Campus Corner

Best NFL players produced by MIAA schools in the past 25 years

Broncos receiver Rod Smith was pulled down by Chiefs safety Greg Wesley after a gain of 20 yards on Dec. 16, 2001, at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won the game 26-23 in overtime.
Broncos receiver Rod Smith was pulled down by Chiefs safety Greg Wesley after a gain of 20 yards on Dec. 16, 2001, at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won the game 26-23 in overtime. The Kansas City Star

If a player can play, the NFL will find him, even in Division II. Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association schools have sent many players to the pro ranks through the draft, which begins on Thursday, or as undrafted free agents. These are some of the best NFL careers by players from the MIAA in the past 25 years.

One of the best who played in a school currently in the MIAA, Leon Lett, attended Emporia State when the Hornets weren’t part of the conference.

1. Rod Smith, Missouri Southern

Undrafted after setting several receiving records at Missouri Southern, Smith signed with the Patriots and was released. The Broncos signed him and he went on to an outstanding 13-year career in Denver. He was twice a Super Bowl champion and All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler. He’s the Broncos’ career leader in receptions (849), receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He entered the team’s Ring of Honor in 2012 and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

2. Brian Moorman, Pittsburg State

Moorman was an All-America punter and hurdler for the Gorillas. The Bills signed him as a free agent in 2001, and Moorman went on to become one of the best at his position. He was named the second-team punter on the NFL’s all-decade teams for the 2000s. Moorman made two Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro.

3. Kendall Gammon, Pittsburg State

After helping Pitt State win the 1991 Division II championship as an offensive lineman, Gammon started his 15-year, 234-game NFL career started with the Steelers, who made him an 11th-round pick in 1992. He spent four seasons there, four in New Orleans and his last eight with the Chiefs. In 2004, Gammon became the first player in the history of the Pro Bowl to make the team as a long snapper.

4. Jeff Wright, Central Missouri

Wright, taken in the eighth-round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Bills, was Buffalo’s starting nose tackle for the team’s four Super Bowl appearances. He finished his seven-year career with 31 1/2 sacks.

5. Greg Zuerlein, Nebraska-Omaha, Missouri Western

Zuerlein spent three seasons at Nebraska-Omaha, and when the Mavericks dropped their program, he wound up at Missouri Western, where he set a Division II record with 21 consecutive field goals in 2011. The Rams made him a sixth-round selection in 2012, and “Greg the Leg,” has been a booming success. He’s made the most 50-yard-plus field goals in a season (13 in 2012), and made the longest field goal by a rookie (60 in 2012).

Honorable mention

▪ Delanie Walker, Central Missouri: The first seven of Walker’s nine-year NFL career as a tight end produced some nice numbers, but he blossomed after moving from the 49ers, who made him a sixth-round pick in 2006, to the Titans two years ago. Over the past two seasons, Walker has 123 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

▪ James Thrash, Missouri Southern: Thrash spent nine of his 12 NFL seasons with Washington, becoming a fan favorite as a wide receiver and special-teams standout. He caught 290 passes in his career, that included three seasons with the Eagles. Thrash signed as a undrafted free agent in 1997.

▪ Ronald Moore, Pittsburg State: After winning the Harlon Hill Award as the top player in Division II in 1992, Moore broke onto the NFL scene with a 1,018-yard rushing season as a rookie with the Cardinals in 1993 and followed that with a 780-yard season. But that was about it for Moore, who played five more seasons and rushed for 89 yards.

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

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