Earlier this week we wondered what an All-Big 12 NFL offense would look like. Now, it’s the defense and special team’s turn.
As a reminder, players from former schools like Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M aren’t up for consideration. Leave the conference and you don’t get to be a part of our cool lists of the utmost importance. However, we are including NFL players who played at West Virginia and TCU, because well, we like them.
We’ve all heard it a million and a half times, ‘The Big 12 doesn’t play defense?’ Yeah, you might think differently when you see this defensive roster. Regardless, I’m sure there won’t be any disagreement with my selection.
EDIT: Due to an edit that didn’t save, a previous version had Tony Jefferson from Oklahoma starting at strong safety. The post has been updated to reflect that Earl Thomas from Texas is in fact who we’ve selected as the starter at the position.
DE 1: Lamarr Houston (Texas)
Houston has been steady and reliable as a pass rusher. Amassing 25 sacks and 215 tackles, the former Longhorn has given many NFL quarterbacks nightmares. Sadly, he may not be as well-known throughout NFL fan-circles due to his playing for the lowly Oakland Raiders for his first four years but make no mistake, Houston is a great pass rusher.
Big 12 fans will remember Houston the defensive tackle where he was just as much of a terror, leading Texas to a spot in the 2010 Rose Bowl National Championship. The guy is versatile and not stopping anytime soon. Longhorn fans pride themselves on defense and Houston is the poster boy.
Second Team: Cory Redding
DT 1: Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma)
Whenever Ndamunkong Suh isn’t making headlines for punching players in the crotch, Gerald McCoy quietly adds to his resume as arguably the best defensive tackle in the game. Like Lamarr Houston playing for Oakland, McCoy has the displeasure of playing for another black hole in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 35.5 sacks to go along with 144 tackles equates to McCoy having an unlimited amount of travel to Hawaii (or Miami) to the Pro Bowl.
McCoy grew up 25 minutes from Memorial Stadium and made OU fans extremely happy with his play and attitude. He led the defense in 2008 on route to a BCS National Championship and even intercepted a pass from Tim Tebow – everyone wins in that instance.
Second Team: Henry Melton
DT 2: Kevin Williams (Oklahoma State)
This guy is still in the league? The answer is yes and he is still producing at a high level. NFL fans remember him leading the Minnesota Vikings d-line for a decade. Since joining the league in 2003, Williams has earned 67 sacks and 367 tackles. Today he is still playing at the young age of 36. Any NFL fan would love this guy on their defense.
Williams anchored the Oklahoma State defensive lines from 2000-2002. He helped set the foundation for what OSU would become later in the decade with Les Miles and Mike Gundy at the helm – going from a three win team to routinely winning 9-to-10 games a year
Second Team: Ahtyba Rubin
DE 2: Brian Robinson (Texas)
To add to the balance of this D-line, Robinson possesses the skills to put this unit over the top. A model of consistency, Robinson has racked up numbers over his nine year career. It is a rarity that a player of his caliber has stayed with once franchise (Minnesota) his entire professional career, but looking at his numbers you can certainly understand why.
Another NFL Longhorn apart of the 2005 National Title team. While Texas was strangely absent on the offensive article, the defense has their stamp all over it. No wonder Texas was so dominant in the middle-to-later part of the previous decade.
Second Team: Jerry Hughes
OL 1: Brian Orakpo (Texas)
Due to his skill set, Orakpo plays both the OLB spot as well as the edge rushing-end. His numbers explain why. Nearly 50 sacks over his seven-year resume – considering he has missed nearly a season and a half of games, is insane. Orakpo is a prototypical outside backer in today’s speed influenced NFL defensive scheme.
Let’s just say that every ‘Horn on the 2005 National Title team was, for lack of a better phrase, pretty good. Winning both the Nagurski and Hendricks award as a senior in 2008 helped propel his draft stock towards the NFL.
Second Team: J.T. Thomas
ML: Derrick Johnson (Texas)
Okay, that makes four Longhorns on the first team and two on the second team. That’s insane! Ever since joining the league, Johnson has been a top MLB and regularly makes trips to the Pro Bowl. Since joining in 2005, Johnson has amassed 820 tackles. You want this guy as the leader of your defense.
This guy seemed like he played at Texas for 20 years. A stud since the day he walked on campus, Johnson terrorized the Big 12 during his stint as a ‘Horn. He is the benchmark of great Longhorn backers.
Second Team: Curtis Lofton
OL 2: Bruce Irvin (West Virginia)
The first Mountaineer on this list. Irvin has been a major player in helping the Seattle Seahawks having one of the most fearsome defenses in the NFL. A versatile and talented athlete, Irvin has been a solid addition to this Super Bowl contending team. 22 sacks in only four seasons helps his cause to be on this list.
Irvin was a junior college transfer to West-Virginia and made an immediate impact. He earned all conference honors and helped the Mountaineers shift into the Big 12 conference.
Second Team: Alex Okafor
CB 1: Aquib Talib (Kansas)
One of the more polarizing players in the league is also one of the most successful players. Although he has bounced around the league, Talib has backed up his trash talk at every stop. He helped lead the #1 defense in the NFL last season to the Super Bowl in Denver. 30 INTs and over 300 tackles in his career, Talib has been a steady corner since leaving Kansas.
Our first Jayhawk on this list! Talib helped the Jayhawks win the 2008 Orange Bowl and lead Kansas to one of their most successful seasons in program history. Talib gives Jayhawk fans a chance to be proud for a professional athlete in the pros other than the NBA.
Second Team: Perrish Cox
CB 2: Chris Harris (Kansas)
Kansas has a monopoly on NFL cornerbacks. It is also interesting that he lines up opposite of another Jayhawk in Aquib Talib. Harris has been a mainstay in the Denver secondary since his rookie year in 2011. 12 INTS and 270 tackles gives this All-Big 12 NFL team a salty player in their secondary.
Harris had an illustrious career as a Jayhawk. He finished number two on the all-time tackles list. Another member of the 2008 Orange Bowl squad, Harris proves that great players can come from any school in the Big 12.
Second Team: Terence Newman
FS: Michael Griffin (Texas)
Griffin is listed as a DB, but his versatility fits well in a FS spot. Playing Nickleback, cornerback and FS in college has led to him having a solid career in the NFL. 570 tackles to go along with 25 INTs shows Griffin’s solid play. He has spent his entire career in Tennessee and the Titans don’t seem quick to let go of him soon.
Griffin was a “do-all” player at Texas. Yet again, he was a major contributor on the ’05 Title team. How anyone scored on that team with all this talent is amazing.
Second Team: Bradley Mcdougald
SS: Earl Thomas (Texas)
People know about Richard Sherman, but the true leader of the Seahawks secondary is Earl Thomas. Over his career Thomas has been one of the top safeties in the league and has the numbers and play to back it up.
It’s scary how good the Longhorns’ defense used to be.
Second Team: Tony Jefferson
K: Dan Bailey (Oklahoma State)
This is probably the most “duh” decision since the running back spot. Dan Bailey has been, absolutely, the best kicker in the NFL since joining the Cowboys in 2011. He possess a huge range and deadly accuracy. It is almost a sure-fire make when he trots on the field. An interesting stat: He has never missed an extra point, converting 204 of his 204 attempts.
Bailey played on some the better OSU teams to ever play the game, and he’s risen to arguably the best pro from those teams, and that includes Dez Bryant.
Second Team: Matt Bryant
P: Tress Way (Oklahoma)
This guy has a massive leg. Starting all four years at Oklahoma, Way’s talent was good enough to earn a starting spot for the Washington Redskins – a not so easy task considering punters play for 10 plus years. Way has kicked his way (no pun intended) into a lucrative NFL starting position.
Way’s career long at OU was an 85 yard bomb. He was a weapon for some high-powered Sooner teams and had the ability to flip the field whenever Oklahoma’s offense would sputter.
KR/PR: Tyler Lockett (Kansas State)
The only guy mentioned twice on these lists, and for good reason. In his lone year last season, Lockett electrified the NFL with two returns for TD’s. As he becomes better acclimated to the speed of the NFL, Lockett will surely dazzle the league with his speed and agility on special teams.
Second Team: Darren Sproles