Athletes from both sides of the rivalry find success as pros

By By Corbin Godfrey

By Corbin Godfrey

The Utah-BYU rivalry is great not only for college sports, but also for the pros, as many athletes from the state’s beloved rivalry have taken their game to the next level.

Last year’s NFL draft was big for the Utes, as four players from the U were drafted. Defensive end Paul Kruger and defensive back Sean Smith were taken in the second round. Defensive back Brice McCain and wide receiver Freddie Brown were taken in the late rounds. Kruger, Smith and McCain have all seen a good amount of playing time this season in the NFL.

BYU had two players drafted in 2009. All-American Austin Collie became the highest drafted Cougar since 1982, when he was drafted in the fourth round with the 127th pick overall. Running back Fui Vakapuna was also drafted in the seventh round. Collie seems to be blending in nicely in Indianapolis with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time8212;Peyton Manning.

The Utes have supplied the NFL with great players such as Alex Smith, Eric Weddle, Sean Smith, Kruger, Mike Anderson, Steve Smith, the Dyson brothers (Kevin and Andre), Luther Elliss, Steve Folsom, Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala and many more.

The Cougars8212;mostly known for producing quarterbacks in the past8212;have supplied the NFL with names such as Collie, Aaron Francisco, Chris Hoke, Brett Keisel, Rob Morris, Brady Poppinga, Ty Detmer, Steve Young and Jim McMahon, who had no problem expressing his dislike for playing at BYU.

Today, there are 16 active players in the NFL from the U and 13 from BYU.

In 2005, the U became the first school to have two players drafted as the No. 1 overall pick in multiple sports. Quarterback Alex Smith was taken first overall by the San Francisco 49ers, and center Andrew Bogut was taken first in the NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

The number of players drafted into the NFL for both schools is nearly identical. Since 1938, there have been a total of 262 players drafted from red and blue rivals, 134 from BYU and 128 from Utah. This decade, Utah holds the lead for players drafted with 23 to BYU’s 21.

But having athletes progress to the professional level goes beyond football. The U has had 27 players drafted into the NBA, two of them as first overall picks8212;BYU has had 19. There are three active players in the NBA right now from Utah, but no active players for BYU. Utah also has two players in the WNBA, and BYU has only one.

Baseball is complicated, since there are many different levels of professional baseball. But when it comes to “the bigs,” 22 Cougars have made it to the major league level, compared to Utah’s one. Neither team has a player in the majors right now.

Between the three major sports, Utah has produced 158 pros, and BYU has produced 175. Although history leans BYU’s way, Utah has the lead with active players, 21-13.

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