There are a number of great players who made their names in college football. It’s a style of football where the focus is more about the game and less about the money and benefits that come with making the leap to the National Football League. The NFL is meant to select the best college football players through the annual NFL Draft. However, that’s not how it always works out.
There are some players who are selected in the first round that turn out to be some of the game’s best. Peyton Manning had quite a decent career when he was the first overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft. Other noticeable first round selections range from players in major conferences (i.e. Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech) down to those at schools some fans have to research to learn about (Randy Moss of Marshall).
But sometimes, the players chosen early in the first round can often be overhyped. Their weaknesses can often be hidden through the filters of collegiate football. NFL team scouts can often miss the mark on players coming out of college. Just remember, Tom Brady was selected 199th overall in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Quarterbacks like Chad Pennington, Chris Redman and Spergon Wynn were chosen before Brady, but the five-time Super Bowl champion has the last laugh.
The thing is that there are several players who have great careers in college football, but become busts in the NFL. The following are 15 of those players and where they are now.
15. Courtney Brown
There aren’t a lot of defensive linemen who can get an interception return for a touchdown. Courtney Brown did that during his 1999 college football season with Penn State. It was a play where he showed some of the skills that professional scouts were looking for. Brown would be the first overall selection by the Cleveland Browns in the 2000 NFL Draft after being named the 1999 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Brown had one good season as a defensive end in 2000 with 61 tackles and four-and-a-half sacks. But injuries kept him from being on the field as he finished his six-year career with just eight sacks between Cleveland and Denver.
The last Brown has been heard from was being named part of a concussion lawsuit against the NFL back in 2012, along with another former Cleveland Brown in Tim Couch.
14. Ron Dayne
Not many running backs have been able to match or surpass the kind of numbers that Ron Dayne put up during his years at the University of Wisconsin. From 1996 to 1999, Dayne totaled 7,125 yards with 71 rushing touchdowns. He would win the 1999 Heisman Trophy after rushing for 2,034 yards and 20 touchdowns en route to winning the 2000 Rose Bowl over Stanford. Unfortunately, his NFL career wasn’t as great.
He was never able to rush for more than 770 yards in his rookie year with the New York Giants; after they picked him 11th in the 2000 NFL Draft. In seven seasons, he rushed for just 3,722 yards. After retiring from football, Dayne has worked at the University of Wisconsin while his children are becoming star athletes of their own.
13. Rick Mirer
Rick Mirer had a tremendous tenure at Notre Dame, going 27-9-1 as a starter. He threw for 5,997 yards, 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He also added 17 rushing touchdowns, showing that he could be a very explosive player in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks took a chance on him, drafting Mirer second overall in 1993.
Mirer had a very good rookie season, setting rookie records for attempts, completions and yards. However Mirer never took the next step and wound up becoming better known for his turnover prone play. Eventually he lost his starting job in Seattle and bounced around the league as a backup. He finished his NFL career with 50 touchdowns, but totaled 76 interceptions.
Today Mirer owns his own winery, Napa County called Mirror Wine Company.
12. Matt Leinart
There have been a number of quarterbacks who found a lot of success at the University of Southern California, a.k.a. USC. Matt Leinart is one of those players who would win the Heisman Trophy in 2004 as a junior with 3,322 yards, 33 touchdowns and six interceptions. Overall, he played three seasons with the USC Trojans and finished with more than 10,000 yards and one shy of 100 touchdowns. It made sense to be drafted 10th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.
But as with many USC quarterbacks, Leinart wasn’t very effective through time spent in Arizona, Houston and Oakland. In 33 career games, he threw for a total of 4,065 yards, 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Since last playing for Oakland in 2012, Leinart has taken the position of a college football analyst for Fox Sports 1.
11. Tony Mandarich
There was once a time when Tony Mandarich was viewed as one of the best offensive linemen in college football. He was a consensus All-American with Michigan State University in 1988. At six feet, five inches and weighing 311 pounds, Mandarich had an impressive physique that he continued to claim was the result of his diet and weightlifting. This earned him the second pick in the 1989 NFL Draft by Green Bay; right behind Dallas’ Troy Aikman at no. 1.
But Mandarich struggled in three seasons (1989-1991) in Green Bay and then in three years with Indianapolis (1996-1998). Note that there was a four-year gap between stints in the NFL. Mandarich struggled with steroids and alcohol. The good news is that Mandarich has turned his life around and gone into the world of photography. It was always a hobby since 1990 and has since expanded his business.
10. Vince Young
Vince Young showed a lot of potential during his time at the University of Texas from 2003 to 2005. In his last year before forgoing his senior season, Young had an impressive season with 3,036 passing yards, another 1,050 rushing and a total of 38 touchdowns. The 2005 season also saw him lead Texas to National Championship. This led to him becoming the third overall pick by Tennessee in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Mediocre play and multiple injuries led to his career having little success through six professional seasons. Young tried to make camps for Buffalo, Green Bay and Cleveland from 2012 to 2014, but failed to make it out of camp in each season. After financial and legal troubles, Young still works at the University of Texas and is involved with the school’s community engagement.
9. Tim Couch
While the Cleveland Browns’ infamous storefront jersey is retired, it is still remembered for the long list of failed starting quarterbacks since 1999. Tim Couch was the first on that list after having quite a good run at the University of Kentucky. Couch drew a lot of attention after he threw for 4,275 yards and 36 touchdowns in 1998. But after being the first overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Couch was below the line of mediocrity.
In five seasons from 1999 to 2003, Couch completed less than 60 percent of his passes, had 67 interceptions against 64 touchdowns and tallied a 22-37 record as a starter. Couch has since then joined the world of sports broadcasting. He’s now working as a college football analyst for Fox Sports South; covering the Southeastern Conference.
8. Tim Tebow
There is something to be said when arguing that Tim Tebow might have been one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time. In four seasons with the Florida Gators, Tebow had 9,285 passing yards, 88 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He was a dual-threat with nearly 3,000 rushing yards and another 57 touchdowns on the ground. But the former Heisman Trophy winner was picked 25th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by Denver. In his three NFL seasons between the Broncos and the Jets, he had a completion percentage of just 47.9 percent with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Tebow would become a college football analyst for a few years, maintaining that he wasn’t retired. Last August, he made the decision to pursue a career in professional baseball; inviting all 30 MLB teams to an open tryout. He was signed to a minor league deal by the New York Mets and played in the Arizona Fall League – striking out 20 times in 62 at-bats.
7. Mike Williams
There have been countless Mike Williams’s who played in the NFL. This Williams had two very successful seasons with the USC Trojans with 2,579 yards and 30 touchdown receptions between his freshman and sophomore seasons. He attempted to declare for the 2004 NFL Draft, but a court decision blocked that early entry. Williams would then sit out a year because he wasn’t eligible for NCAA football.
He struggled in two seasons with Detroit and came into camp with Tennessee in 2007 weighing about 250 pounds. This continued as he bounced around the league with Oakland and Seattle until 2012. After one year in the Canadian Football League, Williams has since become a high school football coach for Locke Charter High School in Los Angeles, Calif.
6. Curtis Enis
Curtis Enis drew a lot of positive praise from his college days at Penn State. After rushing for 1,210 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1996, he followed it up with a very impressive 1,363-yard season with 19 touchdowns in 1997 that played Florida in the Citrus Bowl that year. Enis was drafted fifth overall by Chicago in the 1998 NFL Draft. He had one start due to a torn knee ligament in 1998. There were other injuries that kept him off the field.
When he did get carries, he averaged about 3.3 yards per rush as he only lasted three seasons in the NFL. In the years after professional football, Enis would a high school coach in Bradford, Ohio, but left after four years. Since then, he’s become an operations supervisor for Anheuser-Busch.
5. Andre Ware
The University of Houston is certainly known as a smaller program in NCAA Division I, but they’ve had a few good players in their history. Quarterback Andre Ware was the star for the Cougars in the later 1980s as he won the Heisman Trophy in 1989 after throwing for 4,699 yards, 46 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He would become a seventh-overall pick by Detroit in the 1990 NFL Draft.
But during his four seasons in Detroit, he barely played with just six career starts. Overall in his professional career, he completed just 51.6 percent of his throws for 1,112 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. Luckily, Ware found a steady career in broadcasting. He’s often seen broadcasting games through ESPN’s SEC Network as an analyst with color commentary experience.
4. Cade McNown
The Chicago Bears were desperate for a quarterback when entering the 1999 NFL Draft. There was some hope when Cade McNown fell down to their position at the 12th spot in the draft. McNown had put up some respectable numbers in his junior and senior seasons at UCLA – 3,116 yards and 24 touchdowns in 1997 and 3,470 yards and 25 touchdowns in 1998. But like many quarterbacks in recent Chicago history, McNown was a bust.
In just six starts in 1999, McNown was 2-4 with a completion rate of 54 percent for 1,465 yards, eight interceptions and 10 touchdowns. It wasn’t any better in 2000 with a 1-8 record, 1,646 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was traded from Miami to San Francisco, but never played after the 2000 season. Since then, McNown has entered the financial world; becoming the vice president of Lourd Capital Management in 2013.
3. JaMarcus Russell
Bigger isn’t always better; especially when talking about someone playing quarterback in the National Football League. JaMarcus Russell was certainly a larger quarterback during his time at Louisiana State University (LSU) from 2004 to 2006. He slowly progressed into the 2006 season where he had more than 3,100 passing yards with 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Russell would end his college career with a 41-14 Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame.
But as the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by Oakland, Russell gained weight and lost a lot of his abilities. He lasted only three seasons through 2009 with the Raiders and finished with a 7-18 record as a quarterback. He attempted a comeback last April; writing letters to all 32 NFL teams. He’s coaching youth football back in Mobile, Ala., in an effort to fill his days.
2. Brian Bosworth
Brian Bosworth certainly developed a lot of attention when he was a two-time All-American for the University of Oklahoma. This Sooner drew eyes and ears with a persona that seemed fitting for someone who would be a first-round draft choice in the NFL. But he was worth the attention during his time in college from 1984-1986; even finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in his senior year. He was the first pick in the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft and offered what was the biggest rookie contract at the time.
But Bosworth only played 24 games in three seasons with just four sacks. A shoulder injury would end the career of The Boz. He moved around as a commentator for a few networks before going into a few movie roles. His credits include Stone Cold, The Longest Yard (2005) and a trio of Revelation Road films.
1. Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf is synonymous with the term bust. After having a successful 1997 season at Washington State – 3,968 yards, 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions – Leaf was the second overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft by San Diego; behind some guy named Peyton Manning. But Leaf will be viewed as one of the biggest busts in the NFL after throwing 15 interceptions and just two touchdowns. He missed the 1999 season due to a shoulder injury and didn’t look any better in 2000 or in 2001 with Dallas.
Leaf’s life went down after football after losing his job at West Texas A&M after asking for a pill from a player. After years of writing, he was arrested in Great Falls, Mt., after attempting to steal painkillers. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for the burglary and drug possession charges. He’s since been released and now works as an ambassador for Transcend Recovery Communities.
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