SEC is proving ground for football pros

I am patiently and excitedly awaiting the launch of the SEC Network tomorrow.

While I’ve been waiting, I’ve stumbled upon highlights of NFL preseason games.

I know these don’t count for much more than evaluation purposes or getting reps, and the starters play about one series a game, but there are plenty of products from Southeastern Conference schools ready to make their marks on the league this year.

Perhaps, and probably, the most talked about of these new professionals now plays for the Cleveland Browns.

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel was electric on the field and a lightning rod for controversy off of it while he was at College Station.

The Browns hope Manziel, who they drafted with the 22nd overall pick this year, can provide the same sparks at FirstEnergy Stadium as he did at Kyle Field. If jersey sales are any indication, the rookie has already provided a spark. Sales of his jersey led the league early in the fiscal year, according to an article on ESPN.com.

Jersey sales don’t equate to touchdowns, however, and Manziel still has a lot to prove between the lines in the professional ranks.

As of press time, Manziel has completed seven of 11 passes for 63 yards, and has a 79 quarterback rating. He’s also ran six times for 27 yards, and leads the Browns’ ground attack through one game of preseason play.

I’ve watched Manziel play in person, and he’s worth seeing on the field.

If and when he starts for Cleveland, I bet he’ll sell a few tickets.

Manziel is not the only one helping an NFL team fill its stadium on Sundays in the fall.

The NFL is ripe with players from each of the 14 SEC schools.

ESPN.com lists 50 players who played at Alabama and are on NFL rosters. Arkansas boasts 30. Auburn has 31 of its former players on NFL rosters. Florida has 45 former players in the league this season.

Georgia put 46 former Bulldogs on pro rosters.

Kentucky has 17 representatives this season, and LSU’s 53 former players leads the conference.

Ole Miss has 24 former players in the pros this year, and Mississippi State has 23.

Missouri has 34 players playing professionally.

South Carolina has 38, after Sidney Rice retired. Tennessee has 39.

Texas A&M placed 35 Aggies in the league.

Vanderbilt has 19 former Commodores on professional teams.

The SEC has long been a pipeline to the pros.

If my math is not wrong, and it very well may be, the conference has a total of 484 players at the next level this year.

While we await the arrival of an entire television network dedicated to the SEC, its schools, its teams and its student-athletes, that’s a pretty good stat to ponder.

 

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