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Utah Utes Playing in the NFL in 2012

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One reason why the Utah Utes have experienced so much success on the football field in recent seasons is because the program has churned out quite a bit of NFL-level talent. Many former Utah players dot the 53-man rosters of NFL teams to begin the 2012 season.

Here is a list of former Utah Utes players who are currently carving out NFL careers:

Top Three Utes in the NFL:

1. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers: Weddle emerged as one of the top defensive players in the NFL a year ago. He was the league's co-leader in interceptions with a career-high seven picks. Weddle also registered 88 tackles. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro selection for a second consecutive season. Weddle has grown into a defensive leader for the Chargers since being drafted by San Diego in 2007.

2. Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers: The veteran receiver came back strong in 2011 with his first 1,000-yard season since 2008. Smith gained 1,394 yards and scored seven touchdowns on 79 receptions. He has more than 10,000 career receiving yards with the Panthers since they drafted him out of Utah in 2001. Smith is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a three time All-Pro selection. He led the NFL in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2005.

3. Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers: Smith finally enjoyed his best season a year ago since being drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers in 2005. He has flourished under head coach Jim Harbaugh, starting in all 16 regular-season games in 2011 for only the second time in his career. Smith threw for 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns while completing 61.3 percent of his passes. He finished the season with a career-best 90.7 quarterback rating. It was his first season with more than 3,000 yards passing in his NFL career.

Other Utes in the NFL:

Matt Asiata, FB, Minnesota Vikings

Zane Beadles, OG, Denver Broncos

Tony Bergstrom,OT, Oakland Raiders

Brandon Burton, CB, Minnesota Vikings

Jordan Gross, OT, Carolina Panthers

Robert Johnson, S, Tennessee Titans

Maake Kemoeatu, DT, Baltimore Ravens

Paul Kruger, LB, Baltimore Ravens

Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

Koa Misi, LB, Miami Dolphins

Sione Pouha, DT, New York Jets

David Reed, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, New York Jets

Derrick Shelby, DE, Miami Dolphins

Sealver Siliga, NT, Denver Broncos

Sean Smith, CB, Miami Dolphins

Paul Soliai, DT, Miami Dolphins

R.J. Stanford, CB, Miami Dolphins

Stevenson Sylvester, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

John Coon is a graduate of the University of Utah and has covered their sports teams multiple times as a reporter in Salt Lake City.

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