It’s recruiting season in college football. It’s also Super Bowl season in the NFL.
And it’s with the season in mind that SEC Country decided to take a look at the recruitment of the top-flight former SEC players whose pro team made the Super Bowl this year.
Between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, a whole 31 roster spots are occupied by players who competed in the SEC as amateurs, as pointed out by Edward Aschoff over at ESPN. Eight of those players are on reserve squads. For the purposes of this story, we’ll be looking at 10 players, in particular, and which talent evaluators saw from them while they were prep athletes:
Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee
Hailing from Los Angeles and originally signing with USC, Jackson was a three-star defensive tackle while at Birmingham High School back in 2008. He transferred to Tennessee for the 2010 season after sanctions came down on the USC program. In Knoxville, he was named an All-SEC second teamer.
Peyton Manning, QB, Tennessee
The son of an NFL quarterback and Ole Miss legend, Manning was the top recruit of the 1994 class after earning Gatorade National Player of the Year honors his senior year. Philip Fulmer and the Vols managed to woo the 6-foot-5 signal caller to Knoxville, where he’d bring an SEC Championship in 1997 –– his senior year –– when he was named conference player of the year.
Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Now a key cog in a Broncos defensive unit which leads the league in total defense, Miller was a three-star defensive end out of DeSoto, Tex. as a prep. He signed with the Aggies in 2007 and went on to become an All-American and Butkus Award winner.
Darian Stewart, S, South Carolina
As a prep product from Huntsville, Ala., Stewart was a three-star safety who was ranked No. 35 at his position among recruits in his class. He ultimately signed with South Carolina in 2006 and went on to carve out a reputation as a hard-hitting strong safety/outside linebacker over four years in Columbia. He was then signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky
Talent evaluators flat out overlooked the Broncos’ leading tackler back in 2008, when Trevathan was at Leesburg (Fla.) High School. The then-6-foot-1, 223-pound inside linebacker was just a two-star recruit who was ranked 183rd among recruits in the state of Florida, but he went on to lead the SEC in tackles in 2010 and did the same through nine games in 2011.
Thomas Davis, LB, Georgia
When he was a senior at Randolph-Clay High School in Cuthbert, Ga. back in 2001, Davis’ only Division-I offer came from Georgia. In Athens, the athletic linebacker earned All-American honors and was a two-time All-SEC player before being plucked by the Panthers as the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Easy was a big-time four-star recruit out of New Madrid, Mo. back in 2010, when he signed with former coach Gary Pinkel and the Tigers, while also receiving offers from Arkansas and Ole Miss. The 6-foot-5 defensive end enjoyed a strong three-season career at Missouri before skipping his senior season and becoming a second-round draft pick in 2014.
Roman Harper, S, Alabama
Harper, a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion with the New Orleans Saints, was once an All-State safety in Alabama as a senior at Pratville High School in Pratville, Ala. After signing with the Crimson Tide in 2001, he went on to become a three-year starter and earn All-SEC honors in his junior and senior seasons.
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton, of course, was a big-time four-star dual-threat quarterback recruit out of Atlanta before he wound up a Heisman-winning, National Championship-winning quarterback at Auburn. And before he wound up at Auburn, of course, in 2007 he enrolled at Florida, where he backed up Tim Tebow for a season, got injured the following year, and transferred soon after that following discipline problems that arose in Gainesville, Fla.
Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
As told in The Blind Side –– a 2009 film about his upbringing and high school football career –– Oher was a star while at Briarwood Christian in Memphis, Tenn. The five-star left tackle was the No. 2 recruit out of Tennessee in 2005 and developed into a first-round draft pick after a decorated career at Ole Miss.
It should also be noted that Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak and Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula also have SEC ties. Kubiak –– a longtime backup to John Elway in Denver –– played quarterback at Texas A&M from 1979-83, before the conference realignment brought the university to the SEC. And Shula quarterbacked for Alabama from 1983-86 and went on to be the Crimson Tide’s head coach from 2003-06, as Nick Saban’s predecessor in Tuscaloosa.
All recruiting information provided by 247sports.com unless otherwise stated.