Clifton started for four years at Tennessee, then was taken by Green Bay in Round 2 of the 2000 NFL Draft. He has been the Pack's starting left tackle since his rookie season of 1999. He was selected for today's Pro Bowl but couldn't play because it conflicted with his Super Bowl preparations.
Wells also started four years at Tennessee, then was taken by the Pack in Round 7 of the 2004 draft. He has been Green Bay's first-team center since '06, missing just one start in the past five seasons.
The AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers also have a starting offensive lineman from Tennessee in Ramon Foster of Henning. He started 28 times at UT, including all 26 games at right tackle as a junior and senior. Overlooked in the 2009 Draft, he signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent. Foster started eight games at right guard during the 2010-11 regular season and opened both playoff games to date.
In addition, the Steelers' offensive line corps includes former Vol Chris Scott as a reserve tackle. Originally from Riverdale, Ga., he was a fifth-round pick of Pittsburgh in the 2010 Draft after starting his final 39 games at Tennessee.
Clifton, Wells, Foster and Scott are the latest in a long line of Big Orange blockers who have gone on to distinguish themselves in the pros. The list that follows includes each player's draft round and NFL career in parenthesis:
- John Bruhin (Round 4, 1988-91)
- Cosey Coleman (Round 2, 2000-06)
- Bernard Dafney (Round 9, 1992-98)
- Antone Davis (Round 1, 1991-97)
- David Douglas (Round 8, 1986-90)
- Harry Galbreath (Round 8, 1988-97)
- Anthony Herrera (free agent, 2004-present)
- Tim Irwin (Round 3, 1981-94)
- Bob Johnson (Round 1, 1968-78)
- Jason Layman (Round 2, 1996-2002)
- Mickey Marvin (Round 4, 1977-87)
- Raleigh McKenzie (Round 11, 1985-2000)
- Charles McRae (Round 1, 1990-96)
- Bubba Miller (free agent, 1996-2002)
- Tom Myslinski (Round 4, 1992-2002)
- Arron Sears (Round 2, 2007-09)
- Robert Shaw (Round 1, 1979-82)
- Curt Singer (Round 6, 1984-89)
- Daryle Smith (free agent, 1987-89)
- Jeff Smith (Round 7, 1997-2002)
- Bob Suffridge (Round 6, 1941-45)
- Trey Teague (Round 7, 1998-2006)
- Fred Weary (Round 3, 2002-2007)
- Bruce Wilkerson (Round 2, 1987-98)
- Eric Young (free agent, 2009-present)
For what it's worth, all of the linemen mentioned in this story were coached by Phillip Fulmer except for Johnson, Marvin and Suffridge.