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The NFL's 10 Smartest Players

Christopher JohnsonContributor IIINovember 20, 2011

The NFL's 10 Smartest Players

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    While NFL players are mostly known for what they do on game day, there are some who also shine in their academic endeavors. These are the players who actually respected the term "student-athlete" for what it is.

    For a top-level football player at a school with a top-level football program in today's NCAA, "athlete-student" is the apt description.

    But there are some who valued the former rendition of the term. Rarely are football and academia mentioned in the same sentence, but for these 10 players, the two may carry equal importance.

    Here are the top 10 smartest players in the NFL.

10. Sam Acho

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    The outside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals was taken in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft after an illustrious career at the University of Texas.

    The former Longhorn received the William V. Campbell trophy in 2010, awarded to college football's best scholar athlete.

9. Arian Foster

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    One of the NFL's best tailbacks, Arian Foster burst onto the scene last season when he led the league in rushing yards.

    Foster was a philosophy major at Tennessee, which explains his love for poetry. Foster is the most cerebral tailback in the league.

8. Zak DeOssie

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    DeOssie is a two-time Pro Bowler and stalwart at long snapper for the Giants. Selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, the Brown alum immediately improved Big Blue's special teams.

    A three-time first team All-Ivy League selection, DeOssie graduated with a major in public policy and a minor in business.

7. Peyton Manning

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    The University of Tennessee grad. is the face of the NFL. He's appeared in numerous TV ads and has also made his mark on Saturday Night Live.

    Manning is different from the other candidates here. The reason he's on this list is because of his on-field smarts. His ability to read defenses and audible at the line of scrimmage is second to none.

    Luckily for the Colts, If Manning departs, his replacement—Andrew Luck—will be just as smart.

6. Alex Smith

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    Smith was the president of his high school senior class, graduating one semester early with an impressive 4.4 GPA.

    While compiling a 21-1 record as a starter at Utah, Smith majored in economics. The 49ers signal-caller graduated in just two years.

5. Bryan Walters

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    As a senior at Cornell University, Walters was elected into the Sphinx head society, which is the college's oldest and one of its most respected honor societies.

    With just three career receptions, Walters is yet to make a splash on the field.

4. Desmond Bryant

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    The Raiders defensive tackle received an academic scholarship to attend Harvard. He graduated high school with a 1230 SAT score and 4.2 GPA.

    He's only the 29th player from Harvard to make it to the NFL.

3. Matt Birk

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    The six-time Pro Bowler graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics.

    But putting aside his academic prowess, Birk spoke out against President Obama's criticism of the NFL labor dispute.

2. Greg McElroy

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    The Alabama grad scored an impressive 43 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test.

    He probably will never develop into a consistent starter in the NFL, but his eloquence and high football IQ makes his prospects as a coach or NFL commissioner tantalizing.

1. Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    Another Harvard economics major, Fitzpatrick was selected the MVP of the Ivy League in 2004.

    Here's the best part: His SAT score was nearly flawless. 1580.

    Fitzpatrick also scored an incredible 48 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test.

Honorable Mention

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    Kevin Boothe - Cornell graduate

    Toby Gerhart - 2009 Pac-10 All-Academic team

    Myron Rolle - no longer in the NFL but received the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

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