The state of Florida has always been a hotbed for NFL talent and schools like the University of Florida, Florida State and University of Miami have always benefited from the in-state football talent. The brash and cocky Miami Hurricanes teams of the 1990s and 2000s that used to kick sand in the face of challengers from the Big Ten, SEC and ACC, have produced some exceptional NFL talent through the years.
The Miami Hurricanes had a good run of National Championship winning and contending teams during this time period, producing a good number of high NFL draft choices in the process. Well known coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis helped maintain the production of NFL talent coming into and going out of the vaunted Hurricanes program. Whether it was defensive stars, running backs, wide receivers or other players, Miami has always added talent to the rosters of NFL teams.
Many stars like Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Vince Wilfork, Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Vilma, Devin Hester and even newcomer, Jimmy Graham, were not even able to make this list of proven NFL talents. Past stars like Dennis Harrah and Dan Conners were also terrific players, but also came up a little short. The following ten players were, or are, exceptional NFL stars who made an impact at Miami and went on to make an impact in the NFL.
You might be surprised that some of these players were former Hurricanes.
10. Reggie Wayne, WR
Reggie Wayne has had the luxury of playing with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck and has quietly become one of the all-time great NFL wide receivers. He has been selected to play in 6 Pro Bowls and has already topped 1,000 receptions (1,006) and has 13,566 yards receiving for his career. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 2007 with 1,510 yards and has topped 100 or more receptions in a season four times. Wayne already has 80 touchdown receptions for his career and is currently number 11 on the all-time receiving yardage list.
Wayne was a first round draft pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, starting in only 16 games during his first two seasons. At Miami, Wayne was a four-year starter who set a Hurricane record by making 173 receptions during his career. He gained 755 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in 11 games during his senior campaign.
9. Michael Irvin, WR
Michael Irvin was a five-time Pro Bowler for the Dallas Cowboys who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. Irvin was an integral part of three Cowboys’ NFL Championship teams. He set a record with eleven 100-yard receiving games in a single season (1995) finishing with 111 receptions, 1,603 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his 12 year career, Irvin topped 1,000 yards receiving 7 times. He is 23rd on the all-time NFL receiving yardage list with 11,904 yards with his 750 career receptions.
Irvin was an explosive receiver at Miami who had a then school record 143 receptions, 2,423 yards receiving and 26 touchdown receptions. He was a big part of Miami’s 1987 National Championship team, scoring a touchdown on a legendary 73 yard pass from quarterback Steve Walsh defeating Florida State and propelling Miami into the National Championship game that they won in the Orange Bowl over Oklahoma. Irvin became the 11th player selected by the Cowboys in the 1988 NFL Draft.
8. Andre Johnson, WR
Andre Johnson did not get to play with Peyton Manning or Troy Aikman and still finds himself at number 17 among the all-time NFL receiving yardage leaders. The seven-time Pro Bowler has already caught 177 more passes than Michael Irvin (927 receptions) and is a little over 900 yards off Reggie Wayne’s yardage total (12,661 yards). Johnson has led the NFL in receiving yardage in two different seasons and has 7 seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving. Johnson has topped 1,400 yards receiving four times and 100 receptions five times with 109 receptions and 1,407 yards last season at the age of 32.
Johnson finished his Miami college career with 92 receptions for 1,831 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was the Co-MVP of the 2002 Rose Bowl, helping the Hurricanes beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14, giving Miami an undefeated season and a fifth National Championship. Johnson was also a great track athlete at Miami, winning the Big East indoor 60-meter dash (6.81 seconds) and the Big East outdoor 100-meter dash (10.59 seconds). He was the 3rd player selected in the 2003 NFL draft.
7. Cortez Kennedy, DT
Considered one of the best defensive tackles to play the game, Cortez Kennedy spent his career playing in Seattle. Kennedy was selected to play in 8 Pro Bowls and was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1992. Kennedy used his size (306 pounds) and power to be a disruptive force in the middle, recording 668 tackles and 58 quarterback sacks during his 11-year NFL career. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2012 and was the second Seahawk to be inducted to the Hall. Kennedy has been recognized as a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team.
Kennedy was the third player selected in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He was an All-American at Miami in 1989 and was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. Kennedy attended Northwest Mississippi Community College, prior to winning a football scholarship to Miami.
6. Jim Kelly, QB
The 1984 USFL MVP was a big reason the Buffalo Bills were one of the best teams in the AFC during the early 1990s. Kelly led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances from 1990 to 1993, while earning 5 trips to the Pro Bowl during his illustrious career.. Kelly ran the Bills revolutionary “K-Gun” no-huddle offense that has been an NFL staple used by several teams ever since. Kelly finished his career with a 84.4 passer rating, the Bills passing yardage mark of 35,467 yards and a record of 101-59 at the helm of the Bills. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2002 after finishing with 320 touchdown passes between his time in the NFL and USFL.
Kelly almost played for Joe Paterno at Penn State University, but was offered a scholarship to play linebacker instead of quarterback. He then turned to the University of Miami instead, becoming instrumental in helping to build the Hurricanes into a national power in the late 1980s and 1990s. He was selected by the Bills as the 14th pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, joining the Bills after a short stint with Houston Gamlers in the USFL.
5. Ted Hendricks, LB
The “Mad Stork” was one of the taller players to play in the NFL and also one of the better outside linebackers to play the game. He was incredibly stout against the run, could cover the running back or tight end, sack the quarterback and bat down passes. The incredibly versatile linebacker was selected to play in 8 Pro Bowls and was a four-time Super Bowl Champion during his 15 year NFL career. Hendricks finished his career with 60.5 quarterback sacks, 26 interceptions and 4 safeties and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. He was considered to be the 82nd best player to ever play in the NFL by the NFL Network.
Hendricks was a stand-up defensive end at Miami where he made the most tackles ever by a Miami defensive lineman with 327. He also had the most solo tackles with 139 and recovered 12 fumbles during his college career. Hendricks was a first-team All-American in 1967 and 1968 and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame as well.
4. Warren Sapp, DT
Warren Sapp was one of the most incredible athletes to ever play the defensive tackle position in the NFL. He ran a 4.69 40-yard dash prior to the 1995 NFL Draft. Sapp used his speed and quickness to register 96.5 quarterback sacks, 573 tackles, 19 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions throughout his 13-year NFL career. He was selected to 7 Pro Bowls and was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. Sapp was selected as a member of the 1990s and 2000s All-Decade teams and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
Sapp’s incredible athleticism was evident at Miami where he won the Lombardi, Bronco Nagurski and Bob Willis Awards in 1994. He was also a consensus first-team All-American in 1994 and second-team All-American in 1993, while being honored as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. Sapp was surrounded by controversy throughout his college and professional career, falling to the Buccaneers who selected him with the 12th pick of the first round of the 1995 NFL draft.
3. Ed Reed, S
Ed Reed has been one of the league’s best safeties since coming into the league with the Baltimore Ravens. He has earned a reputation as being a “ball hawk” for his ability to diagnose plays and put himself in position to make big plays, especially interceptions. He has 64 interceptions in his career with 1,590 INT return yards and 13 touchdowns. Reed has also made 643 tackles and forced 11 fumbles throughout his career, while being selected to 9 Pro Bowls and earning NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2004. Reed holds several different NFL records for his interceptions and has led the league in interceptions three times and interception yardage twice.
Reed was a standout performer at Miami between 1997 and 2001 and was a member of the 2001 Miami National Championship team. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2001. He holds school records for interceptions, interception yardage and returns for touchdowns and even blocked four punts. Reed was the 24th selection in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft.
2. Jim Otto, C
Jim Otto was a mainstay on the great Oakland Raiders offensive lines of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Originally considered to be undersized, Otto simply wouldn’t quit, becoming an iron man who would go on to play in 308 consecutive games without missing a game due to injury. The often scruffy and menacing Otto was a symbol of the tough and rugged Raiders’ teams. He was a 9-time AFL All-Star and 3-time Pro Bowler, while playing 15 NFL seasons. Otto was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and is considered to be the 63rd best player ever to play in the NFL by the NFL Network.
Otto played center and linebacker while at the University of Miami. He was at Miami during the lean years, receiving little attention upon finishing his college career. He went undrafted by the NFL and ended up signing with the AFL Oakland Raiders. Otto worked hard to put on weight and eventually took his signature number “00” in his second AFL season. The number was based on his last name “0”tt”0″.
1. Ray Lewis, LB
Ray Lewis is one of the best middle linebackers to ever play in the NFL. His speed and instincts allowed Lewis to avoid and slip blocks in order to make big timely plays. Lewis was selected to 13 Pro-Bowls throughout his career, earning the honor of NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice (2000, 2003). He was only the sixth player to earn the Defensive Player of the Year honor multiple times in a career. The 13 Pro-Bowls are an NFL record as well as 10 All-Pro selections for inside/middle linebacker and 51 tackles in a single postseason. Lewis recorded 2,061 tackles, 41.5 quarterback sacks and 31 interceptions in his illustrious career that included two Super Bowl victories, as well as the honor of Super Bowl XXXV MVP.
Lewis was a member of the Miami Hurricanes for three seasons, earning All-American honors the final two seasons (1994, 1995) after being selected to the freshman All-American team in 1993. He led the Big East in tackles twice with 153 in 1994 and 160 in 1995 (2nd most in Miami history). Lewis was a runner-up for the Butkus Award in 1995. He decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft where he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round with the 26th pick.