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30 Reasons for 30 Days - Day 16: Pipeline to the Pros

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SiriusXM at Super Bowl 50 Radio Row - Day 1
Devin (l) and Jason (r) McCourty at the Super Bowl last February
Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

From now through September 3rd, I am posting a daily reason why it is great to be a fan of Rutgers football. There are a lot more than thirty, but I picked my thirty reasons, and hope you like them. If not, be sure to let me know.

For the past 10 years, Rutgers has had some success in showcasing the players on our teams to the point where it is not at all uncommon to have players chosen in the NFL Draft. Since 2007, 24 players have been drafted into the league. This chart will show you though 2015, and of course this year Leonte Caroo has joined their ranks.

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at New York Giants
Carroo in his first NFL Game- August 12, 2016
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Of those 24, only three were first-round picks. Those three were Kenny Britt, Anthony Davis, and Devin McCourty, drafted by the Titans, 49ers, and Patriots, respectively. A pair of fan favorites who played together, Ray Rice and Brian Leonard, were both second round picks.

Buffalo Bills v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brian Leonard rushing against the Bills in 2013
Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Just to show how things have changed in the past 10 years, as I stated above, 24 players were drafted since 2007. Prior to that, a total of 25 players were chosen in the previous 50 years. It is a combination of the school recruiting better players as the school’s stock rose, and the higher profile Rutgers has received through national exposure. Had the same percentage of players drafted 2007-2016 continued from 1957, there would have been 120 Rutgers players going into the pros. Or conversely, had our reputation and skill level not risen since 2006, only five players would have reached the NFL Draft, This will only accelerate as we continue to grow and improve in the Big Ten.

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
Free agent Quentin Gause is a first year Eagle
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the draft however, there are players each year that sign free agent contracts to play following the draft. This year was no exception. As a result, currently there are 25 players with signed contracts in the NFL that call Rutgers their home. That is a number that will also grow as we continue our growth in the Big Ten.  Ohio State currently has more than twice our number in the league, sitting at 51.  In the chart below, I have listed the number of players from largest to smallest contingent.

School

Number of Players in NFL

Ohio State

51

Penn State

37

Michigan State

34

Wisconsin

32

Nebraska

31

Iowa

30

Michigan

28

Rutgers

24

Maryland

21

Purdue

21

Illinois

19

Minnesota

17

Indiana

16

Northwestern

13

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Mo Sanu in his first game as an Atlanta Falcon August 11, 2016

Here’s a little quick math that I’ll do for you on these data points. The Big Ten overall has 375 former players now in the NFL, with 212 from the B1G East, and 163 from the B1G West. The average number of players per team is of 26.78. While Ohio State knocks the average a little out of whack, despite this, the average per team is just under 27 players per school. If you factor out tOSU as an anomaly, the average per school is slightly lower at 25. If you notice from above, Rutgers currently has 25 players signed to NFL Rosters. That number puts us right in the middle of the pack in the conference, despite our only going into our third season in the Big Ten. Going by the median, Rutgers is 8th in the conference, or just in the middle again.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Arizona Cardinals
Jeremy Zuttah on the field against the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

And Coach Chris Ash gets it, too. He has set up a special section in the Hale Center to honor selected former Scarlet Knights that have made it to the NFL. Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com recently posted a slideshow that demonstrates how Coach Ash put 30 NFL jerseys of current and former players on display. From Ryan’s description, the players will be periodically swapped out for others, as there are only 30 cases available.

So, in the best athletic and academic conference in the country, Rutgers provides a strong pipeline to offer our students to be able to continue to play at the next level after their days are done on the banks of the ol’ Raritan. That is yet another reason it is great to be a fan of Rutgers football!