In writing about Kentucky, I went back a few years and came across a name I hadn’t thought of in a really long time, Art Still.
Art Sill was an All-American Defensive End at Kentucky and was the #2 pick in the 1978 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs and he more than lived up to his billing. He was not the greatest Defensive End to ever play the game, but he was really good in his day for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Art Still played high school football in Camden, New Jersey.
Art Still’s nephew, Devon Still is also from Camden and he was a Consensus All-American in 2011 and the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year at Penn State. He was a 2nd round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.
California leads the nation for producing talent that makes it to the NFL with 225.
Florida is next with 186, with Texas right behind at 184. Georgia came in 4th place with 95 guys on NFL teams.
Ohio had 74 players on various NFL teams.
Then, we have the state of New Jersey surprising the experts with 63 fellas. Those 63 guys aren’t playing their college football at Rutgers, mostly. Jersey is a state that doesn’t have a big state school and these guys are just looking for somewhere to be loved.
Florida State National Champion 2013 started Josue Matias from Union City, New Jersey. If Jameis Winston should be injured this year, Sean McGuire from Sparta, New Jersey will fill in for him.
When they play their hated rival Miami, Kevin Olsen at QB is from Jersey. Several players on the Canes are from Jersey and that’s the way it has been since they became a prominent program. Most of their talent comes from home, but they bring in the recruits from New Jersey and California among other places.
A coach trying to build a national championship caliber program should consider building relationships in New Jersey.
Here is my list and opinion of the all time greats out of New Jersey:
1. Franco Harris- Penn State RB. Harris played Fullback at Penn State and was mostly a blocker for All-American teammate, Lydell Mitchell. Harris still rushed for 1,359 yards at Penn State and was drafted in the 1st round by the Pittsburgh Steelers at the 13th pick. With the Steelers and his final
season with the Seattle Seahawks, Harris rushed for 12,120 yards and 91 TDs. With the Steelers, he was a part of 4 Super Bowl championships.
Harris played high school football in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey. NFL Hall of Fame member.
2. Craig “Ironhead” Heyward- Pittsburgh RB. Heyward was not quite as good in the NFL as he was in college. At Pitt, Heyward rushed for 3,086 yards in 3 seasons before declaring early for the NFL. He was a 1st round pick of the New Orleans Saints and only rushed for 4,301 yards in the NFL. He was a huge back at 5-11, 265.
Heyward played for the Saints, the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons, the St Louis Rams, and the Indianapolis Colts. Tragically, Heyward passed away in 2006 of cancer.
3. Joe Theismann- Notre Dame QB. Theismann was from South River, New Jersey and went to Notre Dame to play QB in spite of being drafted by the Minnesota Twins to play baseball. Notre Dame went 20-3-2 while Theismann was their QB. After Notre Dame, Theismann played for 3 seasons in the CFL and then went to the Washington Redskins where he quarterbacked for 12 seasons. Theismann’s team won a Super Bowl and he threw for over 25,000 career yards.
4. Mike Rozier- Nebraska RB. Rozier was the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner after rushing for a whopping 2,148 yards. Mike Rozier had attended a JC before arriving at Nebraska and in 3 years he rushed for a phenomenal 4,780 yards.
Rozier, a native of Camden, was not quite as awesome in the NFL, but he did play in the USFL a couple of years first. For the Houston Oilers and the Atlanta Falcons, Rozier rushed for 4,462 yards and 30 TDs.
5. Alonzo Spellman- Ohio State DE. Spellman is from the same town as Franco Harris and a High School All-American. He signed with Ohio State out of high school and started 3 years for them. After his senior season, Spellman was drafted in the 1st round by the Chicago Bears. He was a serious star until injuries and off the field activities caught up with him.
He was a serious big man at 6-4, 290 and had 43 career sacks in the NFL.
6. Ron Dayne – Wisconsin RB. From Pine Hill, New Jersey, Dayne is the all time college football rushing record holder. He broke Ricky Williams’ short lived rushing record in 1999 while winning the Heisman Trophy. Dayne is much in the same mold as Ironhead Heyward because he was 5-10, 260 and packed a wallop. The Giants picked Dayne with the 11th pick of the 2000 NFL draft. His NFL career was not quite what it could have been for the Giants but he still rushed for 3,722 yards and 28 TDs.
7. Lydell Mitchell – Penn State RB. Mitchell was from Salem, New Jersey and teamed up with Franco Harris at Penn State to form one of the best college backfields of all time. Mitchell rushed for 2,934 and 38 TDs at Penn State and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 2nd round and the 48th pick. Many thought the Steelers were going to draft Mitchell instead of Franco Harris and were surprised when he dropped all the way to the 48th pick.
Mitchell was a star in the NFL as well as college. Lydell Mitchell rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 years in a row and finished up with 6,534 yards
8. Bryant McKinnie – Miami OT. One of the better Offensive Tackles to come along and might should have been rated higher on this list. McKinnie was from Woodbury, New Jersey and went to Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania before transferring to Miami. He had been a defensive lineman in high school but at Lackawanna they moved him to the offensive line. Wise move by these coaches and he would transfer to Miami and redshirt a season before starting 2 years at Left Tackle. Minnesota Vikings took him with the 7th pick of the first round of the 2002 NFL draft and McKinnie played for the Vikings for 9 years before leaving for the Ravens. McKinnie is a monster of a man at 6-9, 350.
9. Art Still – Kentucky DE. Still was from Camden as already mentioned and a tough player for the Kentucky Wildcats. Led his Kentucky Wildcats to a 10-1 record in 1977. Let that sink in for a minute before moving on. Kentucky at 10-1? That’s amazing in and of itself.
Art Still was the #2 pick of the 1st round in 1978 by the Kansas City Chiefs and he had a successful career for them before moving on to the Buffalo Bills and retirement. He had 72.5 sacks in the NFL.
10. Irving Fryar- Nebraska WR. Another all star from Mount Holly Township, New Jersey. Also, another top Jersey guy that played at Nebraska. Fryar caught 67 passes at Nebraska and then was the very first pick in the entire NFL draft going to the New England Patriots.
Fryar should probably be close to the #1 spot on this list because he had a fantastic NFL career catching 851 career passes and 12,785 yards and 84 TDs.
11. Richard Wood – USC LB. Wood was a 3 time All-American at USC. He was a bit undersized but made up for it with excellent speed and quickness. Wood was from Elizabeth, New Jersey.
He was drafted in the 3rd round by the New York Jets but that didn’t work so well for him. He did excel when traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he was reunited with his college coach, John McKay.
12. Rich Glover- Nebraska DT. Undersized Defensive Lineman for the Huskers, but one of the better defensive linemen I have ever seen. Originally from Jersey City, the talented lineman was one of many Jersey guys to head west to Lincoln, Nebraska. Glover won the Outland, and Lombardi awards given to the nation’s best linemen every season and was an All-American. The New York Giants drafted Glover in the 3rd round and he played for 3 different NFL teams before giving it up.
13. Brian Cushing- USC LB. Cushing is a 6-3, 250 LB from Park Ridge, New Jersey. He was an All-American and the Houston Texans’ #1 pick and 15th overall in 2009. He was NFL defensive rookie of the year but has struggled with injury and other issues since. His career is a long way from over and he is a beast when healthy.
14. Jim Jeffcoat- Arizona State DE. Jeffcoat is from Long Branch, New Jersey and found his way to Arizona State University where he made some All-American teams during his 3 years as a starter. He was a 1st round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1983 and played there for 12 seasons before
finishing his career as a Buffalo Bill. One of his greatest accomplishments was sacking fellow New Jersey resident listed above, Joe Theismann 5 times in one game. Jeffcoat was also on 2 Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboy teams.
15. Jabrill Peppers- Michigan DB. Peppers is one of the more electrifying players in the country and maybe one of the better ones we have seen in a while. Excellent Corner and return man and should be on the field for the first play of the season for the Michigan Wolverines. Peppers has obviously done nothing at the collegiate level as of yet, but look for him to be the next big thing at Michigan.
Some other random players that came from New Jersey:
Lester Archambeau- Stanford
Miles Austin- Dallas Cowboys
Art Best- Notre Dame
Elvin Bethea – Houston Oilers
Wayne Chrebet – NY Jets
Andre Collins- Penn State
Sean Dawkins- Cal Berkeley
Herman Edwards – Coach
Bruce Elia- Ohio State
Anthony Fasano- Notre Dame
Glenn Foley- Boston College
David Garrard- East Carolina
Keith Hamilton- Pitt
Dwight Hicks Michigan
Richie Incognito- Nebraska
Butch Woolfork- Michigan
Kenny Jackson-Penn State
Victor Hobson- Michigan
Patrick Kerney- Virginia
Jim Kiick- Wyoming and Miami dolphins
Neil O’Donnell- Maryland
Renaldo Nehemiah- Track Hurdler but also played football
Greg Olson- Miami
Drew Pearson- Dallas Cowboys
Christian Peter – Nebraska
Jason Peter – Nebraska
Jim Ringo- Syracuse
Chris Simms- Texas
Anthony Siragusa- Pitt
Daniel Stubbs- Miami
Dave Szott- PSU
Frank Tripucka- Notre Dame
Troy Vincent- Wisconsin
Frank Winters- Green Bay Packers
Knowshon Moreno- Georgia
Chris Canty – Kansas State
Joe Flacco- Delaware