Michigan Football: 10 NFL Defensive Stars Who Recently Wore the Maize and Blue
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Overheard last night at the popular Fraser's Pub...
Yes, this is a college town, but NFL smack is a constant at even the best watering holes. After the legal talk about the impending strike ended, the conversation switched to Brady Hoke's Wolverines, and how many former Michigan players returned for the spring game.
Having them buy into Hoke’s system so quickly was a pleasant surprise.
Several of them, of course, have moved on to pro football. Charles Woodson, LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote all played in February’s Super Bowl.
Since all three play defense, a chat about Michigan’s NFL defenders came next.
Here’s our list of the top 10 who will suit up this fall, if and when training camps open.
LaMarr Woodley, Class '06, Pittsburgh Steelers, DE, No. 56, Franchise Tag
LaMarr Woodley and Troy Smith
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LaMarr Woodley completed his college career by winning the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation's top lineman or linebacker. Woodley was the first and only Wolverine to be so honored.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 2 of the 2007 draft, Woodley has accumulated 186 tackles, including 39 sacks, in his four-year NFL career. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2009.
Brandon Graham, Class '09, Philadelphia Eagles, DE, No. 54, Injured Reserve
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Drafted 13th in the first round last season by Philadelphia, Graham started six games before tearing his ACL against Dallas on Dec. 12.
He's expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of the 2011 campaign.
Graham had a checkered career with the Wolverines, spending time in Lloyd Carr's doghouse before finding his way under Rich Rodriguez. Graham was a two-time All-Big 10 selection, and a 2009 All-American.
Dhani Jones, Class '99, Cincinnati Bengals, LB, No. 57
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Known as well for his play off the field as on, Dhani Jones has been a solid linebacker throughout his 11 NFL seasons.
Jones stars in the Dhani Tackles the Globe television show for the Travel Channel and has been a huge Michigan advocate on the syndicated Jim Rome radio show.
He's known for his bow tie as well as for his three All-Big Ten seasons as a Wolverine.
Jones has contributed more than 100 tackles four times in his NFL career.
Larry Foote, Class '01, Pittsburgh Steelers, LB, No. 50
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Larry Foote has spent eight of his nine NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A first-team All-American for Michigan, Foote was selected by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2002 draft.
In 2008, Foote paid for the funeral of a 10-year-old child who just happened to drown in the same frozen river Foote played on as a kid.
Leon Hall, Class '06, Cincinnati Bengals, CB, No. 29
Brian Hartline and Leon Hall
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A three-time All-Big 10 cornerback at Michigan, Hall was the 18th pick in the 2007 NFL draft by Cincinnati. Hall, who was named second team NFL All-Pro in 2009, has 18 interceptions and 258 tackles in his four-year NFL career.
Ryan Mundy, Class '06, West Virginia '07, Pittsburgh Steelers, S, No. 29
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Mundy played for Lloyd Carr at Michigan from 2003 through 2006, receiving a medical redshirt in 2005. He completed his college eligibility for Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia in 2007.
Drafted by Pittsburgh in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, Mundy suffered a high ankle strain in training camp and missed the entire season.
For the second time in his career, Mundy fought back from an injury to earn a roster spot in 2009. He played behind veteran Ryan Clark at free safety last season, and has registered 54 tackles in his two-year NFL career.
Stevie Brown, Class '09, Oakland Raiders, S, No. 27
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After splitting time between safety and linebacker at Michigan, it appears Brown has found a home with the Oakland Raiders at safety.
Not picked until the seventh round of the 2010 draft, Brown made one start as a rookie, and accumulated 30 tackles during the season.
As a senior captain for the Wolverines in 2009, Brown excelled at linebacker, making 80 tackles, including eight for loss.
Charles Woodson, Class '97, Green Bay Packers, CB, No. 21
His left arm in a sling, Charles Woodson holds the Super Bowl trophy in his right.
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There are four NFL players who have won the Heisman Trophy, a college national championship, and the Super Bowl. Charles Woodson is now one of them.
Woodson completed a stellar career in Ann Arbor, leading the Wolverines to a perfect 12-0 season, returning punts, playing flawless cornerback, and catching passes on offense.
He was the fourth player selected in the 1998 draft by Oakland, and has since played eight seasons with the Raiders and the last five with Green Bay. A seven-time All-Pro selection, Woodson has now totaled 47 interceptions.
In addition to his charitable Charles Woodson Foundation, the Fremont, Ohio, product has donated $2 million to Michigan's Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.
James Hall, Class '99, St. Louis Rams, DE, No. 96
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An unsigned free agent, Hall played seven years with Detroit before moving on to St. Louis. In 11 NFL seasons, Hall has totaled 57 sacks and he's planning to return for a 12th.
In the 1998 Rose Bowl, where Michigan earned a share of the national title, Hall had a career-best 5.5 sacks. He finished his career at Michigan with a total of 26, along with 182 tackles.
David Harris, Class '06, New York Jets, ILB, No. 52, Franchise Tag
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Because of a knee injury, Harris didn't do much at Michigan until his junior year. He made up for lost time by recording 186 tackles in his final two seasons. As a senior, Harris was named All-Big 10, and second-team All-America.
Fellow Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas told the New York Daily News recently that Harris "deserves everything that he gets," adding that "he plays fast all the time, making plays that other guys just can't."
After receiving the Jets' franchise tag in February, Harris is expecting to sign a huge contract when the NFL lockout ends. Since being a second-round draft pick in 2007, Harris has 428 tackles and 15 sacks,