Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Kansas State’s most successful NFL players (1-15)

Steve Grogan was just so-so during two seasons as Kansas State’s starting quarterback in 1973-74, but became a standout in the NFL with the New England Patriots.
Steve Grogan was just so-so during two seasons as Kansas State’s starting quarterback in 1973-74, but became a standout in the NFL with the New England Patriots.

I like to bite off more than I can chew, which is usually what one does when compiling a list.

Lists are so subjective, so prone to sparking argument, so likely to start a brawl. I guess that’s why I love them.

There was a time when it would have been difficult to come up with more than a handful of successful Kansas State players in the NFL. Oh, there were a few, but since Bill Snyder started coaching in 1989, the ranks of K-Staters who have played in the NFL have exploded.

Which got me to thinking about trying to rank the successful former Wildcats in regard to how they’ve performed professionally. I started out thinking about a Top 25, but I scaled that back some. So today I’m going to give you a top 15 list of former K-State players who have gone on to stellar careers in the NFL.

I’m ranking these players based on their performance in the NFL. There will, no doubt, be some debate. But here goes, from 15 to 1.

15. Kendyl Jacox – Jacox, an offensive lineman, played nine seasons in the NFL with San Diego, New Orleans and Minnesota. He played in 130 games, 91 of them starts.

14. Damion McIntosh – McIntosh, an offensive lineman, was the Chargers’ third-round pick in the 2000 draft and played in 125 games (113 starts) with the Chargers, Vikings, Chiefs and Seahawks from 2000-09.

13. Darren Howard – After an outstanding K-State career, Howard was the second-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 2000 draft. He played 10 seasons as a linebacker for the Saints and Philadelphia Eagles, and ranks No. 82 all-time with 67 career sackes.

12. Ben Leber – The San Diego Chargers took Leber in the third round of the 2002 draft and he played for 10 seasons in the NFL with the Chargers, Vikings and Rams. Leber, a linebacker, had 393 tackles and 103 assists and in 2008 recovered four fumbles for the Vikings.

11. Ryan Lilja – The former Shawnee Mission Northwest lineman made it big as an NFL free agent, spending nine seasons with Indianapolis and Kansas City. Lilja, a guard, started 104 games during his career, which ended in 2012.

10. Todd Weiner – Yet another offensive lineman, Weiner played 11 seasons in the NFL with Seattle and Atlanta after being the second-round pick of the Seahawks in 1998. Weiner played in 152 games, 114 of them starts.

9. Gary Spani – The Manhattan High product was taken in the third round of the 1978 draft by the Chiefs and played nine seasons in the NFL, all as a linebacker for Kansas City. One of Spani’s claims to fame is that he returned two fumbles for touchdowns during his career with the Chiefs.

8. Jeromey Clary – The Chargers used a sixth round pick in 2006 to select Clary and he has paid big dividends for San Diego, starting 83 consecutive games from 2007-13 before hip surgery sidelined him for the 2014 season.

7. Clarence Scott – Scott was the 14th overall pick in the 1971 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns after a distinguished career at K-State. He spent his entire 13-year career with the Browns and made the Pro Bowl as a defensive back in 1973. His 39 career interceptions rank No. 84 all-time.

6. Terence Newman – A two-time Pro Bowler (2007, 2009), Newman is in his 12th NFL season with the Cincinnati Bengals after starting his career with Dallas, which picked him fifth overall in the 2005 draft. Newman has 37 career interceptions and has started 170 games.

5. Jordy Nelson – By the time Nelson’s NFL career ends, he might be on top of this list. For now, though, he’s in the midst of another outstanding season as one of the favorite passing targets of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Nelson, a second-round pick by the Packers in 2008, already has 372 career receptions for 5,709 yards and 46 touchdowns. He’s been among the NFL’s best receivers the past four seasons.

4. Darren Sproles – The diminutive Sproles is in his 10th NFL season, now with the Philadelphia Eagles after playing previously for San Diego and New Orleans. His 16,607 all-purpose yards rank 16th all-time. He’s a threat as a runner, pass catcher and returner. He currently ranks eighth in NFL history with 8,311 kick-return yards. Sproles was selected in the fourth round of the 2005 draft by San Diego.

3. Lynn Dickey – In 1983, Dickey led the NFL with 4,458 yards and 32 touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers. He was a 34-year-old veteran at the time. The native of Osawatomie played 13 seasons in the NFL with the Packers and Houston Oilers. In 152 games, including 111 starts, he passed for 23,322 yards and 141 touchdowns.

2. Larry Brown – Brown had a fairly nondescript Kansas State career, rushing for a team-high 402 yards in 1968. But he found bigger success in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, rushing for 5,875 yards in 102 games and leading the league with 1,125 yards in 1970. Brown played in four Pro Bowls and was the MVP in 1972, when he rushed for a career-high 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns. Brown was also an outstanding receiver with 238 career receptions for 2,485 yards and 10 touchdowns.

1. Steve Grogan – A native of Ottawa, Grogan played 16 seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots. He was 75-60 as a starting quarterback and ranks No. 57 all-time with 26,886 passing yards and No. 50 all-time with 50 touchdowns. Grogan started 135 games and in 1979 led the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and 16 yards per completion.

Just missing this list: Barrett Brooks, Greg Brown, Don Calhoun, Henry Childs, Paul Coffman, Willis Crenshaw, Josh Freeman, Mack Herron, Jon McGraw, Les Miller, Ron Nery, Mark Simoneau, Ron Yankowski.

So what do you think? Are there arguments to be made?

Of course there are. Let’s hear them.

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