For many years, the NFL Draft was a favorite time of year for Miami Hurricane football fans. Why? The Canes dominated the late April event until recently: 180 total selections, with 48 first round picks from 1980 to 2009. Miami averaged six total draft picks per year for 30 years. Not bad. This past decade-plus was not as productive: 60 total selections, with only six first round picks in a 12-year span from 2010-2021.
We all know the current and future ex-Cane NFL Hall-of-Famers chosen in the first round; so much so that I am not going to bother listing the obligatory four to five legends like Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Edgerrin James, and Ed Reed. Damnit! I just did.
The first round of the NFL Draft is exciting to say the least, and receiving its own night of coverage was long overdue. Like many other NFL Draft nerds, the second through seventh rounds interest me most. Of course, I mainly want to see how many Canes are drafted, in what round, and to what team. I promise I have a fulfilling personal and social life.
Below are the best Miami Hurricane non-first round NFL draft picks, organized by round. These are players drafted in 1980 or later. However, one player drafted prior more than deserves mention.
Ted Hendricks: 1969 second round draft pick for the Baltimore Colts. “The Stork” followed his incredible college career with one of the best NFL resumes of any former Hurricane ever. His individual accomplishments were crazy: 4x First-Team All-Pro, 5x Second-Team All-Pro, 8x Pro Bowl, First-team NFL 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Team, NFL 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and a 1990 NFL Hall of Fame inductee. The Stork was also a 4x Super Bowl champion (V, XI, XV, XVIII). An absolute legend.
It would make sense this would be the deepest round. Some great players missed the cut: Brian Blades, 1988, Michael Barrow, 1993, Ryan McNeil, 1993, and Denzel Perryman, 2015, to name a few. The 2000s had the strongest batch of second rounders: Clinton Portis, 2002, Devin Hester, 2006, and Calais Campbell, 2008.
Runner-up: Calais Campbell, 2008. I live in north Florida and have asked people what they thought of the gentle giant when he played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Every single person told me how great of a guy Calais was and that they wish he was still on the team. His upstanding reputation is backed up by him being honored with the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2019. Calais’s statistics have been fantastic as well: 1x First-Team All-Pro, 2x Second-Team All-Pro, 6x Pro Bowl, and NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. A great representative of both UM football and the NFL.
Winner: Devin Hester, 2006. How Hester wasn’t inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame is beyond me. He was the by far the best return man in the history of the NFL. If someone is the greatest ever at their respective position, they should be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Regardless, the stats are insane in the membrane: 3x First-Team All-Pro, 1x Second-Team All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowl, NFL 2000s and 2010s All-Decade Team, and NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He also owns the NFL records for most total return touchdowns, career (20), most total punt return touchdowns, career (14), and tied with most total return touchdowns, season (6). Lastly, he was one of the most entertaining players ever in both college football and the NFL. What a career.
There were some awesome ex-Cane finds in the third round over the years: Lamar Thomas, 1993, Eric Winston, 2006, Allen Bailey, 2011, and Miami’s all-time leading rusher, Duke Johnson, 2015. I miss watching Duke break those long touchdown runs when he was in college. He was the best. Man, I hope Tyler can stay clean in the pocket this year and has a couple new skill position guys step up. Plus the defense needs to stay healthy. Also... sorry, got sidetracked there. Moving on.
Runner-up: Jimmy Graham, 2010. This was closer than I thought. Olivier Vernon, 2012, has put together a more than solid career with 63.5 sacks, 87 tackles for loss, and nine fumble recoveries. However, the edge goes to Jimmy. We all know the former basketball player’s story, and he was phenomenon in his prime with the New Orleans Saints. Watching Jimmy jump over two defenders while turning his body and catching a football in the end zone will be one of my favorite memories; especially when he was on my fairy tale football team in my mid-20s. (Yeah, I said fairy tale. Fantasy football is lame unless it’s for big money. Otherwise, grow up and get a bookie.) Anyway, Jimmy had some big-time stats to go along with his SportsCenter leading highlights: 1x First-Team All-Pro, 1x Second-Team All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, and he led the league in TD receptions in 2013 with 16. For a four-year basketball player turned Tight End, I’d say his career turned out pretty well as he will be remembered along with Rob Gronkowski as the best Tight Ends of their generation. Jimmy Graham is a borderline NFL Hall of Famer. That’s effing incredible.
Winner: Frank Gore, 2005. What else needs to be said about Frank? He just retired with exactly 16,000 rushing yards. He was a Second-Team All-Pro in his second season, 2006, while rushing for 1,695 yards and eight touchdowns. Mr. Gore was named to five Pro Bowls. He has over 20,000 total scrimmage yards and 99 total touchdowns. And of course, he is the third all-time leading rusher in NFL history. Incredible. The man is a FIRST BALLOT NFL HALL OF FAMER. That said, the true Miami football fans know what Frank Gore could have been if he didn’t tear both his ACLs while in college. Go to YouTube and look up Frank Gore freshman Miami highlights. There’s a reason Larry Coker said he was the best Running Back he’d ever seen, and he coached all the other early 2000s Miami guys, Edgerrin James, plus Thurman Thomas, and Barry Freaking Sanders at Oklahoma State. God only knows what he would have done in the NFL if he would have never gotten hurt. To accomplish what he did after his setbacks only further proves his status as an all-time great. Frank Gore ladies and gentlemen.
I was disappointed in the fourth-round selections, but I have high standards in everything, especially toilet paper. Huh? As much as I liked watching Horace Copeland, 1993, do back-flips, his career was fairly short and the 2000s rule again with the former fourth-rounders. To be fair, Kevin Fagan, 1986, was a two-time Super Bowl Champ on the 49ers before injuries cut his career short. Please look up his Miami highlights for a fun-filled sack-fest. Hey-o! Also, I will never understand why Jason Fox, 2010, wasn’t a solid Left Tackle in the NFL. He had all the tools. (Sigh). I need a new hobby.
Runner-up: Najeh Davenport, 2002. Another stud Miami player plagued by injuries. Miami’s 1999 team was legit with Kenny Kelly at QB, James Jackson, Najeh and Clinton at RB, plus Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne at WR. Najeh tore his ACL in the season-opening win over that team from Ohio that shall not be named. The season went downhill after that.
Beyond the effect it had on that season, the injury would begin an unfortunate trend for the versatile and talented Running Back. NFL scouts agreed Najeh’s abilities were above his fourth-round selection, but the injuries kept coming and he could never stay on the field consistently. When on the field, he was a true threat. In a part-time role in with the Green Bay Packers in 2003, Najeh averaged 5.5 yards per rush. In his first start with the Packers in November of 2004, he rushed for 178 yards. Broken ribs slowed Najeh down for the rest of the 2004 season. He broke his ankle in 2005. Subbing for an injured Willie Parker in a 2006 game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Najeh put on a show: 24 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown, plus two catches for 44 yards and another touchdown. The guy was an absolute warrior. He was also an Executive Producer of a great Miami Hurricane Football documentary. Enjoy!
Winner: Lamar Miller, 2012. Lamar is not as well known as some of the Running Backs that came before and succeeded him, but he was fast dude with game-breaking ability. Miller was drafted by his hometown Miami Dolphins, where he played for four seasons before moving on to the Houston Texans for three more. Lamar has two one thousand-yard rushing seasons, was selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl, and holds two NFL records: only player to rush for a 90-plus yard touchdown with two different teams and only player with two 95-plus yard rushing touchdowns in a career. He tore his ACL in the 2019 preseason, and has not seen any significant game-action since. With the above accomplishments, plus the millions of dollars he made, I’d say he had a successful NFL career.
The fifth round is almost identical to the fourth round: a bunch of guys who were awesome at UM but didn’t do much in the NFL. Tony Chickillo, 1983, played for the Miami Hooters of the Arena Football League in 1995. Matt Walters, 2003, is currently training for a career as an amateur triathlete. Wow. Darren Krein, 1994, was a Strength and Conditioning Coach in the NFL for twenty years! Corn Elder, 2017, has an awesome name. I am officially reaching.
Runner-up: K.J. Osborn, 2020. Craig Erickson, 1991, had a couple decent years as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB, but he threw too many interceptions. Brevin Jordan, 2021, might end up being the best of the bunch, but he’s only played one season. K.J. sat on the Minnesota Vikings’ bench his rookie season and learned from the incredible, and fellow rookie, Justin Jefferson, as well as veteran Adam Thielen. When it was K.J.’s time to step up, he did just that. He was able to keep the defensive pressure off Jefferson when replacing an injured Thielen. That is why the offensive coaches couldn’t take Osborn off the field after Thielen’s return. He finished last season with 50 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns. K.J. was a huge boost to the Hurricane football locker room the one season he was with the team. His leadership and uplifting personality has followed him to the NFL where his stock will continue to rise. See, I can be sincere sometimes.
Winner: Fred Marion, 1982. I may have been born in the year 1982, therefore I had to completely rely on the internet as my source. That’s fine right? The internet is completely trustworthy and is a positive aspect of current human society. Anyway, Fred Marion starred for Miami from 1978-1981: consensus first-team All-American in 1981 and was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. He moved on to play Safety for the New England Patriots from 1982-1991. Marion was selected to Second-Team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl in 1985. He was chosen for the Patriots All-1980s Team, 35th Anniversary Team, and 50th Anniversary Team. Fred Marion paved the way for the great UM Safeties who followed him.
And, we’re back with someone who made multiple Pro Bowls! The sixth round contained some solid, but less flashy former Canes. Mike James, 2013, was a workhorse-type running back for Miami. Same for Travis Homer, 2019. This is also the round where we see our former punters start taking over the NFL, (sarcastic laugh). Matt Bosher, 2011 and Pat O’Donnell, 2014. Melvin Bratton, 1988, was a shell of his former self by the time he made it to the NFL due to a devastating knee injury suffered in the 1988 Orange Bowl. The injury cost him around one million dollars due to his fallen draft status. That’s roughly 846 million dollars in today’s money. Tough break.
Runner-up: Braxton Berrios, 2018. I know I wasn’t the only Hurricane fan who was thrilled when Berrios was drafted by the New England Patriots. “He’ll be the next Wes Welker!” It was a stretch, but I had hope. Sadly, he was placed in injured reserve on September 1, 2018. He did win a Super Bowl ring that season when the Pats beat the Los Angeles Rams. From there, he was claimed off waivers by the Pats division rival, New York Jets. After working his way back from injury in 2020, this past season was truly impressive. Berrios was named a First-team All-Pro kick returner. He also had 46 receptions for two touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, and a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which was the longest of the season. The Jets rewarded Berrios with a two-year, $12 million contract. Another offseason with Zach Wilson and the offense coaching staff should only boost Berrios’ stats in the coming seasons.
Winner: Chris Myers, 2005. Chris was a versatile Offensive Lineman in his time with the Canes. He was the starter at Right Guard in 2002, shifted to Center late in the 2003 season, and played the 2004 season as the starting Right Tackle. After a couple promising seasons with the Denver Broncos, they signed and traded him to the Houston Texans in 2008. There, he starred as the starting Center for seven seasons: Pro Bowl selections in 2011 and 2012. He also helped pave the way for Arian Foster to lead the league in rushing in 2010. The next season, the Texans mad their first playoff appearance. Myers was the undeniable leader of the Offensive Line while in Houston. Further, he played every game there while not missing a single start.
Slim pickings. There won’t be a runner-up for this round. Miami’s last two National Championship winning QBs weren’t NFL material: Ken Dorsey, 2003 and Gino Torretta, 1993. Andre King, 2001 and Daryl Jones, 2002, were burners who couldn’t do much else. It looked like Jonathan Garvin, 2020, was going to be drafted much higher after his first two college seasons. Hopefully he can keep improving for Green Bay. Joaquin Gonzalez is now more well known for tweeting criticisms of the Canes than he is for playing football.
Winner: Seantrel Henderson, 2014. This is bleak. Seantrel was widely considered the number one high school recruit in the country in 2009. After avoiding the disaster that was the USC Trojans football program at the time, Seantrel played four seasons at Miami. They were a rocky four seasons. I’m not going to detail everything, but feel free to check out his Wikipedia page; it’s fairly entertaining. His best NFL season was his first: starting every game at Right Tackle for the Buffalo Bills and playing at a high level. Seantrel was looking for a fresh start with the Houston Texans in 2018, but broke his ankle in the season-opening game. He now plays for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. Exciting.
The NFL draft dropped to seven rounds in 1994, and that’s where it has stayed ever since. While there were some big-name former Canes drafted after the seventh round over the years, most didn’t accomplish much after college. However, these two guys did pretty well for themselves in the NFL.
Ronnie Lippett, 1983, 8th round. Ronnie carved out a nice career as a Cornerback for the New England Patriots from 1983-1991. He finished his career with 24 interceptions in 122 games played. Seven of his interceptions were against Dan Marino. That is an accomplishment itself.
Jessie Armstead, 1993, 8th round. Jessie had a more successful NFL career than many former Canes drafted above him. He fell in the draft because of an ACL tear he suffered his sophomore season. That didn’t matter. The stats are even better than I remember: 1x First-Team All-Pro, 2x Second-Team All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, 967 career tackles, 40 sacks, and 12 interceptions. Plus, he never missed a game in his eleven-year career. A true badass.
32 LBs in were taken in the 1993 Draft before Jessie Armstead. Once the Giants took him in the 8th round, Armstead wrote a list of every single LB that was taken before him. Every time a LB on the list retired, he crossed their name off. Armstead never missed a game in his career pic.twitter.com/gB46gQ0sOb— Justin Penik (@JustinPenik) June 29, 2020
So there you have it. A bunch of former Cane studs who succeeded in the NFL despite not being drafted in the first round. Everyone loves an underdog story.