Tuesday, July 23, 2024

From The Wildcats To The NFL: The Most Notable Former Kentucky Stars Playing In The Pros This Season


The University of Kentucky has a reputation for having one of the most successful basketball programs in the NCAA, producing some of the best NBA talent in history. However, this does not mean that the university’s football program does not have a say in the NFL. In fact, the university has produced some of the most notable current NFL players.

One of these players is Will Levis, a quarterback who was picked out of the second round in the most recent NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. 

Levis had to bide his time with his new team, and an injury to Ryan Tannehill created an opportunity for him to get on the field. It appears his debut was impressive enough to see him get the starting job over Malik Willis.

The former KY star passed for 238 yards and an impressive four touchdowns, as well as zero interceptions, in his first game for the Titans, firing them to a win over the Atlanta Falcons. He followed that up with a 262-yard outing with no touchdowns and one interception vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Levis played for Penn State before transferring to Kentucky and was tipped to be a top-five pick in the 2023 draft. However, he experienced an embarrassing night during the first round of the draft when he was not selected and his name slipped all the way to the second round. Even before that night, Levis was already popular due to his strange dietary habits, including his fear of milk, drinking coffee with mayonnaise, and eating bananas with the peel on. Whether or not this had anything to do with his draft slip is still unknown.

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Another notable NFL player from the University of Kentucky is Kelvin Joseph, a cornerback for the Miami Dolphins who was recently acquired via trade from the Dallas Cowboys. Joseph played nine games for Kentucky and another 11 for LSU, starting all nine games for Kentucky, making four interceptions, and defending five passes. 

He declared for the 2021 draft after his redshirt sophomore season with the Wildcats, and his prospects went up drastically after his performance during the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Cowboys selected him 44th overall, but he only started in three of the 26 games he played with them. Joseph has made four appearances for Miami this season, and the Dolphins hope to capitalize on his zone coverage ability and speed eventually. UK fans are likely to pay attention to Joseph, now that he has been given a new start, which could reflect on sportsbooks.

After discussing the success of Kentucky alumni in the NFL, it’s interesting to note how this impacts fan engagement. With the increasing popularity of sports betting, Kentucky fans are more involved than ever in following their favorite players’ careers. 

Kentucky sports betting apps have seen a rise in usage, especially during the NFL season. This shows how the success of these players is influencing not just fan support but also the sports betting landscape in Kentucky.

Another high-profile NFL player from the University of Kentucky is Za’Darius Smith, a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Smith played two seasons with the Wildcats, recording 10.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 94 tackles. He declared for the 2015 NFL Draft and was selected in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens.

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After four years with the Ravens, Smith signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Packers in 2019, and he has been a key part of their defense ever since. Smith recorded 13.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl in his first season in Green Bay. He followed that up with another strong season in 2020, recording four sacks and 52 tackles despite missing three games due to injury.

Finally, Randall Cobb is another notable NFL player who represented the University of Kentucky. He reunited with Aaron Rodgers on the New York Jets, but unfortunately, Rodgers went down with a season-ending injury on the fourth drive of his own debut. 

Although he has had a horrible season, having registered just three catches for 20 yards in his first six games, Cobb has had a good career playing alongside Rodgers. He was a Pro Bowler in 2014, and it would be hard to leave him off any list naming the most notable current NFL players who have represented the University of Kentucky.

 



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