Top 10 Current CSU/UNC Alumni Playing In the NFL
Little ol' Northern Colorado is represented quite well every Sunday when almost all Americans partake in the weekly ritual we call watching pro football. Although neither Colorado State University or the University of Northern Colorado have had a lot of football success since UNC won a couple division II national titles in the nineties, both schools are very well represented on Sunday's in the NFL. Here are the top ten players from the two schools currently playing in the NFL…
Jesse Nading didn’t go far from home to play college football, and that was OK with all CSU fans. Nading was a standout four sport athlete at ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch Colorado before choosing to play football at Colorado State. Nading was named to the All Mountain West second team his senior season with the Rams, and then went undrafted but was picked up by the Houston Texans in 2008. Nading has played in 12 games for the Texans since 2008 and has been in on 16 tackles.
Erik Pears, like Jesse Nading, didn’t have to travel very far to attend college. Pears was a three sport standout at John F. Kennedy High in Denver before heading to Colorado State. After starring at CSU, Pears went undrafted, but was picked up by the Denver Broncos in 2005 where he instantly impressed playing in all 16 games for the Broncos in both of his first two NFL seasons. Pears eventually became a backup player for the Broncos, Jaguars, and Raiders, and last year for the Buffalo Bills. Pears was the starting Tackle for the Buffalo Bills in week one of this season.
After becoming a star in the football crazy state of Arkansas during his high school career, Mike Brisiel decided to attend Colorado State to play football in college. After CSU, Brisiel went undrafted, but was signed by the Houston Texans in 2006. He watched his whole rookie season from the bench, but was inserted into the Texans offensive line in 2007 and was the starter for all 16 games in 2008. Brisiel began sharing time in 2009, but he was the opening game starter for the Texans in the 2011 campaign.
The pride of Fort Morgan High School just to the east of where he would play college football at Colorado State, Joel Dreessen first led Fort Morgan to a state title, and then was named to the all state team in 1999. After his career at CSU, Dreessen was drafted by the New York Jets in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Dreessen caught five balls in his rookie season with the Jets, and then was out of the league for a year before signing with the Houston Texans. Since playing in 13 games in his first year with the Texans in 2007, Dreessen hasn’t missed a game, and he had his best season of his career last season catching 36 balls for 518 yards and 4 touchdowns.
High School football is life in Texas, and Caleb Hanie led his high school team to three straight top three finishes during his career in Forney, Texas. He was recruited by Sunny Lubick, and eventually choose to play for the Rams at Colorado State. After he became the most accurate passer statistically in the history of Colorado State, Hanie went undrafted but was picked up by the Chicago Bears in 2008. Many Ram fans forgot all about Hanie until last season when Hanie was asked to lead the Bears against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game when Bears starter Jay Cutler was injured. He led the Bears to a touchdown in his first series on the field but was later intercepted by defensive lineman B. J. Raji, who returned the pick for a touchdown. On the following drive, Hanie led the Bears to a second touchdown in only eighty-one seconds of game time, and almost won the Bears the game and a trip to the Superbowl, but fell just short. Hanie remains Jay Cutler’s backup for the Bears this season.
Hailing from Colorado Springs, Aaron Smith was a consensus All-State selection at Sierra High, he also lettered in basketball and was a two-time All-Conference choice in both sports. He went on to attend the University of Northern Colorado. Smith won numerous awards while at Northern Colorado for his outstanding play and he currently holds the sack record at Northern Colorado with 44.0 sacks. Also, was a two time All-American at Northern Colorado. Smith was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 4th round in the 1999 NFL Draft. With the Steelers, Smith played in every game from 2000 to 2006 and has developed into one the NFL's top defensive lineman. In his 12 seasons with the Steelers, Smith has 400 total tackles and 44.0 sacks. Finally, he made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and has won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith has battled injuries and only played 11 games the last two seasons, but was a starter for the Steelers week one this season.
A true hometown boy, Reed Doughty was born and raised in the Greeley area, and attended Roosevelt High School in Johnstown where he made the all state team. Doughty then went on to play college ball right in his hometown of Greeley for the University of Northern Colorado. He made quite an impact for the Bears, becoming the first three time Academic All-American in school history, and a Football All-American as well his senior season. The Washington redskins drafted Doughty in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and he has played every season for the Redskins. Doughty is known for taking over the starting job at free safety following the injury and subsequent death of Sean Taylor, and he has been the starter ever since. He is also known for being one of the few NFL players ever that is severely hearing impaired and sometimes reads lips to understand what others are saying. That hasn’t stopped him from being successful, Doughty has been apart of 184 of the Redskins tackles over the last two seasons.
No one in the history of the Colorado State Football program has had more sacks than Clark Haggans, and this coming from a guy CSU wasn’t sure they even wanted. Haggans had to walk on at Colorado State, but eventually earned a scholarship. Haggans was drafted in the fifth round of the 2000 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers where he played in just two games his rookie year. After that, it was on for Haggans, he became the starting left outside linebacker for the Steelers through 2007 before he was signed by the Arizona Cardinals. Haggans also won a Superbowl ring during his time with the Steelers. Haggans had one of his best season ever with the Cardinals in 2009, and although the numbers started to fall last season Haggans is still a starter for the Cardinals this year.
Arguably the best player to ever come out of Colorado State University, Joey Porter was first a football star at Foothill High School in Bakersfield, California. He was a two-time All-Conference selection as wide receiver and running back for the Trojans. After his time at Foothill, Porter was a standout on the football field for the Colorado State Rams. He began his college career as a running back, and did not see his first action on the defensive line until his junior year. He was a third-team All-America and All-Western Athletic Conference first-team selection by The Sports Network. Porter was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft, and was a starter in Pittsburgh through 2006, winning a Superbowl with the Steelers in 2006. With the Steelers in transition under new head coach Mike Tomlin, the team released Porter on March 1, 2007 in lieu of paying him a $1 million roster bonus. Porter would sign with the Miami Dolphins where he struggled his first year, but had the best year of his career in his second season with Miami. After no longer seeing eye to eye with Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, the Dolphins released Porter in 2010. On March 19, 2010 Joey Porter signed a three-year, $24.5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals, with $17.5 million in guaranteed money, and that’s where he is still currently playing once again his longtime Steelers and CSU teammate Clack Haggans. Porter has numerous NFL honors and the locker rooms at CSU’s Hughes Stadium are named for him.
Known to the football world as “Action Jackson,” Vincent Jackson had it all start right here in our backyard. Jackson attended Widefield High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As a senior, he was a Rocky Mountain News All-State Honorable Mention, a first team All-Area pick, and a first team All-Conference pick. He also was a standout in basketball. A straight-A student in high school, Jackson was accepted to Columbia but decided to attend University of Northern Colorado on a partial scholarship to play both basketball and football. One of the few true freshman ever to play for the University of Northern Colorado, Vincent earned All American Honors as a punt returner, scoring the first time he ever touched a ball on a punt return against Adams State College (CO). He rewrote the record books on the way to becoming Northern Colorado's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards (game & season), KR yards, PR yards, receiving touchdowns. His senior season was highlighted by a 13-catch 249-yard, 3-touchdown effort against Florida Atlantic. Jackson was the selected in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft (the highest ever by a Northern Colorado graduate) by the San Diego Chargers. Jackson’s career got off to a slow start playing in only 8 games and catching only three passes his rookie year, but by his second year he was a starter. In 2008 and 2009 Jackson became a star having over 1,000 receiving yards both seasons. After a contract dispute last year Jackson only played in the final 5 games for the Chargers, but Jackson signed a one year deal with San Diego for 2011. Jackson is considered by most to be one of the best wide receivers in the NFL today.