JCs in The League (Part One)

Many of JCFootball.com's readers may not realize that about 1 in every 10 NFL players started out in the Juco ranks. Certainly the majority of Juco players will never play in front of 60,000 people, much less in THE league. But the following players prove that it can, and has been done.

Plenty of stars from the past have started out in their local community college, and many of them are Hall of Famers, whether as a player or a coach. H.O.F. Players who started out in JC ball include Frank Gifford, Joe Perry, O.J.Simpson, Roger Staubach, Willie Wood, Warren Moon, Ollie Matson, Ron Yary, Dick (Night Train) Lane, Gino Marchetti, and Hugh McElhenny. Coaches that started out at two year schools include legends Bill Walsh, John Madden, and Joe Gibbs. In fact, many of the following active players are NFL Hall of Fame material, and if you were to take the top JC alums, and put them on one NFL franchise, you'd have one helluva team! Just as an example, what NFL franchise would not like to have their receiving corp. consist of Issac Bruce, Chad Johnson, Steve Smith, Joe Horn, and Jeremy Shockey?

Something that also struck me was the character of the juco guys that did make it. Many of them are the biggest contributors to charities, because they weren't necessarily coddled throughout their playing careers. It was a real struggle for many of them, and their outstanding character was as instrumental as their playing ability to get them where they are now. Lots of guys run 4.5 forties, lots of guys can bench 400 lbs, it's work ethic, character, and determination that makes the difference. Forgive me if I have left out players because as you may note, there are a lot of them!

Arizona Cardinals

Deuce Lutui - OG - USC - Snow College

(PHOTO ABOVE: 2004 at USC)

The cousin of famous return man Vai Sikahema, JC Gridwire All American Lutui went straight from Mesa into a starting role as the blind side Tackle for QB Matt Lienart and the Trojans. He was a 1st team All American, and USC's Lineman of the year, and also Co-Most Inspirational Player, while winning two National Championships there. Lutui is still playing with Lienart, who is hurt at the moment, and holds down the starting RG position.

J.J. Arrington - RB - California - College of the Canyons -

J.J. really impressed me as an all around back. He could run between the tackles, around end, or run a wheel route like a WR. But what most impressed me about him was the fact that he wasn't a hot dog on the field. In fact, after scoring one of his numerous TDs, he would simply run over to the ref and hand him the ball. When Jeff Tedford took over at Cal, he wanted to win right away and recruited a plethora of talented Juco players. Arrington did not disappoint, as he went on to lead the NCAA in rushing and yards per carry (a Pac-10 record of 7.0), and rushed for at least 100 yards in every game! He was a 1st team All American and received the Pop Warner Award as best West Coast Player.

J.J. is making his mark in the NFL too. He backs up Edgerrin James, and has been a prolific kickoff return man having the 2nd most return yards in a game in franchise history,  (220 yds), and the 3rd most in a season (1520 yds). J.J. never forgot his Cougar roots, and was there in the locker room and on the sidelines supporting his old team in important match-ups, whenever he could get away from the Bay Area.

Oliver Rice - OT - Iowa State - L.A. Southwest

Rice made the transition at Iowa State from defense to offense after a stellar All WSC year at SouthWest. He ended up being Iowa State's best O lineman. He has had a great NFL career starting out with Dallas, and then moving on to the Steelers where in 2004 he started every game. He has had some injury issues, including a knee and a hand injury. He is currently on the injured reserve list

 

Atlanta Falcons

Joe Horn - WR - Itawamba

The 13 year pro is an NFL Icon who is a 4 time Pro Bowler. Horn is best known for his days with the Saints where he set multiple receiving records including 11 TDs in a season. After being a standout receiver and return man at Itawamba, Horn went right into the Canadian Football League; he was immediately nominated for rookie of the Year honors. Horn showed his support for New Orleans residents when he visited many Katrina evacuees in Houston and San Antonio.  After all these years, he is still in a  starting role for the Falcons.

David Irons - CB - Auburn - Butler

Irons was certainly an ‘Iron Man' for Butler. He ended up with almost 200 tackles, 7 interceptions, blocked 3 kicks and a punt, and forced 3 fumbles during his two seasons there. After transferring to Auburn to play along side his brother Kenny, who was drafted by the Bengals, he was a 2nd team All SEC player and was named Defensive Player of the Week 3 times.

Grady Jackson - DT - Knoxville College - Hinds

Now into his 11th season in the NFL, Jackson has been a huge force and leader wherever he has played. He has a great understanding of the game, and was a cornerstone on defense for the Packers before moving over to the Falcons. He led all NFL players in 2005 in tackles for a loss (13). At Hinds he was named NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year. Jackson is a solid all around athlete as evidenced by his MVP award on his High School basketball team. He has held several free football clinics for kids over the years.

Chauncey Davis - DE - Florida State - Jones County

Everyone was after Davis following he career at Jones, but the Seminoles won the recruiting battle. Florida State switched him from Linebacker to DE and he flourished with 7 sacks. After being a 4th round pick by the Falcons, Chauncey has played extensively, starting in more than half of the games.

Demorrio Williams - LB - Nebraska - Kilgore

An All Big 12 performer for the Huskers, Williams had 83 solos tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 11 sacks, and an interception his Senior Year there. He did everything but sell hot dogs for Nebraska. At Kilgore he had 127 tackles and 9 sacks his sophomore year and was a Juco All American.

Todd Watkins - WR - BYU - Grossmont

The first time I saw Watkins at Grossmont, he was kicking off. I thought, “Hey, that kid's got a pretty good foot. Then I saw something very unusual, he made the tackle, and it wasn't your typical get in the way tackle that kickers make. He raked the returner with the hardest hit in the game. Then I saw he lined up on offense at WR and saw how quick he was. But what really impressed me about him was that he could both out jump DBs for the ball, and go down to the ground to scoop low throws from right off the turf. He was the kind of receiver that would make ordinary QBs look good, and he didn't have an ordinary QB throwing to him. He went on to star at BYU ending his two seasons there with 94 catches for 1605 yards and 13 TDs. He is currently on the practice squad trying to make his mark on the next level.

Kynan Forney - G - Hawaii - Trinity Valley

Forney holds down the starting RG position for the Falcons. Atlanta was lucky to get him picking him up in the 7th round in 2001, and he has rewarded them by helping the O Line lead the NFL's top rushing attack for the last three seasons. He was an All WAC player at Hawaii, and led Trinity Valley to an undefeated season and NJCAA Championship.

Baltimore Ravens

Chris McCallister - CB - Arizona - Mt. SAC

Chris was Conference Player of the Year for Pasadena High School, as well as the California MVP back in 1995 as a QB, with close to 2500 yards of total offense. He made the transition to defense for the Mounties, where he again was an All State corner. The accolades continued when he was named 1st team All PAC-10, as well as 1st Team All American. He was only one of 7 people in NCAA history to return a punt, kickoff and interception for TDs in the same season, and had 18 career ints. Last season he was named to his 3rd Pro Bowl appearance. He is big for a CB, but has the speed to lockdown receivers. He has been extremely active in the Baltimore community giving out televisions and Playstations, as well as helping feed the poor, and working for Habitat for Humanity.

Mike Anderson - RB - Utah - Mt. San Jacinto

Anderson was the 2000 Rookie of the Year, and had a franchise record 251 yards in one game. He was a 2 time All Conference player in Utah, and the California State Offensive Player of the Year at San Jacinto when he rushed for 1686 yards. As is typical of Mt San Jacinto players, Anderson was an ex Marine when he enrolled. In fact, that was the first organized football he had ever played, since he didn't compete in any athletics during his High School years.

Yamon Figurs - WR - Kansas State - Garden City

Figurs was a Jaywawk Conference Honorable Mention despite the fact that Garden City used a run oriented offense. At K-State, he was a 1st Team All Big-12 Honoree after being 5th in the nation in punt returns. Yamon received his Bachelor's Degree in sociology.

Justin Green - FB - Montana - San Diego Mesa

He may be a 251-lb. Fullback, but Green rushed for 5397 yards, a San Diego County record, as well as 57 TDs in High School. Considering some of the greatest backs of all time come from that area, including Reggie Bush, Terrell Davis, Marcus Allen, Ricky Williams, and Rashad Salaam, it is quite an accomplishment. He was the captain and MVP for San Diego Mesa, and was a JC Gridwire Honorable Mention. He was a Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Award recipient, and also garnered 2nd team All Conference honors. He was also voted the Hardest Hitter on the team, an accolade usually reserved for defensive players. Green has been active in Anti drug campaigns and feeding the homeless during the Holidays.

Rhys Lloyd - K - Minnesota - Rochester CTC

The Great Britain native is one of the best kickers to come out of the JC ranks. He was a 1st team All-NJCAA player and set the record for points in a season with 99 in 2002. He had a great accuracy percentage (72%) for the Gophers, and also served as a punter. He won the Bobby Bell Award for best special teams player and was a 1st Team All Big 10 player. His soccer playing days helped him to be a triple threat kicking field goals, kickoffs, and punts.

Corey Ivy - CB - Oklahoma - NEO

Ivy was a District MVP and All Oklahoma High School player before going to NEO. He led the team with 18 pass deflections and also returned punts. He was a two year letterman for the Sooners where he had 69 tackles, 4 interceptions and a blocked PAT returned for a Safety. He won the Ed Block Courage award for playing last season with a lacerated kidney. He has been active in Habitat for Humanity and Holiday Helpers, and won the Ravens Roost Unsung Hero Award last season.

Daniel Wilcox - TE - Appalachian State - Georgia Military

After leaving GM, Wilcox was selected as a 1st team All Southern Conference player as a Senior when he was switched from a WR to a TE.  He had 46 receptions for 740 yards and 7 TDs in his final season there. Wilcox has been a part time starter who sees plenty of action since coming into the league in 2001. He's a good blocker with soft hands, and is a major contributor on special teams. He is also one of the most active Ravens in community service, involved heavily with the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Gatorade football camps, and a host of other activities serving our youth.

Marshall Yanda - OL - Iowa - North Iowa

Yanda was an Honorable Mention All American his sophomore year, and was All Region both seasons at North Iowa. Last season he also received All Big-12 2nd team honors. The Ravens picked him up for his intelligence and his ability to play multiple positions on the front line.

Zarnell Fitch - DT - TCU - Navarro

Fitch's greatest asset is being difficult to push off the line against the run. He was signed by the Ravens after a stint with the Frankfurt Galaxy. He is currently on the practice squad trying to make a name for himself. Fitch also participated in JCFootball.com's only "Texas JC Combine" several years ago at Tyler JC.

 

Buffalo Bills

Keith Ellison - LB- San Diego St. - Oregon St. - El Camino

After an impressive stint with Elco where he played Safety, Ellison transferred to San Diego State to play in the defensive backfield, and then played his final two seasons at Oregon St. where he switched to Linebacker and became a 1st team All PAC-10 player and an Honorable Mention All American by the NFL Draft Report. Keith started half of the games in his rookie season last year, and has now taken over the Weak side LB role.

Kevin Everett - TE - Miami - Kilgore

Many of you know about Kevin's devastating neck injury he sustained in week one of this season, but many don't know he was a Juco guy. The fracture and dislocation of his cervical spine had a dim outlook at first. Doctors didn't expect him to regain the ability to walk and even called the injury life threatening since it impaired his ability to breathe. But Kevin's prognosis didn't include the determination he had, and his outlook is much better now. He has transferred over from the University of Miami hospital to Houston and his family, and is expected to recover enough to be able to walk, and lead a fairly normal life. Football may be another matter, but don't count him out. At Kilgore, Everett was named the 2nd best player in the national Juco ranks, and then became one of many great Tight Ends to come out of Hurricane camp.

Dwayne Wright - RB - Fresno State - West Hills

First signed with Washington State out of high school but failed to qualify. Rushed for over 1,000 yards his one season at West Hills before going to Fresno State. Despite missing one and a half seasons due to a torn patella tendon, Wright still managed to rush for 2,683 yards including the Bulldog single game record of 295 yards. Dwayne was also an excellent receiver out of the backfield. The rookie has earned a spot on the roster in a backup role.

Corey Mace - DT - Wyoming - Palomar

Mace was highly recruited coming out of Palomar where he was a 2nd Team All-Mission Conference selection and team captain. He ended up at Wyoming where he had a solid two years and is now a rookie on the practice squad trying to improve his way to a roster spot.

 

Carolina Panthers

Steve Smith - WR - Utah - Santa Monica

Smith is simply one of the best receivers in the NFL. In six years, one where an injury kept him off the field for all but one game due to a broken fibula, he has close to 5,000 yards in receptions. He was the only Rookie to make the Pro Bowl in 2001 when he set a Panther record as a kickoff returner. Last season he was named to his 3rd Pro Bowl. In 2005 he was a Triple Crown winner leading all NFL receivers in catches, yardage, and touchdowns. He was a two time All Conference player at Utah and was part of probably the best receiving duo in Junior College history at Santa Monica, teaming up with Chad Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals. And….they had 3 other good receivers, including Arena Football player Eugene Sykes that formed the “Fab 5”. Both Smith and Johnson say that if it weren't for Santa Monica Head Coach Robert Taylor, they'd either be dead or in jail. “I knew how hard we had to work with them when they were here at SMC. The important thing is that they were successful. It makes you feel real good, real proud.”
They also gave credit to Corsair Receiver coach Charlie Collins who acted like a second father and made sure they were doing their job in the classroom. This is an example of the impact that Juco coaches can have in helping kids not only succeed on the gridiron, but in life. Smith has started a charitable organization in honor of deceased Santa Monica team mate, Demetrius Posey.

Brandon Jamison - LB - West Georgia - Southwest Mississippi

Jamison was signed as a rookie free agent after he went undrafted last season. After leaving Southwest, he went to Clemson for a year before transferring to West Georgia where he was an All-Gulf South Conference player.

 

Chicago Bears

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Cincinnati Bengals

Rudi Johnson - RB - Auburn - Butler

It seems like yesterday when Johnson played for Butler, but he's been a Pro for 7 seasons already. A bad hamstring stopped a 64 game streak, but Johnson has been a force setting a three consecutive season Bengal yardage record with 4221 yards and 36 TDs. That record broke former juco player Corey Dillon's (Dixie State) record. At Auburn, he was the SEC offensive player of the year and a 2nd team All American. Only Bo Jackson had more yards in a single season. At Butler he scored 35 TDs in one season on the way to leading the Grizzlies to the NJCAA championship over Dixie where he had an incredible 373 yards and 7 TDs! Rudi has a soft spot for kids and founded the Rudi Johnson Foundation that helps feed low income kids and also helps parents get back on their feet.

Chad Johnson -  WR - Oregon State - Santa Monica

As listed earlier, the Corsairs had quite a tandem with Johnson and Steve Smith in the same lineup. Both players are not only in the NFL, they are also two of the top receivers in the big show. Johnson manages to have fun on the field without being too obnoxious. At Oregon State he helped boost the Beavers to a #4 ranking and a big Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame with two TD receptions. Besides playing along side Smith at Santa Monica, it is a little known fact that he is also a cousin of former West LA and NFL star Keyshawn Johnson. What kinda smack must have been goin' down when those two got together? Johnson is headed for a place in the NFL Hall of Fame as he is the only player ever to lead the Conference in receiving 4 consecutive years in a row.

T.J. Houshmanzadeh -  WR - Oregon State - Cerritos

Both Bengal Wideout jobs are held down by former Jucos, and Houshmanzaden is currently 2nd in the league in receptions. He holds the record for catches in two consecutive games, and he and Johnson also hold the Bengal record for most receptions (20) and yards (332) by a pair of Bengal receivers in one game.  The 7-year vet starred at Oregon State when they were ranked 4th in the nation. He had 100-yard kickoff returns in both seasons at Cerritos.

Domata Peko - DT - Michigan State -College of the Canyons

When Domata played at Canyons, it was a very close knit and talented defense. Those guys played hard, but didn't forget to have fun during the games. Peko went from a 280 lber for the Cougars, to a 310 lber at Michigan State, and now tilts the scales at 320 lbs. He holds down the starting job for the Bengals in his second season. For the Spartans, he emerged as a key player his Senior season, and his main claim to fame was returning a fumble 74 yards for a TD against Michigan. He and fellow Bengal Jonathan Fanene are life long friends from American Samoa. Peko is now married and has a 2 year old son.

Jonathan Fanene - DT - Utah - College of the Canyons -

Domata's buddy also had Defensive Tackle glory at Utah where he had a 74 yard interception for 6 against Utah State. He had 14 sacks and 65 tackles at COC in 2001, which garnered him JC Gridwire All American status.

Bryan Robinson -  DE - Fresno State -College of the Desert  

Now in his 11th season, Robinson was a starter for many seasons in Chicago, and  sees plenty of action for the Bengals. He was a 1st team All-WAC player at Fresno, and a two time All Foothill player at Desert. Robinson gives back to the community by working with the Special Olympics organization.

Antonio Chatman - WR - Cincinnati -  El Camino

Chatman is a backup wideout but has played extensively in his 5 years in the pros. Known as the king of dominoes in the locker room, he had 68 receptions for Cincy, and 52 at Elco. Chatman donates much energy to visiting older citizens in nursing homes, as well as young cancer victims.

Michael Myers - DT - Alabama - Hinds

Now in his 10th year, Myers sees time behind fellow Juco, Domato Peko, at Defensive Tackle. Myers is a sack artist who had 13 sacks as a junior at Bama, 3rd on the all time list. At Hinds, he had an incredible 20 sacks his Freshman season, and was a two time All American. He works closely with the Salvation Army during the off season.
 
Marvin White - S - TCU - Kilgore

Known as a big hitter, White is a backup safety for the Bengals after starring at TCU. He was an All American at Kilgore and was also the MVP Player in the Pilgrim's Bowl. He led Kilgore with 68 tackles and 4 ints.

 

Cleveland Browns

Jerome Harrison - RB - Washington State - Pasadena

The Kalamazoo Michigan native showed his versatility early for the Lancers as both a solid rusher and reliable receiver. He was the first player at Pasadena to rush for over 1,000 yards in both seasons. His game got even better for the Cougars, where his consistency led to 100 yard performances in his final 14 games, including four 200 yard games. He holds the single season rushing crown for Washington State with 1,900 yards, and is second all time in rushing TDs with 25. As a pro, his versatility has made him a good 3rd down back where he is as comfortable in the passing game as rushing the ball. This is his 2nd season in the pros.

Orpheus Roye - DT - Florida State - Jones County

Roye is an 11 year vet who has made a tremendous impact on any team he's been on. He was a JC All American at Jones, and a standout performer for the ‘Noles despite the fact that he played most of his Senior season injured. Originally with the Steelers, he has averaged about 55 tackles a season, and has 18 career sacks. In the off season, he works with Habitat for Humanity, and local food banks

Brandon McDonald - CB - Memphis - Jones County

McDonald has always been a star. At Collins (Mississippi) High, he led his team to back to back state titles. The former wideout has made a great transition to corner and had 7 career interceptions at Memphis. He is a cousin of Raven QB Steve McNair and RB Corell Buckhalter of the Eagles.

Shaun Smith - DL - South Carolina - Butler

Determination can best describe Shaun. After a stellar career at Butler, where he had a record 20 sacks his sophomore season, he played a backup role for the Gamecocks. That didn't stop him from walking on as an undrafted free agent for the Cowboys. Shaun has shown his gratitude for playing in the pros by his community service with the Salvation Army, as well as wheelchair recreational leagues.

 

...WATCH FOR PART 2...


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