First we gave you the top 5 Cougs currently in the NFL, now let’s look at the 5 All Time Greatest Cougs in the NFL. Unlike the previous list, this one is a culmination of not only NFL success, but also the players’ draft selection and their success at the college level at Washington State University. There are a couple players who were better players in college that are left off of this list due to not panning out in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Rian Lindell, James Hasty
5: QB Mark Rypien: Mark Rypien did something no other Coug has accomplished in the NFL, starting in the 1991 Super Bowl and winning the MVP Award for the game. After being selected in the 6th round of the 1986 NFL Draft, he threw for over 18,000 yards and 115 touchdowns (and 88 interceptions) in his career and captured 2 Super Bowl rings with Pro Bowl selections in 1989 and ’91. At the time he was known as one of the greatest deep passers ever and has been named one of the 70 greatest Redskins ever.
4: CB Marcus Trufant: “Tru” has been a Seahawk fan favorite since his selection as the 11th overall pick of the 2003 draft. He’s also been the most productive defensive position player of all time in the League from WSU. Trufant has 21 career interceptions with 2 returned for tds, 5 fumble recoveries and 612 overall tackles. Known as a true shut down corner, Trufant was part of Seattle’s first and only run to the Super Bowl in 2005, as well as being a Pro Bowl selection in 2007.
In his highlight filled career at WSU Marcus led the Cougar defense in a trip to 3 Bowl appearances, including the 2003 Rose Bowl. He allowed 0 touchdowns in his final 2 seasons and made the All Conference team as well as being a 2nd Team All American. He was a First Team All Freshman selection for the Pac-10 in 1999.
3: RB Reuben Mayes: While there are arguably a select few great players from WSU that made it into the League before Reuben, he became the Cougar pioneer when it came to the Cougs succeeding in the NFL. In fact if he had played more seasons before injuries derailed his promising career, he would certainly been higher on this list. As it was Mayes was selected as the 56th overall pick in the 3rd round in 1986 by the New Orleans Saints and then subsequently selected at the end of the season as the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He would continued on to 2 Pro Bowl Selections in his 7 year career.
At WSU Reuben set the still standing Pac-10 record with 357 yards against Oregon in 1984 (just one week after running for 216 yards and single handedly leading the Cougs back from a 28 point, 3rd quarter deficit) while setting the WSU single season rushing record (1,632 yds) and also career rushing record (3,519 yds). All this led to a tenth place finish in the Heisman voting and a place as a 1st team All American. He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
2: K Jason Hanson: There’s only one way to describe the greatness of what Hanson has accomplished after being selected 56th overall in the 2nd round of the 1992 NFL Draft (which is unheard of for kickers) and it’s by quoting NFL.com. “The 20-year veteran, and one of the NFL’s most productive kickers, is the Lions’ all-time scoring leader with 2,009 points as well as the all-time leader in field goals (462) and extra points (623). Hanson is only the sixth player in NFL history to connect on 400 career field goals and eighth to make 600 PATs. With a 50-yarder vs. San Diego (12/24/11), Hanson became the first player in NFL history with 50 50+-yard field goals.” Simply put, Hanson was and still is history in the making at the kicker position. There is even more here about what this guy has done.
At WSU Jason hit 57.1% of his 50+ yard field goals, which is easily a Conference record as are kicking 20 overall 50 yarders and 39 overall 40+ yarders. He also holds the school records of most points (328), most field goals (63) and most extra points (139).
1: QB Drew Bledsoe: The #1 overall pick of the 1993 NFL draft was our very own Drew Bledsoe. He is the most successful quarterback from WSU in the NFL, leading the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1996 and finally gathering the elusive and well deserved ring in 2001 behind Tom Brady in an injury shortened season. In 1994 he became the 2nd qb to complete 400 passes and led the league with 4,555 yards through the air, helping him reach the Pro Bowl. He was a Pro Bowler four times in his career as he also went in his rookie season in ’94, ’96 and then again with Buffalo in 2002. His numbers when he left the league were quite indicative of the great player he was, as he left 5th in NFL history in pass attempts (6,717) and completions (3,839), 7th in passing yards (44,611), and 13th in touchdown passes (251).
Bledsoe both followed and preceded a myriad of stellar quarterbacks into the University, but for my money, he commanded more respect from opposing defenses than any qb to ever grace the WSU colors. His size and arm strength was unmatched, his leadership was unquestioned and his ability to throw the ball wherever he wanted to was uncommon. At 6’5, 238 he was as big as most college linebackers and very good on his feet in the pocket, reminding me of a modern day Ben Roethlisberger with his ability to manipulate the pocket while surveying the field.
Bledsoe took over as a starter late in his freshman season in 1990 and had his best season in 1992 for the Cougs. He led the team to a 9-3 record and a 31-28 Copper Bowl victory over Utah while setting several team records and garnering the Pac-10 Player of the Year. In his 3 year career he threw for an incredible 7,373 yards and 46 touchdowns.