When you think of the best NFL players and where they come from, you’d be mistaken to ignore the Southeastern United States. Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi are hotbeds that funnel football players to coaches like Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron and throughout the country.
Georgia might just be king when it comes to the gridiron. Only Louisiana produces more NFL players at a higher rate than Georgia, but not even Peyton Manning throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. and Reggie Wayne would beat the all-time team from Georgia.
Yes, you heard that right. The Peach State is stacked and loaded with talent. Schools like the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology have reaped the benefits for years. So have NFL teams.
It wasn’t easy, but we put together the state’s all-time team. Keep in mind you won’t find anyone born outside Georgia like UGA alumni Matthew Stafford, who was born in Tampa, Florida, but was raised in Dallas. And no Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. Sorry guys, you just haven’t done anything professionally yet.
Also, to keep this short and sweet, I’ve kept off offensive linemen and just listed the defense — defensive backs, linebackers and defensive linemen — without including an explanation. But don’t you worry. I’ve done my research. So, who did I leave off?
QB: Cam Newton
From the minute Cam Newton produced his Heisman moment at Auburn, he was destined for greatness. The three-time Pro Bowler who won the 2015 NFL MVP hails from Atlanta, where he played his football at Westlake High School.
An offense with Cam Newton under center is immediately ready to score at will. The 6-foot-5 dual-threat player has thrown for more than 29,000 passing yards and carried the ball for another 4,800 rushing yards in his first nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
He was outdueled by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, but don’t get it twisted: Cam Newton is 10 times the athlete Peyton is. This team is unstoppable with him at the helm of the offense.
RB: Jim Brown
The state of Georgia boasts the two greatest college running backs of all time.
Jim Brown was just different. He played nine seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, racking up a ridiculous 12,312 rushing yards. He also has the hardware to match his numbers: nine Pro Bowl selections, three NFL Most Valuable Player awards and an NFL championship.
He was born in St. Simons, Georgia, and played at Syracuse. He earned 10 varsity letter in four sports for the Orange and became a unanimous All-American in 1956. ESPN even named him college football’s best player in its 150-year history.
Jim Brown was practically a super hero with the ball in his hands. Who knows how much more he would’ve accomplished had he played into his 30s?
RB: Herschel Walker
I was only going to include one running back on this team, but Herschel Walker couldn’t be left off.
The Wrightsville, Georgia, native starred on the gridiron at Johnson County High School before joining the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team. He bulldozed Bill Bates for his first career NCAA touchdown and then rushed for 48 more over his three seasons in the SEC.
The 1982 Heisman Trophy winner went on to play three years in the United States Football League for Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals before playing in the NFL. He tallied more than 8,000 yards and 61 touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, but his best years clearly came before the National Football League.
Brown and Walker are quite the 1-2 punch. Plus, Cam Newton running the ball is just as scary. Just know I had to leave Jamal Lewis off this team even though he’s one of just seven men in NFL history to run for more than 2,000 yards in one season. Wait until you see our pass-catchers.
WR: Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson was the biggest mismatch to ever line up at wide receiver. “Megatron” used his 6-foot-5 frame and insane leaping skills to tally more than 11,000 receiving yards and 83 touchdowns in nine NFL seasons, leading the league in receiving yards in two of them.
Johnson was born in Newnan, Georgia, and played his prep ball at Sandy Creek High School. He furthered his career at Georgia Tech, where he won the 2006 Biletnikoff Award was selected second overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
One could argue any offense with Megatron would revolve around him, but we don’t need this one to considering how stacked the rest of this team is.
WR: Demaryius Thomas
Demaryius Thomas is going to wind up with more than 10,000 career receiving yards in the NFL, which should tell you everything you need to know about how consistent he’s been with the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and New York Jets. The five-time Pro Bowler actually won Super Bowl 50 against our quarterback, Cam Newton.
Thomas was first blazing cornerbacks at West Laurens High School in Dexter, Georgia. Like Johnson, Thomas attended Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-3 receiver followed in his footsteps by earning 2009 First-Team All-ACC honors and posting 1,154 receiving yards as a junior before becoming a 2010 first-round pick.
WR: Tyreek Hill
OK, I’ll be honest here. I wanted to include a tight end on this team but there just aren’t any that are super exciting. So I went with the human cheetah himself, Tyreek Hill.
Scandals and controversy aside, Hill is one of the hardest dudes to cover in football right now. The Douglas, Georgia, native was a track star at Coffee High School before playing in college at West Alabama.
The Kansas City Chiefs took him in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and all he’s done since is record more than 4,000 yards and 36 touchdowns. Oh, and he was Patrick Mahomes‘ top weapon en route to winning Super Bowl LIV. This selection also gives us a dynamic punt and kick returner. And good luck trying to cover Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and Tyreek Hill.
CB: Champ Bailey (12 Pro Bowls, Pro Football Hall of Fame)
CB: Mel Blount (57 interceptions, four-time Super Bowl champion)
S: Eric Berry (5 Pro Bowls, 2009 Jim Thorpe Award winner)
LB: Pat Swilling (107.5 career sacks, 1991 NFL Defensive Player of the Year)
LB: Justin Houston (89.5 career sacks, 2014 NFL Sacks Leader)
DL: Robert Mathis (123 career sacks, 5 Pro Bowls)
DL: Richard Dent (137.5 career sacks, Super Bowl XX MVP)
P Ray Guy (Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders)
RB Garrison Hearst (Georgia Bulldogs, Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos)
WR Willie Gault (Tennessee Volunteers, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Raiders)
S Reshad Jones (Georgia Bulldogs, Miami Dolphins)
RB Todd Gurley (Georgia Bulldogs, St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons)
RB Nick Chubb (Georgia Bulldogs, Cleveland Browns)
LB Thomas Davis (UGA, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Redskins)
QB Jake Fromm (UGA, Buffalo Bills).