By Joe Vitale:
The University of Georgia has produced an extraordinary number of talented athletes who have moved on to the National Football League. Only LSU with 40 alums and Miami with 37 currently have more active NFL players than UGA’s 34. Alabama is tied with Georgia and Florida follows the Bulldogs and Tide with 31 active NFL players.
By conference, the SEC has the most NFL players with 309. The ACC is next with 239, followed by the Big Ten and Pac-12, each with 221 players. The Big 12 (134) and AAC (96) round out the top six conferences.
Current Georgia NFL notables include Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford, Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver A.J. Green, Kansas City Chiefs’ linebacker Justin Houston and Bengals’ defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive end and New Orleans Saints’ tight end Benjamin Watson are the longest tenured UGA grads, each with 12 seasons in the league.
Matthew Stafford, from Dallas, Texas, was Georgia’s starting quarterback for three seasons and threw 7,731 yards and 51 touchdowns. In 2007, he led Georgia to an 11-2 record and a No. 2 final national ranking. He was the first overall pick by the Lions in the 2009 draft. Stafford was the second Georgia player to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Detroit, the first being the legendary Charley Trippi in 1945.
Summerville, South Carolina’s A.J. Green was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection during his college career. He finished his Georgia career with 166 receptions for 2,619 yards and 23 touchdowns and was the fourth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2011 draft.
Justin Houston, from Statesboro, was a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection in 2010. He finished his three-year Georgia with 38 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. Kansas City drafted Houston in the third round of the 2011 draft and he has made three Pro Bowls during his NFL career.
Fort Lauderdale’s Geno Atkins was a 2010 fourth round draft selection by the Cincinnati Bengals. He has been an All-Pro selection for each of the past four years. At Georgia, Atkins was an an All-SEC selection and was the first defensive tackle to lead the Bulldogs in tackles since 1995.
Look for Los Angeles Rams 2nd-year running back Todd Gurley to be added to our notables list next year.
Featured photo: Kelly Lambert, Athens Banner Herald