The Marshall University football program produced few noteworthy players in the NFL for the first several decades of the league's existence. Later, the NFL's rise to prominence in the 1950s and '60s coincided with a lot of losing seasons for Thundering Herd football, with few players attracting the interest of the league.
Marshall football was even worse throughout the 1970s after the tragic plane crash in 1970 that nearly wiped out its entire football team and coaching staff. However, the mid-1980s finally saw a resurgence of the football program. Since then, the school has produced not only many winning seasons but also several individuals that went on to great careers in the NFL.
The following list takes a look at what I think are the 10 best Marshall University football players to hit the gridiron in the NFL:
Randy Moss (Minnesota, Oakland, New England, Tennessee, San Francisco), 1998-2010, 2012: Moss has fashioned a career worthy of a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection once he calls it quits. After an incredibly productive two years at Marshall in 1996-97, Moss was picked in the first round of the 1998 draft by Minnesota. A five-time All-Pro selection, he has 958 catches for 14,905 yards and 154 touchdowns.
Chad Pennington (NY Jets, Miami), 2000-10: After leading the Thundering Herd to some of their best seasons as a record-setting signal caller, Pennington went on to a lot of success in the NFL with the Jets and Dolphins. A very accurate quarterback, he threw for 17,283 yards with 102 TDs versus only 64 interceptions.
Troy Brown (New England), 1993-2007: Brown was a star wide receiver and kick returner for the Patriots over a 15-year career. He played on three Super Bowl teams with New England, and he amassed 557 catches for 6,366 yards and 31 TDs.
Carl Lee (Minnesota, New Orleans), 1983-1994: A star defensive back at Marshall during some of its worst seasons, Lee went on to big things in the NFL as a cornerback with the Vikings, most notably picking off 31 passes and returning three of them for TDs.
Frank "Gunner" Gatski (Cleveland, Detroit), 1946-57: Gatski was a standout lineman at Marshall in 1941-42 before he was called to service in World War II. He played for the Browns for a decade and anchored their offense from his center position. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Byron Leftwich (Jacksonville, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh), 2003: After taking over for Pennington as Marshall's QB and having a stellar collegiate career of his own, Leftwich was drafted in the first round in 2003 by Jacksonville. An up-and-down NFL career has followed, with Leftwich assuming the duties as a backup QB in Pittsburgh in recent years. He has thrown for just over 10,000 yards as a pro.
Ahmad Bradshaw (NY Giants), 2007: Now in his sixth season as a running back for the Giants, Bradshaw has rushed for 3,295 yards and 27 TDs and has helped the team win two Super Bowl titles.
John Wade (Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Oakland), 1998-2008: After a superb career at Marshall as an offensive lineman, Wade was a top-notch performer at center in the NFL for 11 years. He played in 131 games, with 110 of them as a starter.
Chris Crocker (Cleveland, Atlanta, Miami, Cincinnati), 2003-11: Crocker has been a solid performer as a safety at every stop of his NFL career. He has accumulated 471 tackles and 10 INTs.
Jermaine Wiggins (NY Jets, New England, Indianapolis, Carolina, Minnesota), 2000-06: Wiggins played tight end for two years at Marshall in the mid-'90s before transferring to Georgia. In a seven-year NFL career, he hauled in 236 passes for 2,141 yards and 14 TDs.
Patrick Hattman is a Marshall University graduate and continues to be a big supporter of Thundering Herd football.
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