Jerry Rice is in the pantheon of great NFL receivers. His illustrious career overshadowed his humble beginnings. Rice was the 49ers’ No. 1 pick in the 1985 draft, coming out of a small college in the South.
Why do coaches always say that defense and rebounding win championships? Because of Bill Russell, who made defense and rebounding into an art form. Russell began his reign of dominance at a small Golden State institution.
As a ballhandler and passer, Bob Cousy was way ahead of his time. In an era when point guards walked the ball upcourt right-handed and dumped it inside to big men, he raced around, dribbling ambidextrously and firing behind-the-back and no-look passes to his teammates. He no doubt honed those skills at the small college he attended in New England.
Born and raised in Summerfield, Louisiana, Karl Malone grew used to small-town settings. Malone remained a big fish in a small pond when he attended a small college in his home state. He broke into the mainstream by taking his school to the NCAA tournament for the first time in history.
Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of experience playing high school quarterback led him to make his home at this small Mid-American Conference school. Once Roethlisberger took his place as the starter, he crushed many of the school’s passing records.
Athleticism has never been a problem for Tony Romo. His natural ability allowed him to have the most successful collegiate career in history at his small college. Romo reached such a legendary status in the school’s annals that they retired his college jersey.
Marques Colston, whose father (his name?) played in the Canadian Football League, seemed destined to hit the gridiron. After a standout career in Pennsylvania’s high school football scene, Colston headed north to play on a seemingly small college stage.
Vincent Jackson exemplified excellence in high school in a variety of areas. He played both football and basketball, but his outstanding grades earned him acceptance to Ivy League school Columbia. However, Jackson spurned Columbia for a different institution.
Bart Scott created quite a buzz as a high school player in Detroit, but his grades kept him from receiving scholarship offers from big-name football powerhouses. A small state school in Illinois took a chance on Scott (see photos) and fully received the bang for its buck.
As a high-profile receiver for the Dallas Cowboys — the premier glamour team in the NFL — it might come as a shock that Miles Austin didn’t play collegiately for a big-name institution. Instead, Austin put up numbers for a college in his home state of New Jersey.
It’s not unusual to hear Larry Bird referred to as Larry Legend, given his legendary status with the Boston Celtics and stardom on his college team. Bird’s exploits as a college star made him famous — especially when he led his hometown team against Magic Johnson and big, bad Michigan State in the 1979 NCAA championship (who won?).
Despite being born in New Jersey, Dennis Rodman spent his formative years in Texas. Before making an impact in the NBA, Rodman played basketball at a small community college and then made the relative jump to a Division II school to finish out his collegiate career.
Joe Flacco has some impressive achievements associated with his tenure as the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. After starting his college career as a backup quarterback at Pittsburgh, Flacco (see photos) transferred to this smaller school, where he finally saw legitimate playing time as a starter.
The Cromartie family knows how to produce football players. Dominique’s cousin, Antonio Cromartie, also plays in the NFL. Unlike Antonio, who played collegiately at Florida State, Dominique (see photos) did not play college ball at a high-profile school.
Robert Mathis (see photos) has been a stalwart at the linebacker positions for the Indianapolis Colts since the organization drafted him in 2003. Mathis’ reputation of wreaking havoc at this Southwestern Athletic Conference college clearly preceded him.
Ex-NFL player Marcellus Wiley was no slouch in the academics department. As the valedictorian of his high school class and National Honor Society member, it’s logical that he chose to play college football at this institution of higher learning.