Former Southern Heritage Classic stars have thrived in NFL

Former Southern Heritage Classic stars have thrived in NFL

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Southern Heritage Classic kicks off Saturday, September 12 and pits Tennessee State and Jackson State against each other at the Liberty Bowl.

2015 marks the 26th annual Southern Heritage Classic, and a plethora of the players that made the games so exciting have gone on to become NFL stars.

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a former Jackson State Tiger, has 21 career interceptions in the NFL and has played in two Super Bowls in his career. "DRC" was a first rounder in the 2008 NFL Draft and currently plays for the New York Giants.

Wide receiver Jimmy Smith, a Jackson, Mississippi native and former Jackson State Tiger, played 11 solid seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith was regarded as one of the best receivers in the game during his career, catching 100 passes twice and gaining over 1,000 receiving yards nine times. He is the Jaguars franchise leader in essentially every receiving category.

Cornerback Ashley Ambrose was an All-Pro for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996. His career spanned 13 seasons and he racked up 42 interceptions, including three for touchdowns.

Linebacker Marcus Benard was an undrafted free agent from Jackson State and picked up by the Cleveland Browns in 2009. He has 15 career sacks in five seasons and now plays with the Arizona Cardinals.

Cornerback Rashard Anderson was a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2000 from Jackson State. Unfortunately, his promising career was derailed after just two seasons when he was suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Safety Brent Alexander was an undrafted free agent from Tennessee State when he was signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 1994. He had a long career spanning 13 seasons, racking up 28 interceptions and eight sacks with the Cardinals, Panthers, Steelers and Giants.

Cornerback Anthony Levine is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens. Levine was undrafted from Tennessee State in 2010 and is set to enter his fourth season with the Ravens in 2015.

Offensive Guard Lester Holmes was a first-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1993 from Jackson State. He started 94 games over his eight-year career with the Eagles, Raiders and Cardinals.

Wide Receiver Corey Bradford was a fifth-round pick in 1998 by the Green Bay Packers. He was actually one of the players selected by the Houston Texans in their expansion draft before the 2002 season. There, he had his best season as a pro with six touchdown catches, and racked up 25 touchdowns over the course of his nine-year career.

Offensive tackle Larry Tharpe was a sixth round pick in 1992 by the Detroit Lions from Tennessee State. He started 48 games over his nine-year career with the Lions, Cardinals, Patriots, Lions and Steelers.

Other players who went on to play in the NFL include:

  • OL Bennie Anderson, TSU
  • DB Eric Austin, JSU
  • WR Tim Barnett, JSU
  • WR Avion Black, TSU
  • CB Cedric Davis, TSU
  • DT Lamar Divens, TSU
  • WR Marcus Dowdell, TSU
  • DB Randy Fuller, TSU
  • CB Cletis Gordon, JSU
  • CB Ligarius Jennings, TSU
  • CB Domonique Johnson, JSU
  • WR Jaymar Johnson, JSU
  • WR Chris Jones, JSU
  • WR Clarence Jones, TSU
  • CB Roger Jones, TSU
  • DB Eric Joyce, TSU
  • WR Antonius Kimbrough, JSU
  • K Paul McJulien, JSU
  • WR Sylvester Morris, JSU
  • OL Toby Myles, JSU
  • OL Cecil Newton, TSU
  • LB Marlo Perry, JSU
  • WR Patrick Robinson, TSU
  • LB Simon Shanks, TSU
  • DL Fernando Smith, JSU
  • OL Lawrence Smith, TSU
  • FB Robert Staten, JSU
  • OL Michael Thompson, TSU
  • DE Dan Williams, TSU
  • RB Javarris Williams, TSU
  • NT Bernard Wilson, TSU
  • DB Sean Woodson, JSU

The Southern Heritage Classic kicks off at 6 p.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. For more on the event, click here.

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