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Utes in the NFL

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NFL training camps open this week for all 32 NFL teams. With this in mind, it seems like a good time to take a look at Utah alumni that are currently playing in the NFL. Just this week two more Utes joined the NFL ranks as Kendal Thompson signed as a receiver with Washington and Jason Whittingham joined Minnesota. Kyle Whittingham has done a great job of producing NFL talent since taking over as head coach in 2005 as evidenced by the 32 former Utah players currently on NFL rosters.

Here is the complete list:

Player Team Position
Dres Anderson San Francisco 49ers Receiver
Matt Asiata Minnesota Vikings Running Back
Zane Beadles San Francisco 49ers Guard
Tony Bergstrom Houston Texans Center
Brian Blechen Carolina Panthers Linebacker
Devontae Booker Denver Broncos Running Back
Sam Brenner Denver Broncos Center
Kaelin Clay Baltimore Ravens Receiver
Anthony Denham Houston Texans Tight End
Jason Fanaika San Francisco 49ers Defensive End
Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver
Paul Kruger Cleveland Browns Linebacker
Tyler Larsen Carolina Panthers Guard
Star Lotulelei Carolina Panthers Defensive Tackle
Brice McCain Tennessee Titans Cornerback
Keith McGill Oakland Raiders Cornerback
Koa Misi Miami Dolphins Linebacker
Jared Norris Carolina Panthers Linebacker
Nate Orchard Cleveland Browns Linebacker
Tenny Palepoi San Diego Chargers Defensive Tackle
Jeremiah Poutasi Tennessee Titans Offensive Tackle
Trevor Reilly New York Jets Linebacker
Eric Rowe Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback
Derrick Shelby Atlanta Falcons Defensive End
Sealver Siliga Seattle Seahawks Defensive Tackle
Sean Smith Oakland Raiders Cornerback
Alex Smith Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback
Steve Smith Sr. Baltimore Ravens Receiver
Kendal Thompson Washington Redskins Receiver
Paul Soliai Carolina Panthers Defensive Tackle
Eric Weddle Baltimore Ravens Safety
Jason Whittingham Minnesota Vikings Linebacker

Certainly this list will narrow as NFL training camp progresses and cuts are made, however 32 players currently on an active roster is pretty impressive and puts Utah firmly in the upper half of the Pac-12 conference in producing NFL talent. Below is a table of how many players are currently on and NFL roster from each Pac-12 school with BYU and Utah State thrown in for fun.

School Players on NFL Roster
USC 48
Cal 40
Stanford 37
Oregon 36
Utah 32
Oregon State 26
Washington 26
Arizona State 24
Utah State 17
BYU 15
Arizona 15
Colorado 12
Washington State 10

It's interesting to see how well each of these schools produces NFL talent. Predictably USC, Stanford Oregon are near the top. It's a little surprising to see Cal at no. 2 since they always seem to under achieve. Oregon State is also fairly high on the list given their recent history. Utah State ranks ahead of three Pac-12 schools and BYU in putting players into the NFL.

Getting back to Utah, there are a few big names that will get the most attention. Alex Smith has proven himself as a very good NFL quarterback and is in his 12th NFL season. Steve Smith is one of the all time great receivers in NFL history. He was supposed to retire after last season before suffering a season ending injury midway through the season causing him to return for one last hurrah. He is in his 16th season and will being playing his third in Baltimore. Eric Weddle will be joining Smith in Baltimore this season after playing his first nine seasons in San Diego.

In addition to these vets, Devontae Booker will be watched closely as he tries to win the starting running back position with the Denver Broncos. So far he has impressed John Elway and the Broncos coaching staff with his competitive nature and performance in minicamp.

Finally, if you are picking your NFL team based on how many former Utes play for them, you have to go with Carolina. The Panthers have five former Utes, more than any other NFL team. The Browns, Ravens, 49ers and Broncos aren't far behind with three each.

With opening on NFL camps, football is officially back! College camps will begin next week and in a few short week Utah will be kicking off the 2016 season against Southern Utah at Rice-Eccles on September 1st.