UCF in the NFL: Are these the top 5 NFL Knights ever?
Coach O’Leary harbors the most pride in graduating nearly 80% of his Seniors to the real world each year. But UCF Nation would rather boast O’Leary and Coach Brent Key’s ability to recruit blue chippers to replace all those ballers O’Leary graduates to playing on Sunday afternoons. The Knights developed a reputation for finding underdogs at the skill positions, and placing them on NFL rosters once their Black & Gold session expires. Although many active Knights are making noise on every given Sunday, these former Knights paved the way and established the brand to a national audience while gathering hardware for their individual accomplishments on both sides of the ball, and a nice collection of Division, Conference and Super Bowl titles. This list is far from complete, so feel free to offer your opinion as UCF Nation continues to prove its worth at the next level, and of course the glaring omission of BMarsh from the list is due to his active status, and featured in the UCF Top 5 in the Game article here. (note: teams listed are where the individual made the biggest impact).
5> Atari Bigby / Safety / Green Bay Packers
A rare blue chip find from the island of Jamaica, Bigby made his way to the mainland, becoming a stand out safety for UCF. Undrafted in 2005, he caught on with the Green Bay Packers and starred in in Pack secondary during their peak playoff years of the last decade. The rumor is that Bigby doesn’t particularly like Coach O’Leary because old George made him cut his dreadlocks. He was a known Rastafarian, and proud Knight, although he was known to introduce himself from University of Jah Rastifari on Sunday Night Football. We have no idea how he was passing the league’s testing system!
4> Shawn Jefferson / Wide Receiver / San Diego Chargers/New England Patriots
Jefferson was an old school Knight and a member of the first dynamic duo at Wide Receiver U, pairing with Sean Beckton to dominate D1-AA in the early ’90s. He claims the title of first Knight to participate in a Super Bowl, with the San Diego Chargers, before leading the New England Patriots deep into the playoffs annually. Following his pro career, and UCF Hall of Fame induction, Jefferson decided to pass along his knowledge from the sideline, currently as a wide receiver coach with the Tennessee Titans.
3> Mike Gruttadauria / Center / St. Louis Rams
Mike was a four year starter for the Knights and widely considered the greatest UCF center of all time. Following his early round draft to the Dallas Cowboys, Gruttadauria moved to the Rams, collecting a Super Bowl ring in 2000, protecting Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the greatest show on turf! Mike bleeds Black & Gold and has contributed his knowledgable voice to the UCF airwaves the past few years.
2> Asante Samuel / Defensive Back / New England Patriots/Philadelphia Eagles
Asante is a straight baller. He was drafted by the Patriots in the 4th round of the 2003 draft and thrived in Belechick’s defense. He always seemed to make the big play in big games, seemingly appearing from nowhere to alter the momentum in major moments. He was All-MAC his senior year at UCF and always had a nose for the ball, while also producing big hits on opposing receivers. The envy of all DB’s, in 2008 he signed a $56 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Eagles . He celebrated by building a huge house which is now on sale for a measly 12.9 million dollars.
1> Daunte Culpepper / Quarterback / Minnesota Vikings
Generations from now revisionists will champion Blake Bortles the groundbreaking leader of UCF Nation, with his unparalleled Fiesta Bowl run of 2012. Giving all due to Bortles, and he may have an incredible NFL career as well, but Culpepper not only created a foundation for UCF Football, he broke through the ceiling of what was thought possible of the fledgeling transition to a legitimate D-1 contender. Drafted in the mid 1st round, he put the Black & Gold on the map for many years by demonstrating to the NFL a new prototype behind Center, while leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game, with a career year of 4700 Yards Passing, 400 Yards Rushing and 39 TDs, long before the NFL began opening up the offensive schemes.
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