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Star Athletes Who Went to Colleges You've Never Heard of

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2014

Star Athletes Who Went to Colleges You've Never Heard of

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    USA TODAY Sports

    One of the many joys of watching sports is that it really doesn't matter where athletes come from but ultimately where they end up.

    And although everyone knows that the University of North Carolina was put on the map because of Michael Jordan and that Peyton Manning is forever associated with the University of Tennessee, some guys didn't get drawn to major college programs.

    These athletes prove that going to a small school doesn't always translate into a poor pro career, as the following are a few star athletes who went to colleges you've never heard of.

Terrell Owens

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    JOHN TODD/Associated Press

    College: Tennessee at Chattanooga

    Besides Terrell Owens, the shining moment for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was its upset of Illinois in the 1997 NCAA men's hoops tournament.

    One of the best wide receivers the NFL has ever seen, Owens may have enjoyed an illustrious 15-year career with a few different teams, but many probably wouldn’t have predicted such following his college career.

    Currently sitting sixth in career receiving yards and third in touchdown grabs, T.O. was a freak athlete and a ridiculous specimen who probably played with a chip on his shoulder because of the small school he attended.

Dennis Rodman

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    College: Southeastern Oklahoma State

    A Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman was one of the most dynamic defensive players in the league—and the most charismatic.

    Getting drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons in 1986, I’m sure there weren’t too many people who had heard of Rodman before he made his mark with the Bad Boys teams, with The Worm eventually going on to win a total of five NBA titles.

Darrell Green

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    Fred Jewell/Associated Press

    College: Texas A&M University-Kingsville

    One of my many memories of former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green is the speed that he showed all the way to the end of his career.

    Often the fastest guy on his team—even when he was the old head in D.C.—Green wasn’t hurt by playing college at a school that’s located in Kingsville, Texas, with a population of just 26,000-plus people, getting drafted in the first round and playing his way into the Hall of Fame.

Larry Allen

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    College: Sonoma State University

    Of all these guys on this list, former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen’s school was the one that I had to do some serious research on because I had absolutely zero clue where it was located.

    Turns out the school is in Sonoma, California, and the team nickname is the Seawolves.

    It appears that just because most people probably hadn’t heard of the university, Allen didn’t let it affect his pro career, as he got inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

Stephen Curry

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    College: Davidson College

    Thanks to his remarkable performance in the NCAA tournament when he led his Davidson Wildcats all the way to the Elite Eight, there are plenty of us who know about Steph Curry’s college.

    And thanks to Curry continuing to stroke it since coming into the NBA and proving to be one of the best shooters ever, it’s definitely a good tool for the basketball program at the small, North Carolina school to use for potential recruits.

Earl Monroe

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    College: Winston-Salem State University

    A Hall of Famer and the No. 2 overall selection in the 1967 NBA draft, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe didn’t let the small school of Winston-Salem State diminish his dream of becoming a star in the league.

    One of the key components during the New York Knicks’ 1972-73 title-winning season, Monroe played with flair and creativity that helped him become one of the most dynamic players of his era.

Andre Reed

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    College: Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

    Although he was one of the most talented players in the state of Pennsylvania during high school, Hall of Famer Andre Reed didn’t end up playing at a big-time college.

    Switching positions from quarterback to wideout once he got to Kutztown University, Reed established himself as a force, often zipping by defenders thanks to his speed and showing he was a natural at catching the ball with his strong hands.

    After getting drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fourth round of the 1985 NFL draft, Reed overcame some obstacles to eventually finish with the numbers he did.

Damian Lillard

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    Don Ryan/Associated Press

    College: Weber State University

    If you’re an elder statesman like myself, than the one moment you probably remember about Weber State University is the men’s hoops team upsetting North Carolina in the first round of the 1999 NCAA tourney.

    Other than that, though, what else is there to know about the Wildcats?

    Well, how about the fact that current Portland Trail Blazers All-Star guard Damian Lillard excelled there, showing enough at the small school to still get drafted No. 6 overall in the 2012 draft.

Michael Strahan

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    College: Texas Southern

    A Hall of Fame defensive lineman and former second-round pick, Michael Strahan’s celebrity may have grown even bigger since calling it quits from the NFL following the 2007 Super Bowl season.

    Still, Strahan probably didn’t see something like this coming when he first enrolled at the small school of Texas Southern, which wasn’t exactly allowing him to play big-time programs to show off his skills.

Jorge Posada

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    Jae Hong/Associated Press

    College: Calhoun Community College in Alabama

    Although there are few major leaguers who actually go—and then complete—college, former New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was one who did.

    Attending Calhoun Community College in Alabama before he played in MLB, Posada actually received his associate’s degree as well, proving that he was just as dedicated to his education as he was to winning—which he did a lot in New York, collecting four World Series rings.

Steve McNair

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    College: Alcorn State

    Living in Nashville during the Steve McNair days, the late quarterback was always one of my favorite players to watch.

    An absolute gamer that toughed it out and left it all on the field, McNair may have played at the small school of Alcorn State, but it certainly didn’t hurt his chances of succeeding.

    McNair was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1994, the No. 3 pick in the ’95 NFL draft and enjoyed a long, solid career.

Elgin Baylor

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    NBA Photo Library/Getty Images

    College: Seattle University

    Although he’s a Hall of Famer now, Elgin Baylor wasn’t as hyped up when he first decided to go to college, playing one season at the College of Idaho before playing two more years at Seattle University.

    All he did in the Great Northwest was lead his team to the NCAA title game, losing to the Kentucky Wildcats in 1958 and going on to become the top selection in the NBA draft a few months later.

    The only thing missing from his incredible career is an NBA title, unfortunately.

Walter Payton

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    JOHN SWART/Associated Press

    College: Jackson State

    Walter Payton is one of the best rushers the NFL has ever seen, but he didn’t come from a college that was all that known.

    While at Jackson State, Payton actually played alongside other future NFL players like Jackie Slater and Robert Brazile, proving that there were other guys who didn’t need the bright lights of a big school to reach—and succeed—in the NFL.

    Ultimately breaking the NCAA’s scoring record by rushing for 65 touchdowns while at the school, Sweetness went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

Albert Pujols

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    Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

    College: Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods in Missouri

    Albert Pujols may be known as The Machine now, but who would have ever thought he would earn that nickname when he was in college?

    Not only did he attend Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods in Missouri, but he also didn’t get drafted until the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft, making him a long shot to ever even make the big leagues.

    Of course, he has done more than just get to The Show, as he has won a Rookie of the Year Award, three league MVP’s and a couple World Series titles, all while establishing himself as one of the best hitters of his generation.

Jerry Rice

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    Joe Pugli/Associated Press

    College: Mississippi Valley State

    When one talks about pro athletes who attended unknown schools, no one should come before Jerry Rice.

    The prototypical receiver, Rice blended a perfect mix of speed, strong hands, vision, agility, work ethic and smarts to become the best wideout the sport has ever seen.

    Even though he didn’t play for a major program in college, Rice was still drafted 16th overall in the 1985 draft, going on to hold nearly every receiving record by the time he called it quits.

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