5 Best NFL Draft gems to come from Nebraska

These five former Nebraska football players proved to be gems in the NFL Draft.
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The Nebraska football program has always been built on the backs of overachievers. So it is no wonder that some of the best NFL players from Nebraska were overlooked in the NFL Draft.

Sure, all-time greats like Roger Craig, Ahman Green, and Irvin Fryar made huge marks in the NFL. However, they were all high draft picks meaning they were expected to be great on Sundays.

Other Cornhuskers, though, managed to make a name for themselves at the highest level of the sport despite not being taken in the first two rounds of the draft. So today, let's honor those Nebraska alums who managed to become steals after leaving school. Here are the five best NFL draft gems to come out of Lincoln.

No. 5: Tom Rathman

San Francisco 49ers


1986 - 3rd Round

It is only fitting that we begin our countdown with a rugged fullback because nothing says classic Nebraska football more than that thankless and selfless position. And one of the best fullbacks to ever lace up the cleats in Lincoln was Tom Rathman.

From 1981-1985, he racked up 1,425 yards and 12 TDs on 223 carries. That included a career-high 881 yards and 8 TDs as a senior. Rathman set several Nebraska fullback records including most yards rushing by a fullback in a single season, and most career rushing touchdowns by a fullback.

The San Francisco 49ers selected Rathman in the third round of the 1986 draft. That's rather high for a fullback to be taken.

Still, Rathman has to be considered a gem because few expected him to be as impactful as he proved to be. In nine seasons in the NFL, he put up 2,020 yards and 26 TDs on the ground. He also caught 320 passes for 2,684 and 8 more scores playing in the innovative San Francisco offense.

Of course, his impact can't be fully grasped by looking at the stats, though. That's because much of what Rathman did on the field was selfless in that he was opening up running lanes for such great S.F. running backs as Roger Craig and Ricky Watters.

Rathman helped the 49ers capture two Super Bowl titles. He's also a member of the San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame. Spending most of his career sacrificing his body so that others could get the headlines, he doesn't always get the recognition he deserves but he certainly was a great draft pick back in 1986.