It’s not hard finding former Tennessee football players who are making their mark in the NFL. However, finding elite players is a bit more challenging.
There are approximately 30 former Vols on NFL rosters, according to UT’s sports information department. Only one would be considered an impact player. Still, there are players putting together solid NFL careers.
First of all, kudos to Michael Palardy, who has grown into a solid punter for the Carolina Panthers, and Luke Stocker, who seems to have found a home playing for the Atlanta Falcons as a fullback/tight end. Both players deserve honorable mention and almost made this list. So does defensive back Justin Coleman, who recently signed with the Detroit Lions. They just missed this top 10 ranking.
My list is based on the impact a player has had and is having on his team or teams. That means a player’s position matters. Sorry Colquitt family. Here are the top 10 former Vols in the NFL:
No. 10 P Britton Colquitt (Browns)
Colquitt seemed like a fixture for the Denver Broncos before the two couldn’t come to a contract agreement. That led to Colquitt being cut and subsequently signing with the Cleveland Browns. Colquitt averaged 45.4-yards per punt and downed 32 punts inside the 20-yard-line last season.
No. 9 P Dustin Colquitt (Chiefs)
The elder Colquitt ranks higher on this list because of his overall career production. However, Britton actually rated a bit higher last season. Dustin averaged 44.9-yards per punt and downed 21 punts inside the 20-yard-line last season.
No. 8 TE Jason Witten (Cowboys)
Witten would rank much higher If this list were written two years ago. Witten’s skills have declined with age and he took a year off to pursue broadcasting, but he still figures to be a solid performer this season.
No. 7 G Zach Fulton (Texans)
Fulton has played in 76 games and started 59 during his NFL career, mostly for the Chiefs. He has started 13 games for the Houston Texans last season.
No. 6 G Ramon Foster (Steelers)
Foster has been a rock for the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting 131 games. His skills have declined a bit but he’s still a solid player. “The Big Ragu” has also been lauded as a team leader for the Steelers.
No. 5 S Eric Berry (free agent)
Berry isn’t with an NFL team after parting ways with the Chiefs. However, he’ll find a home soon. Berry would be No. 1 on this list if not for injuries and his battle with cancer.
No. 4 DT Malik Jackson (Eagles)
Perhaps the most surprising player on this list, Jackson has 32.5 sacks after playing for the Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars. He is now signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
No. 3 DE Derek Barnett (Eagles)
After breaking UT’s career sack record, which was held by Reggie White, big things were expected of Barnett in the NFL. He clearly has shown promise. He suffered a shoulder injury that ended his 2018 season in the Eagles’ seventh game, but he was a key contributor when the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017.
No. 2 OT Ja’Wuan James (Broncos)
James became an instant starter after being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the first round in 2014. He has started 62 games and recently signed with the Denver Broncos.
No. 1 RB Alvin Kamara (Saints)
This was not a difficult selection. Kamara has become one of the better tailbacks in the NFL. He has been named a second-team All Pro and is a 2-time Pro Bowler. It seems the only thing that has proven to slow down Kamara is former UT coach Butch Jones.