Rice Owls' highest NFL draft picks since 1970

Written by:
February 24, 2022
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Rice Owls' highest NFL draft picks since 1970

While most colleges and universities field a football team as part of its general athletics program, there are some for which football is more than merely a sport—it’s akin almost to a religion. Devotion to the team and its colors is as important to that school’s culture as a religious icon is to a believer. These programs actively scout and recruit notable high school players, and are in turn rigorously applied to by matriculating seniors eager to make a name for themselves at the collegiate level.

Among the most notable college football empires are Notre Dame, the universities of Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State—the list goes on and on.

But for every touchstone football school, there is an outlier that has produced some of the most successful and cherished players in the game. Think Jackson State, which gave us “Sweetness” himself, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. Or Mississippi Valley State, which yielded 3-time Super Bowl champion and #1 Player in NFL History, as voted by the NFL Network, ‘49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice.

Each year, the college draft serves as a source of renewal to professional football and a testament to the quality of college programs nationwide. With the 2022 NFL draft set to take place April 28-30 in Las Vegas, Stacker compiled a list of the highest NFL draft picks from the Rice Owls using data from Pro Football Reference. Ties were broken by the most recent year drafted.

#20. Darryl Grant (DT)
- Draft pick: Round 9, #231 overall in 1981
- Drafted by: Washington Football Team
- Years as a starter in NFL: 8 (0 Pro Bowls)

#19. Christian Covington (DT)
- Draft pick: Round 6, #216 overall in 2015
- Drafted by: Houston Texans
- Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#18. Scott Solomon (DE)
- Draft pick: Round 7, #211 overall in 2012
- Drafted by: Tennessee Titans
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#17. Frank Wilson (TE)
- Draft pick: Round 8, #209 overall in 1981
- Drafted by: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#16. Larry Brune (DB)
- Draft pick: Round 7, #206 overall in 1976
- Drafted by: Minnesota Vikings
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#15. Rodrigo Barnes (LB)
- Draft pick: Round 7, #176 overall in 1973
- Drafted by: Dallas Cowboys
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#14. Brandon Green (DE)
- Draft pick: Round 6, #176 overall in 2003
- Drafted by: Jacksonville Jaguars
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#13. Luke Willson (TE)
- Draft pick: Round 5, #158 overall in 2013
- Drafted by: Seattle Seahawks
- Years as a starter in NFL: 2 (0 Pro Bowls)

#12. N.D. Kalu (DE)
- Draft pick: Round 5, #152 overall in 1997
- Drafted by: Philadelphia Eagles
- Years as a starter in NFL: 2 (0 Pro Bowls)

#11. James Casey (TE)
- Draft pick: Round 5, #152 overall in 2009
- Drafted by: Houston Texans
- Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#10. Jarett Dillard (WR)
- Draft pick: Round 5, #144 overall in 2009
- Drafted by: Jacksonville Jaguars
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#9. Ryan Pontbriand (C)
- Draft pick: Round 5, #142 overall in 2003
- Drafted by: Cleveland Browns
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#8. Donald Hollas (QB)
- Draft pick: Round 4, #99 overall in 1991
- Drafted by: Cincinnati Bengals
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#7. Phillip Gaines (DB)
- Draft pick: Round 3, #87 overall in 2014
- Drafted by: Kansas City Chiefs
- Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#6. Vance McDonald (TE)
- Draft pick: Round 2, #55 overall in 2013
- Drafted by: San Francisco 49ers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 6 (0 Pro Bowls)

#5. Bert Emanuel (WR)
- Draft pick: Round 2, #45 overall in 1994
- Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons
- Years as a starter in NFL: 6 (0 Pro Bowls)

#4. Courtney Hall (C)
- Draft pick: Round 2, #37 overall in 1989
- Drafted by: San Diego Chargers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (0 Pro Bowls)

#3. Gary Butler (TE)
- Draft pick: Round 2, #27 overall in 1973
- Drafted by: Kansas City Chiefs
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#2. Tommy Kramer (QB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #27 overall in 1977
- Drafted by: Minnesota Vikings
- Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (1 Pro Bowls)

#1. Earl Cooper (RB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #13 overall in 1980
- Drafted by: San Francisco 49ers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 4 (0 Pro Bowls)

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