The 2011 NFL Draft was the last time that a Nebraska Cornhusker was drafted in the first round. In total 34 Cornhuskers have gone in the first round of the draft, dating back to Sam Francis, Lloyd Cardwell, and Les McDonald in 1937. That’s a list that Matt Rhule would like to see grow as he attempts to restore the football program to its former glory.
Nebraska has had great college players who were highly sought-after by NFL teams, and quite a few under-the-radar stars who were underestimated and took the NFL by surprise. Both have made this list of the greatest NFL careers by Nebraska Cornhuskers.
In total, five Nebraska players have made the NFL Hall of Fame, though two do not make this list. Guy Chamberlin and William Roy “Link” Lyman both entered the league before the first NFL draft and before any meaningful stats were kept. Chamberlain had a prolific career as a player-coach, and Lyman was a revolutionary defensive lineman who won championships with Chamberlin and introduced the constant shifting by defensive players prior to the snap.
There is no real way to compare those two players to the rest on the list, so they found their way into the honorable mentions category, but I’m sure a bust in Canton is a fair consolation prize.
Three others on this list eventually joined Chamberlin and Lyman, immortalized in northeast Ohio. However, we’ll start with a player who only had a Hall of Fame-caliber start to his career.
Teams: Baltimore Colts, Dallas Cowboys
Accomplishments: 3x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro
Dutton’s first two years on the field in Lincoln, he was a part of back-to-back national championships. Then as a senior in 1973, he was All-Big 8 and an All-American. The Baltimore Colts drafted Dutton at No. 5 overall in 1974 and got the best production out of the 6-foot-7 defensive lineman.
Baltimore played Dutton as a pass-rushing defensive end and in his second year, he led the league with 17.0 sacks finishing second to Mel Blount in Defensive Player of the Year voting. After three Pro Bowls in five seasons in Baltimore, Dutton held out to start the 1979 season to argue the league’s option clause in contracts. So, the Colts traded him to Dallas.
Dutton’s production was already on a decline and in Dallas he found himself moved to defensive tackle and amidst a logjam of talent on the defensive front. He never recorded more than five sacks in a season again but was a key piece of great defenses.
Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Accomplishments: Super Bowl LV Champion, 1x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro
In his two seasons at Nebraska after a brief JUCO career, David dominated at inside linebacker. He was a multi-time All-American and was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
David has spent his entire career as one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL. He finally got his shine in Tampa’s 2021 Super Bowl run as the leader of Todd Bowles’ great defense. David was a first-team All-Pro in his second season and has been named second-team All-Pro twice since. He has nine seasons with over 100 tackles and is nearing 1,500 tackles for his career.