The Western Michigan Broncos are in a football downswing right now. It's unlikely that WMU will have any players selected this week at the 2014 NFL Draft. However, the Broncos have a history oselected players dating back to the first years of the draft, and in recent years, their team has produced one of the longer lists of currently active NFL players in the MAC, as well as multiple Super Bowl champions.
The first WMU player ever drafted was Ray Bray in 1939. The Chicago Bears took him in the seventh round, and Bray played on the offensive line for the "Monsters of the Midway" for 13 years. He played in four Pro Bowls, the first of which was in 1940. He also became an NFL champion that season, as his Bears defeated the Washington Redskins in the most lopsided game in NFL history, 73-0. Bray's teams ultimately won four NFL titles (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946) and played in a fifth championship game in 1942.
Four years after Bray became a part of the NFL, fullback Art Macioszczyk was drafted in the 27th round in 1943. He went to the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh "Steagles". If you're not familiar with that bit of history, losses of players to the military effort in World War II caused the Eagles and Steelers to briefly merge franchises.
Macioszczyk played as a backup for the Eagles in 1944 and 1947. Both teams were very successful, and the 1947 team made it to the NFL championship game, where it lost to the Cardinals. He combined for 46 carries and 159 yards in those two seasons. In 1948, he played in one game for Washington before ending his career.
It would be 19 years before another Western Michigan player was drafted and actually played in an NFL game. Finally, in 1962, John Lomakoski was picked in the fourth round by the Lions. He was also drafted in the eighth round of the AFL draft by the New York Titans (Jets). He chose to play for Detroit and appeared in three games during the 1962 season, but he never played after that.
Western Michigan Broncos Draft History - Key Players
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Bob Rowe in 1967 during the second round. As the 43rd overall pick in that draft, he was the highest Bronco draft pick ever selected prior to 2004. The Cardinals' faith in the defensive lineman was rewarded, as he started for the team for nine years. He earned two career interceptions, both in 1969, and returned one of those for a touchdown against the Vikings.
The following season, kicker Dale Livingston became the sixth player ever selected by the Cincinnati Bengals, when the rookie franchise took him in the third round. He kicked and punted for the Bengals in 1968 and was strictly a punter in 1969. He played for Green Bay primarily as a kicker in 1970, then disappeared from the NFL. He finished his career with 39 of 41 extra points and just over half (28-of-54) field goals. He also owned a 41.1 career punting average.
From 1970 to 1984, eleven different players from WMU were drafted. Only three ever played in an NFL game, and none in more than 22. However, since that time, the Broncos' draftees have found much more success. In fact, each of the last 16 players drafted have actually seen on-field time.
Guard Tom Toth began the streak in 1985 as a fourth round pick of the Patriots. He didn't make it with the eventual AFC champions but caught on with Miami in 1986. He spent four seasons there and was a starter in 1987. Toth's former teammate, linebacker John Offerdahl, joined him in Miami as the Dolphins' second round pick in 1986.
Offerdahl was an instrumental part in the transformation of one of the NFL's worst defensive units into one of its best. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons and was first-team All-NFL in 1990. However, Offerdahl's career was injury-plagued. He only played in 16 games twice (1988, 1990) and appeared in only 23 of a possible 48 games from 1991 to 1993 before retirement.
Several players saw brief careers after being drafted from 1987 to 1994. Mark Garalczyk played defensive line for two years with the Cardinals and Jets in 1987 and 1988. Kevin Haverdink played on the offensive line for New Orleans from 1989-1991 and was a starter for the 1990 team. Terry Crews was a linebacker for three different teams during three seasons between 1991 and 1995, as he appeared in 32 games.
On offense, Paul Hutchins protected Brett Favre as a tackle for the Packers in 17 games during 1993 and 1994, a tenure that included two starts. Also, Steve Hawkins caught two passes in a 1994 game against the Browns in a brief career with the Patriots.
2014 NFL DRAFT
2014 NFL DRAFT
Two other players drafted in the 1990s carved ought long careers in the NFL. Joel Smeenge was a defensive lineman picked in the third round of the 1990 draft by the Saints. He eventually played in the NFL for 11 years, first with the Saints and then with Jacksonville, who picked him up in their expansion season of 1995. Smeenge recorded 35.5 career sacks and an interception, and he was credited with a safety in 1999.
In 1995, Buffalo selected offensive lineman Tom Nutten in the seventh round. He languished on the outskirts of the league before the St. Louis Rams finally took a chance on him in 1998. In 1999, he became the Rams' starting left guard and, thanks to the arm of another improbable success story, was part of the Super Bowl XXXIV champions. He also played in the Super Bowl after the 2001 season and stayed with the Rams through his retirement in 2005.
After Nutten's selection, nine years passed before another Broncos' player had their name called. When it finally happened in 2004, it started the most successful streak ever for former WMU players in the NFL. Seven players have been drafted in the last 10 years, and six of them are still active in the league.
Jason Babin, a star linebacker at WMU, became the Broncos' highest draft selection ever when the Houston Texans picked him 27th overall in the first round of the 2004 draft. Babin was a starter as a rookie and recorded four sacks, then totaled nine more over two seasons primarily as a backup in 2005 and 2006. He then spent two injury-plagued seasons with Seattle and Kansas City before serving as a backup for 12 games in Philadelphia during 2009.
Babin became a member of the Tennessee Titans and finally earned a permanent starting role in 2010. He recorded 12.5 sacks that year. He got another chance with the Eagles in 2011 and rewarded them with a career-high 18 sacks. Babin earned another seven sacks with the Eagles and Jacksonville in 2012 and then 7.5 more in 2013 with the Jaguars. He's slated to be a starter again for Jacksonville in 2014.
The two most productive professional receivers in WMU history were both picked in 2006. Greg Jennings and tight end Tony Scheffler were taken nine picks apart in the second round. Green Bay drafted Jennings 52nd overall, while Denver selected Scheffler in the 61st overall slot.
Jennings has been nothing short of a star for the Packers and, in 2013, the Vikings. His career numbers include 493 receptions for 7,341 yards and 57 touchdowns. He caught 12 touchdowns in his second year (2007), then followed it with three straight 1,000-yards seasons. Arguably his best season was 2010, during which he caught 76 balls for 1,265 yards and 12 scores.
Jennings caught 21 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns during the 2010 postseason. Both touchdowns came during Super Bowl XLV against Pittsburgh, and the second proved to be the game-winning points in the fourth quarter of a 31-25 championship victory. He stayed with Green Bay through 2012, then moved to Minnesota for 2013, where he caught 60 passes for 804 yards and four touchdowns. He'll be with the Vikings again in 2014.
Scheffler has split his eight seasons equally between Denver and Detroit. He owns 258 career receptions for 3,207 yards and 22 touchdowns. He's played 107 games and has operated as a spot-starter, earning 42 starts, including nine in 2009. His career-best numbers occurred in 2007, when he caught 49 passes for 549 yards and five scores. He also had six TDs in 2011 with just 26 passes caught. However, Scheffler's career may be coming to an end. He was released from Detroit last October and has not signed with a new team.
Two Western Michigan defensive backs were taken in the 2009 draft. Louis Delmas was picked in the second round by the Detroit Lions, while E.J. Biggers was called in the seventh round by Tampa Bay.
Delmas played as a free safety for Detroit during the first five seasons of his career. He started all 65 games in which he played, including all 16 games of the 2013 season. In 2013, he earned two sacks and three interceptions. He will continue his career in 2014 after signing with Miami as a free agent.
Biggers did not play in 2009 but served as a part-time starter for the Buccaneers from 2010 to 2013. He played in all but three of the team's 64 games during that stretch and started 29 of those. He's earned one interception per season. During the off-season, he signed with the Washington Redskins, with whom he will play in 2014.
Kicker John Potter and wide receiver Jordan White are WMU's two most recent draft picks, both of which occurred in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. Potter was drafted by the Bills and was on their roster in 2012. He then played for the Redskins in 2013 and kicked in three September games. He's signed with Detroit for the 2014 season. White was picked by the Jets and caught one pass in three games during 2012.
Western Michigan may not be having much success right now on the football field, but their recent draft history shows that things can be much different for the Broncos. With the way P.J. Fleck is recruiting players to Kalamazoo, one can only expect that those times ought to return soon.