With today’s college football recruiting climate, FCS football programs rarely produce NFL talent. Most programs in the Southern Conference would be ecstatic to have two or three alumni on active NFL rosters.
But the mighty Samford Bulldogs of Homewood, Alabama, have four.
Samford’s four alumni on active rosters represent the highest number of any team in the conference. Some notable FBS programs that have four or less alumni in the NFL include Iowa State, Coastal Carolina and Kansas.
Of course, some players have had more success than others, but the common theme with Samford Bulldogs in the NFL is that players are starting and contributing to each of their teams.
Every Samford player in the NFL currently plays on the defensive side of the ball, and it starts with James Bradberry. Bradberry was drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers in 2016. He currently plays cornerback for the New York Giants.
Of the four Samford products in the NFL, Bradberry is the only one who has made the Pro Bowl (2020). Since his arrival, Bradberry has been a force in the league as he was the top-graded rookie cornerback by Pro Football Focus in 2016. He is exceptionally aggressive, frequently deflecting passes and grabbing interceptions. In the 2021 season, Bradberry currently has three interceptions and nine pass deflections.
Defensive tackle Michael Pierce is another Samford player making an impact in the league. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Despite being undrafted, Pierce played exceptionally well for the Ravens, as he appeared in every game his rookie year and had 35 tackles and two sacks.
Pierce is currently playing for the Minnesota Vikings on a three-year deal. He was an impactful piece to the Viking defense this year prior to an injury that he is projected to return from soon.
Jaquiski Tartt is a strong safety who was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Though currently on injury reserve, he still plays for San Francisco. Tartt has had a notable impact on the team and was a huge piece of the 2019 Superbowl runner-up team. He has four interceptions, 241 solo tackles and 19 tackles-for-loss over a six-year career. Like Bradberry, Tartt is an established NFL defensive back, and will likely be playing on Sundays for years to come.
Nick Williams was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He currently plays as a defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions. This season, Williams has 0.5 sacks and ten tackles through eight games.
Williams, like most players who play for Lions head coach Dan Campbell, is gritty. He often plays through the whistle, leaving it all out on the turf. Williams could potentially see more minutes down the road, but time will tell if he can step up for the woeful 0-8 Lions.
And of course, It would be a shame to not mention the legend of Duck Hodges when discussing Samford football alumni.
The Steelers signed Devlin “Duck” Hodges as an undrafted free agent in 2019. After starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and backup quarterback Mason Rudolph were both injured, Duck got the call. Hodges led the Steeler offense to a 3-3 record during his brief stint as starting quarterback.
Currently, Hodges plays quarterback for the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL. Many teams in the NFL are struggling at the QB position, and Hodges could bring leadership and a gunslinger’s mentality sometime soon.