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NFL Playoffs Feature's Recent UM Graduates

Jan. 29, 2009

For years since the University of Miami was considered “Quarterback U” with the talents of Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde and Jim Kelly, graduates have been impacting the NFL in a strong fashion. Noting that long-standing tradition, it is easy to find former Hurricanes on a pro football roster. With a total of 46 players at the start of this past 2008 NFL season, Miami ranked number one in active pros, with Florida State in a distant second with 37.

For the past few seasons, Miami has built a stellar reputation on both the offensive and especially the defensive side of the ball, reminding fans of the units in the mid-1990s starring the recently retired Warren Sapp and 2009 Pro Bowl starter Ray Lewis. Lewis is amongst seven Miami graduates going to this year’s Pro Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 8. The list includes Lewis’ teammate, safety Ed Reed, wide receivers Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne, running back Clinton Portis, linebacker Jon Beason, and 21-year veteran punter, Jeff Feagles.

Lewis had 117 tackles including three interceptions and teammate Ed Reed led the league in interceptions with nine, one of which was returned for an NFL record 108 yards for a touchdown. Both players’ leadership helped Baltimore reach the NFC Championship game. Johnson of the Houston Texans had 115 receptions for 1,575 yards, both a best in the league, as well as eight touchdowns. Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts had a solid season with 82 receptions for 1,145 yards and six touchdowns. Portis of the Washington Redskins finished fourth in the league with 1,487 rushing yards as well as nine touchdowns, including six games with 120+ yards. Beason of the Carolina Panthers was third in the league with 138 total tackles, and finished first with 110 solo tackles. Jeff Feagles of the New York Giants had another solid season at the age of 42.

During the NFL’s Super Bowl “Media Day” which took place this past Tuesday in Tampa, three former Canes and now teammates on the Arizona Cardinals were in the spotlight, Edgerrin James, Antrel Rolle and rookie Calais Campbell. Although the three players lined up for the Hurricanes at different times, they all immediately embraced each other as teammates when Campbell joined the squad as a reserve defensive lineman, representing the close-knit bond Miami’s athletics program strives to create.

Campbell was amongst three other defensive rookies who played for the Hurricanes in 2007 participating in the most recent NFL playoffs. The New York Giants Kenny Phillips, Atlanta Falcons Glenn Sharpe, and Baltimore Ravens Tavares Gooden also played valuable roles for their teams en route to respective playoff births. Phillips ended up as the last pick of the first round in last years’ draft by the Giants, extending Miami’s unprecedented record of 14 straight years with a first round draft pick (1994-2008).

Beason is a second year player and finished third in the league in total tackles for the second consecutive time. His rookie season, Beason had 140 total tackles, a step up from the 138 he had this season. Beason represents a solid class of linebackers from Miami and continues to lead a promising defensive unit. However, his Carolina Panthers team lost in a playoff match-up with Campbell’s Cardinals, 33-13.

Including the four rookies, the playoffs featured 17 former Hurricanes, and newly acquired offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who previously coached the Eagles Donovan McNabb and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger as an assistant coach.