The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

December 26, 2012

Marshall players making impact in NFL

While the Marshall University football team’s season has been over for some time now, many members of the Thundering Herd are seeing success playing on Sunday (and in some cases Monday, Thursday and Saturday) in the NFL.

Marshall may not have had the success that WVU has had in recent years, however it matches the Mountaineers with twelve players currently playing in the NFL.

Danny Baldridge — The 6-foot-8, 308-pound offensive tackle is currently playing for the Tennessee Titans. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010 by the Jacksonville Jaguars to their practice squad. He’s played in one game in his career, a week 3 battle that saw the Jags defeat the Colts 22-17. Baldridge was released to the practice squad a few weeks later, and was signed by the Titans on December 4.

Ahmad Bradshaw — Few former members of the Thundering Herd have had the success in the NFL as Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw, a seventh round pick in 2007, followed in another Marshall alum’s footsteps, Troy Brown, by helping to lead his team to a pair of Super Bowls -- at Brown’s former team, the Patriots, expense.

Bradshaw was an integral part of the Giants offense that won Super Bowl XLII and XLVII. The 5-10 running back has 908 yards and 5 touchdowns on 205 carries in 2012. Bradshaw will help New York fight for the final Wild Card spot in the playoffs when they take on division rival Philadelphia on Sunday.

Omar Brown — The undrafted free agent made waves in the NFL with an incredibly efficient defensive performance during the preseason for the Baltimore Ravens. Brown tallied three fumble recoveries, an interception and recovered an onside kick. He was signed to the practice squad following the preseason, before being called on to play in Week 15 and Week 16, in which he made the first sack of his NFL career, leveling Eli Manning for a 9 yard loss in a 31-17 Baltimore win.

Chris Crocker — Crocker is 10-year veteran of the NFL, originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2003 draft. Crocker currently helps anchor a Cincinnati Bengals defense that wrapped up their second straight playoff appearance on Sunday with a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Crocker has 28 tackles, 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery this season.

Vinny Curry — Curry, who famously showed up to a press conference dressed like pro wrestling legend Ric Flair while at Marshall, has had fans clamoring for him since the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the second round of the 2012 draft. The former C-USA Defensive Player of the Year finally saw action in Week 12 and has played in every game since. The rookie defensive end has 9 total tackles and is seeing even more playing time as the season progresses.

Mario Harvey — Nicknamed “Thumper” by teammates due to his hard-hitting style has been likened to Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis for his intensity during training. The 6-1, 264 lb linebacker was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2011.  He signed with the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 season and has 10 combined tackles.

Byron Leftwich — The former Heisman candidate and Jacksonville Jaguar has seen playing time during his two stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers, filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger. Leftwich started his first game since 2009 in Week 11 starting in place for Big Ben. Leftwich had a 31-yard rush for a touchdown-- the longest of his career -- in the loss to Baltimore, but broke his ribs in the process and has been sidelined since.

Doug Legursky — The Woodrow Wilson and Hunt Award-winning standout has had an impressive career since signing with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Originally signed to the practice squad, Legursky has seen spot starts on the offensive line, most famously in a Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers. Legursky has started three games this season, all against conference rivals Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore. The Beckley native is honored with a sandwich, The Big Legursky, at Calicino’s Pizzeria; a folded pizza crust with sliced rib eye, peppers, onions, mushrooms and provolone cheese.

Albert McClellan — The two-year pro and 2006 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year award winner has made his home at Baltimore for the 2012 season. The undrafted free agent beat out second round draft pick Courtney Upshaw for the starting linebacker position in the preseason and has started all but three games. McClellan has combined for 49 tackles, has one sack and forced two fumbles.

Randy Moss — Arguably the most famous and most successful of the former Marshall players, Moss returned to the NFL following a one season retirement in 2011. Moss, now with the 49ers, has 406 yards on 26 receptions in coach Jim Harbaugh’s offense, but is expected to see a larger role in Week 17 and the playoffs since San Francisco wide receiver Mario Manningham is now out for the season. The former Dupont high star holds the NFL single season touchdown reception record (23) and the NFL single-season touchdown reception record for a rookie (17). Moss surpassed Terrell Owens for 2nd place on the all time receiving touchdowns list this season.

Lee Smith — The two year pro Tight End was drafted by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft, but was released during the preseason and later claimed by the Buffalo Bills. Smith has started in six games for Buffalo this season, where he’s caught two touchdown passes and has 13 yards on 4 receptions. He is the son of former Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Daryle Smith.

C.J. Spillman — The undrafted free agent safety joined Moss in San Francisco this season. He has 10 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.

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Marshall will likely see another player added to their rank of players playing in the NFL next season as wide receiver Aaron Dobson is expected to be selected in the 2013 draft.

The 6-2 wide receiver is listed as a top 100 prospect in many mock drafts and CBS Sports is projecting Dobson to be a third round pick.

— E-mail: jrollins@register-herald.com

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