North Carolina to the NFL Part 3: What do the numbers say about North Carolina high school products in the NFL? How many have there been? And who played the longest in the NFL?
North Carolina to the NFL
(This is the third in a series on the North Carolina products who went on to play in the NFL. Here are the previous and upcoming stories:)
Part 1: The first NFL player came in 1921 and he came from the state’s winningest high school program. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-the-nfl-part-1-the-first-nfl-player-came-in-1921-and-he-came-from-the-states-winningest-high-school-program/
Part 2: North Carolina to the NFL Part 2: Jim Thorpe is not a N.C. native but he spent time in the state and later recruited N.C. natives for his NFL team. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-the-nfl-part-2-jim-thorpe-is-not-a-n-c-native-but-he-spent-time-in-the-state-and-later-recruited-n-c-natives-for-his-nfl-team/
Part 4: What North Carolina high schools and counties have produced the most eventual NFL players?
Part 5: Which colleges have benefitted the most from North Carolina high school products who eventually played in the NFL?
Part 6: How many NFL first round picks have been produced by North Carolina high schools?
Part 7: How did eventual NFL players do when they played for North Carolina high schools?
Part 8: North Carolina has a handful of natives who didn’t attend high school in the state before making it to the NFL. Here’s a look at some of them.
By Richard Walker
Entering the upcoming 2021 NFL season, North Carolina high schools have produced 628 players for the league.
That started in the league’s second season of 1921 and included 14 who made their debut in 2020.
The group includes four Hall of Famers and 69 who have 10 or more years experience, including three who are still active.
The Hall of Famers have been linebacker Bobby Bell (1983 induction class), quarterback Sonny Jurgensen (1983), Carl Eller (2004) and Charlie Sanders (2007).
Bell, a 1959 Shelby Cleveland High graduate, attended Minnesota before playing 12 seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jurgensen, a 1953 Wilmington New Hanover graduate, attended Duke before playing 18 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
Eller, a 1960 Winston-Salem Atkins graduate, attended Minnesota before playing 16 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
And Sanders, a 1964 Greensboro Dudley graduate, attended Minnesota before playing 10 seasons for the Detroit Lions.
Jurgensen and another quarterback share honors as the longest-tenured NFL players from a N.C. high school.
Jurgensen’s 18-year career is matched by Vince Evans.
A 1973 Greensboro Smith graduate, Evans attended Southern California before playing 18 seasons for the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders and old United States Football League (USFL) teams in Chicago and Denver.
Eight others played 15 or more seasons in the league, including Eller.
Julius Peppers, a 1998 Southern Nash graduate, attended North Carolina before playing 17 seasons for the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
Roman Gabriel, a 1958 Wilmington New Hanover graduate, attended N.C. State before playing 16 seasons for the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.
Ethan Albright, a 1989 Greensboro Grimsley graduate, attended North Carolina before playing 16 seasons for the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers.
Doug Wilkerson, a 1965 Fayetteville E.E. Smith graduate, attended North Carolina Central before playing 15 seasons for the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers.
Clyde Simmons, a 1982 Wilmington New Hanover graduate, attended Western Carolina before playing 15 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears.
Roman Phifer, a 1986 South Mecklenburg graduate, attended UCLA before playing 15 seasons for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, New England Patriots and New York Giants.
And Brad Johnson, a 1987 Swannanoa Owen graduate, attended Florida State before playing 15 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.
North Carolina High School NFL players:
Hall of Fame members (with induction year):
Bobby Bell 1983
Sonny Jurgensen 1983
Carl Eller 2004
Charlie Sanders 2007
10 years or more of NFL experience:
Sonny Jurgensen (1957-74), Vince Evans (1977-85, 1987-95)
Julius Peppers (2002-18)
Roman Gabriel (1962-77), Carl Eller (1964-79), Ethan Albright (1995-2010)
Doug Wilkerson (1970-84), Clyde Simmons (1986-2000), Roman Phifer (1991-2005), Brad Johnson (1994-2008)
Tommy Barnhardt (1987-2000)
Bob Matheson (1967-79), Dave Waymer (1980-92), Dave Lutz (1983-95), Kevin Donnalley (1991-2003)
Bobby Bell (1963-74), Mel Phillips (1966-77), Bill Bryan (1977-88), Tootie Robbins (1982-93), Lance Smith (1985-96), Vinson Smith (1988-99), Sam Gash (1992-2003), Bracy Walker (1994-2005), Dewayne Washington (1994-2005), Greg Ellis (1998-2009), Leonard Little (1998-2009), Adrian Wilson (2001-12), Greg Warren (2005-16), Ryan Succop (2009-20/active)
John Baker (1958-68), Jim Clack (1971-81), Robert Jackson (1975-85), Mickey Marvin (1977-87), Marvin Powell (1977-87), Dee Hardison (1978-88), Donnell Thompson (1981-91), Robert Brown (1982-92), Ray Agnew (1990-2000), Everett Lindsay (1993-2003), Walter Rasby (1994-2004), Torry Holt (1999-2009), Marques Douglas (2000-10), Chris Canty (2005-15), Mario Williams (2006-16), William Hayes (2008-18), Jimmy Graham (2010-20/active)
Ike Lassiter (1962-71), Charlie Sanders (1968-77), Louis Breeden (1978-87), Joe Bostic (1979-88), Steve Wilson (1979-88), Lin Dawson (1981-90), William Frizzell (1984-93), Perry Williams (1984-93), Ethan Horton (1985-94), Haywood Jeffires (1987-96), Ernie Logan (1991-2000), Eric Swann (1991-2000), Yancey Thigpen (1991-2000), Randy Jordan (1993-2002), Brian Simmons (1998-2007), Brad Hoover (2000-09), Alge Crumpler (2001-10), Brian Williams (2002-11), Vonta Leach (2004-13), Manny Lawson (2006-15), Connor Barth (2008-17), Brandon Tate (2009-18), Marcus Gilchrist (2011-20/active)