The University of Utah has sent players to the NFL since long before the game was popular or even in the mainstream of American society. Even during the program's down times they have had plenty of talent move on to the NFL and the leagues that came before. This is a list of the best players in the history of American pro football to ever come out of the University of Utah on the offensive side of the ball.
Note: A list like this is completely subjective, but I try to leave all bias out when I do my rankings. Only what each player did in the NFL got taken into consideration.
All-pro selections, Pro Bowl selections, years as a starter, years in the league, stats and impact on the team were the factors used when doing these rankings.
Jolley was selected in the 17th round (436th overall) by the Detroit Lions in the 1971 draft. He spent six years playing in the NFL for the Lions and the Seattle Seahawks on the offensive line, appearing in 59 games (19 starts). His most productive season came in 1977, when Jolley made 11 starts for the Seahawks at left guard.
Christensen played 42 games over four seasons for the Detroit Lions from 1934-37 as a fullback. His best season came in 1934 when Christensen carried the ball 96 times for 304 yards and two touchdowns. For his career, Christensen registered 109 carries for 308 yards and two touchdowns while also making eight receptions for 158 yards and two scores.
Fuamatu-Ma'afala was selected in the sixth round (178th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1998 draft. He spent sevens seasons in the NFL with the Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. For his career, Fuamatu-Ma'afala registered 227 carries for 964 yards and eight touchdowns while catching 43 passes for 351 yards and two more scores. His best season came in 2001 when as a Steeler, he carried the ball 120 times for 453 yards and three touchdowns as well as catching 16 passes for 127 yards and a score.
McEwen made the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent. He spent five years in the NFL with the Redskins and the San Diego Chargers. During that time, McEwen appeared in 54 games and made 108 catches for 1,310 yards and six touchdowns. His best season came in 1991 when as a member of the Chargers, McEwen appeared in all 16 games (six starts) and registered 37 receptions for 399 yards and three touchdowns.
Haley was selected in the second round (55th overall) by the New England Patriots in the 1982 draft. Haley split time in his six-year career with the Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns and played in 79 games. The most impressive stretch of his career came with New England, where Haley made 24 of his 25 NFL starts.
Romney played in the early days of pro football where he pretty much did everything on the offensive side of the ball. In his six-year career with the Racine Legion and the Chicago Bears, Romney played wide receiver, running back and quarterback. According to pro-football-reference.com, Romney played 73 games (41 starts) from 1923-28 and scored five touchdowns on the ground and four as a receiver.
Thomas was selected in the third round (57th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1969 draft. Thomas spent six years in the NFL as a wide receiver with the Bengals and the New Orléans Saints. The best year of his career came as a rookie when Thomas caught 33 passes for 481 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball four times for 16 yards and another score. For his career, Thomas registered 94 receptions for 1,239 yards and amassed nine total touchdowns.
Odom was selected in the fifth round (116th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in the 1974 draft. Over his seven-year career with the Packers and the New York Giants, Odom played as a punt and kick returner and as a wide receiver. While Odom had great success on special teams, scoring three touchdowns and making the Pro Bowl in 1975, he also put up some solid numbers as a wideout. His best season as a receiver came in 1977, when Odom caught 27 passes for 549 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, Odom had 84 receptions for 1,613 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 16 carries for 205 yards and another score.
Fleming was selected in the 11th round (154th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in the 1963 draft. Fleming spent 12 seasons in the NFL with the Packers and Miami Dolphins as a tight end. His best statistical season came in 1966 when Fleming caught 31 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns for Green Bay. For his career, Fleming registered 157 receptions for 1,823 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Kemoeatu was selected in the sixth round (204th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 draft. He spend his entire seven-year career as a member of the Steelers and appeared in 75 games (53 starts) on the offensive line. During his time in Pittsburgh, Kemoeatu was a part of two Super Bowl-winning teams.
Beadles was selected in the second round (45th overall) by the Denver Broncos in the 2010 draft. Beadles has started every game but two in his four-year career and made it to the Pro Bowl in 2012 as an offensive lineman. Beadles is a key piece to the Denver Broncos, who are trying to make a run at another Super Bowl appearance and will play the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game Sunday.
Gehrke made the Cleveland Rams after going undrafted in 1940. He spent seven seasons in the NFL over the course of 11 years for the Rams, Chicago Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. Gehrke found most of his success as a member of the Rams, where he led the league in rushing yards per attempt in 1945 and 1946. His best season came in 1945 when Gehrke carried the ball 74 times for 467 yards and seven touchdowns as well as catching eight passes for 90 yards and another score for the NFL champion Rams. For his efforts that season, Gehrke was named first team All-NFL by Pro Football Illustrated. For his career, Gehrke registered 343 carries for 1,664 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground while totaling 56 receptions for 527 yards and seven scores.
Dyson was selected in the first round (16th overall) by the Tennessee Oilers in the 1998 draft. Dyson spent five years of his six-year career in Tennessee as a wide receiver before playing his final season with the Carolina Panthers. His best season came in 2001, when Dyson caught 54 passes for 825 yards and seven touchdowns. For his career, Dyson registered 178 receptions for 2,325 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Johnson spent his entire seven-year career with the Detroit Lions. Johnson appeared in 76 games from 1934-40 on the offensive line. He was named first team All-NFL in 1936 by Collyer's Eye Magazine and second team All-NFL in 1938 and 1939 by the International News Service, according to pro-football-reference.com. Johnson also won an NFL championship with the Lions in 1935.
Smith was selected in the fourth round (110th overall) by the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 draft. Smith played eight years in the league with the Raiders and the San Diego Chargers as a running back. His best statistical season came in 1972, when Smith carried the ball 170 times for 686 yards and eight touchdowns while also catching 28 passes for 353 yards and two more scores. For his career, Smith had 858 rushing attempts for 3,351 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also registered 141 receptions for 1,596 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Anderson was selected in the sixth round (189th overall) by the Denver Broncos in the 2000 draft. Anderson played for the Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens and appeared in 98 games (51 starts) as a running back over his seven-year career. His best season came in 2000 when as a rookie, Anderson carried the ball 297 times for 1,487 yards and 15 touchdowns to go along with 23 receptions for 169 yards. For his career, Anderson carried the 919 times for 4,067 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also caught 92 passes for 727 yards and five scores.
Sims carved out a 12-year NFL career as an offensive lineman even though he went undrafted. Sims made the Raiders in 1999 and played with them for nine seasons before moving on to the San Francisco 49ers for his last three years. Overall, Sims appeared in 174 games (141 starts).
Mitchell was selected in the fourth round (93rd overall) by the Miami Dolphins in the 1990 draft. Mitchell played 99 games (71 starts) over 11 seasons for the Dolphins, Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. Mitchell had his best season while with the Lions in 1995. That year, Mitchell led the Lions to a 10-6 record and a trip to the playoffs while setting a career high in passing yards (4,338) and touchdown passes (32). For his career, Mitchell completed 55.5 percent of his passes for 15,692 yards and 95 touchdowns.
Smith was the No. 1 overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 draft. Smith had his ups and downs in eight seasons with the Niners, which included a trip to the NFC championship game as a starter in the 2011 season. After winning 19 of his last 25 regular season starts with San Francisco, Smith lost his job after suffering a concussion and never regained it once he got healthy. Smith moved to the Kansas City Chiefs this season and had one of the best years of his career. He completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns for the 11-win Chiefs. He also set a career high with 431 rushing yards and a touchdown on 76 carries. To this point in his career, Smith has thrown for 17,593 yards and 104 touchdowns while completed 59.5 percent of his passes. He has also rushed for 1,192 yards and five touchdowns on 288 attempts.
Trumpy was selected in the 12th round (301st overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1968 draft, and he played 128 games with the Bengals as a tight end. His best season came in 1969 when Trumpy made 37 receptions for 835 yards and nine touchdowns. For his efforts that season Trumpy was named a first team All-Pro. For his career, the four-time Pro Bowler made 298 catches for 4,600 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Gross was selected in the first round (eighth overall) by the Carolina Panthers in the 2003 draft. Gross has been with the Panthers his entire 11-year career and has started all 167 games he has appeared in on the offensive line. His most decorated season came in 2008 when Gross was named to the Pro Bowl as well as first team All-Pro. Gross was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in 2010.
Anderson was selected in the seventh round (201st overall) by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1994 draft. Anderson spent his entire eight-year career as a member of the Falcons. During his first two years in Atlanta, Anderson only registered 160 yards rushing on 41 carries. Season No. 3 was when he finally showed what the "Dirty Bird" was all about. As a first time starter, Anderson registered his first 1,000-yard season on the ground and caught 49 passes for nearly 500 yards. The following season, Anderson put up another 1,000-yard campaign, even though his yards per carry average was only 3.5. But his best was yet to come. In 1998, Anderson and his powerful running style led the Falcons all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the Denver Broncos. He carried the ball 410 times for 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with 27 receptions for 319 yards and two more scores in the regular season to earn first team All-Pro honors. From that point on, injuries slowed his career down significantly. Anderson gained 1,000 yards one more time in his final three seasons before hanging up the pads. For his career, Anderson carried the ball 1,329 times for 5,336 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also registered 156 receptions for 1,645 yards and seven scores.
Speedie was selected in the 15th round (135th overall) by the Detroit Lions in the 1942 draft. He didn't play his first professional game until four years later as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Speedie was with the Browns for four seasons when they were playing in the AAFC and three more once they merged with the NFL. Speedie was one of the favorite targets of legendary quarterback Otto Graham as the Browns won four consecutive AAFC crowns and was named first team All-Pro in 1947, ’48 and ’49. In each of those seasons, Speedie led the AAFC in receptions and led the league in yards twice. Speedie was still a weapon for the Browns when they made the jump to the NFL. In fact, Speedie led the league in receptions in 1952 and finished fifth in receiving yards. That year he was also named to the Pro Bowl for the second time. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Speedie finished his career with a combined 349 receptions for 5,602 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Jefferson was selected in the second round (18th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1965 draft. Jefferson spent 12 seasons in the NFL playing for the Steelers, Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins as a receiver. His most productive years came while he was in Pittsburgh where he had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 1968 and ’69 and was named to the Pro Bowl each year. After catching 67 passes for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns, Jefferson was also named a first team All-Pro in 1969. For his career, Jefferson registered 451 receptions for 7,539 yards and 52 touchdowns.
Smith was selected in the third round (74th overall) by the Carolina Panthers in the 2001 draft. Smith started out his career as a punt and kick returner, but over the last dozen years has turned himself into one of the game's elite receivers. During his 13 years in the NFL, Smith has recorded seven seasons of at least 1,000 yards receiving and been named to the Pro Bowl five times. His most productive year came in 2005, when Smith led the NFL in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,563) and receiving touchdowns (12). For his career to this point, Smith has totaled 836 receptions for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns as well as carrying the ball 57 times for 387 yards and two scores.
Although the list has just 25 players, there are a few others that deserve a mention for their accomplishments.
Asiata hasn't done enough to make this list, but if he continues to perform like he did two of the final three weeks of the 2013 season, it won't be too long before he will get serious consideration. Asiata made the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but until a few weeks ago he had registered just three carries for nine yards and one reception for two yards as the third-string running back. Given the opportunity to carry the ball because of the absence of Toby Gerhart and Adrian Peterson, Asiata put up two impressive showings. In the Vikings' games in Week 15 and Week 17, Asiata carried the ball 44 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns as well as catching five passes for 13 yards.
Folsom was selected in the 10th round (261st overall) by the Miami Dolphins in the 1981 draft. He never played a regular season game with the Dolphins, however. Folsom spent six seasons in the NFL as well as three years in the USFL. Folsom found most of his NFL success with the Dallas Cowboys, where he appeared in 42 games over four years. His best season came in 1989 when he caught 28 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns as the starting tight end.
Nofsinger was selected in the 17th round (230th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1961 draft. Nofsinger appeared in 24 games (six starts) over his seven-year NFL career and threw for 1,357 yards and four touchdowns. He also carried the ball 31 times for 65 yards and three more scores.
Grosscup was the 10th overall pick by the New York Giants in the 1959 draft. He threw only two touchdown passes with the Giants before heading to the AFL to play for the New York Titans. it was with the Titans where Grosscup found his most success. In his one season with the Titans, Grosscup appeared in eight games and threw for 855 yards and eight touchdowns.
Douglas was selected in the sixth round (65th overall) by the Chicago Bears in the 1958 draft. He played 55 games over five seasons for the Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Douglas found most of his success as a member of the Bears, where he registered 45 carries for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
Rodgers was selected in the third round (71st overall) by the Green Bay Packers in the 1982 draft. Rodgers played 31 games for the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers between 1982 and 1988. For his career, Rodgers carried the ball 82 times for 315 yards and two touchdowns while catching 10 passes for 124 yards.
Dublinski was taken in the eighth round (93rd overall) by the Detroit Lions in the 1952 draft. He played five seasons in the NFL from 1952 trough 1960 for the Lions, New York Giants and Denver Broncos. His best statistical season came in 1954 when Dublinski completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 1,073 yards and eight touchdowns for the Lions while carrying the ball 21 times for 76 yards and the lone rushing touchdown of hid NFL career.
Hodge made the Atlanta Falcons after going undrafted out of Utah. He played 33 games over three seasons as a wide receiver and caught 63 passes for 674 yards and four touchdowns. Hodge also carried the ball four times for 28 yards.
Brown made the Cincinnati Bengals after going undrafted. He played 52 games (17 starts) for the Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers over five seasons as a guard and tackle.
Miraldi was selected in the second round (55th overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1981 draft. Miraldi played 50 games (32 starts) for the Eagles, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Raiders in his five-year career. His best stint came with Philadelphia, where Miraldi started 22 games at tackle in 1983 and 1984.