Stanford football fans don’t have too much to be happy about after a dismal opener in Evanston, Illinois, this weekend. A loss filled with penalties, sloppy tackling and an inept passing game has many throwing in the towel on a playoff run and instead turning to the NFL, hoping for a better start to the season. While it is far too early to make any judgments, the good news is that chances are there’s a Cardinal on your favorite professional team.
With the NFL finalizing its 53-man rosters this past weekend, Stanford features 25 players on 18 different teams, which ranks them at fourth in the Pac-12, narrowly behind USC (34), Oregon (28) and Cal (27).
In a completely different (albeit slightly less legitimate) metric of NFL success, Stanford enters the season ranked as the No. 2 university in the country in terms of jersey sales of their alumni in the NFL (behind only the University of Florida), according to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Any conversation about Stanford players in the NFL begins with one team in particular: the Indianapolis Colts. With veterans Andrew Luck ’12, Coby Fleener ’11 and Griff Whalen ’11 firmly established on the offensive side of the ball, the Colts decided to balance things out by drafting two of the Farm’s most dominant defensive linemen in Henry Anderson ’15 and David Parry ’15.
Despite being drafted in the third and fifth rounds respectively, these Cardinal products have done nothing but exceed expectations during training camp and the preseason. Both rookies are expected to start for the Colts’ 3-4 defense against the Bills this Sunday, alongside seventh-year defensive end Kendall Langford.
“I love the mixture of veteran guys like Langford to go with the youth in David Parry and Henry Anderson,” said head coach Chuck Pagano. “We got guys that can play, guys that can fit our scheme. These guys are going to go and they’re going to play tough and play smart.”
Elsewhere in the league, other former Stanford players are also competing for starting roles. Ty Montgomery ’15, drafted by the Green Bay Packers, has been the beneficiary of an ACL tear to starting wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who will be out for the season.
A standout for the Cardinal at wide receiver and kick returner, Montgomery has impressed during the preseason, most notably in the third game when he caught two passes for 71 yards. Dubbed as “strong, very powerful and obviously gifted” by coach Mike McCarthy, Montgomery is the favorite to earn the WR3 spot and may compete for time with Davante Adams at the No. 2 spot.
Back in the Bay Area, former All-American linebacker Shayne Skov ’14 had a tremendous preseason, leading the San Francisco 49ers in tackles during the preseason with 18. After a year on the practice squad, his performance was enough to earn him a spot on the 53-man roster, where he will likely back up All-Pro NaVorro Bowman.
Despite the success for some Stanford alumni, several were not as lucky. In one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, offensive lineman David Yankey ’14 was cut from the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week. Yankey, a two-time All-American, is currently a free agent but figures to be snatched up by a team before the season starts.
Similarly, defensive lineman Ben Gardner ’14 was cut from the Dallas Cowboys as they finalized their roster. Despite amassing 10 tackles and a sack in the preseason, Gardner was unable to earn a spot in the Cowboys’ loaded rotation. Look for Gardner to be claimed by another team off the waivers.
Veterans Sione Fua ’10, Jeremy Stewart ’11, Ryan Whalen ’10 and Erik Lorig ’09 were cut from their teams and are currently free agents. Meanwhile, several young Cardinal players were placed on their teams’ practice squads to develop for the season. Such was the case for linebacker James Vaughters ’15 (Packers), safety Ed Reynolds ’14 (Eagles) and offensive lineman Cameron Fleming ’14 (Patriots).
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.