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From the Cheap Seats: Why Aren't There More Mountaineers in the NFL

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Watching the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, I was struck by a question I've asked myself many times: Why aren't there more Mountaineers in the NFL? As I watched three players who fell to the Mountaineers in college, Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks, lead the Giants to the championship, a new question popped into my head: How many other pro players lost to WVU during their college days? With that question in mind, I set off to do some non-scientific research(translation: I probably missed a couple of guys). I was pretty amazed by what I found.

To start with, there are 15 former ‘Eers in the league, but there are 249 players on current NFL rosters who felt the sting of defeat at the hands of the Mountaineers during their college careers. Combined, those players lost 490 times to West Virginia. Among that group are 13 2012 Pro Bowlers and seven quarterbacks who started at least one NFL game this season(Tyler Palko? Really?). For every Manning, Ray Rice or Larry Fitzgerald, there are a dozen guys you've probably never heard of. All 32 NFL teams feature at least three players who lost to the Mountaineers, only four clubs have fewer than five, and eight teams have more than 10. The Colts lead the way with 19. Pat McAfee certainly has bragging rights in that locker room.

I wasn't too surprised to find that 17 Oklahoma players from the 2008 Fiesta Bowl or nine members of the 2006 Georgia Bulldogs Sugar Bowl team are in the pros. Those teams are from the power conferences that are supposed to produce NFL talent. I was a little surprised to find that the North Carolina team we beat in the 2008 Car Care Bowl sent 15 players to the league.

What really surprised me is the number of players from Big East rivals who've gone pro. Rutgers(23), Pitt(22) and Syracuse(17), all have more NFL guys who lost to us, than we have total. The former Scarlet Knights alone have lost 87 times to WVU. They haven't been able to beat us since 1994, but they can apparently churn out NFL players. I can't imagine that it's something in the Jersey water.

Stepping out of conference, Maryland is another bit of a head-scratcher. We've owned them since 2004, but somehow 26 Terrapins who fell at the hands of the Mountaineers have made it professionally. Keep in mind that I'm only talking about players whose college teams lost to WVU. There are dozens more NFLers whose teams defeated the Mountaineers.

I hate to say it, but the former Mountaineers who are currently in the NFL, aren't exactly lighting the world on fire. It hasn't always been like this. In Don Nehlen's 20 years at the helm, he sent more than 70 players to the NFL and 27 of them had careers of five seasons or longer.

So why aren't there more WVU players in the pros? I guess I don't know enough about the NFL to have that answer. We've haven't had the biggest guys over the past decade, so does it boil down to simple physical size? Injury has certainly played a part. Injuries quickly ended the pro careers of guys like Grant Wiley, who based on their college exploits, seemed sure to excel in the NFL.

It's certainly not from a lack of competition. As described above, the Mountaineers face plenty of next-level players during their careers in Morgantown. That's why it's so frustrating. Our players can obviously compete with these guys on the college field, why not is the pros?

It's obviously not correlated to on-the-field success. No matter how you feel about them, over the last decade, the trio of Rich Rodriguez, Bill Stewart and Dana Holgorsen, have led the Gold and Blue to 95 wins and the school's only three major bowl victories. I wouldn't trade any of WVU's victories for a former Mountaineer's success in the NFL, but it sure would make pro football more appealing than watching a bunch of guys who lost to WVU play against each other.

Bruce Irvin and Najee Goode are taking part in the NFL Combine right now. Time will tell if they can make a mark on the league. Why do you think more Mountaineers haven't done well at the next level? Which player's lack of success in the pros has surprised you the most? Major Harris and Pat White come to my mind right away. Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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