Certain college football programs are known for producing top football talent. For example, Penn State was once considered Linebacker U, since the school sent so many LBs to the NFL; the University of Miami used to be known as the place to find elite running backs; and Alabama and USC feed so many players to the NFL, the two schools are practically synonymous with "first-round picks."
But after combing through the active NFL rosters, we realized that plenty of other schools send waves of top talent to the league. Here's a look at the five most surprising football talent factories in the country.
Although rarely counted as a B1G powerhouse, Purdue benefits from sending Drew Brees to the NFL, since he practically puts the Boilermakers on the list by himself. (Watch Drew Brees' Real Workout.) There's also plenty of support on the other side of the ball. Shaun Phillips, Cliff Avril, Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony Spencer and Ray Edwards are all game-changing linemen and linebackers, and Dustin Keller has grown into Mark Sanchez's favorite target for the Jets.
The Bears have sent lots of phenomenal athletes to the NFL in recent years, starting with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. It's easy to forget that Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson and Nnamdi Asomugha all played their college ball at Cal. You could make a legitimate case that Cal could field the best NFL team using players that went to school at Berkeley. Can you imagine Rodgers throwing to Tony Gonzalez off play-action to Beast Mode?
Rutgers hasn't always had a successful football program, but thanks to Greg Schiano, the Scarlet Knights have recently shipped some top-flight players to the pros. Ray Rice may be the best running back in football, and the McCourty twins are excellent young corners in the AFC. Kenny Britt is considered the #1 option in Tennessee, and Mohammed Sanu has played well for the Bengals, even throwing a TD pass off a trick play earlier this year. And don't forget Anthony Davis, a bookend on the line for the Niners.
Revis Island started at Pitt, but the Panthers have produced other elite pro players, like Larry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoy. The legendary Dan Marino is probably the most famous NFL player to come out of the school, but other productive pros populate many NFL rosters. Jabaal Sheard has been a nice surprise for the Cleveland Browns, Andy Lee is a weapon as a punter in SF, and one of the only starting fullbacks in all of football, Henry Hynoski, suits up for the New York Giants.
Now adjusting to the challenge of playing an SEC schedule, Missouri has been a route to the NFL for a number of years. Justin Smith started his career with the Bengals in 2001, and he's now a centerpiece of the dominant defense in San Francisco. More recently, guys like Aldon Smith, Sean Witherspoon and Ziggy Hood have become key players for their respective teams, and Blaine Gabbert has improved substantially since his rookie year. Even Chase Daniel has proven himself a capable backup.
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