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With Luck, Stanford rising up list of top-pick factories

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By Eli Kaberon

When Roger Goodell calls his name on the evening of April 26, Stanford QB Andrew Luck is expected to join a pair of prestigious groups. Assuming he goes No. 1 overall, Luck will be the seventh player taken by the Colts’ franchise with the top pick. He will join greats such as John Elway and Peyton Manning, along with busts like George Shaw and Steve Emtman, in that group.

By being picked first, Luck also will join Elway, Jim Plunkett and Billy Garrett as former Stanford players taken with the top selection throughout the history of the NFL draft, which goes back to 1936.

Here’s a look at the schools that have churned out the most No. 1 overall picks, through the 2011 draft.  

1. Notre Dame (tie) / five No. 1 picks — Though they are tied at the top of the list with five players going first overall, there hasn’t been a Fighting Irish player selected No. 1 in 40 years. DE Walt Patulski, taken first by the Bills in 1972, was the last player from the school to be drafted first. Of the players from the school that were top picks, the most successful was Paul Hornung, the No. 1 selection of the ’57 draft. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, Hornung was a key player on four NFL championship teams.

1. USC (tie) / five — Different schools are known for different things; at USC, they produce offensive stars. All five Trojans who have been drafted first overall were offensive players, and four of the five went to at least two Pro Bowls during their careers. Two Hall of Famers, OT Ron Yary and RB O.J. Simpson, headline the group. Taken in back-to-back years (Yary in 1968 by the Vikings, Simpson in ’69 by the Bills), both players had tremendous pro careers. Yary was a seven-time Pro Bowler for Minnesota, and Simpson retired in 1979 while ranking second on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 11,236 yards in 11 seasons.

3. Auburn (tie) / four — Bitter rival Alabama is known as the greater football program, but Auburn has churned out plenty of talent over the years. Starting with Tucker Frederickson in 1965, the Tigers have produced four players to go first in the draft. The most noteworthy of the four was Bo Jackson, who was selected by the Bucs in 1986 but opted for a baseball career instead of signing with Tampa Bay. He was drafted again the next year, in the seventh round by the Raiders, and he played with them four years before injury shortened his career. The last No. 1 pick from Auburn was QB Cam Newton in 2011, who is the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year.

3. Georgia (tie) / four — In the first 17 years of the draft, three Bulldogs were taken first overall. It then took 56 years for another Georgia player to be called first. The Lions’ selection of QB Matthew Stafford snapped the drought in 2009. RB Charley Trippi, the second Georgia player taken at No. 1, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 after a successful career with the Chicago Cardinals.

5. Ohio State (tie) / three — Given all their football success, it is kind of surprising only three Buckeyes have been taken first overall. Even more shocking is that only one of the three had an exceptional pro career. OT Orlando Pace, taken first by the Rams in 1997, was a seven-time Pro Bowler during his career and may wind up back in Ohio, enshrined in Canton, one day.

5. Oklahoma (tie) / three — The three Sooners drafted first have had varying degrees of pro success. DE Lee Roy Selmon — taken first in 1976 — was a dominating force and six-time Pro Bowler who went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. RB Billy Sims, No. 1 in 1980, had his career cut short to just five seasons because of injuries. And QB Sam Bradford, the top pick of 2010, has seen both success and struggles during his young career.

5. Stanford (tie) / three — Luck is the latest in a long line of standout Cardinal QBs. All three Stanford players drafted first — Bobby Garrett in 1954, Jim Plunkett in ’71 and Elway in ’84 — are signalcallers. Plunkett and Elway were both two-time Super Bowl champs. Garrett played only nine games in his NFL career (all with Green Bay).

5. Texas (tie) / three — RB Earl Campbell, the top pick of the 1978 draft, is the most successful of the three Longhorns picked first and was enshrined in Canton in 1991. MLB Tommy Nobis (No. 1 in ’66) was a five-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons. 

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