clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 20 Best NFL Players to Attend Stanford: The First Five

New, 1 comment

Who are the best NFL players that the Farm has produced? Our list begins with these five guys, including an electric return man

NFL.com

The Stanford football program has been extremely successful in producing NFL talent, which includes three Hall of Famers, two Super Bowl MVPs, "the best corner in the league," 11 First- Team All Pro players and 23 Pro Bowlers with a combined 68 appearances to date. The following are the 20 Stanford football alumni with the best NFL careers.

20. Brian Holloway

First-round pick in 1981 NFL Draft,  6’7", 284-pound offensive tackle

NFL playing career: New England Patriots (1981-1986), Oakland Raiders (1987-1988)

Holloway’s career was rather short – he was out of the NFL by age 30 – but still extremely productive, as he made three Pro Bowls, was named to an All-Pro Second Team and developed into one of the best tackles in the 1980s. After becoming a starter as a rookie, Holloway started every game for the Patriots until missing one in the 1986 season. He played sparingly in his final two seasons for the Raiders. Despite his success, Holloway’s teams only advanced past their opening playoff game once, when the 1985-86 Patriots made it to the Super Bowl only to be run out of the stadium by the Bears, losing 46-10. Like all non-current players on this list, Holloway is a member of the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame.

19. Paul Wiggin

Sixth-round pick in 1956 NFL Draft, 6’3", 242-pound defensive end

NFL playing career: Cleveland Browns (1957-1967)

Wiggin played in every single game for the Browns during his 11-year career as a defensive end, including the 1964 NFL title game in which he helped pitch a shutout against the Baltimore Colts. A late bloomer, Wiggin made his first Pro Bowl in his ninth season and again in his final season. The Browns went 49-20-1 in Wiggin’s final five seasons on the team. However, Wiggin is more infamously remember as being the head coach at Stanford for a dismal four-year tenure from 1980 to 1983 in which the team went 16-28 and did not reach a bowl game, despite having John Elway at quarterback for the first three years. Even more infamous than the poor record, Wiggin was at the helm for the Cardinal during "The Play" in 1982.

18. Bruno Banducci

Sixth-round pick in 1943 NFL Draft, 5’11", 216-pound guard

NFL playing career: Philadelphia Eagles (1944-1945), San Francisco 49ers (1946-1954)

Though he wouldn’t be big enough to play tight end in today’s NFL, let alone on the offensive line, Banducci became a cornerstone for the 49ers offensive line in the 1940s and 1950s, making the All-Pro First Team in both 1947 and 1954, with a Pro Bowl appearance as well in 1954. With the 49ers, Banducci paved the way for Hall of Fame fullback Joe Perry and Hall of Fame running back John Henry Johnson, while also protecting Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle. Despite a loaded roster and a few highly successful teams, Banducci never won or made an NFL title game in his career. Banducci played in a vastly different-looking league than today’s NFL, competing against teams such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Yankees, the Chicago Rockets, the Miami Seahawks, the Boston Yanks, the Brooklyn Tigers, the Los Angeles Dons and other teams unfamiliar to the modern-day NFL fan.

17. Blaine Nye

Fifth-round pick in 1968 NFL Draft,  6’4", 251-pound guard

NFL playing career: Dallas Cowboys (1968-1976)

A defensive tackle in college, the Cowboys lifer switched to the offensive line in training camp of his rookie year and would play directly next to a Hall of Famer at right tackle in Rayfield Wright, forming one of the best right sides in the NFL and contributing to the Cowboys run to three Super Bowls during the 1970s, which included a 24-3 victory in Super Bowl VI against Miami. He didn’t see the field in just one game his rookie season but would go on to play in every single game for the Cowboys for the rest of his career. The two-time Pro Bowler truly put the nerd in Nerd Nation for the Cardinal, as he worked in the offseason to earn a Master’s degree in Physics from Washington in 1970 and an M.B.A. from Stanford in 1974. After his career ended, he completed a Ph.D. in finance from the Stanford business school.

16. Glyn Milburn

Second-round pick in 1993 NFL Draft, 5’8", 177-pound returner and running back

NFL playing career: Denver Broncos (1993-1995), Detroit Lions (1996-1997), Chicago Bears (1998-2001), San Diego Chargers (2001)

The electric Milburn made his living by returning kicks, earning two Pro Bowl selections and two All-Pro honors as a returner – on the second team in 1995 and the first team in 1999 – and still remains one of the greatest returners in NFL history. The Broncos took the former collegiate All-American, who actually played at Oklahoma for a year before transferring to Stanford, in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft and Milburn followed by placing in the top-10 in punt return yards in all three seasons with Denver and also finishing fifth in kick return yards in 1995. But after future two-time Offensive Player of the Year Terrell Davis secured a hold of the starting running back job in 1995, the Broncos shipped their backup running back and starting punt returner to the Lions for a second-round pick. After the trade, Milburn’s career really took flight. From 1996 to 2000, Milburn ranked no worse than fourth in kick return yards and ranked in the top-three in yards per touch three times. His 1,550 kick return yards and two kick return touchdowns in 1998 for the Bears led the NFL. Despite only playing parts of four seasons with the Bears, Milburn was the franchise’s all- time leader in kick return yards until Devin Hester surpassed his total in 2012. Milburn sits at sixth all-time in NFL history with 9,778 career kick return yards. To this day, Milburn owns the NFL record for most all-purpose yards in a game (404), a feat he accomplished with Denver in 1995.