clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 20 best NFL careers by Louisville Cardinals: No. 20-16

Part one of four as we count down the top 20 NFL careers by former Louisville players.


Summer is almost here, which is good for a lot of reasons and bad for the single reason that Louisville sporting events don't take place. Louisville baseball is the last team to cross the finish line, and they'll be worth following as they inch closer to what will hopefully be a lengthy postseason run in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

To fill in those gaps between Louisville baseball games until football season rolls around, we'll rank the 20 best NFL careers by Louisville football alums leading up to the NFL Draft. There will be five this week, then five each following Thursday until the first day of this year's draft.

The formula here isn't exact, but an attempt at structure was made. Here's how it works.

Points are awarded for individual awards received by some of the greatest Cardinals to play in the NFL. They are as follows:

Hall of Fame: 7 points 
League MVP: 6 points 
All-Pro selection: 5 points 
Pro Bowl selection: 4 points 
Super Bowl MVP: 3 points

The brief explanation here is that the Hall of Fame is obviously the highest honor possible, league MVP is the next hardest to achieve, while All-Pro is ahead of Pro Bowl because less players are named All-Pro than make Pro Bowls. Finally, Super Bowl MVP is a great accomplishment, but is only for one game, no matter how big that game is.

To fill in the cracks, Pro Football Reference's Career Approximate Value (CarAV) numbers were used. Again, not strictly.

Before we get to the first five of our top 20, here are five former Cards who we'll all remember that could get on this list later in their careers based on CarAV numbers:

Teddy Bridgewater — 9 CarAV in rookie season
Preston Brown — 8 CarAV in rookie season
Calvin Pryor — 5 CarAV in rookie season
Eric Wood — 30 CarAV over six seasons (5 average)
William Gay — 33 CarAV over eight seasons (4.1 average)

So, here goes nothing. Numbers 20-16 on the authoritative rankings of Louisville football players in the NFL.

20. Dwayne Woodruff, DB, 0 points

Years at Louisville: 1976-78

NFL team: Pittsburgh Steelers (1979-90)

Why he's here: Woodruff won Super Bowl XIV (1980) with the Steelers and snagged 37 interceptions during his career in Pittsburgh. He was the team's MVP in 1982, and has the second-highest CarAV of the players that never received any of the honors listed above.

19. Doug Buffone, LB, 0 points

Years at Louisville: 1962-65

NFL team: Chicago Bears (1966-1979)

Why he's here: Buffone is the highest-ranked player CarAV-wise to never be named to a Pro Bowl or be named All-Pro. He still leads Bears linebackers all-time in interceptions with 24, and there are only three former Cardinals (Johnny Unitas, Ted Washington and David Akers) who played in more NFL seasons than Buffone's 14.

18. Deion Branch, WR, 3 points

Years at Louisville: 2000-01

NFL teams: New England Patriots (2002-05, 2010-12), Seattle Seahawks (2006-2010)

Why he's here: Branch is our first point earner for his Super Bowl MVP honor in 2005. He was also on the Patriots' Super Bowl-winning team in 2004. Branch played in 11 NFL seasons, catching 39 touchdowns and totaling 6644 receiving yards during his professional career.

17. Lenny Lyles, CB, 4 points

Years at Louisville: 1954-57

NFL teams: Baltimore Colts (1958, 1961-69), San Francisco 49ers (1959-60)

Why he's here: Lyles is the first Pro Bowler on our list after being given the honor in 1966. Lyles won an NFL Championship with the Colts in 1958 and later started in Super Bowl III with Baltimore in 1968. The quarterback for those Colts teams was none other than Johnny Unitas.

16. Kerry Rhodes, FS, 5 points

Years at Louisville: 2000-04

NFL Teams: New York Jets (2005-09), Arizona Cardinals (2010-12)

Why he's here: Rhodes was named All-Pro in 2006. In his eight NFL seasons, he recorded 23 interceptions and 488 tackles. Rhodes also led the NFC in interception return yards in 2010.

Part two of our countdown will take place on Thursday.