This was so difficult. I’m not satisfied, but I don’t think I would ever be satisfied with choosing just ten first round picks for this list. No matter who I’ve put here, I’m both right and wrong. They’re all just so great. With the 2017 NFL Draft upon us, I present you my top 10 1st round players since 1966.
Ray Lewis – #52 Inside Linebacker – Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis was the epitome of a middle linebacker. He was a fierce leader and a terrifying presence in the Ravens’ front seven for nearly two decades. He completely defined the first 17 years of the NFL’s second youngest franchise, forging a Hall of Fame career, and dominating the NFL in the process.
Lewis played college football at the University of Miami where he was a two year starter, and a two time All-American. He was the fifth linebacker taken in the 1996 NFL Draft, and was the Ravens second ever pick at 26th overall.
Ray was an immediate contributor in the NFL, starting 13 games as a rookie and contributing 95 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 1 interception in his first season. In 1997, Lewis led the NFL with a career high 184 total tackles, and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. He was a Pro Bowler again in 1998, reaching 101 solo tackles in only 14 games.
From 1999-2001, and 2003-2004, Lewis went to 5 Pro Bowls, and was named a First-team All-Pro 5 times. The only year he missed these marks was 2002, when he only played in 5 games before suffering a shoulder injury. Without their leader, the Ravens defense was ranked 19th in points allowed.
In 2000, Ray was the fiery leader for one of the best defenses of all-time as they carried an inept Ravens offense to a championship in Super Bowl XXXV. That Ravens defense allowed only 165 points in 16 games, and contributed 4 shutouts. Lewis was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and the Super Bowl XXXV MVP.
In his first year back from injury, Lewis had a dominant season in 2003. He totaled 161 tackles, intercepted the quarterback an insane 6 times, and forced two fumbles. He was named NFL DPOY for the second time in 4 years.
From 2006 to 2011, Ray went to six consecutive Pro Bowls and was a First-team All-Pro two more times. His tackle numbers were slightly down, but still reached over 100 combined tackles every season. In 2012, Lewis tore his triceps in week 6 against Dallas, missing the rest of the regular season. He returned for the postseason, but not before he announced he was retiring after the season ended. Ray led the league with 51 playoff tackles, and the team rallied around their leader one last time, winning Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31.
Lewis was the ultimate linebacker, totaling 2,061 combined tackles in his 17 year career with the Ravens. He got to the quarterback 41.5 times, had 31 interceptions, and forced 17 fumbles. Ray went to 13 Pro Bowls, and likely would have gone to 15 straight had he not been injured in ’02 and ’05. He was a 7-time First-team All-Pro, 2-time DPOY, and was an obvious selection for the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. Lewis isn’t yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, but will be an easy selection after the 2017 season.
Ronnie Lott – #42 Cornerback/Safety – San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Jets
Ronnie Lott went to college at the University of Southern California from 1977 to 1980. He was part of the 1978 USC national championship team, and was an All-American in 1980. Lott was drafted 8th overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1981 NFL Draft.
Lott was one of the most feared tacklers in NFL history. He wasn’t one of those corners who shied away from contact, on the contrary, he thrived off it. Ronnie was the very best at timing his hits for right when the ball hit the receiver, delivering the biggest possible blow to the ball carrier, in attempt to jar the ball loose.
Lott was a Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro as a rookie in 1981. He intercepted 7 passes, and ran three back for 6, as well as forcing 1 fumble, and recovering 2 others. He capped off his stellar rookie year with a trip to Super Bowl XVI, defeating the Bengals 26-21.
Ronnie went to four straight Pro Bowls between ’81 and ’84, finished 1984 with his second ring, winning Super Bowl XIX over the Dolphins. In 1985, Lott switched to safety in the middle of the season, and missed the Pro Bowl. Certainly the biggest testiment to Lott’s toughness, he smashed his pinky finger while tackling Cowboys’ running back Timmy Newsome, and had it amputated so not to miss any playing time.
From 1986 through 1990, Lott was a menace at free safety for the 49ers. He was voted to 6 consecutive Pro Bowls, and was named a First-team All-Pro 5 times. His best season came in 1986, as he intercepted a personal best, league leading 10 interceptions.
In 1991, Lott became a free agent and signed on with the Los Angeles Raiders. With LA, he started two seasons at strong safety, and was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in ’91, picking off a league leading 8 passes. Ronnie finished his career with two seasons as a New York Jet in 1993 and 1994, and retired following the ’94 season.
Lott finished his career with an impressive 63 interceptions, 8th most all-time. He scored on 5 pick sixes, forced 16 fumbles, and recovered 17 more. He totaled 1,113 solo tackles in his career. Lott went to 10 Pro Bowls, was a 6-time All-Pro, and won 4 Super Bowls with the 49ers.
Lott was named to the NFL 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Peyton Manning – #18 Quarterback – Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is the most statistically impressive quarterback of all-time. If you have ever played fantasy football, and had the privilege of having Peyton on your team, you know exactly what I mean. But seriously, Manning is one of the three best quarterbacks to ever stop on the football field, and if he had a bit more luck in the playoffs, he may have ended up the greatest of all-time.
Peyton played collegiate ball at the University of Tennessee, where he was named starter midway through his freshman season. He went on to be the school’s all-time leading passer before graduating after the 1997 season. Peyton was drafted with the #1 pick of the 1998 draft by the Indianapolis Colts, where he would play until his career threatening neck injury in 2011.
Peyton was the Colts’ starting quarterback for 13 years, never missing a single game. He threw 399 touchdown passes as a Colt, led the team to a 141-67 record in that time, and gave the franchise its first championship since Super Bowl V, when he led the team past the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Manning had a rollercoaster of a rookie year. He threw for 3,739 yards and 26 touchdowns, but also threw for a league, and career high 28 interceptions. The Colts went 3-13, but bounced back hard in 2000, going 13-3 as Manning eclipsed 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, and was a Pro Bowler.
Peyton was a Pro Bowler every year from 2002 to 2010, and he was named a First-team All-Pro in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. He won the NFL MVP 4 times in that span, and was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLI.
In May, 2011, Peyton had neck surgery which resulted in complications limiting his throwing motion and a loss of arm strength. He was told he needed a surgery on his spine and might never play again. Peyton missed the entire 2011 season due to his surgeries, and was released by Indianapolis, who decided to go with youth at quarterback, drafting Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick in 2012.
Manning signed with the Denver Broncos for the 2012 season, and won NFL Comeback Player of the Year. In 2013, Peyton had the best season ever by an NFL quarterback. Denver went 13-3 as Manning threw for an NFL record 5,477 yards, and record 55 touchdown passes. The Broncos’ offense scored 606 points, the first team to ever score 600 points in a season. Peyton won his 5th NFL MVP and was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year for the 2nd time. Peyton would lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl, where it all fell apart in a 43-8 drubbing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Manning was a gain a Pro Bowler in 2014, though at the end of the season he was banged up and he seemed to be slowing down a bit. In 2015, despite having his worst statistical season, Manning took on the role of a field general and helped the Broncos go back to the Super Bowl, this time defeating the Panthers, 24-10.
Peyton Manning retired following the Super Bowl, the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (71,940) and passing touchdowns (539). Peyton was a 14-time Pro Bowler, and was a 7-time First-team All-Pro. He finished his career with 5 MVP awards, was a 2-time OPOY, and was a Super Bowl MVP. He’ll be eligible for the Hall of Fame after the 2020 season.
Walter Payton – #34 Running Back – Chicago Bears
Walter Payton, the original superstar running back in the Super Bowl Era, played college ball at Jackson State University, where he was an All-American. Payton was drafted 4th overall by the Chicago Bears in the 1975 NFL Draft.
Walter only started 7 games as a rookie in 1975, rushing for 679 yards and 196 carries. He became the Bears’ starting running back in 1976, and rushed for 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was voted to his first Pro Bowl and named a First-team All-Pro.
In 1977, Payton had one of the all-time great seasons at running back. In 14 games, Walter ran for a league leading 1,852 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry, and averaged a staggering 132.3 yards per game. On November 20th, 1977, Payton set the record for most rushing yards in a game, with 275 yards. That record stood for 23 years. until Corey Dillon rushed for 278 in 2000. Payton was named both NFL MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
Payton rushed for 1,000+ yards 10 times between 1976 and 1986. He only missed out on 11 consecutive seasons at that mark due to the strike shortened season in 1982. He ran for 10+ touchdowns 5 times, from 1976-1979, and again in 1984.
Payton was a key piece in the 1985 Bears Super Bowl XX championship winning team. He was so good, he received double and triple teams from New England all game, keeping him down, but opening up the field for his teammates in the 46-10 win.
“Sweetness” retired after the 1987 season, having rushed for then records for rushing yards (16,726), rushing touchdowns (110), and all-purpose yards (21,264). Payton was a 9-time Pro Bowler in his 13 year career, going to 5 straight between ’76 and ’80, and 4 straight from ’83 to ’86. Payton also was a 5-time First-team All-Pro.
Walter Payton was named to the NFL 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Teams, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Sadly, Walter passed away due to kidney disease in 1999, the NFL lost not only one of its greatest players, but one of its greatest people. Starting in 1999, the league’s Man of the Year Award was renamed to the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, in Walter’s honor.
Jerry Rice – #80 Wide Receiver – San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks
If there was one man who was an obvious choice for this list, it would be Jerry Rice. Jerry may have never been the biggest, strongest, or fasted wide receiver in the league, but his incredible talent at route running and his catching ability set him apart from the rest.
Rice played college football at Mississippi Valley State, a historically black university in Itta Bena, Mississippi, who plays at a Division I FCS level. In 1983 and 1984, Rice set NCAA records for receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions. His talent was undeniable, but his lack of speed (4.60 40-yard dash) lowered his draft stock for most teams. One of the teams not swayed by his 40 time, the San Francisco 49ers, drafted Rice 16th overall in the 1985 NFL Draft.
Rice played in all 16 games his rookie year, though only starting 4. He caught 49 passes for 927 yards, and 3 touchdowns. In 1986, Rice started 15 games for the 9ers, and went to his first Pro Bowl and was a First-team All-Pro. He caught 86 passes for a league leading 1,570 yards, and 15 touchdowns. In 1987, Rice broke the record for most touchdown receptions in a season, with 22, a record that would stand for 20 years until it was broken by Randy Moss (23) in 2007.
Jerry went to 11 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1986 to 1996, and was a 10-time First-team All-Pro in that time. He only somehow missed being First-team in 1991, despite catching 80 balls for 1,206 yards, and a league leading 14 touchdowns. In 1997, Rice missed 14 games due to injury, but bounced back and went to another Pro Bowl in 1998. His numbers started to drop as he played into his late 30s, and the 49ers released him after the 2000 season.
Rice signed on with the Oakland Raiders in 2001, and produced back to back 1,000 yard seasons with Rich Gannon at quarterback, was a Pro Bowler in 2002, and made an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII. All of this he did at 40 years old.
Rice retired after the 2004 season, having played the most games of any non-kicker/punter in league history with 303. Jerry was a 13-time Pro Bowler, 10-time All-Pro, and 3-time Super Bowl champion with the 49ers. He was the 1987 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 1988 Super Bowl MVP, and 1993 Offensive Player of the Year.
Jerry Rice holds NFL records for receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), and touchdown receptions (197). All of these are unlikely to be broken, and many greats such as Tony Gonzalez and Terrell Owens have fallen well short. Rice was named to the NFL 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, the greatest wide receiver of all-time.
Barry Sanders – #20 Running Back – Detroit Lions
Barry Sanders is, in my mind, undeniably the greatest player to never get to a Super Bowl. His ability to spread the field, evade tackles, and make great plays out of nothing made some absolutely terrible Lions teams fun to watch.
Barry played college football at Oklahoma State University, where he played back up to our friend from round 2, Thurman Thomas for two seasons. In his junior year, and only season as a starter, Sanders rushed for what is considered by many the greatest season in college football history. In 11 games during the 1988 season, Sanders rushed for 2,628 yards, had 3,249 total yards, and scored 39 total touchdowns, all setting NCAA records. Barry won the Heisman trophy that year, and decided to forgo his senior season in favor of the NFL.
Sanders was drafted 3rd overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, where he played his entire 10 year career. As a rookie, Barry started 13 games and ran for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns. He went to the Pro Bowl, was a First-team All-Pro, and was named Rookie of the Year.
In 1990, Sanders led the NFL in rushing yards, with 1,304, and ran for 13 touchdowns. He also caught 3 receiving touchdowns, to lead the league with 16 total scores. In 1991, Sanders ran for 1,548 yards and a league leading 16 touchdowns. He averaged 103.2 yards per game and was named a First-team All-Pro for the third straight season.
In 1994, Sanders was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 1,883 rushing yards. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and 117.7 yards per game. For the first time in his career, Barry broke 2,000 yards of total offense, with 2,166 total yards on the year. That year, he was named a First-team All-Pro for the fourth time.
In 1997, Sanders was named NFL MVP after an incredible season. He rushed for 2,053 yards, 52 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s record for yards in a season. Sanders also rushed for 11 touchdowns, and caught 3 more.
Sanders ran for 1,491 yards and 4 touchdowns in 1999, before suddenly retiring following the season. Barry shocked the football world, and stepped away from the game when he was still in his prime, a lot like another Lions great we know.
Barry Sanders retired third all-time in rushing yards, with 15,269. He scored 99 touchdowns in 10 years, and averaged 99.8 yards per game. Barry rushed for 1,100 yards every year of his career, and was voted to the Pro Bowl all 10 seasons. He was a 6-time First-team All-Pro, the 1994 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and 1997 NFL MVP.
Sanders was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and was enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
Bruce Smith – #78 Defensive end – Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins
The all-time leading sack man in NFL history, Bruce Smith played college football at Virginia Tech. As a Hokie, he had 71 tackles for loss and 46 career sacks. He was a two-time All-American in 1983 and 1984.
In 1985, the Buffalo Bills selected Smith 1st overall, and he started in 13 games in his rookie season, getting to the quarterback 6.5 times. Smith began his dominance in 1986, racking up 15 sacks and 63 tackles. Smith made his first Pro Bowl and was named to his first Firs-team All-Pro team in 1987, after a 12 sack, 78 tackles season where he recovered 2 fumbles, 1 for a touchdown.
Bruce Smith was an unstoppable force for over a decade at defensive end. From 1987 to 1998, Smith went to 11 Pro Bowls, only missing out on 12 in a row due to an injury shortened 1991 season. In this time, he was an 8-time First-team All-Pro and helped the Bills make it to 4 consecutive Super Bowls.
In 1990, Smith won his first Defensive Player of the Year award, after a 19 sack, 101 tackle season. He also forced 4 fumbles, and the Bills made it to Super Bowl XXV, where they narrowly lost to the Giants, 20-19. In the Super Bowl, Smith sacked Jeff Hostetler for only the 5th safety in Super Bowl history.
In 1996, the days of Super Bowl trips a thing of the past, Smith had a phenomenal season, recording 13.5 sacks, 90 total tackles, forcing 5 fumbles, and recovering 1 fumble en route to his 2nd DPOY.
Smith was let go by Buffalo following the 1999 season due to salary cap reasons, and was signed by the Washington Redskins. He was a Redskin for four seasons, mostly as a pass rushing specialist. In 2003, at the age of 40, Smith sacked Giants’ quarterback Jesse Palmer for his 199th career sack, passing Reggie White for most all-time. He would finish the season, and his career, with 200 sacks.
Smith played an impressive 19 years in the NFL, and proved to be an effective pass rusher even in his upper 30s. Smith had 13 seasons of 10+ sacks and finished his career with 1,075 solo tackles, 15 fumble recoveries, and 43 forced fumbles.
Smith was an 11-time Pro Bowler, 8-time First-team All-Pro, and is a member of the NFL 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, with 200 career sacks, a stat that is unlikely to be broken any time soon.
Emmitt Smith – #22 Running Back – Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals
Not to my knowledge has a running back ever been so good for so long. At the ripe young age of 35, Emmitt Smith ran for 937 yards and 9 touchdowns in his final season with the Arizona Cardinals. Most running backs tend to fall off around 30 or 31, but not Emmitt, his only season under 900 yards came in 2003, when he only started in 5 games, and only played in 10 for Arizona. Smith is the all-time leading rusher in NFL history, a record I don’t see ever being broken, simply due to Smith’s longevity as a runner.
Emmitt Smith played college football at Florida, where he was an All-American in 1989. He forwent his senior season in favor of the draft, and was picked 17th overall by the Dallas Cowboys, the final member of “The Triplets” of the Cowboys offense in the 1990s.
Smith was a star from the beginning, making the Pro Bowl his rookie season, with 937 yards and 11 touchdowns. He led the NFL in rushing yards in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1995, and it is no coincidence the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 3 of those seasons. Smith also led the league in touchdowns in 1992, 1994, and 1995 behind the historic Cowboys’ offensive line of the 1990s.
In 1993, Smith ran for 1,486 yards and 9 touchdowns, averaging 106.1 yards per game. He was named NFL MVP for his performance, and went on to be the Super Bowl MVP.
In his first six seasons, Smith went to 6 consecutive Pro Bowls, and was named a First-team All-Pro in four straight seasons from 1992-1995. He continued to play at a very high level, making two more Pro Bowls in 1998 and 1999, and didn’t drop below 1,000 yards rushing until 2002, his last year in Dallas.
Emmitt was released by Dallas after the 2002 season, as new Cowboys’ head coach Bill Parcells wanted a younger running back. He spent his final two years with the Arizona Cardinals, before retiring after the 2004 season.
In Smith’s 15 seasons in the NFL, he became the all-time leading rusher in NFL history, with 18,355 yards. He scored 164 rushing touchdowns during his career, the most all-time, and his 175 total touchdowns is only 2nd all-time to Jerry Rice. Emmitt is the only player in NFL history to rush for 19+ touchdowns in three seasons, and is the all-time leading playoff rushing touchdown leader, with 19.
Smith retired an 8-time Pro Bowler, 4-time All-Pro, and 3-time Super Bowl Champion. He is a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, and became a Hall of Famer in 2010.
Lawrence Taylor – #56 Outside Linebacker – New York Giants
Lawrence Taylor, the original LT, has for a long time been considered the undisputed best outside linebacker to ever touch an NFL field. According to John Madden, Lawrence changed the way linebackers played, and the way offensive linemen had to block linebackers, forever. Madden is right, LT was so dominant, Joe Gibbs began using the now widely used two tight end set as a way to at least stunt the blitzing Giant. Bill Walsh, among other coaches began using offensive tackles to block Lawrence, which is now common practice across the NFL.
Lawrence Taylor played collegiate ball at UNC, where was a consensus All-American and the ACC Player of the Year in 1980. Taylor was the 2nd overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft, by the New York Giants. In his rookie year, LT got to the quarterback an unofficial 9.5 times, due to sacks not yet being an official stat. He was a Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro as a rookie, was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, as well as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is to this day the only rookie to win DPOY.
In 1982, Lawrence again won NFL DPOY, after a 7.5 sack, 2 interception season in only 9 games, due to the season being shortened by the players’ strike. Taylor continued to play at an elite level over the next years, and in 1986 racked up 20.5 sacks, was named DPOY for a third time, and was the second ever defensive player to win NFL MVP. The Giants went on to win Super Bowl XXI, their first in franchise history.
LT still performed at an extremely high level into his late 20s and early 30s. After his MVP season, he went to four more Pro Bowls and was a First-team All-Pro two more times. Taylor recorded double-digit sacks through the 1990 season, and won anothe Super Bowl, a close contest with the Buffalo Bills. His stats started to fall off after Bill Parcell’s retirement prior to the 1991 season, and Lawrence decided to retire following the 1993 season.
Lawrence was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection in his 13 year career, going to all 10 consecutively from 1981 to 1990. He was an 8-time First-team All-Pro during that time, won 3 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and 1 MVP.
Taylor finished his career with 1,089 tackles, 132.5 official sacks, 11 fumble recoveries, and 9 interceptions. He was one of the most feared tacklers, and heaviest hitters of all-time, known for throwing his body at players with reckless abandon. He is well-known for his leg shattering hit on Joe Theismann in 1985, a hit that ended the Redskins quarterback’s career.
LT was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team and in 1999 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Rod Woodson – #26 – Cornerback/Safety – Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders
Rod Woodson, likely the greatest ball hawk in NFL history, played college football at Purdue University, where he was a two-time All-American defensive back in 1985 and 1986. Woodson was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Woodson spent his first 10 seasons in Pittsburgh as a cornerback and kick returner. He didn’t get to play much in his rookie year, but was able to haul in 1 interception and recover 2 fumbles in 8 appearances. From 1989 to 1996, Woodson was a machine in the Pittsburgh secondary. He was a 7-time Pro Bowler in this span, only missing out due to injury in 1995, and was named a First-team All-Pro five times.
Woodson tore his ACL in week 1 of 1995, trying to bring down fellow lister Barry Sanders. Amazingly, Rod returned only 19 weeks later to play against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. He played well, but the Steelers fell, 27-17. To this day, he remains the only player in NFL history to have reconstructive knee surgery and return to the field the same year.
A contract dispute after the 1996 season led to Woodson being let go by the Steelers. He was picked up by San Francisco for one year before landing in Baltimore. With the Ravens, Rod switched positions to free safety, went to three more Pro Bowls, and was a major piece of the elite Ravens defense who won Super Bowl XXXV in 2000.
Woodson signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2002, and at 37 years old had arguably his best statistical season, intercepting a career high 8 passes for 2 touchdowns, recovering 3 fumbles, and totaling 82 tackles on the season. With Oakland, he would go to his third Super Bowl, this time falling to the Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Woodson played one more season, and retired after the 2003 season. He finished his career an 11-time Pro Bowler, 6-time First-team All-Pro, and was the 1993 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Woodson’s 71 interceptions are good for 3rd all-time, and his 12 pick sixes are most in NFL history.
Woodson was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, his first year of eligibility.
That does it! I hope you enjoyed the countdown. The 2017 NFL Draft is upon us!
Quick note about Reggie White. I’m sure people will wonder where he was on this list. White was drafted in the 1984 Supplementary Draft, which is different from Cris Carter in 1987 because the ’84 Supplementary Draft was a special draft for players formerly of the USFL and CFL who were given the opportunity to be drafted by an NFL team. Maybe this is a copout, but either way he deserves a shoutout as one of the most impressive defensive ends ever.