Urban Meyer is one of the most accomplished and decorated coaches in the annals of college football. Meyer, who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1982 and played defensive back at the University of Cincinnati, accepted his first head coaching job at Bowling Green in 2001. Meyer dramatically altered the previously hapless Falcons’ fortunes and went 17-6 in two seasons leading that program. Capitalizing on his success in Ohio, Meyer agreed to oversee the University of Utah’s squad in 2003. In Salt Lake City, Meyer transformed another program and captured two Mountain West Conference championships in two seasons with the Utes. After revolutionizing two middling schools on the gridiron, the demand for Meyer’s services skyrocketed and he signed a seven-year contract worth $14 million in December 2004 to coach the Florida Gators’ team.
“The opportunity to compete at the highest level at one of the nation's most-respected academic institutions is something that was attractive for us,” said Meyer. “The passion of Gator fans is legendary in collegiate athletics and I am eager to be a part of that environment.”
Meyer flourished on the sidelines in Gainesville and directed the Gators to national titles in the 2006 and 2008 campaigns. Due to ongoing health concerns, Meyer resigned as Florida’s coach in December 2009. Following a one-year hiatus, the Sporting News’ Coach of the Decade for the 2000s inked a six-year deal valued at $4.4 million annually to guide Ohio State. Three years later, with Meyer at the helm, the Buckeyes upset Oregon 42-20 in January 2015 to win the first College Football Playoff championship game. Largely thanks to stellar recruiting efforts, Meyer’s taught outstanding players and gone 172-30 over 16 years. While many of Meyer’s talents proceeded to thrive in the NFL, others failed miserably at the professional level. With that noted, and circumstances like age and health notwithstanding, let’s look at the 15 worst players Meyer sent to the NFL.
15 CHAD JACKSON
Florida Gators wide receiver Chad Jackson preyed on secondaries throughout his time in Gainesville. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Jackson caught 120 pigskins for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns at Florida. After three standout seasons as a Gator, the New England Patriots took Jackson with the 36th pick in 2006. Jackson struggled to produce and remain healthy in Foxborough and the franchise ultimately fired him in August 2008.
“There’s two sides to every story,” said Jackson. “I won’t get into all that. But I had my opportunity, and I didn’t take full advantage of it.”
Jackson and the Denver Broncos agreed to a deal a couple of months later on October 27, 2008. Jackson also flopped in Denver and was out of the league altogether by the age of 24.
14 BRANDON SPIKES
The New England Patriots drafted Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes with the 62nd pick in 2010. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Spikes, a two-time consensus All-American, was a vicious Gator who muscled Urban Meyer’s 2006 and 2008 squads to national titles. Disappointingly, Spikes was also a juicehead who caused drama off the gridiron. Following three underachieving campaigns in New England, Bill Belichick cut Spikes in January 2014 for being late to practice. Spikes gained employment with the Buffalo Bills shortly thereafter. However, the Bills quickly tired of Spikes’ antics and the team allowed him to walk following the 2014 campaign. Surprisingly, Belichick granted Spikes another opportunity to redeem himself as a Patriot in May 2015. Roughly two months after Belichick’s questionable decision, the Patriots released Spikes when police found his damaged career abandoned on I-495 in Foxborough.
"I think we've always wanted to do what was best for our football team -- both the short- and the long-term," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "That's how that decision (to cut Spikes) was made."
The 30-year-old Spikes is presently a free agent without any known suitors.
13 Will Hill
Will Hill was a formidable presence at safety in Gainesville. Still, with worrisome morals and decision making skills, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hill went undrafted in 2012. Following a brief stint with the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League, the New York Giants signed Hill in May 2012. Sadly, Hill spent more time abusing narcotics than studying film in the swamps of Jersey. After three league suspensions for drug-related offenses and an arrest for failing to make child support payments, the Giants terminated Hill. Quite shockingly, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome gave Hill a two-year contract to become a Raven in August 2015.
"It means a lot to me, just for this organization to even consider [having] me for more years,” said Hill. "When I first signed and I sat down with Ozzie, I knew from that point that I didn't want to go anywhere. I wanted to be a Raven.”
Predictably, Hill regressed and was banned for the fourth time for violating the league's substance abuse policy in March 2016. The 27-year-old Hill has been a free agent since the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL released him in May due to character concerns.
12 Chris Rainey
The Pittsburgh Steelers took despicable troublemaker Chris Rainey with the 159th pick in 2012. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Rainey swiftly caused Pittsburgh’s C-level executives to rue their choice. Approximately eight months after becoming a Steeler, Rainey was arrested in Gainesville on one count of simple battery. Realizing their egregious error, the Steelers’ suits immediately cut Rainey.
"Chris Rainey's actions this morning were extremely disappointing," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. "Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Hereafter, Rainey failed to provide any value as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. Rainey, who was also charged with aggravated stalking in September 2010 after texting his ex-girlfriend that it’s “Time to Die b****,” somehow secured employment north of the border with the Montreal Alouettes in October 2014. The 29-year-old Rainey is now a running back for the BC Lions.
11 TIM TEBOW
Tim Tebow is arguably the most distinguished signal-caller in college football history. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Tebow, a two-time first-team All-American who earned AP Player of the Year honors in 2007, quarterbacked the Florida Gators to BCS national titles in 2006 and 2008. Approximately 16 months after leaving Gainesville, the Denver Broncos selected Tebow with the 25th choice in the 2010 draft. Tebow supplanted Kyle Orton in Week 6 of the 2011 campaign to become Denver’s starting passer.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was an erratic Bronco and he constantly fumbled the pigskin. Nevertheless, despite the legendary Gator’s struggles under center, Tebow managed to make critical plays and he willed Denver to the AFC West crown in 2011 and a 29-23 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers in that season’s AFC Wild Card game. Shortly after his playoff heroics, Tebow was shipped to the swamps of Jersey to become a Jet. Former Jets head coach Rex Ryan permanently grounded Tebow and refused to utilize him in any capacity. The 30-year-old Tebow is presently an outfielder for the New York Mets’ Class A affiliate, the Columbia Fireflies.
10 AARON HERNANDEZ
Although unbeknownst to many outsiders, Aaron Hernandez was a violent psychopath as a Gator in Gainesville. In spite of Hernandez’s bloodthirsty nature, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound tight end was a first-team All-American in 2009 who helped Florida win that year’s national championship. The New England Patriots ignored Hernandez’s savage reputation and took him 113th overall in 2010. Over three seasons and 38 games as a Patriot, Hernandez impressed and recorded 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. However, Hernandez’s feats on the gridiron were essentially erased once he was found guilty of the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.
For shooting Lloyd to death, Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell on April 19 at the age of 27.
In a letter sent to his fiancée shortly before taking his life, Hernandez wrote, “I told you what was coming indirectly! This was the Supremes, the Almightys plan, not mine!”
9 NICK VANNETT
Seattle Seahawks tight end Nick Vannett is a young, unfinished product with plenty of time to hone his abilities and become a factor on the gridiron. Nonetheless, as a 2016 third-round pick from a powerhouse like Ohio State, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Vannett must start producing. Vannett, who focuses more on blocking than catching, has mustered a measly eight receptions for 65 yards and zero scores in 17 games.
"I’ve always felt that I was a great receiver, and that’s something I did a lot of at Ohio State when Jeff Heuerman was there,” said Vannett, who was ranked as the best tight end prospect by ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay.
“Then, once he moved on, I really had to step up my blocking game. That’s an area where I made tremendous strides in, so I think that allowed me to be a really good blocking and receiving tight end.”
Now in his second-year as a Seahawk, the 24-year-old Vannett needs to show he’s “a great receiver.”
8 JACK MEWHORT
Offensive guard Jack Mewhort was seemingly unmovable as a three-year starter for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Mewhort was a 2013 first-team All-American who played in 49 games as a Buckeye. An utterly dominant figure in Columbus, the Indianapolis Colts took Mewhort with the 59th selection in 2014. Unfortunately, Mewhort has been a gimpy Colt and his brittle knee has limited him to 45 contests since getting drafted.
The Colts place Mewhort on injured reserve back in mid-October. He's only 26 years old and has ample time to resurrect his career. Nonetheless to date, he hasn't met expecations in the Hoosier State.
7 Jeff Heuerman
Jeff Heuerman was an elite tight end at Ohio State for four seasons. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Heuerman, a member of the 2014 second-team All-Big Ten squad, recorded 52 receptions for 792 yards and seven touchdowns in 41 contests as a Buckeye. The Denver Broncos took Heuerman with the 92nd choice in 2015.
“I did a lot of homework on him,” coach Gary Kubiak said after the Broncos drafted Heuerman. “He’s a leader on a national championship football team. I love his passion.”
Regardless of his passion, Heuerman sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during rookie minicamp and he’s never completely recovered from the wound. Since missing all of 2015, Heuerman has caught only 14 pigskins for 211 yards and one score in 20 games as a Bronco. Like many on this list, the 24-year-old Heuerman remains youthful and can rewrite his professional résumé. Nevertheless, Heuerman can presently only be deemed a bust.
6 Louis Murphy
Wide receiver Louis Murphy was a solid wide receiver for Urban Meyer at Florida. A speedster with reliable hands, the Oakland Raiders took the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Murphy with the 124th pick in 2009. Although a somewhat decent performer in The Town, the Raiders traded Murphy to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional late-round draft pick in July 2012.
“Thanking God for this opportunity! Super excited to be a part of the @Panthers Organization!! Can't wait!! #letsgopanthers!!!!,” tweeted Murphy.
Murphy was ineffective in Charlotte and he became a glorified journeyman who next collected paychecks with the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 30-year-old Murphy signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco on November 6. In 88 games with five franchises, Murphy’s recorded 162 receptions for 2,322 yards and 10 scores.
5 REID FRAGEL
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted offensive tackle Reid Fragel out of Ohio State with the 240th choice in 2013. Cincinnati’s scouts considered the 6-foot-8, 310-pound Fragel to be a raw talent who required further training before handling NFL defenders. Consequently, the Bengals relegated Fragel to its practice squad. While working with the Bengals, Cleveland’s executives became intrigued with Fragel’s potential and made him a Brown on October 29, 2013.
“Grateful for my experience in Cincinnati,” tweeted Fragel. “But I am very excited about my new opportunity as a Cleveland Brown!”
The Browns waived Fragel in August 2014 and he subsequently landed brief employment stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings. The 26-year-old Fragel is currently a free agent.
4 JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM
Even the New England Patriots failed to help outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham mature into a successful pro. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Cunningham, a member of two national championship teams in Gainesville, was drafted by New England with the 53rd pick in 2010. Rather than enhancing the Patriots’ pass rush, Cunningham compiled only 3.5 sacks in three seasons in Foxborough. Bill Belichick eventually conceded his mistake and waived the injury-prone Cunningham in August 2013. A month later, the San Francisco 49ers obtained Cunningham.
Despite relocating 3,000 miles, Cunningham was anything but golden as a 49er and he was cut four weeks after signing with the storied franchise. The 29-year-old Cunningham hasn’t participated in the NFL since he tore his Achilles' tendon during a New York Jets' intrasquad scrimmage in August 2014.
3 DERRICK HARVEY
Defensive end Derrick Harvey secured the BCS National Championship Game MVP award after Florida manhandled the Ohio State Buckeyes 41-14 to win the title on January 8, 2007. Roughly four months after helping stifle Ohio State’s attack, the Jacksonville Jaguars chose the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Harvey with the eighth overall pick. A toothless Jaguar, Harvey was waived by the organization in July 2011.
“(Harvey) was a high draft choice and he has had a lot of starts for us,” said Jaguars general manager Gene Smith.
“He’s still young. You hope at some point he’s going to be able to make a move. He did not make that last year during the season. We had some guys earn the opportunity to play over him.”
A few days after the Jaguars axed Harvey, he agreed to play for the Denver Broncos in August 2011. Harvey endured more gridiron lows in the Mile High City and the 30-year-old hasn’t competed in a regular season contest since the conclusion of 2011.
2 DEVIN SMITH
Devin Smith was an electric playmaker for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Over four seasons in Columbus, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Smith caught 121 passes for 2,503 yards and 12 scores. The New York Jets valued the athleticism that Smith displayed at the NFL scouting combine and drafted him with the 37th pick in 2015. Regrettably, the former Buckeye has proven to be a human chandelier in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Since being acquired by Gang Green, Smith tore the ACL in his right knee on two separate occasions and he’s only started three games.
“In college, he never had much injury history,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said.
“So, sometimes you do all this research and sometimes it’s just the nature of the business in terms of the players and getting injured. Sometimes it’s bad luck. Sometimes it’s unfortunate.”
Even at the young age of 25, Smith’s career as a professional is in serious jeopardy.
1 JARVIS MOSS
Jarvis Moss was an overwhelming defensive end for Urban Meyer at Florida. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Moss was a 2006 first-team All-American who powered the Gators to the 2007 national crown. Shortly after Florida battered Ohio State, the Denver Broncos drafted Jarvis with the 17th pick in 2007. Jarvis tallied just 3.5 sacks in three and a half years as a Bronco and he was released by the organization in November 2010.
"He wasn't drafted to play in this system necessarily," said former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.
"He's been a great kid for us, done everything we've asked him to do, played in the kicking game. It just, it hasn't been a perfect fit. And we wish him the best and hope that he can find a place that better suits what he does."
Following two unproductive seasons with the Oakland Raiders, the 33-year-old Moss was essentially forced to shelve his cleats in March 2012.
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