We are a week away from the NFL draft, an event that is not being touted as must-see TV in Gainesville because of the lack of Gators who are expected to be picked — especially the first two days. This crop of Florida alumni is not nearly as robust as some of those in the past, and subsequently, fan interest is down this April.
But the draft has been berry berry good (as Chico Escuela used to say) to the Orange and Blue over the years.
The great thing is that Gators who were good in the NFL were also very good at Florida, so it’s not like anyone feels their time in Gainesville was wasted.
So, here’s a game you can play the next time you’re in a social setting with Gator fans. Ask them to name the top 10 Gator players in terms of most NFL games played. Some are easy, some are not.
Nat Moore – 183 games (1974-1986)
Moore was a running back in college, but his senior season was a mess because of a knee injury. He was still selected in the third round of the 1974 draft by the Miami Dolphins.
He had an amazing career as a wide receiver, lasting 13 seasons and going into the Dolphin Ring of Honor.
Bobby Joe Green – 187 games (1960-1973)
Green lasted 14 years as a punter after being a ninth-round pick by San Francisco in the 1959 draft.
He also served as a volunteer coach at Florida after his playing days were over.
John James – 187 games (1972-1984)
James, whose father was a player on the legendary 1928 Florida team, was not selected in the 1972 draft but lasted 13 seasons in the NFL as a punter (yes, another punter).
He made three different Pro Bowl teams.
Cooper Carlisle – 190 games (2000-2012)
Carlisle now lives in the Gainesville area and is as unassuming as ever. But he started 133 NFL games for the Raiders and Broncos, and could play multiple positions along the offensive line.
He was a fourth-round pick — the 112th player chosen — by Denver. That was a pretty good value pick.
Mike Peterson – 198 games (1999-2012)
Peterson played 14 years at linebacker and was a tackling machine in the NFL after being selected in the second round of the 1999 draft by Indianapolis.
Not bad for a guy who was the starting quarterback at Santa Fe High. He is now back home as an assistant coach on Billy Napier’s staff.
Jack Youngblood – 202 games (1971-1984)
That’s a lot of games, especially since more than one of them was played on a broken leg. Youngblood played for 14 seasons at defensive end after being selected as the only Gator taken in the 1971 draft (he went 20th).
And he is in the Ring of Honor and the NFL Hall of Fame. Things worked out pretty well for the skinny kid from Monticello.
Trace Armstrong – 211 games (1989-2003)
In 15 seasons, Armstrong was a beast before settling in Gainesville and becoming a sports agent. Like Youngblood, he also dominated the defensive end position.
He was the 12th player taken in the 1989 draft after spending only one season at Florida (transferring from Arizona State) and finished his NFL career with 106 sacks.
Kevin Carter – 224 games (1995-2008)
This is the third straight player at the top of this list with a Super Bowl Ring. Carter had 104.5 sacks for four teams on the defensive line and should be getting consideration for the Hall of Fame.
And the Ring of Honor. But that’s another story. Carter was selected in the 1995 draft with the sixth pick.
Emmitt Smith – 226 games (1990-2004)
That certainly is an easy guess because he is the all-time leading rusher in the NFL despite being only the 17th player taken in 1990.
He was pretty good at Florida, too, but his teams were a pedestrian 20-14 because he was often a one-man show.
Lomas Brown — 263 games (1985-2002)
Steady as she goes. He rarely missed a game as a left tackle, starting all but one in Detroit. Brown was the sixth pick in the 1985 NFL draft and offers a conundrum.
I think the NFL weighs too heavily on Ring of Honor selections. But Brown needs to be up on that wall.
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