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Behind the numbers

By Brian Norton / World-Herald staff writer / Updated April 29, 2017

N

ebraska has a fruitful NFL draft history that dates back to the beginning: 1936, when Bernie Scherer was selected 13th overall by the Green Bay Packers.

Since that first pick, another 354 Husker players have been selected in the NFL draft, including two with the No. 1 pick — Sam Francis in 1937 and Irving Fryar in 1984.

The World-Herald went behind Nebraska’s draft numbers to track the trends from 1 to 354.

The full list, which averages out to 4.3 Huskers selected each year, features some statistical oddities and interesting stories, too.

Draft picks by coach

Starting in 1967, the first of the common era when the NFL and AFL held a joint draft, there have been 282 Huskers selected. Here's how those picks break down by the coach each player started his Husker career under.

Bob Devaney
60 selections
1967-1972

Tom Osborne
165 selections
1973-1997

Frank Solich
22 selections
1998-2003

Bill Callahan
17 selections
2004-2007

Bo Pelini
19 selections
2008-2014

Total Husker draft picks by NFL franchise

Packers: 23
Rams 23
Redskins: 20
Saints: 17
Lions: 17
Bears: 16
Browns: 16
Cardinals: 15
Giants: 14
Raiders: 14
Steelers: 14
Jets: 13
Eagles: 13
Colts: 12
Bills: 11
Patriots: 11
Buccaneers: 10
Cowboys: 10
49ers: 9
Broncos: 9
Chargers: 9
Falcons: 8
Bengals: 8
Chiefs: 8
Titans: 7
Vikings: 6
Dolphins: 6
Seahawks: 4
Brooklyn Dodgers: 3
Panthers: 3
Ravens: 2
Texans: 2
Jaguars: 1
Boston Yanks: 1

Last time drafted by position

WR
2015: Kenny Bell, 162, Tampa Bay

LB
2015: Randy Gregory, 60, Dallas

RB
2015: Ameer Abdullah, 54, Detroit

FB
2016: Andy Janovich, 176, Denver

OG
2014: Spencer Long, 78, Washington

CB
2014: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, 58, New Orleans

S
2017: Nate Gerry, 184, Philadelphia

OT
2016: Alex Lewis, 130, Baltimore

DT
2016: Vincent Valentine, 96, New England

K
2011: Alex Henery, 120, Philadelphia

DE
2007: Jay Moore, 104, San Francisco

P
2006: Sam Koch, 203, Baltimore

C
2004: Josh Sewell, 190, Denver

TE
2002: Tracey Wistrom, 250, Tampa Bay

Back-to-back picks

1984
Irving Fryar, 1
Dean Steinkuhler, 2

1988
Hendley Hawkins, 300
Steve Forch, 301

1990
Ken Clark, 206
Gerry Gdowski, 207

1991
Bruce Pickens, 3
Mike Croel, 4

1991
Kenny Walker, 200
Pat Tyrance, 201

AFL selections

Twenty Huskers were selected by an AFL and NFL team. These four went only in the AFL draft:

1960
Carroll Zaruba, HB, Dallas Texas

1961
Don Olson, HB, Denver
Archie Cobb, T, Denver

1963
Willis Crenshaw, FB, Buffalo

Native Huskers

Husker players from Nebraska who were taken in the NFL draft:

The first was back Lloyd Cardwell of Seward, a 1937 pick. The most recent was 2016 draftee Andy Janovich of Gretna.

* * *

1936: It’s fitting that Bernie Scherer, the first Nebraska player taken in the first NFL draft, was selected by Green Bay — no other NFL team has drafted more Huskers. The Packers are tied with the Rams with 23 Huskers selected.

1937: Sam Francis is one of two Huskers to go No. 1 overall. Nebraska has had three first round picks in the same year two times — 1937 and 1972.

1938: Fifth-round pick Fred Shirey initially passed on an NFL career to teach at Beatrice High School. He did play 12 games for the Cleveland Rams and Green Bay Packers during the 1940 and 1941 seasons.

1940: 21 Huskers were selected in the 1940s, the highest total in the pre-Common Draft era.

1941: Herman Rohrig was the first Husker defensive player selected.

1948: Tom Novak’s selection in the 32nd round is the latest, by round, of any Husker.

1950: Only two Huskers have been drafted twice — Charley Toogood and Tom Novak. Novak made a big jump from the 32nd round in 1948 to 4th in 1950. Toogood jumped from the 26th round in 1950 to round 3 in 1951.

1955: There have been 24 sets of Huskers drafted by the same team in the same draft, Ron Clark and Charles Bryant were the first.

1958-1960: No Nebraska players were selected for three straight seasons, the only multi-year stretch in school history.

1961: There were 1,159 picks between the final Husker selected in 1957 and Ron McDole’s selection with the 50th pick of this year.

1964: Bob Brown ends NU’s streak of drafts without a first-round pick at 27.

1966: Walt Barnes is the first Husker to be selected in the second round.

1967: Nebraska is one of five schools to have a player taken every year in the common draft era. The others are Florida, Michigan, Michigan State and USC, per ESPN. And NU was the only school to have two or more players taken each year of that time frame until the 2017 draft. The AFL and NFL held a joint draft starting in 1967.

1970: The Huskers had more players, 80, selected in the 1970s than any other decade.

1971: Pittsburgh’s selection of kicker Paul Rodgers was the first Husker for one of the oldest franchises in the league. The Steelers have drafted 14 Huskers overall.

1972: Starting with the 1972 NFL draft, Nebraska had a first round pick in four straight seasons, the longest in program history.

1975: The largest Husker draft class (12) also is the only one with three sets of Huskers selected by the same team. It also includes another first: the trio of Mark Doak, Ardell Johnson and Dennis Pavelka going to Washington. A trio of Huskers has since landed on the same team two other times: Pittsburgh in 1995 and Washington in 2011.

1976: With the 458th pick in the draft, Rich Costanzo is the latest Husker player taken by selection number in school history.

1979: At 6-foot-8, Randy Poeschl ties Dean Gissler, selected in the 1976 draft, as the tallest Huskers selected by an NFL team.

1980: 60 Huskers were selected in the 1980s, third most of any decade.

1981: Miami and Minnesota have not drafted a Husker since the 1981 draft. Both teams have selected only six Nebraska players all time.

1984: What a year! For the first time, Huskers were selected with back-to-back picks. That’s happened only five times in program history. 1991 also includes back-to-back top 5 picks. Irving Fryar became the second Husker player to go with the top pick in the draft.

1984 supplemental draft: In 1984, the NFL held a supplemental draft in June for teams to acquire the rights to college players who had signed with USFL or CFL teams out of college. Heisman Trophy winner Rozier was selected with the No. 1 pick in the USFL draft by Pittsburgh, giving the Huskers both top selections. He played two seasons in the USFL before spending six years with the Houston Oilers.

1990: 63 Huskers were selected in the 1990s, second most of any decade.

1995: At 5-foot-8, Barron Miles is the shortest Husker drafted. He's also the lightest at 165 pounds.

1997: Jacksonville has selected only one Husker in team history — Jon Hesse in the seventh round here.

1998: Despite being the closest NFL franchise to Nebraska, Kansas City has not selected a Husker since Eric Warfield.

1999: Starting with Mike Minter in 1997, Carolina selected a Husker in three straight drafts. The Panthers have not selected anyone from Nebraska since taking Mike Rucker in the second round this year.

2000: 41 Huskers were selected in the 2000s, fourth most of any decade.

2002: Tracey Wistrom is the last Husker tight end to be drafted, the longest drought of any position.

2004: Jammal Lord is the last Husker quarterback to be drafted, although he was targeted as a defensive back by NFL teams.

2006: Punter Sam Koch is the first Husker player to be selected by the Baltimore Ravens. Alex Lewis was the second in 2017.

2008: At 343 pounds, Carl Nicks is the heaviest Husker draft pick.

2010: 27 Huskers have been selected so far in the 2010s. NU is on pace for 43 selections.

1993 draft class

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kansas City Chiefs running back Greg Hill jumps over teammate Will Shields. The offensive lineman was a third-round pick by Kansas City in 1993. In his career, he started 223 of a possible 224 games for the Chiefs. Shields will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

How do you judge an elite draft class? By where the players are drafted? By how they played in college? By how they perform in the pros?

If it’s by pro performance, a sneaky strong class for the Huskers was 1993, when Will Shields was taken in the third round and turned that pick into a NFL Hall of Fame career.

John Parrella had a 12-year career. Tyrone Hughes made a Pro Bowl as a kick returner. Derek Brown lasted four years with the Saints. It’s not flashy, but it was a decent performance from a small group of players. — Sam McKewon

Teammates

PHOTOS BY MATT MILLER AND REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD

Roy Helu Jr., DeJon Gomes and Niles Paul were all drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2011.

Huskers selected by the same team in the same draft. 1975 includes three sets of teammates drafted by the same team.

1955: Ron Clark and Charles Bryant, Green Bay

1961: Ron McDole and Pat Fischer, St. Louis

1964: John Kirby and Monte Kiffin, Minnesota

1965: Kent McCloughan and John Strohmeyer, Washington

1966: Bob Pickens and Lynn Senkbeil, Chicago

1972: Jerry Tagge and Keith Wortman, Green Bay

1975: Tom Ruud and Bob Nelson, Buffalo

1975: Marvin Crenshaw and Stan Hegener, Pittsburgh

1975: Mark Doak, Ardell Johnson and Dennis Pavelka, Washington

1976: Larry Mushinskie and Rich Costanzo, Dallas

1980: Junior Miller and I.M. Hipp, Atlanta

1980: Bill Barnett and Mark Goodspeed, Miami

1981: Andra Franklin and John Noonan, Miami

1982: Jimmy Williams and Phil Bates, Detroit

1988: Brian Washington and Hendley Hawkins, Cleveland

1989: Broderick Thomas and Willie Griffin, Tampa Bay

1991: Bruce Pickens and Joe Sims, Atlanta

1991: Mike Croel and Kenny Walker, Denver

1995: Brenden Stai, Donta Jones and Barron Miles, Pittsburgh

1999: Jay Foreman and Sheldon Jackson, Buffalo

1999: Chad Kelsay and Kris Brown, Pittsburgh

2001: Kyle Vanden Bosch and Bobby Newcombe, Arizona

2003: DeJuan Groce and Scott Shanle, St. Louis

2011: Roy Helu Jr., DeJon Gomes and Niles Paul, Washington


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