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. This is part three of that series.
10. Bob Whitfield
First-round pick in the 1992 NFL Draft
6'5", 310-pound offensive tackle
NFL playing career: Atlanta Falcons (1992-2003), Jacksonville Jaguars (2004), New York Giants (2005-2006)
A 15-year NFL veteran and both a former high-school and collegiate All-American, Whitfield finished only behind John Elway, James Lofton and John Brodie in terms of career length from a former Stanford player, and at a difficult position to remain healthy too. Though he only made on career Pro Bowl, Whitfield was the definition of consistency - in a 10-year stretch from 1993 to 2002, Whitfield started all but one game for the Falcons.
Whitfield's Pro Bowl season in 1998 coincided with the Falcons run to the Super Bowl, in large part thanks to his performance. The Falcons would ultimately lose to fellow Stanford alums John Elway and Ed McCaffrey when the Broncos won the Super Bowl.
The Falcons and Whitfield had a rather messy parting in 2003, as Whitfield was apparently told he was part of the team's plans for 2004 before being cut. He played sparingly for the Jaguars and then started nine games over his final two seasons with the Giants.
Like McCaffrey, Whitfield's son Kodi also plays for the current Stanford football team as a safety.
9. Pat Donovan
Fourth-round pick in 1975 NFL Draft
6'5", 253-pound offensive tackle
NFL playing career: Dallas Cowboys (1975-1983)
Donovan, the second of three players on this list to spend their entire career with the Cowboys, followed in the footsteps of Stanford alum and then-Cowboy Blaine Nye in transitioning from defensive line to offensive line during the training camp of his rookie year. Though it was a risky move turning the two-time All-American defensive end into an offensive lineman, the move paid off after Donovan became a starter in his third season.
From 1977 through 1983, Donovan would start all but one game for the Cowboys, making four Pro Bowls and helping pave the way for Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett. At the time, he was considered one of the best tackles in the NFL and, along with left guard Herb Scott, formed a dominant left side of the offensive line that saw both Scott and Donovan make three straight Pro Bowls from 1979 to 1981 (Donovan would also make the Pro Bowl in 1982). He remains tied for third all-time in Cowboys history among offensive lineman with four Pro Bowl nominations.
Donovan won a Super Bowl in his first season as a starter and would play in six conference championship games and three Super Bowls total.
Even though he only missed one game in his final season, he required surgery on both his shoulders in the offseason and chose to retire.
8. Jim Plunkett
First overall pick in 1971 NFL Draft
6'3", 220-pound quarterback
NFL playing career: New England Patriots (1971-1975), San Francisco 49ers (1976-1977), Oakland Raiders (1979-1986)
Plunkett never made a Pro Bowl, was never named to an All-Pro team and never finished with a passer rating in the top-eight in a season. So why is Plunkett so high on this list? It's simple really - his two Super Bowl titles as a starting quarterback.
To this day, Plunkett is the only quarterback ever to win two Super Bowl titles and not make the Hall of Fame. His career followed a very strange trajectory.
After a promising rookie season, Plunkett proceeded to throw 71 interceptions versus only 43 touchdowns for the rest of his time in New England. To his credit, though, his offensive line consistently finished in the top-three in sacks allowed for his first three years. After a rough start and a few injuries, the Patriots benched him in 1975 before shipping him to the 49ers.
A brief stay in San Francisco saw Plunkett released after just two seasons. The Raiders signed him with the intention of using him as a backup, but an injury to the starter forced him into a much bigger role in 1980. In his 11 starts in 1980, he led the team to a 9-2 record and eventually a Super Bowl title, winning the Super Bowl MVP with a 260-yard, three-touchdown performance. In 1983, he again led the Raiders to another Super Bowl title. He would also claim the title of Comeback Player of the Year.
The former Heisman Trophy winner never put up outstanding numbers - in fact, his 164-198 career touchdown-to-interception ratio is horrid - but he won when it mattered most, compiling a career 8-2 playoff record.
7. Tony Hill
Third-round pick in 1977 NFL Draft
6'2", 199-pound wide receiver
NFL playing career: Dallas Cowboys (1977-1986)
Hill's pre-NFL career followed very closely to No. 6 on this list. Hill was a high-school quarterback at Long Beach Poly, where he shattered most of No. 6's records, before going to Stanford, becoming a wide receiver and again shattering most of No. 6 on the list's records.
A two-catch rookie season was quickly followed up by a Pro Bowl and 800-yard receiving season in 1978 for Hill, who would go on to lead the Cowboys in receiving yards every season from 1978 through 1985. In 1986, he still led the Cowboys receivers in yards, but finished 60 yards shy of running back Herschel Walker's receiving yards total.
The three-time Pro Bowler won a Super Bowl as a rookie, helped Dallas reach four conference championship games in his first six years - even after Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach retired in 1979 - and guided the Cowboys to nine winning seasons during his 10 years on the team. Hill recorded three 1,000-yard seasons, most famously in 1979 when he, fellow wide receiver Drew Pearson and running back Tony Dorsett helped Dallas become the first team ever to have two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher.
Always a big-play threat due to his speed, Hill stands 71st in NFL history with a career 16.7 yards per catch average. At the end of his career, he topped Cowboys history with 7,988 receiving yards and was second with 479 receptions and 51 receiving touchdowns. Today, he still ranks in the top-five in each of those three categories, including his third-place standing in receiving yards behind Hall of Famer Michael Irvin and future Hall of Famer Jason Witten.
6. Gene Washington
First-round pick in 1969 NFL Draft
6'2", 185-pound wide receiver
NFL playing career: San Francisco 49ers (1969-1977), Detroit Lions (1979)
Washington exploded onto the NFL scene, making four straight Pro Bowls to start his career and earning three All-Pro First Team selections in that time as well. He led the NFL in receiving yards in just his second season in 1970 and would later lead the league in touchdowns in 1972 and yards per catch in 1974.
Though Washington's 49ers won three NFC West titles in his first four years, he would never experience much playoff success, never advancing to the Super Bowl and failing to reach the playoffs in his final six seasons.
At the time of his retirement, Washington topped 49ers franchise history in receiving yards and touchdowns and stayed at the top until Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Dwight Clark came around. He still ranks first in yards per reception among players with more than 40 receptions.
He made a brief comeback with the Lions in 1979 but didn't see the field often.