BYU has been a big time college football program for the better part of 40 years. One of the main reasons for that is because of the large amount of very skilled players that they have had. Plenty of those great players have gone on to have very successful careers in the NFL.
As a part of my “ranking the best series,” I rank the best 25 NFL players that have ever come out of Brigham Young University on the offensive side of the ball.
Note: obviously a list like this is completely subjective, but I try to leave all bias out when I do my rankings. Only what each player did in the NFL was taken into consideration.
The things I factored in while doing these rankings include all pro selections, pro-bowls, years as a starter, years in the league and impact on a team. Also, stats weighed heavily in my decision making.
Even though this a list of the best 25 offensive players to play in the NFL from BYU there are a few guys who missed the cut that definitely deserve a mention.
Naufahu Tahi- Tahi spent five seasons in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals. Minnesota is where he found all of his NFL success since he never appeared in a regular season game for the Bengals.
After seeing no game action as a rookie, Tahi appeared in 56 games for the Vikings over the next four seasons and even made 14 starts. As a fullback, Tahi was mostly used as a lead blocker but did manage to carry the ball 10 times for 21 yards.
The way he was most successful on the stat sheet was catching passes out of the back field. Tahi registered 33 receptions for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Daniel Coats- Coats spent four seasons on the field for two NFL teams. Coats played most of his first four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and saw a decent amount of action.
2007 was his best statistical year as Coats caught 12 passes for 122 yards. The reason why 07 was his best season is because seven of his 12 receptions gained the Bengals a first down.
For his career, Coats caught 30 passes for 291 yards as a tight end while also playing on special teams.
Evan Pilgrim- Pilgrim was the 87th pick in the third round of the 1995 draft for the Chicago Bears. Pilgrim played his first three seasons with the Bears before bouncing around to three other teams in his final three years in the NFL.
During his six year career, Pilgrim played in 32 games and made eight starts. Six of those starts came in 1997 while he was with Chicago.
Morris Unutoa- Unutoa Played 86 games over seven seasons with three different teams in the NFL as a backup center. His longest stint came with the Philadelphia Eagles where he played 48 games over three seasons.
Unutoa also played for the Buffalo bills and had two stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his second stint with the Buccaneers, Unutoa was a part of a Super Bowl winning team in 2002.
Glenn Kozlowski- Kozlowski was the 305th pick in the 11th round of the 1986 draft by the Chicago Bears.
He spent his entire seven year NFL career in Chicago playing in 66 games. His best statistical year came in 1987, when Kozlowski started all three games he played in and caught 15 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
For his career, Kozlowski registered 31 receptions for 471 yards and three scores. He also spent plenty of times and special teams which allowed Kozlowski to stick in the NFL for so long.
Mohammed Elewonibi- Elewonibi was the 76th pick in the third round of the 1990 draft by the Washington Redskins.
Elewonibi only played in the NFL for four seasons but was very solid when he was on the field. His best season’s came with the Washington Redskins, where Elewonibi started 19 of 20 games at tackle over a two year period.
He finished his career with the Philadelphia Eagles but only appeared in six games as a reserve.
John Beck- Beck left BYU with high hopes after being drafted in the second round in 2007 by the Miami Dolphins. Beck only played in five games with the Dolphins however, before being released after a coaching change. In Beck’s short time in Miami he started in four games but had very little success. The Dolphins lost all four of his starts with beck completing 56.1 percent of his passes for 559 yards and only one touchdown to go along with three picks. Beck really struggled with pressure as a Dolphin fumbling the ball seven times.
Beck floated around the NFL for the next few years as a third string quarterback before getting his next opportunity to play. That chance came in 2011 as a member of the Washington Redskins. Beck appeared in four games, including three as a starter. He put up significantly better numbers but still managed to lose every game he started. That year beck threw for 858 yards on 60.6 percent completions and two touchdowns. Beck also rushed the ball 10 times for 43 yards and two more scores.
All told, Beck has thrown 1417 yards and three touchdowns while getting picked off seven times in just nine career games.
25. Eric Lane- Lane was the 196th pick in the eighth round of the 1981 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Lane started out his Seahawks career as a kick returner but was able to make his way into a starting running back position by year four.
1984 was the only season that lane started more than three games and put up by far the best numbers of his seven year career. During that year, Lane started seven games and was used a fair amount in both the running and passing game. Lane had 80 carries for 299 yards and four touchdowns, which were all carries highs. He also caught 11 passes for 102 yards and another score.
For his career, Lane appeared in 97 games including 12 as a starter. He rushed for 405 yards and four touchdowns on 124 carries. Lane also caught 42 passes for 357 yards and two scores.
24. Dennis Pitta- Pitta was the 114th pick in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2010 draft. Pitta has been with the Ravens four the duration of his four year career and became one of their biggest weapons just a season ago.
His career started very slowly as Pitta appeared in 11 games as a rookie and caught just one pass. Year two was much more successful One for Pitta. He played in all 16 games and started two. That year Pitta caught 40 passes for 405 and three touchdowns. His best game of the 2011 season came against the Cincinnati Bengals when Pitta caught six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.
2012 was even better for Pitta and the Ravens. Pitta started five of 16 games and recorded 61 receptions for 669 and seven touchdowns. Pitta was also huge in the Ravens playoff run to the Super Bowl. He caught 14 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns including four catches for 26 yards and a score in the Ravens 34-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Pitta had a career setback in 2013 and has not appeared on the field this year after hurting his hip in training camp.
For his career to this point, Pitta has 102 receptions for 1075 yards and ten touchdowns.
Assuming that Pitta can return to the field at 100 percent, he will move up the ranking very quickly.
23. Bill Ring- Ring went undrafted out of BYU but managed to make the San Francisco 49ers. Ring spent six seasons with the Niners and played in 69 games including nine starts.
His best season in the NFL came in 1983 when Ring appeared in all 16 games including five Starts. That year, Ring rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 64 carries. He also caught 23 passes for 182 yards.
During his time in the NFL, Ring was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams with San Francisco. During the 49ers 1981 playoff run to the championship, he carried the ball 21 times for 73 yards and a touchdown while also catching two passes. Ring was also on the San Francisco’s 1984 Super Bowl winning team.
For his career, Ring carried the ball 183 times for 732 yards and seven touchdowns as a rusher. He also registered 45 receptions for 336 yards and another score.
Not bad for a guy who went undrafted coming out of school.
22. Gifford Nielsen- after an impressive college career Nielsen was selected with the 73rd overall pick in the third round of the 1978 draft by the Houston Oilers.
Nielsen spent His entire six year NFL career with the Oilers and appeared in 55 games including 14 starts.
During his career Nielson completed almost 55 percent of his passes for 3255 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 29 times for 89 yards.
In his fourteen games as a starter, Nielsen and the Oilers managed only three wins. His most impressive of those victories came during week 16 of the 1981 season. During that game Nielsen completed 24-37 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns as the Oilers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-20. That game was a part of Nielsen’s best season in the NFL. Although he only played in five games that year and started two, Nielsen threw for 709 yards and five touchdowns on 64.5 percent completions.
21. Doug Jolley- Jolley was taken with the 55th overall pick in the second round of the 2002 draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Jolley played five seasons in the NFL for three different teams.
His best years in the league came with the Oakland Raiders. Jolley started 26 games in three years with the Raiders and registered 90 receptions for 972 yards and five touchdowns.
During his rookie season with the Raiders, Jolley made 11 post season receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown, including five catches for 59 yards in their Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jolley also found some success with the New York Jets. During his year in New York, Jolley started seven games. He caught 29 passes for 324 yards and a score. It was during that 2005 season with the Jets that Jolley had his best game. In a December road loss to the Miami Dolphins, Jolley caught nine passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
For his career, Jolley caught 120 passes for 1303 yards and six touchdowns.
20. Scott Brumfield- Brumfield went undrafted after leaving BYU but was able to make the Cincinnati Bengals roster in 1993. Brumfield spent his whole six year NFL career and appeared in 56 games. Included in those games for Brumfield were 29 starts.
As a rookie, Brumfield played in every game and even managed to make seven starts. That’s an incredibly impressive feat when you consider that Brumfield was an undrafted free agent.
Brumfield had his best season in 1995 when he appeared in 14 games and started 11 at left guard according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Brumfield is a remarkable story of strength and perseverance. After moving into the starting lineup during the second game of the 1996 season, Brumfield started eight straight games. During the eighth and final game of his season, Brumfield suffered a severe spinal cord injury against the Baltimore Ravens which left him temporarily paralyzed. After months of rehab Brumfield was able to return to the football field and play in 15 of the Bengals 16 games the following season including two starts.
19. Austin Collie- after a record breaking career at BYU, Collie was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the 127th overall pick in the fourth round in the 2009 draft.
During his time with the Colts, Collie found plenty of success and also a number of injuries.
The injuries almost end his NFL career. As a slot receiver, Collie spent plenty of time going over the middle to catch passes from passing legend Peyton Manning. As with most slot receivers, he took a ton of really hard hits. On a couple of occasions, Collie took vicious shots to the head which caused severe concussions.
Concussions haven’t been the only issue that he has had with injuries however. During his first game of 2012, Collie caught one pass before being injured for the season.
After an injury riddled last few seasons, Collie didn’t make a roster in 2013 but was signed just a few days ago by the New England Patriots.
Even with all of his time missed to injuries, Collie has put up impressive numbers when he has been on the field.
As a rookie in 2009, Collie played in all 16 games Including five starts and registered 60 receptions for 676 yards and eight touchdowns.
His second year started even better before he started having his concussion issues. Year two was the most impressive year of his short career as Collie had his two best games in the first three weeks of the season.
In the first game of the year, Collie caught 11 balls for 163 yards and a touchdown in a Colts loss to Houston. Only two weeks later Collie bested those numbers with 12 receptions for 171 yards and two scores.
Collie would only play six more games the rest of the season but was still able to score four more touchdowns.
Year three wasn’t quite the same without Peyton Manning under center but Collie still caught 54 passes for 514 yards and a score.
Since the end of the 2011 season Collie has only appeared in one game because of a leg injury.
The regular season isn’t the only place that collie has played well.
In the 2009 playoff run for the Colts, collie registered 17 receptions for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Included in those Numbers were Big games in the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl. Against the Jets, in the AFC title Collie caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. He followed that up two weeks later with six catches for 66 yards in a Super Bowl loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Now that Collie has found his way onto a NFL roster, hopes are he can stay healthy to become the player he was meant to be. If that is the case, Collie will surely move a long way up this list.
18. Brad Oates-Oates played six years in the NFL for five different teams as a guard and tackle. During his NFL career, Oates played in 67 games including 20 as a starter.
His best year came in 1978 with the Detroit Lions when Oates played in all 16 games, including 15 as a starter at right tackle.
17. Ty Detmer- Detmer was the 230th pick in the ninth round of the 1992 draft by the Green Bay Packers. Detmer spent 14 seasons in the NFL and saw action in eight different years.
Detmer’s best seasons came as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles where he started 18 games in two years.
In 1996, Detmer started 11 games and won seven while passing for almost 3000 yards and 15 touchdowns. That was the only season of Detmer’s pro career where he started more than seven games.
For his career, Detmer threw for 6,351 yards and 34 touchdowns while completing 57.7 percent of his passes.
16. Itula Mili- Mili was drafted with the 174th overall pick in the sixth round of the 1997 draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
Mili played all nine of his NFL seasons with the Seahawks and had a fair amount of success. He had five straight years with more than four starts including back to back years With 12 starts midway through his career.
During those two seasons, Mili put up his best numbers by far with a combined 89 receptions 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
For his career, Mili registered 164 receptions for 1,743 yards and 13 touchdowns.
15. Trevor Matich- Matich was the 28th overall pick in the first round by the New England Patriots in the 1985 draft.
Matich spent 12 years in the league for five different teams and played in 148 games.
Half of his 22 career starts came as a member of the Patriots, where Matich spent his first four seasons in the league.
Although Matich played as an offensive lineman, he did record three receptions and a touchdown while playing for the New York Jets in 1991.
14. Glenn Titensor- Titensor was the 81st overall in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 draft.
After playing defense at BYU, he switched over to the offensive side of the ball for the Cowboys.
Titensor played his entire seven year career with the Cowboys appearing in 92 games, including 46 starts.
Included in those 46 starts was a stretch from 1984-1986 where Titensor started 44 games at left guard.
13. Virgil Carter- Carter was the 142nd pick in the sixth round by the Chicago Bears in the 1967 draft.
Carter saw field action in seven seasons for three different teams.
Carter’s best years came as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals where he won 12 of his 22 starts over three seasons. During his stretch as a Bengal, Carter completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 3,850 yards and 22 touchdowns.
For his career, Carter passed for more than 5,000 yards and 29 touchdowns while adding 640 rushing and eight more scores.
12. Jason Mathews- Mathews was the 67th overall pick in the third round by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1994 draft.
Mathews spent one season at BYU playing defensive lineman before transferring to Texas A&M to finish out his collegiate career on offense.
Mathews played 142 games, including 43 starts over 11 seasons for the Colts and the Tennessee Titans.
Even though only four of those seasons came with Indianapolis, which is where Mathews had his most success.
His best stretch came in 1995 and 1996 where Mathews started 31 of 32 games at right tackle for two Colts playoff teams.
11. Golden Richards- Richards was the 46th overall pick of the second round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1973 draft.
Richards spent two seasons at BYU before finishing his college career at the University of Hawaii.
Richards played 86 games over seven years in the NFL with the Cowboys and the Chicago Bears.
While only starting nine games over five plus seasons in Dallas, Richards was very effective as a Wide receiver and punt returner.
His best two seasons were with the Cowboys in 1974 and 1975. During those years, Richards caught 47 passes for 918 yards and nine touchdowns. He also returned 41 punts for 362 yards and a score.
For his career, Richards recorded 122 receptions for 2136 yards and 17 touchdowns as well as a punt return touchdown. He also won a Super Bowl as a member of the 1977 Cowboys.
10. Gordon Gravelle- Gravelle was the 38th overall pick in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 draft.
Gravelle started 68 games over eight seasons in the NFL with three different teams.
Gravelle earned two Super Bowl rings as a member of the Steelers in 1974 and 1975. During those two years, Gravelle started every game but one at right tackle.
9. Larry Moore- after going undrafted, Moore made the Indianapolis Colts in 1998.
In fact Moore managed to play 96 games, including 73 starts in eight seasons in the NFL for three different teams.
Moore had his most success with the Colts where he spent time at center and right guard. He started 48 of the 54 games he played with Indianapolis and did very well protecting a young Peyton Manning.
8. Marc Wilson- Wilson was the 15th pick in the first round of the 1980 draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Wilson saw regular season time as a backup and occasional starter.
Wilson spent most of his career as a member of the Raiders and that where he found pretty much all of his success. Wilson won 31 of his 50 starts in silver and black including eight fourth quarter comebacks.
His best season came in 1985, when Wilson won 11 of his 13 starts while passing for 2,608 yards and 16 touchdowns.
For his career, Wilson threw for 14,391 yards and 86 touchdowns while rushing for 611 yards and five scores.
7. Chad Lewis- Lewis went undrafted out of BYU but was able to make the Philadelphia Eagles.
As a rookie, Lewis only caught 12 passes for 94 yards but found the end zone four times. In fact, the first touchdown of his career was thrown by fellow BYU alum Ty Detmer.
Lewis played 110 of his 116 game NFL career with the Eagles and was a three time Pro Bowler.
The best year of his career came in 2000 when Lewis caught 69 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns.
For his career, Lewis caught 229 passes for 2,361 yards and 23 touchdowns in nine seasons.
He was also very effective in the playoffs catching 38 passes for 409 yards and four touchdowns.
6. John Tait- Tait was the 14th overall pick in the first round of the 1999 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tait spent 10 seasons in the NFL with the Chiefs and the Chicago Bears as a left and right tackle.
During his career, Tait started 139 of the 148 games he appeared in, including all 136 games he played in his last nine years.
5. Paul Howard- Howard was the 54th overall pick in the third round of the 1973 draft by the Denver Broncos.
Howard spent All 187 games of his 14 year NFL career with the Broncos. Howard started 147 games at right guard and was very consistent.
In fact, Howard started at least 13 games in 10 of his final 11 seasons in the league.
4. Jim McMahon-McMahon was the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 1982 draft by the Chicago Bears.
While never putting up huge numbers in the NFL like he did at BYU, McMahon was an ultimate winner. In fact, McMahon’s teams won 67 of the 97 games he started.
His greatest success came as a member of the Bears where McMahon was under center for one of the best teams in NFL history in 1985. That year, McMahon threw for career highs of 2,392 yards and 15 touchdowns while winning every game he started in. In fact, McMahon didn’t lose a regular season start for two straight seasons. McMahon made the pro bowl in 1985 while helping to lead the bears to their last super bowl victory.
For his career, McMahon threw for more than 18,000 yards and 100 touchdowns as well as rushing for 1,631 yards and 16 more scores.
3. Todd Christensen- Christensen was the 56th overall pick in the second round of the 1978 draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Even though he was drafted by the Cowboys, Christensen never played a game for Dallas.
He saw his first game action with the New York Giants before making his way to the Raiders in 1979.
It was with the Raiders that Christensen had all of his on field success but that didn’t happen right away. Christensen did catch a pass with the Raiders until the second game of the 1981 season and didn’t make his first start until 1982.
After Christensen became a starter he began to pick up huge numbers as a tight end.
From 1983 to 1987, Christensen started 76 games and made five Pro Bowls. During that stretch, Christensen had three 1,000 yard receiving seasons, led the NFL in receptions two years and caught 35 touchdowns while being named an All-Pro twice.
For his career, Christensen registered 461 receptions for 5,872 yards and 41 touchdowns.
2. Bart Oates- after leaving BYU in 1982, Oates spent the first three years of his pro career in the USFL and won two Championships before signing with the New York Giants.
Oates played 11 seasons in the NFL for two teams after making the switch.
During his first nine years in the league, Oates played for the New York Giants and was a fixture at Center. Oates won two Super Bowl rings and made three Pro Bowls while in New York.
Oates last two seasons in the NFL were spent protecting his old college quarterback Steve Young with the San Francisco Forty-Niners. Oates made the Pro Bowl both seasons and won his third Super Bowl ring after the 1994 season.
1. Steve Young- Young started his pro career in the USFL before being selected by the Tampa Bay Bucs with the first pick of the 1984 supplemental draft.
His career in Tampa was somewhat of a disaster as Young only won three of his 19 starts while throwing ten more picks than touchdowns.
Young found new life as a member of the San Francisco Forty-Niners but only after four seasons as the backup to Joe Montana. As a starter of the Niners for most of eight seasons, young was one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever had. He led the league in completion percentage, touchdowns and passer rating an astounding 15 times during that stretch while leading San Francisco to their last super bowl win.
Young was a two time NFL MVP and a first team All-Pro three straight seasons. Young made seven pro bowls and was named the first team quarterback of the 90’s by pro football reference.
For his historic NFL career, Young passed for 33,124 yards and 232 touchdowns while completing 64.3 percent of his passes. Young also rushed for 4,239 yards and 43 scores.
For his efforts in the NFL Young was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 2005.
Not bad for a guy who appeared to be a bust after his time In Tampa Bay.