Colleges That Produce the Most Professional Athletes

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2020

Colleges That Produce the Most Professional Athletes

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    College football fans in particular love touting a moniker for their favorite team. Claiming the school as "Wide Receiver U" or "Defensive Back U" (DBU) is a source of great pride.

    But which college athletic program should be labeled "Pro-Producing U"?

    While it's an admittedly silly name, the objective is clear. OLBG conducted a study looking to identify the colleges that have produced the most sporting stars, which is defined as a current player in the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL.

    We've highlighted the top 10 schools that have become pipelines to the pro ranks and shared a bit of insight on how it happened.


    Note: One outcome was adjusted to account for a discrepancy in the study. Miami University in Ohio—not the University of Miami in Florida—is responsible for seven NHL players, which dropped the latter to fifth.

T-10. University of North Carolina (47)

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    Coby White
    Coby WhiteAssociated Press

    NFL: 21 | NBA: 14 | MLB: 12 | NHL: 0

    North Carolina is known as a basketball school, but the Tar Heels also send a good number of players to the NFL and MLB.

    In 2019, UNC had three first-round NBA draft picks (Coby White, Cameron Johnson and Nassir Little), a fifth-rounder in the NFL (Cole Holcomb) and nine MLB draft picks. The latter aren't counted overall, but four former Heels made their MLB debuts last year.

    The most recognizable UNC product is Vince Carter, who's playing in an NBA-record 22nd season.

T-10. University of Texas (47)

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    Kevin Durant
    Kevin DurantEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    NFL: 30 | NBA: 11 | MLB: 6 | NHL: 0

    Texas has a larger total of NFL players, but the school's basketball alumni are the featured group right now.

    Kevin Durant is a two-time NBA champion and already one of the greatest players in league history, while LaMarcus Aldridge has seven All-Star appearances. Plus, eight previous first-round picks (Avery Bradley and Tristan Thompson among them) and one second-round selection (PJ Tucker) remain in the NBA.

    Notable active MLB players include San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel.

9. University of Southern California (48)

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    Sam Darnold
    Sam DarnoldAssociated Press

    NFL: 37 | NBA: 8 | MLB: 3 | NHL: 0

    USC has a considerably high concentration of NFL players. Popular names are Sam Darnold, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Adoree' Jackson, Tyron Smith, Jurrell Casey, Malcolm Smiththe MVP of Super Bowl XLVIIIand Clay Matthews, among others.

    The basketball program also had a decent run from 2007 to 2011, sending DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Nikola Vucevic to the NBA. Recent products include Kevin Porter Jr. and De'Anthony Melton.

    First baseman Lucas Duda and pitcher Ian Kennedy also played together on the Kansas City Royals in 2019.

8. Florida State University (49)

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    Dalvin Cook
    Dalvin CookAssociated Press

    NFL: 39 | NBA: 5 | MLB: 5 | NHL: 0

    During the Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher eras, Florida State cranked out NFL talent. Since 2000 alone, the Seminoles have celebrated 109 draft picks, including Jameis Winston, Dalvin Cook, Jalen Ramsey, Derwin James and Brian Burns.

    FSU basketball has improved considerably lately, and it's reflected in five draft picks over a four-year stretch. Mfiondu Kabengele, Jonathan Isaac and Malik Beasley were all first-round selections.

    While the 'Noles can't claim a ton of MLB players, San Francisco Giants veteran catcher Buster Posey is a six-time All-Star and MVP.

7. University of Notre Dame (52)

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    Quenton Nelson
    Quenton NelsonAssociated Press

    NFL: 37 | NBA: 1 | MLB: 6 | NHL: 8

    Given the number of roster spots available, it's no surprise the NFL contains most of Notre Dame's pro players. The Irish can point to Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Ronnie Stanley, Zack Martin, Harrison Smith, Golden Tate and Will Fuller in the league.

    However, the Irish are the first program highlighted with a strong NHL presence. Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust headlines a decent group of Fighting Irish hockey alums.

    Rounding out Notre Dame's list are baseball players Trey Mancini, Cavan Biggio, Jeff Samardzija, A.J. Pollock and Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton.

6. University of Michigan (55)

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    Dylan Larkin
    Dylan LarkinAssociated Press

    NFL: 29 | NBA: 10 | MLB: 1 | NHL: 15

    Jim Harbaugh and the football program are most recognizable, but Michigan hockey boasts more professional players than each of the sports that don't call The Big House home combined.

    Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin remains a local favorite, but the list is extensive. Other pros include Andrew Cogliano, Carl Hagelin, Max Pacioretty, Jack Johnson, J.T. Compher, Jacob Trouba, Zach Werenski, Luke Glendening and Quinn Hughes.

    Taylor Lewan, Jabrill Peppers, Devin Bush and none other than Tom Brady are familiar NFL players, along with Caris LeVert and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the NBA.


    Note: One addition to the study's findings is veteran pitcher Rich Hill, who recently signed with the Minnesota Twins.

5. University of Miami (56)

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    Yasmani Grandal
    Yasmani GrandalAssociated Press

    NFL: 46 | NBA: 3 | MLB: 7 | NHL: 0

    Miami's glory days on the gridiron are long over, yet the Hurricanes have continued to develop NFL talent. During the 2010s, they celebrated 52 draft picks with 2000s selections Frank Gore, Calais Campbell and Greg Olsen playing key roles.

    The U also has a smattering of alumni on the diamond (notably Ryan Braun, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay) and hardwood (Lonnie Walker IV and Bruce Brown).

    Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga deserves some credit for the school's success. Five of the program's 12 all-time draft picks have played in Coral Gables since he arrived in 2011.

4. Ohio State University (58)

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    Nick Bosa
    Nick BosaAssociated Press

    NFL: 53 | NBA: 4 | MLB: 0 | NHL: 1

    More than 90 percent of Ohio State's three-sport professional alumni called The Horseshoe home in college.

    Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa and Dwayne Haskins all suited up for the Buckeyes. Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Curtis Samuel, Cameron Heyward, Ted Ginn Jr. and Carlos Hyde headline the next tier of that massive group.

    Ohio State's collection of NFL talent is even more impressive when you consider the school is represented by as many current players as a 53-man NFL roster.

    Despite the low number of NBA players, most are familiar: Mike Conley, D'Angelo Russell, Evan Turner and Keita Bates-Diop. The lone current NHL player is Carolina Hurricanes center Ryan Dzingel.

3. Louisiana State University (59)

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    Ben Simmons
    Ben SimmonsAssociated Press

    NFL: 43 | NBA: 5 | MLB: 11 | NHL: 0

    LSU has enjoyed a diverse group of All-Stars lately.

    In baseball, there's Alex Bregman, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Nola. Ben Simmons headlines the NBA talent. Jamal Adams, DJ Chark Jr., Danielle Hunter, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Trai Turner, Tre'Davious White, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu all landed on Pro Bowl teams.

    And after winning the 2019 college football national championship, LSU is preparing for a hugely successful 2020 NFL draft.

2. University of Florida (63)

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    Pete Alonso
    Pete AlonsoAssociated Press

    NFL: 43 | NBA: 8 | MLB: 12 | NHL: 0

    For good reason, Florida calls itself "The Everything School." The Gators are tied for the second-most MLB players, rank fourth in NFL players and are 10th in NBA players.

    The current star is New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who won National League Rookie of the Year in 2019. Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is a two-time NBA All-Star, and Florida has produced at least four NFL draft picks in seven straight years.

    Since 2000, the baseball, basketball and football teams have combined for five national championships under well-known coaches Urban Meyer, Billy Donovan and Kevin O'Sullivan.

1. University of Alabama (73)

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    Julio Jones
    Julio JonesCarmen Mandato/Getty Images

    NFL: 63 | NBA: 2 | MLB: 8 | NHL: 0

    Thanks, Nick Saban.

    Alabama need say nothing more, considering its 63 NFL players match second-place Florida's all-around total. During his tenureSaban arrived in 2007the Crimson Tide have five national titles with a first-round selection in every NFL draft since 2009.

    NFL fans watch these players every week: Julio Jones, Derrick Henry, Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mark Ingram II, Eddie Jackson, Josh Jacobs and many, many more. Tua Tagovailoa will lead the 2020 group into the pros.

    Other notable alumni are Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton and Philadelphia Phillies reliever David Robertson.

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