Last week, Chris Burke of SI.com provided readers with the All-SEC Alumni Team. Burke offered a selection of successful players for each position, including several Auburn Tigers, showing that the SEC has provided the NFL with many players that are just as good on Sundays as they were on Saturdays.
It is important to know that the criteria for SI’s All-SEC Alumni team are based entirely on each player’s performance in the NFL and all players are currently active. Therefore, some of the greatest players in each school’s history will not make the cut. Here is the full list:
Peyton Manning — Tennessee
Cam Newton — Auburn
Eli Manning — Ole Miss
Zac Stacy — Vanderbilt; Ben Tate — Auburn
Jason Witten — Tennessee
Jared Cook — South Carolina
Martellus Bennett — Texas A&M
Ben Grubbs — Auburn; Chance Warmack — Alabama
Maurkice Pouncey — Florida
Mike Pouncey — Florida
4-3 Defensive Ends:
3-4 Defensive Ends:
Marcell Dareus — Alabama; Nick Fairley — Auburn
Karlos Dansby — Auburn; Patrick Willis — Ole Miss
Blair Walsh — Georgia
Ryan Succop — South Carolina
Shane Lechler — Texas A&M
Dustin Colquitt — Tennessee
Cam Newton holds a very special place in the hearts of Auburn Tigers fans, leading the team to the 2010 national championship and winning the school’s third Heisman Trophy. It’s nice to see his talent has translated so well to the pro game. After being taken first overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Newton made a splash and set a handful of rookie records. Through three seasons, he has compiled 11,299 passing yards and 64 touchdown passes, along with 2,032 yards on the ground and 28 scores.
Newton’s numbers dipped a bit in 2013 and he recorded career lows in both passing and rushing yards, with 3,379 and 585, respectively, but his completion percentage (61.7%) and quarterback rating (88.8) were career highs. More importantly, the 2013 Carolina Panthers had their best season of Newton’s tenure, improving from 7-9 in 2012 to 12-4 and an NFC South division title and playoff appearance in 2013.
Selected 58th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, Ben Tate entered the NFL with high expectations. However, an ankle injury in the pre-season cost him his entire rookie campaign. In 2011, a healthy Tate rushed for 942 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.
The following season, Tate’s numbers slipped due to injuries as well as a very talented and competitive backfield in Houston. In 2013, Tate re-emerged with 771 yards on 181 rushing attempts and tied a career high with four rushing touchdowns. He set a career best with 34 receptions. After the season, the former Auburn Tiger signed with the Cleveland Browns and will no longer have to share carries with first teamer Arian Foster.
A first round pick in the 2007 draft of the Baltimore Ravens, Ben Grubbs has established himself as one of the best guards in professional football. He was a fixture in Baltimore, starting 70 games across five seasons before earning a spot in the Pro Bowl following the 2011 season. In 2012, Grubbs signed with the New Orleans Saints, and has started all 32 games. He was selected to the Pro Bowl again following the 2013 season.
Like Newton, Nick Fairley’s time on the Plains was short. He transferred to Auburn in 2009, worked himself into the defensive line rotation and then the starting lineup. Fairley exploded onto the scene during the 2010 season and won the Lombardi Award as the nation’s best lineman or linebacker.
It has taken time for Fairley to establish himself as a pro – both on and off the field – but his numbers have improved each year. Last season, Fairley started 15 games and set a career high with six sacks. He also had two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries – returning one for a touchdown – and notched a safety.
The only first teamer on the list, Karlos Dansby has spent 11 seasons in the NFL and has been an effective performer in each. A two-time All-SEC player as an Auburn Tiger, and a second round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2004, Dansby spent his first six seasons in Phoenix. After a three-year stint with the Miami Dolphins, he returned to the Cardinals in 2013 and set career highs with 114 tackles, four interceptions and 19 passes defended.
Dansby added 6.5 sacks – the second best total of his career – and tied a career high with two defensive touchdowns. In March, he signed a four-year deal with the Cleveland Browns.
As for those that missed the cut, cornerback Carlos Rogers should certainly be in the discussion. In nine professional seasons, Rogers has 17 career interceptions.
Should anyone else be considered? Let us know in the comments below.