Week 1 of the regular-season schedule is in the books, and Mormon Times counts 35 Latter-day Saints on National Football League team rosters.
The list includes a two-time Pro Bowler in Baltimore, a promising young safety in San Diego and several established starters, particularly along the offensive line.
Mesa, Ariz., native Todd Heap enters his eighth professional season as the starting tight end for the Ravens. The Arizona State product is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and has started in 83 of the 89 professional games he has played. Heap's teammate, former Highland High standout Haloti Ngata, was a first-round draft pick by the Ravens out of the University of Oregon and has started every game since being drafted in 2006.
Eric Weddle, a versatile second-year pro from the University of Utah, has earned a starting position at safety in his second season with the Chargers, where he is joined by three LDS teammates. Twelve-year veteran Derek Smith, who is from American Fork and attended Snow College and Arizona State, is the starting inside linebacker in San Diego. Former Nebraska defensive lineman and Sandy native Ryon Bingham is the Chargers' primary backup on the defensive line, while Brandon Manumaleuna (University of Arizona) is San Diego's reserve tight end.
In Philadelphia, Kevin Curtis returns as a starting receiver after his 1,000-yard receiving campaign in 2007, although he began 2008 on the sideline with an injury. Curtis is a South Jordan native who served an LDS Church mission before a standout career at Utah State, where he began as a walk-on. Stewart Bradley, who prepped at Highland High School, is the Eagles' starting linebacker in his second season out of Nebraska.
Two former Cougars, Brett Keisel and Brady Poppinga, return as defensive starters for their respective teams. Keisel had 39 tackles and two sacks last year, while Poppinga had 50 tackles and an interception in 2007. Another BYU alumnus, John Tait, is entering his 10th season in the league and has started every game he's played in since 2000.
In Arizona, former Mesa High and Snow College offensive lineman Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui is the starting right guard for the Cardinals. Lutui finished his college career at Southern California and was selected in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Other starters include Miami center Samson Satele, San Francisco center Eric Heitmann, Detroit guard Edwin Mulitalo, Washington tight end Chris Cooley and Carolina defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu. Former BYU defensive lineman John Denney is the starting long-snapper in Miami.
Several reserve players made an impact in Week 1. Stanford product Kirk Chambers, out of Provo High School, was forced into Buffalo's starting lineup due to an injury on the Bills' offensive line, while teammate Ryan Denney, a backup defensive end, scored a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt. Former BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl had five tackles in his first professional game with the Giants.
Mormons listed as primary backups on their teams' respective depth charts include Kehl, Ryan Denney, Chambers, Bingham, Manumaleuna, Bills tight end Derek Schouman, Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene, Cowboys offensive lineman Cory Proctor, Dolphins offensive lineman Shawn Murphy, Cardinals safety Aaron Francisco, Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke and Jets nose tackle Sione Pouha.Former BYU offensive lineman Scott Jackson is on the Texans' injured reserve list.
Contributing: Robert Walsh, Aaron Shill
Mormons in the NFL
Name Pos. Team CollegeJohn Beck QB Dolphins BYURyon Bingham DL Chargers NebraskaStewart Bradley LB Eagles NebraskaKirk Chambers OL Bills Stanford*Chris Cooley TE Redskins Utah State*Kevin Curtis WR Eagles Utah StateJohn Denney LS Dolphins BYURyan Denney DE Bills BYUJonathan Fanene DL Cincinnati UtahAaron Francisco DB Cardinals BYUDavid Hale OL Ravens Weber St.*Todd Heap TE Ravens Arizona St.*Eric Heitmann OL 49ers StanfordChris Hoke DL Steelers BYUScott Jackson OL Texans BYUBryan Kehl LB Giants BYU*Brett Keisel DL Steelers BYU*Maake Kemoeatu DL Panthers UtahSpencer Larsen LB Broncos Arizona*Deuce Lutui OL Cardinals, USCBrandon Manumaleuna TE Chargers ArizonaGarrett Mills TE Vikings Tulsa*Edwin Mulitalo OL Lions ArizonaShawn Murphy OL Dolphins Utah State*Haloti Ngata DL Ravens Oregon*Brady Poppinga LB Packers BYUSione Pouha DT Jets UtahCory Proctor OL Cowboys Montana*Samson Satele OL Dolphins HawaiiDerek Schouman TE Bills Boise St.*Derek Smith LB Chargers Arizona St.Naufahu Tahi FB Vikings BYU*John Tait OL Bears BYU*Eric Weddle DB Chargers UtahScott Young OL Browns BYU