the 1978 draft by the Green Bay Packers and played for 16 seasons in the NFL.

    Lofton has great numbers for a wide receiver and it can be argued that he may be the best Stanford alumni of all time. He caught 764 passes for 14,004 yards and 75 touchdowns in his career and is currently seventh all time in receiving yards.

    Over his career, Lofton also accumulated eight Pro Bowl selections, four first-team All-Pro selections, a spot on the 1978 All-Rookie team, was named to the NFL 1980’s All-Decade team and was admitted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2003.

    All of those accomplishments by themselves should warrant his spot on this list, but he backed them up with very good statistics which makes the decision that much easier.

1. John Elway (QB)

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    This selection had to be pretty obvious to anybody reading. Elway was drafted with the No. 1 pick in the 1983 draft by the Denver Broncos and played his 16-year career with them.

    Elway’s numbers are pretty great too. He passed for 51,475 yards with 300 touchdowns and 226 interceptions. He has the fourth highest passing yards of any NFL quarterback, along with sixth highest for touchdowns and 14th for interceptions.

    John Elway has also done a lot of winning, even if the championships took him awhile. He was named to nine Pro Bowls, the NFL 1990’s All-Decade team and has had his jersey number retired by the Broncos.

    John also won the 1987 NFL MVP and was the MVP of his second Super Bowl. Finally, John Elway was selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

    This pick was a no-brainer. John Elway is easily the most talented and decorated football player to ever come out of Stanford. While the others on this list have been great, he was the greatest alumni of all time.

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