Georgia Football: Mark Richt's 6 Most Successful NFL Players
With the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens squaring off in the Super Bowl, at least one former member of the Georgia football program will receive a Super Bowl ring.
Dannell Ellerbe and DeAngelo Tyson will be taking the field for the Ravens while Demarcus Dobbs, who is currently on injured reserve, is a member of the 49ers.
These three are just a few of the players Mark Richt has helped develop and send to the NFL during his tenure as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
The following list, which considers individual accomplishments and overall team success, looks at Mark Richt's most successful Bulldogs currently playing in the NFL.
All stats via ESPN.com
6. Chris Clemons: Seattle Seahawks
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Chris Clemons was already a Georgia Bulldog when Mark Richt became coach, but the pair spent two seasons together between the hedges.
Clemons' professional career got off to a slow start when he went undrafted in the 2003 NFL draft and didn't see any playing time until 2004 with the Washington Redskins.
However, after a journeyman career that has taken him to four different teams, Clemons has found his fit in Pete Carroll's defense with the Seattle Seahawks and is becoming one of the best pass-rushers in the league.
The defensive end from Griffin, Ga., has recorded double-digit sacks in each of the past three seasons and has helped turn the Seahawks defense into one of the toughest in the NFL.
Like a fine wine, Clemons appears to be improving with age.
5. Will Witherspoon: Tennessee Titans
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Will Witherspoon is another player who was already in Athens before Mark Richt arrived, but the pair did have one season together in 2001.
Once Witherspoon moved on to the NFL, he began a career that led to him becoming one of the best tacklers in the game. During the height of his NFL success, Witherspoon racked up 509 tackles from 2004-2007.
He was also a key member of the Carolina Panthers team that reached the Super Bowl in 2004 and recorded a career-high 16 tackles in that game.
A few years later, in 2007, Witherspoon was the recipient of the St. Louis Rams' MVP award when he recorded 110 tackles and seven sacks.
His numbers have declined over the past few seasons, but he has still been one of the most productive and consistent linebackers in the game over the past decade.
4. Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions
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Despite his reputation of being a highly regarded coach for developing quarterbacks, Matthew Stafford is the only quarterback who has played for Mark Richt and gone on to have NFL success.
After leading the Bulldogs to 11 wins in his sophomore season and 10 wins in his junior season, Stafford decided to forgo his senior year and declare for the 2009 NFL draft.
Stafford was taken by the Detroit Lions with the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft and helped lead the Lions back to the playoffs in 2011, the organization's first postseason appearance since 1999.
The strong-armed quarterback from Dallas has put up huge statistics during his first four years in the league, but he has struggled with turnovers and injuries.
Stafford has been one of the most successful quarterbacks in UGA history, but the jury is still out on whether or not he can become one of the NFL's best.
3. Geno Atkins: Cincinnati Bengals
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Geno Atkins was a defensive tackle for the Bulldogs from 2006-2009, an incredibly successful period for Georgia football.
Atkins was then taken in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals—meaning every other team in the league made the mistake of passing him by during the first three rounds.
In just three years in the NFL, Atkins has quickly emerged as one of the best young tackles in the game and has helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Atkins is already a two-time Pro Bowler and finished the 2012 season with 12.5 sacks.
As he continues to become one of the most dominant players in the game, the future looks very bright for this former Bulldog.
2. Tim Jennings: Chicago Bears
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Jennings was one of the more underrated players during Mark Richt's tenure at Georgia, but Bulldogs fans remember him as one of the best cornerbacks in the history of the program.
Jennings still does not receive a great deal of attention even though he has become one of the best defensive backs in the NFL.
The Orangeburg, S.C., native played in two Super Bowls with the Indianapolis Colts, winning one of them in 2007. Now Jennings is a member of the vaunted Chicago Bears defense and is one of the big reasons why their defense has been so successful.
2012 was a career year for Jennings, who led the league with nine interceptions, earned a trip to his first Pro Bowl and was named to the 2012 All-Pro Team.
Jennings is one of the few Bulldogs who has been part of extremely successful teams while also receiving recognition for his individual performance.
1. A.J. Green: Cincinnati Bengals
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After suffering injuries and suspensions during his time at Georgia, most Bulldogs fans reflect back on A.J. Green's college career and think they never saw his true potential.
Now his potential and ability is on full display with the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 2011, Green had one of the most successful seasons for a rookie receiver in NFL history when he finished the year with 65 receptions, 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. Green followed that up with another great season in 2012, finishing with 97 receptions, 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Along with Geno Atkins, A.J. Green has helped change the culture in Cincinnati, and he's been a critical piece in leading the Bengals to the playoffs for the past two years.
As a two-time Pro Bowler, Green has already established himself as one of the best receivers in the game, and people could soon begin talking about him as the best player in the game.