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The 30 Greatest Small School Players in NFL History

30 Greatest Small School Players in NFL History
Publish Date:05/01/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
Walter Payton #34 of the Chicago Bears celebrates on the field as the Bears win the NFC Championship.

Greatest small school players in NFL History

Not all the greatest players in NFL history came from Power Five schools

30). Joe Flacco, Deleware

Flacco can be inconsistent during the regular season but come playoff time he is an all-time great.

Video: Joe Flacco FCS highlights: Former Super Bowl MVP's final games at Delaware

Joe Flacco FCS highlights: Former Super Bowl MVP’s final games at Delaware

29). Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Tennessee State

Jones was a prolific pass-rusher from Tennessee State at a time when sacks were not kept as an official statistic until halfway through his career. Whether it was official or not, the fact remains the way he terrorized Quarterbacks was official.

 

28). Ken Riley, Florida A&M

Riley was a Quarterback in college, but Paul Brown moved Riley to Cornerback when he got to the Cincinnati Bengals. Riley still holds the Bengals franchise record with over 60 interceptions and belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Video: Ken Riley- Tums All Time Neutralizer

Ken Riley- Tums All Time Neutralizer

 

27). Eddie Meador, Arkansas Tech

Meador is another Man that belongs to the hall of fame, he was selected to six Pro Bowl teams and was a member of the NFL’s all-decade team during the 1960s. Meador still holds multiple Rams franchise records. He was one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play the game.

Video: Former Rams Great Eddie Meador

Former Rams Great Eddie Meador

 

26). Jared Allen, Idaho State

Allen had eight double-digit sack seasons and a 20 sack season. He was the type of guy who brought it on every play.

Video: Jared Allen Career Highlights

Jared Allen Career Highlights

 

25). Andre Reed, Kutztown State

Reed had thirteen seasons with over 50 receptions which are only surpassed by Jerry Rice. Reed was the greatest pass catcher in Buffalo Bills history.

Video: Buffalo Bills Hall Of Fame WR Andre Reed Highlights

Buffalo Bills Hall Of Fame WR Andre Reed Highlights

 

24). Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State

Wright was a dominant force on the great Dallas Cowboys offensive lines of the 1970’s. Wright was selected to six Pro Bowls.

Video: Larry Rayfield Wright Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Address

Larry Rayfield Wright Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Address

 

23). Claude Humphrey, Tennessee State

Humphrey had 122 career sacks and was selected to six Pro Bowl teams. The majority of his career was spent in Atlanta, but he finished his career in Philadelphia where he was integral to the Eagles 1980 Super Bowl run.

Video: TSU Tiger Claude Humphrey elected to the Football Hall of Fame

TSU Tiger Claude Humphrey elected to the Football Hall of Fame

 

22). Jack Butler, St. Bonaventure

Butler was one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history for the Pittsburgh Steelers at a time when it was not easy to be a Steeler. Butler finished his career with 52 interceptions.

Video: Jack Butler: Hall of Fame Football Cornerback

Jack Butler: Hall of Fame Football Cornerback

 

21). Shannon Sharpe, Savannah State

Sharpe was one of the greatest Tight Ends in NFL history, he appeared in eight Pro Bowls and helped the Broncos to two Super Bowl titles.

 

20). Ken Anderson, Augustana College

Anderson belongs in the Hall of Fame as he led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance and was named NFL MVP in 1981.

Video: Kenny Anderson for Hall Of Fame

Kenny Anderson for Hall Of Fame

 

19). Charles Haley, James Madison

One of the greatest winners in NFL history, and a beast as a pass rusher. Haley had 100 sacks during a career that produced 5 Super Bowl rings.

Video: Charles Haley 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame profile

Charles Haley 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame profile

 

18). Richard Dent, Tennessee State

Dent was a part of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history as a part of the 1985 Chicago Bears. Dent was one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history accumulating 137 sacks in his career.

 

17). Larry Little, Bethune-Cookman

Little was a six-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins in the 1970’s and was an integral part of one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history.

Video: Larry Little's most memorable games

Larry Little’s most memorable games

 

16). Jackie Slater, Jackson State

Slater was a true NFL ironman playing in 259 games over a 20 year Pro career and seven Pro Bowls.

Video: Jackie Slater

Jackie Slater

 

15). Robert Brazile, Jackson State

I know you may ask? How can I rank Brazile over all of these Hall of Famers? My answer is that to me Brazile is a Hall of Famer! Watch his film, and you will realise that Brazile was L.T. before L.T. was.

Video: Robert Brazile- Tums all time neutralizer

Robert Brazile- Tums all time neutralizer

 

14). Darrell Green, Texas A&I

Green was maybe the fastest man in NFL history, on top of that he was a seven-time Pro Bowler and played cornerback for twenty seasons.

Video: Darrell Green Highlights ||

Darrell Green Highlights || “Ageless Wonder” ᴴᴰ || Washington Redskins

 

13). Art Shell, Maryland Eastern Shore

Shell was an eight-time Pro Bowler on one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history and helped the Raiders win two Super Bowls in his time in Oakland.

 

12). Kurt Warner, Northern Iowa

Warner was the ultimate rags to riches story in NFL history. Warner got a late start to his NFL career, but once he got started, he did some amazing things. He led the Rams and Cardinals to three Super Bowls winning one.

Video: Kurt Warner - Cinderella Man

Kurt Warner – Cinderella Man

 

11). John Randall, Texas A&I

One of the greatest interior defensive linemen in NFL history, Randall accumulated 137 sacks in his stellar career and was selected to play in 7 Pro Bowls.

Video: John Randle |

John Randle | “Trash Talk King” || Vikings Career Highlights (HD)

 

10). Lem Barney, Jackson State

Barney started out his career with a pick-six and never looked back as he had 56 interceptions in an eleven-year career.

Video: Lem Barney, NFL Hall of Famer and Jackson State Univeristy alumnus ...

Lem Barney, NFL Hall of Famer and Jackson State Univeristy alumnus …

 

 

9). Ken Houston, Prarie View A&M

Over a fourteen-year career, Houston was one of the greatest players to ever play his position. Houston intercepted 49 passes and was selected to ten Pro Bowls.

Video: Redskins Top Plays: Ken Houston's Big Stop 10/8/1973

Redskins Top Plays: Ken Houston’s Big Stop 10/8/1973

 

8). Willie Lanier, Morgan State

Lanier was a Pro Bowler from 1968-75 and was a huge part of the Chiefs winning Super Bowl IV.

Video: Willie Lanier Kansas City Chiefs All Time Nuetralizer

Willie Lanier Kansas City Chiefs All Time Nuetralizer

 

7). Gene Upshaw, Texas A&I

Upshaw was a seven-time Pro Bowler and participated in three Super Bowls winning two of them.

 

6). Dick “Night Train” Lane, Scottsbluff Junior College

Lane still holds two significant NFL records as a DB. Lane holds the record for intercepting a pass in six straight games, and he holds the records for most interceptions in a season with 14.

Video: Night Train Lane Career Highlights || NFL Hall of Fame

Night Train Lane Career Highlights || NFL Hall of Fame

 

5). Larry Allen, Sonoma State

Allen was one of the greatest to ever play the game of football. In 14 seasons he was selected to play in eleven Pro Bowls, but even more impressive was the fact that he was named an NFL All-Pro seven straight years.

Video: Larry Allen Career Highlights || Dallas Cowboys

Larry Allen Career Highlights || Dallas Cowboys

 

4). Mel Blount, Southern University

Blount was maybe the greatest cornerback in NFL history. He was so good that they changed the rules on what defenders could do because of Blount.

 

3). Deacon Jones, Mississippi Valley State

The man who used the head slap as a brutal tool to destroy offensive linemen. Jones was as goos as any pass rusher that ever played the game.

Video: Deacon Jones 12-9-1938 to 6-3-2013

Deacon Jones 12-9-1938 to 6-3-2013

 

1B). Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State

I am going with a tie at first between Rice and Payton. They both deserve the honor, and I really could not pick between the two. Rice simply put is the greatest Receiver to ever play the game.

 

1A). Walter Payton, Jackson State

Payton was and still is a true NFL legend, his work ethic his ability to do everything a running back needs to do to be great. Payton had it all.

Video: Walter

Walter “Sweetness” Payton – Highlights

 

 

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