Few states have produced more football talent than Ohio. Only Texas and Pennsylvania can claim more Pro Football Hall of Famers than the Buckeye State, and only Texas, California and Florida have more players in the NFL. Of those players in the NFL, here are the 10 best from Ohio. NOTE: This list does not count those who only played college football in Ohio.
There wasn't much expected of Brent Celek when the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. But the Cincinnati native turned out to be a steal for the Eagles, catching 161 passes for 14 touchdowns in four seasons. Celek caught 76 passes for 971 yards in 2009, the most by a tight end in team history.
Although his receiving stats decreased in 2010, he showed a knack for blocking and developed into one of the more complete tight ends in the NFL.
As one of the captains of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, Hawk has been a stable force for one of the best defenses in the NFL. In his five-year career the Kettering, Ohio native has recorded 511 tackles to go along with nine sacks and eight interceptions.
Although he hasn't had the kind of superstar numbers the Packers envisioned he would have when he was drafted fifth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, his greatest contribution has been as the brain of the Packers defense, serving as the team's on-field signal caller. The Pack rewarded him with a five-year contract in March.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Nate Clements may be getting old, and he will probably be looking for a new team once the NFL lockout ends. But he remains one of the most physical cornerbacks in the game.
In 2010 he had 82 tackles and 3 interceptions, and has made 706 tackles and 33 interceptions during his 10-year career. The Shaker Heights, Ohio native also has nine touchdowns in his career.
After being picked in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Mario Manningham of Warren, Ohio is steadily becoming one of the best young receivers in the NFL. He made up for his slow rookie season by catching 117 passes for 1766 yards during the past two seasons.
He averaged 15.7 yards per reception to go with 9 touchdowns in 2010. Manningham will be a serious Pro Bowl candidate in the coming years as he continues to develop at the NFL level.
At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield isn't very big, but he plays like he is. The Akron, Ohio native is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the NFL, registering 831 tackles in his 13 year career.
Remarkably, he seems to be getting better with age and has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons.
Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher has had to fight for recognition from the fans, but not for the respect of his fellow players. Fletcher went the first 11 seasons of his career without making a Pro Bowl appearance, despite recording the most tackles of any player during the 2000s. But the Cleveland native is finally getting the recognition he deserves, being named to the Pro Bowl each of the last two years. Since making his NFL debut in 1998, Fletcher has recorded 1,616 tackles and 32.5 sacks. Even at 36 years old and standing only 5-foot-10 , Fletcher remains one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL.
Ben Roethlisberger is the latest in the line of great Ohio quarterbacks, of which include Roger Staubach, Len Dawson and Bernie Kosar. The Findlay, Ohio native was the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl in NFL history when he lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a victory in Super Bowl XL. He did so again in Super Bowl XLIII. As a starter Roethlisberger is 79-32, and 10-3 in the postseason. What's more impressive is that he's done this with two different head coaches and offensive coordinators, all before he turned 29. A spot at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio may be in his future.
Hailing from Centerville, Ohio, Mangold was three-year starter at Ohio State before he was drafted by the New York Jets in 2006. Since then he has developed into perhaps the best center in the NFL, earning Pro Bowl invitations in each of the last three years and All-Pro selections in 2009 and 2010. Last summer his play was rewarded with a 7-year, $55 million contract with the Jets, making him the highest-paid center in the NFL.
People like to say that Steelers linebacker James Harrison came "out of nowhere" on his rise to NFL stardom. But in reality he came from Akron, Ohio and played his college football at nearby Kent State. Before Harrison, Hall of Famer Jack Lambert was the last Golden Flash alumnus to play linebacker for the Steelers. Few people would have compared the two during the early years when Harrison struggled to earn a roster spot in the NFL. But he became an NFL superstar when he replaced Joey Porter in 2007, earning the first of three All-Pro and four Pro Bowl selections. His best season came in 2008 when he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. That season was highlighted by his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown during the Steelers' 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl. Now the comparisons to Lambert don't sound too far-fetched.
The Fremont, Ohio native was named Ohio's Mr. Football in 1994, and after winning the Heisman trophy at Michigan, he became one of the most dominant cornerbacks in NFL history. The seven-time Pro-Bowler has been named to the All-Pro team six times in his career, and in 2009 was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. In 2010 he added a Super Bowl championship with the Green Bay Packers to his Hall of Fame resume, and is a virtual lock to earn a bust in Canton.