This article was contributed and originally featured by NCSASports.com, a student athlete recruiting network.
Matt Blanchard played football at D-3 University of Wisconsin Whitewater and has earned a spot on the Chicago Bears 2012-2013 roster as the 3rd string QB on their practice squad.
Blanchard is not the only successful professional athletes from a smaller, lesser-known school.
The athletes on this list are shining examples of why it is so important to find the right fit academically, athletically and socially. They have reached the peak of athletic success and would not change a thing in their careers – these athletes are living proof that if you have the ability it, does not matter what division level you play in. If you need help getting recruited to the right school, click here and get started today!
10. Dave Krieg: Football Milton College (NAIA): The 1980 NFL Draft came and went without Krieg’s name being called. However Krieg did not get discouraged. He joined the Seahawks in 1980 as an undrafted free agent. Krieg stayed in the league for 19 seasons playing in 213 NFL games. Krieg threw for over 38,000 yards, amassed 261 total TD passes in his career, and still holds many team records.
9. Andrew Rock: Track and Field U-W La Crosse (DIII): Rock dominated high school track and field before attending U-W Lacrosse. At Wisconsin Lacrosse, Rock was a nine-time National Champion and a 17-time All-American. He still holds nine UW Lacrosse records and was a First Team Academic All-American. Rock trained religiously and eventually made the US Olympic Team. In the 2004 Olympics, he won gold in the 4X400 relay, and the silver medal in the 2005 World Outdoor track championship for the 400m. Rock now coaches track and field at Bethel University
8. London Fletcher: Football John Carroll University (DIII): Fletcher played football at John Carroll University, was a two-sport athlete (basketball and football), and won Division III National Linebacker of the Year while in college. He went undrafted but quickly found a home with the St. Louis Rams in 1998, leading the team with 138 tackles in 1999. That was the biggest year in franchise history – the Rams went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating the Tennessee Titans 23-16. Fletcher was named to the prestigious “All-Madden Team” that same season. Fletcher played in Super Bowl XXXVI but the Rams lost to the New England Patriots 20-17. Fletcher was a Pro Bowl Alternate 11 times before finally playing in his first one in 2010.
7. Terry Porter: Basketball U-Wisconsin Stevens Point ( NAIA) Porter is one of the many pro athletes who came from the powerhouse Wisconsin Division III schools. Porter was known for his incredible touch from the 3-point line. In his four seasons with “The Pointers” he averaged 13 PPG, 4 RPG and 4 APG. His senior year, he shot an astonishing 65% from the floor. Porter’s efforts got him drafted by Portland (24th overall). He played in more than 1200 games and scored more than 15,000 points. Porter had his #30 jersey retired by the Blazers in 2008. He went on to coach in the NBA and currently is an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
6. Ken Anderson: Football Augustana College (DIII) Originally recruited for basketball to a DIII school, Anderson never thought he would have such an illustrious pro football career. Anderson is from Batavia, Illinois, and played college football at nearby Augustana College. Paul Brown’s sons learned of Ken’s collegiate play and Brown’s Cincinnati Bengals drafted Anderson with the 67th selection in the 1971 NFL draft. Anderson went on to throw 200 career TDs and pass for over 32,000 yards in his career. He made the Pro Bowl four times and was Comeback Player of the Year and NFL MVP in 1981. The Bengals made the Super Bowl in 1981, ultimately losing to the 49ers despite 300 yards and 2 TD from Anderson. At the time his 25 completions and 73.5% completion percentage in that game were both Super Bowl records. Anderson served as the Bengals radio color commentator from 1987-1992 and later served as the Bengals’ QB coach. Anderson retired on January 10th 2010, after winning a Super Bowl with the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
5. Jack Sikma Illinois Wesleyan (DIII): After being drafted 8th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the 1977, Sikma was named to the All-Rookie Team the same year. At 6’ 11” and 230 pounds, Jack was a multi-tool player averaging over 15 PG and 9 RPG in his career. He lead the league in defensive rebounds in the 81-82 season and the 83-84 season. There was no fantasy basketball during Sikma’s time, but given how he filled the box score and how well he shot for a big man, he would have an asset to any fantasy basketball team. Sikma stayed around the game after retirement and served as the SuperSonics assistant coach from 2003-2007. Jack’s son is now a forward for the Hartford Hawks of the America East conference.
4. Billy Whiteshoes Johnson- Widener College (DIII): Johnson played 14 years of professional football for the Houston Oilers, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Montreal Aloutettes of the CFL. Billy invented the end zone celebration with his “funky chicken” dance, one of the first touchdown celebrations in history. Johnson made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner and was selected as the Punt Returner on the NFL 75th Anniversary All Time Team. Whiteshoes also was chosen for the All-Decade Team in the 1980s, and finished with 3 Pro Bowl selections 3 All-Pro selections.
3. Dennis Rodman SE Okalahoma State (NAIA): Before wrestling with the NWO of the WCS, Rodman was arguably the greatest role player in NBA history. He transferred to SE Oklahoma State from Cooke County College in Gainesville, Texas. Rodman became a 3-time NAIA All American and led the NAIA in rebounding in 1984/85 and 1985/86 seasons. He was drafted with the 3rd pick in the 1986 NBA draft by the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons. He won two titles in Detroit, in 1989 and 1990, before demanding a trade and ending up with the San Antonio Spurs for one year before being traded to Phil Jackson’s Chicago Bulls for the 1995/1996 season. He won another 3 championships in Chicago and finished his career with 5 NBA titles. He led the league in rebounding 7 consecutive years and made the All-Defensive First Team 7 times. Rodman was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 2011.
2. Scottie Pippen, Central Arkansas (NAIA): Pippen was selected 5th overall by the Sonics in the 1987 draft and traded to the Bulls on draft night. He teamed up with Michael Jordan and Horace Grant on what became the core of the Bulls championship teams. Pippen was a tireless worker, playing Jordan one-on-one outside of practice and winning 3 NBA titles as his teammate. Jordan briefly left the game of basketball, but he and Pippen teamed up with Dennis Rodman for three more titles when he came back. Pippen was part of the Dream Team in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics. He finished with 6 NBA titles and 7 All-Star appearances; his number is now retired by the Bulls, and made the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All Time Team.
1. Jim Thorpe: Carlisle Indian (DIII): Thorpe has accomplished so much athletically it’s hard to know where to start. He played many sports at an elite level, including a handful of positions on the football field: RB, DB, K, P. He was supposedly impossible to tackle. Thorpe won All-American honors in 1911 and 1912, after which he started training for the Olympics. He excelled so much at Track and Field that he sometimes served as a one-man team. He ran the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds flat, a barrier that was broken until 1968, and the mile in 4:35. After his gold medals in the 1912 Pentathalon and the Decathalon, he went on to play 3 more professional sports: baseball, football and basketball. He played football for the Canton Bulldogs in 1915 and was paid $250/game. He was a fan favorite as attendance jumped from 1,200 to 8,000 fans a game after Thorpe joined the team. He was All Pro selection in 1923 and made the NFL All-Decade Team in the 1920s.
All of these athletes had instruction that contributed to their success. A recent study showed that the majority of college athletes chose their school for the coach. Click here to start getting your name out to the college coaches that match your skill level, or call 866-497-9835.