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News » Some ex-Horns at critical points in NFL careers

Some ex-Horns at critical points in NFL careers

Some ex-Horns at critical points in NFL careers
They are all rich beyond their wildest dreams. They played to packed college stadiums for four years and went to the pros as expected.

But for some former University of Texas All-Americans, the numbers haven't added up to their NFL draft positions.

Take Michael Huff, for instance. He's doing a great thing Saturday and he's doing it with the help of some friends, hosting a celebrity basketball game at the Austin Convention Center along with NFL players and several fellow Texas alumni. Not known for his basketball skills - he refers to himself as 'sneaky' on the court - the mild-mannered Huff is the perfect host for an event that is more about laughs and helping out deserving charities than it is about the million-dollar salaries of the players involved.

The former Thorpe Award winner will get plenty of laughs from the crowd in what has become an annual feel-good event on Texas Relays weekend. But there is nothing funny about his professional situation.

Two years after being selected seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders, Huff enters his third NFL training camp with an uncertain future. After he struggled at strong safety his first two years, the Raiders moved him to a more natural free safety position before last season. The switch didn't equate to a revival for the 2005 Thorpe Award winner, who lost his starting job to Hiram Eugene.

"The last two years, I wouldn't say that I lost my love for the game, but I did lose my enthusiasm for the game,'' Huff said.

Huff is one of four former Longhorns who are entering what can best be described as a crossroads season in NFL.

Another is running back Cedric Benson, the fourth pick in 2005 who flopped in Chicago over three seasons and was released after two arrests before the 2008 season. Benson, now with Cincinnati, has a new lease on life, albeit with a team that has made the playoffs twice in the last 20 years. His next 1,000-yard season will be his first as a pro.

Roy Williams has become the most watched wide receiver in the state of Texas because the Dallas Cowboys are pinning their hopes on him to deliver in the post-T.O. era. Williams, who caught only 19 passes in 10 games with Dallas last year, rewrote the receiving record book at Texas but posted career lows in catches (36), receiving yards (430) and touchdowns (2) last season.

"No added pressure. It's not my first rodeo,'' he told The Dallas Morning News when asked two weeks ago about replacing Terrell Owens . "I've been doing this since Pop Warner."

Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson was the best defensive player in the country during the 2004 college season, but he has yet to make a Pro Bowl in his four NFL years and is coming off a season in which he registered only two sacks.

Chiefs fans were hoping to get the second coming of late Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas when they plunked DJ with the 15th pick of the 2005 draft. And while his 287 career tackles are solid, the 12 sacks in four seasons are just a fraction of what Thomas produced.

So you have four excellent college players all picked in the top 15 of NFL drafts who haven't lived up to their potential, with only one Pro Bowl between them. What gives? Sure, some players are coddled a bit too much at Texas, but that can't be the sole reason for their slow career starts, or else all former Horns would struggle.

Huff hasn't played well, but former secondary mates have excelled. Aaron Ross started at cornerback for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants and Michael Griffin made a Pro Bowl in his second year with Tennessee. Nathan Vasher has played in a Pro Bowl with Chicago and started a Super Bowl. Cedric Griffin just got a $10.5 million signing bonus after signing a five-year extension with the Vikings.

So some Longhorns have struggled while others have impressed. It all goes to show that the NFL draft is still a crapshoot, and you never know what you're going to get with a first-round pick.

Better yet, after the college playing days are over, the responsibility for a player's performance has to lie with the players. Not Mack Brown. Neither Duane Akina nor any of the assistant coaches.

Huff will be the first to admit he hasn't gotten it done his first two seasons. He actually said he agreed with his demotion the week it happened, but that doesn't mean he isn't ready to reclaim his starting job.

"I want to get back to playing the way I played at Texas," he said. "I'm excited about this season and I'm looking forward to getting back to work."

The NFL is a right-now business, and these four ex-Longhorns will have to produce or their todays will quickly become yesterdays.

cgolden@statesman.com; 912-5944

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 3, 2009

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