Throwback Thursday: The U Six 1st Rounders
As much as I hate the University of Miami football program, I am going to pay homage to their record breaking six-1st rounders in the 2004 draft. Just like any rival, you have to respect them because if you didn't you wouldn't consider them a rival.
So let’s take a trip back to 2004, 1st out of the U program is the Late Sean Taylor. The Skins (another team I hate) chose the playmaking safety at #5, starting what would seem like a great marriage between the two. Taylor played only 3 full seasons with the Skins before his untimely death in 2007, playing 9 games that year. Taylor created a reputation as one of the hardest hitting safeties in the league. A play that will always standout to me is when he smashed punter, Brian Mooreman, in the 2006 Pro-Bowl, literally lifting him off his feet. Moorman took the hit but it was still brutal. What disappoint me is we will never really know how great Sean Taylor could have been. I’m saying it now if he were still living and playing, he would be in the conversation with Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu for greatest safety of this generation.
The following pick we have Kellen Winslow Jr. going to the Cleveland Browns at #6 overall. Kellen was a phenomenal tight end at Miami. He was like a receiver at the tight end position, exactly what everybody looking for now in a tight end. But his professional career hasn’t quite lived up to his” NFL HYPE” coming out of college. Kellen first two seasons was plagued by knee injuries, one of which came from a motorcycle accident he was in, only playing 2 games in 2 seasons. He was on the verge of becoming a bust until he showed some promise in 2006, catching 89 balls and racking up 875 yrds, but his breakout year and best year came in 2007 racking 1,107 yrds and 82 receptions. The following year he would miss 6 games and the Browns decided to let him go. He then went with the Buccaneers, and still didn't reached that pinnacle of tight end greatness like his father, Kellen Winslow Sr.
The next Hurricane drafted would be linebacker Johnathan Vilma at #12 to the Jets. Vilma was a 3 year starter at The U. Some considered him a little undersized standing only 6’1 but his instincts and football IQ is what attracted scouts. Vilma made an instant impact his first season for the Jets, 107 tackles 2 sacks and 3 picks, which led to the Defensive Rookie of the year award. The following year he led the league in tackles with 169 and was on his way to a promising career. The Jets and VIlma would eventually part ways in 2008 after the Jets traded him to the Saints for only a 4th round pick, which I thought was stupid and disrespectful on the Jets behalf , but things would work out for the better for Vilma. As you all know Vilma was the nucleus of the Saints defense when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. When you think of the best line backers in the league during his career, Johnathan Vilma was definitely in that conversation.
At pick #17 we have D.J Williams going to the Denver Broncos. D.J is an example of how Miami produce athletes. When he came to Miami in 2001 as a highly touted recruit at linebacker he had to switch to fullback because there wasn't much room for any linebackers, comp for starting spots was already thick. But D.J still thrived and gained playing time, truly making the best of his situation. The following year he got the opportunity to play linebacker and was pretty good for the next 3 years. D.J, like his college team mate, also hit the ground running making 119 tackles 2 sacks a pick and a forced fumble in his inaugural NFL season. He was in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year also. Since he been in the league, he has now played every linebacker position, playing 10 seasons with the Denver Broncos. D.J never been voted to a Pro-Bowl but he is a very good linebacker and was very underrated in my opinion.
At pick #19, The Dolphins drafted offensive tackle Vernon Carey. Carney has played high school, college, and professional football all in the Miami area. An All-American in High School, Carney came into Miami like everyone else, HIGHLY TOUTED but was redshirted his freshman year. He would then see playing time for the next 4 seasons. He led the hurricanes in key blocks (pancakes/knockdowns) his junior and senior season. Vernon played all 8 season with the Dolphins, playing every position on the line except for center, retiring in 2012 at the age of 30. Carney was one of the Dolphins most productive lineman along with All-Pro Jake Long, who is currently a free agent.
And the last and final Hurricane to be drafted in the first round was big man Vince Wilfork at pick #21 to the Patriots. Vince is one of my favorite players in the league even though he is a Hurricane. Next to Haloti Ngnata, Vince is probably the most athletic big man I seen on the football field. He holds the indoor shot put record at Miami. He has played in all but 6 games since he was drafted and 3 of those games came because of Belicheck resting starters. Vince is a 5-time all-pro and has been one of, if not the best, defensive tackles in the game. In 2012, he made 2 interception; one of which was with one hand. Wilfork and the Patriots parted ways this year, which made Tom Brady sad to see his friend and former teammate go. Wilfork will now go into his 12th season playing for the Houston Texans
All 6 of these players was a part of the 2001-2002 Championship team. Between the years of 2002-2004, that team produced 15-first rounders.