Oregon won the 2012 Rose Bowl and, having played in three consecutive BCS bowl games, is currently one of the most successful college football programs in the nation. Through their history, the Ducks have sent many players on to careers at the professional level, six of whom have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This is one fan's list of the 10 most successful former Ducks in NFL history:
Dan Fouts (Chargers), 1973-87: A steal for San Diego in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft, Fouts led the Chargers to the playoffs four times in his 15 years at quarterback. With a career total of 43,040 passing yards (ninth all-time), he completed 254 touchdown passes and ran for 13 more. Selected for six Pro Bowls, Fouts was also named the league's Most Valuable Player twice, in 1979 and 1982. Dan Fouts was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
Russ Francis (Patriots, 49ers), 1975-80 and 1982-88: Francis came to the University of Oregon following graduation from nearby Pleasant Hill High School where he set the national record for the javelin at 259 feet 9 inches. New England made Francis, a 6-foot-6-inch, 240-pound tight end, its first pick in the 1975 draft, and he appeared in three consecutive Pro Bowls (1976-78) as a Patriot. In 1984, playing for San Francisco in Super Bowl XIX, Russ Francis caught five passes for 60 yards in the 49ers' 38-16 victory over the Dolphins to earn a ring.
Dave Grayson (Texans, Chiefs, Raiders), 1961-70: Grayson was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection and six-time Pro Bowl player. In 10 years as a defensive back and kick returner, he is the all-time AFL leader in interceptions with 47, including an interception off George Blanda in the Texans' 1962 double-overtime championship game victory. Dave Grayson twice ran 99 yards for a touchdown, a 1961 interception for the Dallas Texans and a 1963 kick return for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Alphonse "Tuffy" Leemans (Giants), 1936-43: Tuffy Leemans played one season at Oregon, in 1932, before transferring to George Washington University. He was a second-round pick by New York in the 1936 draft. In eight seasons for the Giants, he played in three league championship games--winning it all in 1938--and two Pro Bowls. Do you like versatility? In his NFL career, Leemans totaled more than 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing and receiving, 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns passing, returned 24 punts and kicks, and had four interceptions as a defensive back. He has been an HOF member since 1978.
Haloti Ngata (Ravens), 2006-current: Ngata was a beast on Oregon's defensive line, with more than 107 tackles and seven blocked kicks in three seasons. Baltimore made him its first pick in the 2006 draft. Now in his seventh season, Haloti has two first-team All-Pro selections and three Pro Bowl appearances. With more than 200 tackles, three interceptions, and five fumble recoveries (one returned for six points), at 6-4 and 335 pounds, Haloti Ngata may be the most powerful defensive lineman in the NFL today.
Ahmad Rashad (Cardinals, Bills, Vikings), 1972-74 and 1976-82: Bobby Moore played running back and wide receiver at Oregon, and he was a teammate of Dan Fouts. Following a conversion to Islam, he changed his name to Ahmad Rashad and was drafted fourth overall in 1972 by St. Louis. In a 10-year NFL career at wide receiver, he caught 495 passes for 6,831 yards and 44 touchdowns. In 1976, he caught three passes in Super Bowl XI, but his Vikings lost to the Oakland Raiders. Rashad was selected to four Pro Bowls.
Mel Renfro (Cowboys), 1964-77: As a Duck, Renfro was an All-American halfback and defensive back, plus a track star. Taken by Dallas in the second round of the 1964 draft*, he had a spectacular rookie season, leading the Cowboys with seven interceptions and leading the entire NFL in both punt and kickoff return yardage. He was selected for the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons. In his 14-year career, he played in four Super Bowls, winning championships in 1971 and 1977. Mel Renfro's 52 interceptions remain the all-time Cowboys franchise record. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Norm Van Brocklin (Rams, Eagles), 1949-60: In 1971, Van Brocklin became the first Oregon player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A fourth-round selection by Los Angeles in the 1949 draft, he won the NFL passing title three times (1950, '52, and '54) and led the Rams to the NFL championsip in 1951. After nine seasons (and six Pro Bowl selections) with Los Angeles, Norm was traded to Philadelphia. In three seasons as an Eagle, Norm Van Brocklin earned three more Pro Bowl selections, won the NFL MVP in 1960, and led the Eagles to the NFL title in 1960.
Dave Wilcox (49ers), 1964-74: Wilcox was taken by San Francisco in the third round of the 1964 NFL Draft and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000**. In 11 years with the 49ers, he intercepted 14 passes, recovered 12 fumbles, and scored two touchdowns. Playing in two NFC championship games, he was prevented from reaching the Super Bowl by his Ducks teammate Mel Renfro, losing to the Cowboys in both 1970 and 71. Earning seven Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro selections, Dave Wilcox was arguably the finest outside linebacker of his era.
Gary Zimmerman (Vikings, Broncos), 1986-97: At 6-6 and 294 pounds, Zimmerman was picked third overall by the New York Giants in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft***. In 11 seasons as an offensive tackle (seven with Minnesota and five with Denver), a three-time first-team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler, he is also a member of two NFL All-Decade teams (1980s and '90s). His pass-blocking ability contributed to his quarterbacks leading their conferences in passing four times. Gary Zimmerman earned a championship ring in Super Bowl XXXII when his Denver Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24.
* Mel Renfro was also selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 10th round of the 1964 AFL Draft.
** Dave Wilcox was also selected by the Houston Oilers in the 6th round of the 1964 AFL Draft. Transfering to Oregon after two years at Boise State, he may be the only Bronco in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
*** Gary Zimmerman's signing rights were traded to Minnesota for two second round picks in the 1986 NFL draft. He played two seasons with the USFL Los Angeles Express before reporting to the Vikings.
A Ducks fan for nearly 50 years, Harold Andrews has enjoyed cheering for future NFL stars from Dan Fouts to LaMichael James.
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