Campus Corner

Best NFL players produced by K-State coach Bill Snyder

Cornerback Terence Newman was drafted fifth overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, making him the highest-drafted player coached by Bill Snyder at Kansas State.
Cornerback Terence Newman was drafted fifth overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, making him the highest-drafted player coached by Bill Snyder at Kansas State. File photo by David Eulitt

Some former Kansas State football players figure to hear their names called this weekend during the NFL Draft. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett and center B.J. Finney are considered among the best at their positions. Others, like cornerback Randall Evans, will have their fingers crossed.

Kansas State has had at least one player taken in every NFL Draft since 1991, including the three years (2006-08) when Bill Snyder wasn’t the coach.

Who went on the best pro careers? We took a stab at ranking the top NFL careers for those who spent time playing for Snyder.

1. Terence Newman

Newman went from a solid junior season to an outstanding senior year in 2002, when he was chosen Big 12 defensive player of the year and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. The Dallas Cowboys made Newman the No. 5 overall pick in 2003 — the highest pick for a Snyder-coached player — and Newman ranks among the longest-tenured NFL players produced by Kansas State. Newman played nine seasons with the Cowboys and made two Pro Bowls, three with the Bengals and last month reached a one-year deal with the Vikings.

2. Jordy Nelson

Nelson played quarterback at Riley County High School and started his K-State career as a walk-on defensive back. Bill Snyder moved Nelson to wide receiver, and as a sophomore in 2005, he caught 65 passes and eight touchdowns. Nelson spent his final two years in Ron Prince’s program before the Green Bay Packers made Nelson their second-round selection in 2008. He’s been one of the NFL’s top wide receivers since, with 400 career receptions, 49 touchdowns and a Super Bowl ring.

3. Darren Sproles

It took nine years for Sproles to reach his first Pro Bowl, which happened in his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles last year. The former Olathe North mighty mite (Sproles is listed at 5 feet 6) has done a bit of everything in his career with the Chargers, which made Sproles a fourth-round choice in 2005, Saints and Eagles. He’s led the NFL in all-purpose yards, punt-return yards and has 17 rushing and 27 receiving touchdowns. Five of his nine seasons have ended in the playoffs.

4. Ryan Lilja

After two years at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, Lilja entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Chiefs in 2004 and was headed to the practice squad when the Colts claimed him off waivers. Lilja went on to become a mainstay on the offensive line of two Colts’ Super Bowl teams. The former Shawnee Mission Northwest standout spent his final three seasons with the Chiefs as a guard and center.

5. Martin Gratmatica

The Lou Groza Award winner in 1997, Gramatica was the Buccaneers’ third-round selection in 1999 and ranked among the NFL’s top place-kickers for the first half of his nine-year career. Gramatica made the Pro Bowl in 2000 and booted a pair of field goals in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory over the Raiders.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.

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