Thousands of players have suited up throughout Maryland football’s history, many of whom went on to perform at the highest level in the National Football League.
Maryland football has produced two players to the National Football Hall of Fame, 23 Pro-Bowlers and six All-Pro selections, along with 11 Super Bowl winners.
Some of the Maryland greats went into the league as big names from the first or second rounds, while others made a name for themselves starting from the bottom.
Let’s take a look at the 10 greatest NFL careers born out of College Park.
Stan Jones — Tackle/Guard
Draft: 1953; Round 5, 54th overall
Honors: 7x Pro Bowl, 4x All-Pro, NFL HOF Class of 1991
Jones began his 13 year Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears, where he played all but one season. In his last year at Maryland, Jones led the Terrapins to their only national championship in 1953 and earned All-American Honors.
After switching to guard in 1955, the 250-pounder became the Bears’ offensive captain for a number of years. His four All-Pro seasons came in 1955, 1956, 1959 and 1960.
Jones’ rare strength and speed combination allowed him to be a dual-threat in Chicago as he played both sides of the ball as a guard and defensive tackle in 1962. In his first 11 seasons, Jones missed just two games.
In his final professional season, Jones was traded to the Washington Redskins in 1965 so that he could play near his home in Rockville, Maryland.
Randy White — Defensive Tackle
Draft: 1975, Round 1, 2nd overall
Honors: 9x Pro Bowl, 9x All-Pro, Super Bowl XII Champion, Super Bowl MVP, NFL HOF Class of 1994
White is the highest draft pick that Maryland football ever produced, and for good reason. In his final season as a Terrapin, the senior filled his trophy case with a number of honors and awards, including the Outland Trophy, the Lombardi Award and being named the ACC Player of the Year.
The Dallas Cowboys, who selected White in the 1975 draft, put him at defensive tackle in his third season. In that year, White earned a selection to his first Pro Bowl, his first All-Pro team and was crowned a Super Bowl XII champion, where he was named MVP. He is one of 10 defensive players to win the award.
White continued his dominance in Dallas for the remainder of his career on the defensive line. He retired with 14 years under his belt, playing the second-most number of games in Cowboys history at the time of his retirement.
Gary Collins — Wide Receiver
Draft: 1962; Round 1, 4th overall
Honors: 2x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro, 1960’s All-Decade Team, 1964 NFL Championship MVP
Before lining up as a starting wide receiver, Collins was thrown in as the team’s punter in his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns. In his first season at his primary position in 1963, Collins led the team with 43 receptions.
The Browns’ receiver played in the era before the Super Bowl, and in the 1964 NFL championship game, he tallied three touchdowns receptions and was named MVP in the win over the Baltimore Colts.
Collins followed up his 1964 campaign with two strong years, where he led the team in receptions and yards in both 1965 and ‘66.
After the 1971 season, Collins retired from the NFL with 339 career receptions for 5,299 yards and 70 touchdowns. He still sits atop the organization’s rank in career receiving touchdowns and is second in receiving yards.
Boomer Esiason — Quarterback
Draft: 1984, Round 2, 38th overall
Honors: 4x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, 1988 NFL MVP
Though many people know Esiason for his television personality in recent years, he was also one of the best left-handers to ever play in the NFL.
Esiason’s career spanned 14 seasons with three teams, the first of which was the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played for nine years. The lefty had his best seasons with the Bengals, earning three Pro Bowl selections and winning league MVP in 1988, when he threw for 3,572 yards and a career-high 28 touchdowns.
In 1993, Esiason was traded to the New York Jets, where he played for three years before signing with the Arizona Cardinals in 1996. In the desert, he threw for 522 yards in a game, the fourth-most in NFL history.
Off the field, Esiason was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1995 for his work in the community. He still holds several NFL records, including most touchdown passes, passing yards and completions for a lefty quarterback.
Shawne Merriman — Outside Linebacker
Draft: 2005, Round 1, 12th overall
Honors: 3x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
Merriman padded his career stats in the first half of his professional career, earning him a spot as one of the greatest Maryland pros to ever play. He is the only Terrapin to earn Rookie of the Year honors, though he did not start for the San Diego Chargers until Week 7.
After being plugged into the starting lineup, Merriman recorded six sacks in four games and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. “Lights Out”, a nickname he went by for his notorious hits against opposing players and subsequent sack dance, was a fan icon throughout his time is Southern California.
Merriman went on to join the Buffalo Bills for three seasons in 2010 until he retired due to injury. The linebacker was named to three consecutive All-Pro teams, including twice on the First-Team in 2005 and ‘06.
Jermaine Lewis — Wide Receiver/Return Specialist
Draft: 1996, Round 5, 153rd overall
Honors: 2x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro, Super Bowl XXXV Champion
Lewis was just as much of a threat as a receiver as he was a return specialist. Drafted by the Ravens in 1996, Lewis played his first six seasons in Baltimore. He was named to two Pro Bowl teams, the first of which in 1998 when he also made First-Team All-Pro as a wide receiver.
In Super Bowl XXXV, Lewis returned an 84-yard kickoff for a touchdown in a win over the New York Giants.
Lewis holds the Ravens franchise records in career punt return yards, career punt return touchdowns, career punt returns, career all-purpose yards and career kickoff returns.
Kris Jenkins — Defensive Tackle
Draft: 2001, Round 2, 44th overall
Honors: 4x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro
Jenkins played in all 48 games of his three seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. In just his second year, the defensive lineman was named a First-Team All-Pro and played in the Pro Bowl after earning seven sacks and 44 tackles.
With 46 tackles and five sacks in 2003, Jenkins again made First-Team All-Pro and played in another Pro Bowl. In his first season with the New York Jets after being traded in 2008, he tallied a career-high 52 tackles in what was his last Pro Bowl season.
Kevin Glover — Center
Draft: 1985, Round 2, 34th overall
Honors: 3x Pro Bowl
There is no Barry Sanders without Kevin Glover, period. The two spent nine seasons in Detroit together, with Glover as the running back’s lead blocker throughout most of his Hall of Fame career.
Glover, a Maryland native, played his way to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1995 to 1997, all with the Lions. The following year, Glover signed a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, where he played the final two years of his career.
Stefon Diggs — Wide Receiver
Draft: 2015, Round 5, 146th overall
As perhaps one of the flashiest players in the NFL today, Diggs has cemented himself as one of the most promising young talents in the league. The Maryland native led the Minnesota Vikings in receptions and receiving yards in his first season, second among all rookies.
Though he is still in the first stage of what looks to be a long career, Diggs is already a household name due to one play that the city of Minneapolis will never forget.
In each of his last two seasons with the Vikings, Diggs surpassed 1,000 yards receiving alongside Adam Theilen, making Minnesota one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.
In the 2019 offseason, the fifth-year receiver teamed up with gunslinger Josh Allen in Buffalo in a blockbuster trade that involved a number of draft picks, including a first-rounder going back to the Vikings for Diggs.
Though he has not accumulated such accolades as others in the list, his spot is just as valid for the potential value he can bring to the Bills and the league as a whole in the future.
Vernon Davis — Tight End
Draft: 2006, Round 1, 6th overall
Honors: 2x Pro Bowl, Super Bowl 50 Champion
As one of the greatest tight ends in the modern era, Davis carved the way for many modern players at his position. Standing at 6’3, 250 lbs., Davis bullied defenders for a number of teams.
In 2009, he was tied for the most touchdown receptions in the NFL with 13, carrying him to his first of two Pro Bowl selections with the San Francisco 49ers. Davis joined forces with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning in Denver when he was traded in 2015. The Broncos would go on to defeat the Carolina Panthers and win Super Bowl 50.
Davis ended his career in his hometown, Washington, D.C., with the Redskins for four seasons. When he retired in 2019, Davis had accumulated over 7,500 career yards (ninth all-time) and 63 touchdowns (sixth all-time) in his career.
Dick Bielski — Running Back: Draft: 1955, Round 1, 9th overall, Honors: 1x Pro Bowl
Ferrell Edmunds — Tight End: Draft: 1988, Round 3, 73rd overall, Honors: 2x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro
Frank Wycheck — Tight End: Draft: 1993, Round 6, 160th overall, Honors: 3x Pro Bowl
Torrey Smith — Wide Receiver: Draft: 2011, Round 2, 58th overall, Honors: Super Bowl XLVII and Super Bowl LII Champion
Yannick Ngakoue — Defensive End: Draft: 2016, Round 3, 69th overall