The NFL is loaded with the biggest and fastest the game of football has to offer. Not surprisingly the SEC leads all conferences in alumni. One plus one equals two of course and the Florida Gators, one of the SEC’s best teams year to year, has loads of former players on NFL rosters. There are currently 37 former Gators listed on an NFL roster (five on practice squads), representing 21 of the 32 teams (65.6%). Sixteen offensive players and twenty-one defensive players are spread around the league.
By Allen Delaney
(Note: This will be a regular weekly feature during NFL season—today we’ll update you on the careers of former Gator players in the NFL and then update you on their performances weekly.)
(##) = jersey #
The Jacksonville Jags lead all teams with 6 former Gators, followed by the Denver Broncos, coached by a former Gator asst. coach Mike Shanahan, with five former Gators. Tampa Bay has three former Florida players. No surprise that the NFL teams that have the most former players are the two closest geographically (cheap scouting!), and the one with a coach who has been in the program. Florida is represented at every position except the specialists. Without further ado, the breakdown goes as follows.
The majority of former UF players man the defensive unit.
The defensive line is the most productive unit of former Gators; with 10 players listed on Rosters and two more on practice squads.
Kevin Carter (93) is the senior of the group, joining the league in 1995. Carter has over 100 sacks in his career and has logged 10 tackles and 2 sacks this year for Tampa Bay.
Jevon Kearse (90) has come full circle in his career, returning to the Tennessee Titans where he began his career in 1999. Kearse has 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on the year.
Alex Brown (96) has been on the Bears since 2002, and is a legitimate starter. He has 9 tackles and 2 sacks at the quarter mark of the season.
Bobby McCray (93) spent several years in Jacksonville before signing with New Orleans in the past off-season. He has one sack this season.
Derrick Harvey (91) missed all of camp and some of the preseason holding out and got his first start week 4 versus Houston. For the year 3 tackles and an interception.
Ray McDonald (91) has caught on in San Francisco, 13 tackles on the year.
Jarvis Moss (94) is a backup in Denver with 2 tackles so far.
Jeremy Mincey (94) has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list by the Jaguars meaning he will be out until at least week six.
Gerard Warren (61) was known as “Big Money” here at Florida. He has yet to earn it after his initial rookie signing bonus. Now in his second year with Oakland, his third team in 8 seasons, he has 11 tackles and 2 sacks
Marcus Thomas (79) is a reserve with the Broncos and has 6 tackles this season.
Steven Harris is on Denver’s practice squad,
Ian Scott is on San Diego’s practice squad.
Another fairly strong unit for former Gators
Lito Sheppard (26) has had a successful career with the Philadelphia Eagles, making two pro bowls since Philly drafted him prior to the 2002 season. He has had injury issues leading the Eagles to move him to the nickel corner position this year. He has 7 tackles thus far this season.
Reggie Nelson (25) the eraser is entering his second year as a starter with the Jaguars and has 11 tackles so far this season.
Marquand Manuel (33) is on his fifth team in 7 years having logged duty in Cincinnati, Seattle, Green Bay, and Carolina before landing in Denver this season. He started in the Super Bowl for Seattle. He has 25 tackles for a porous Denver defense.
Guss Scott (20) is a backup for the Jets and has 12 tackles this season.
Reynaldo Hill (21) is a backup for the Tennessee Titans and has 3 tackles this season.
Todd Johnson (35) is in his second season with St Louis after four years with Chicago. He has 4 tackles and a forced fumble.
A position where the Gators are under represented, but three of the four are starters.
Mike Peterson (54) is in his tenth NFL season and is one of the better linebackers in the league. He is in the final year of a six year deal with Jacksonville. Peterson has 23 tackles.
Andra Davis (54) is in his 7th year with Cleveland. He has 21 tackles.
Channing Crowder (52) is in his 4th season with Miami. He has 23 tackles and a forced fumble on the season.
Brandon Siler (59) is a reserve for San Diego. He has 5 tackles.
The side of the ball most casual fans expect to be loaded with Gators has a few stars and a lot of backups.
One of the more successful positions for the Gators in NFL history. Several more backs represent UF well.
Fred Taylor (28) is having a hall of fame career for the Jacksonville Jaguars. With almost 11,000 yards rushing, Taylor is 17th on the all time rushing list. The addition of Maurice Jones-Drew has taken some of the wear off Taylor the last two seasons. This season Fred has 213 yards.
Earnest Graham (34) is in his 5th season with the Tampa Bay Bucs, but was a special teams role player until last year when injury forced him to into a starting role. He rushed for 898 yards in 10 starts and entered this season as the starter at running back after signing a big off-season deal. Graham has 334 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Ran Carthon (35) is a reserve for the Indianapolis Colts. He has 4 yards and a touchdown this season.
Billy Latsko is on the Carolina Panthers practice squad
DeShawn Wynn is on the Green Bay Packers practice squad after several starts last season.
Another under represented set of positions; four former hogmollies are on NFL rosters.
Cooper Carlisle (66) is quietly having a successful NFL career out west. After 5 years of spot duty, Carlisle started 16 games for the Broncos in both 2005 and 2006 before signing with Oakland in 2007, where he has started the last 20 games through week four for the Raiders.
Max Starks (78) started 30 games in 2005 and 2006, but has become a backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Drew Miller is on Jacksonville’s practice squad
Tavares Washington is on Kansas City’s practice squad
A position that has frustrated Gator fans for years since so many former stars have failed to live up to expectations.
Ike Hilliard (19) however is in his twelfth season after turning pro following the 1996 national championship season. One of the few former Gators to have an extended career mainly due to his reliability as a possession receiver who always knows where the sticks lie; 336 of Hilliard’s 517 career receptions have gone for 1st downs. This year Hilliard has 18 grabs for 164 yards and a pair of scores.
Darrell Jackson (82) is a nine year veteran who is a backup receiver for the Denver Broncos. After 8 seasons with at least 38 receptions, Jackson’s production is down this year as he has only one reception. It’s a big one however, a 48 yard touchdown.
Jabar Gaffney (10) has been a disappointment in the NFL considering how productive he was at UF. Gaffney is currently a backup receiver with the New England Patriots. The loss of Tom Brady hurts Gaffney as the two hooked up for 5 scores last year, a career high for Jabar. He currently has 6 catches for 51 yards and a score this season.
Dallas Baker (81) is a 2nd year reserve for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has yet to record an NFL reception.
Andre Caldwell (87) is a rookie with the Cincinnati Bengals. He has yet to record a reception this season.
For a school known for throwing the pigskin, former Gator signal callers in the NFL bring the movie Highlander to mind, as in “there can be only one.”
Rex Grossman is the only former UF QB currently in the NFL. After a good first half to the season Grossman had an up and down second half during the Chicago Bears Super Bowl run in 2006. The Bears won at times despite him, culminating in another disappointing appearance in Super Bowl XLI. Grossman was beat out by Kyle Orton for the Bears starting job this past off-season and is currently a backup.
Former Gator Ingle Martin is a backup for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he is listed as a Furman alumni.
Ben Troupe (88) spent four seasons with the Tennessee Titans before moving to Oakland this off-season. Known for his big play ability at UF, Troupe has never materialized into the player many expected him to be. He has no receptions thus far this season.