Louis Nix, Notre Dame: Early entrant. The massive Nix (6-2, 357) exited Notre Dame a year earlier, even after an injury-plagued junior season in which he missed five games with knee issues. He missed the final three games after surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He had no sacks and two tackles for losses in 2013 and was named first-team all-independent. He started 22 games as a freshman and sophomore, recording two sacks and 12 tackles for losses. He's known as Irish Chocolate on campus.
Jeoffrey Pagan, Alabama: Early entrant. Pagan (6-4, 290) had 34 tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackle for loses during his one and only season as a starter. A knee injury sustained while a senior in high school fueled his decision to come out early, even while not an elite prospect. "It was taken from me in one play. It really made me think. It changed my life all around. That was something I thought I would never bounce back from. Being here and seeing guys drop from other teams and our team just kind of makes you wonder, you know. It's all a gamble."
Kaleb Ramsey, Boston College: Ramsey (6-3, 285) endured a career filled with injuries. He played as a true freshman in 2008 and led the defensive line in tackles in 2010. However, he played in just two games apiece in 2011 and 2012. He returned in 2013 with two sacks and four tackles for losses in 10 games. He earned his degree in sociology in May 2012 and is working on his master's.
Michael Sam, Missouri: Sam (6-2, 260) made national headlines by announcing he was gay. On the field, Sam was named just the second unanimous All- American in school history. He led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses while adding two forced fumbles. He also was named a finalist for the Nagurski, Lombardi and Hendricks awards while being named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Sam endured tragedy and racial tension growing up in Hitchcock, Texas. A sister drowned when she was 2, a brother was slain and another brother simply disappeared.
Chris Smith, Arkansas: Smith (6-1, 266) had a big junior season with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for losses as a junior. He followed that with 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for losses as a senior to earn second-team all-SEC. His 21.5 career sacks rank fourth in school history. Smith was a big-time performer at West Rowan High School in North Carolina. On back-to-back state title teams, he had 48 sacks.
Marcus Smith, Louisville: Smith (6-4, 258) had a monster senior season, finishing second in the nation with 14.5 sacks. He was named an All-American and conference Defensive Player of the Year. In high school in Columbus, Ga., Smith was a standout quarterback. He was recruited to play quarterback by then-Florida coach Urban Meyer. Instead, Smith went to Louisville. He lasted at quarterback for about a week, when he was moved to linebacker. "It was almost like walking blind. I didn't know anything," said Smith, who moved to defensive end as a sophomore. "The coaches tried to coach me up, but the first couple of years it took me a while to really get what was going on."
Ed Stinson, Alabama: Stinson (6-3, 292) was a two-year starter as a defensive end in the Tide's 3-4 scheme. As a senior, he posted 42 tackles including 1.5 sacks and two tackles for losses, to be named second-team all-SEC. He played outside linebacker as a freshman. He had 5.5 sacks for his career. When he was young, he sold T-shirts at a concession stand during Dolphins home games.
Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame: Early entrant. Tuitt (6-6, 312) started all 13 games and led the way with 7.5 sacks and nine tackles for losses, was second with 13 quarterback hits and sixth with 50 tackles. As a sophomore, Tuitt piled up 12 sacks, good for second in school history. Playing football never was his dream. That changed as a freshman in high school. "I had just moved from a different area in Georgia to go to Monroe Area High School," Tuitt recalls. "I had no intentions of playing football at all -- just going to school -- and I was walking down the high school, and the head coach of the football team, Matt Figg, saw me and said, `Do you play football?'" His scholarship offer from Notre Dame came in a gold envelope. Not knowing any better, Tuitt thought it was a joke by the Girl Scouts.
George Uko, Southern California: Early entrant. Uko (6-3, 275) collected five sacks and seven tackles for losses in 2013. He was honorable mention all-Pac 12. In 2012, he had five sacks and tackles for losses while playing end, defensive tackle and nose tackle.
Larry Webster, Bloomsburg: Webster (6-7, 250) dominated the Division II scene. In two seasons, he piled up 26 sacks and 31 tackles for losses. He was an All-American both seasons. In 2013, he was a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award, which goes to the nation's best small-school defender. In 2012, he scored three touchdowns -- two on offense, a pick- six and a two-point catch. Before his football career, Webster starred in basketball for the school. His final season was the 2011-12 campaign. He finished his career with more than 1,000 points and a team-record 170 blocks. His father, Larry Webster, had 10 sacks with the Ravens in 1998.
Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M: Westbrooks (6-4, 275) spent two years at Sacramento City College before transferring. His debut season couldn't have gone any better, as he rang up a nation's-best 19.5 sacks and a conference-high 28 tackles for losses in 2012. The sack total was one shy of the Division II record. He had "only" seven sacks and 19.5 TFLs as a senior, when he was a second-team All-America. He had two sacks in the East-West Shrine Game to be named MVP.