Every year there are great athletes from small colleges or lower divisions that make it to the pros. Here are “10 Small College Athletes Who Made The Big Time”.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, offensive tackle Ben Bartch was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 4th round with the 116th overall pick. While he was among hundreds of players drafted by NFL clubs, Bartch was notable for his alma mater, St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, an NCAA Division III school. While it’s not all that rare, Bartch is just the latest athlete to prove that playing for a small school doesn’t mean you can’t play in the big leagues. Here are 10 more athletes who turned small school competition into a spot in the big time.
• Dave Krieg, Football, Milton College (NAIA)
Though he went undrafted in the 1980 NFL draft, Krieg signed as a free agent quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks. That signing turned into a 19 season NFL career where Krieg played 213 NFL games while passing for over 38,000 yards and 261 touchdowns.
• Andrew Rock, Track and Field, University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse (DIII)
As a sprinter competing for UW LaCrosse, Rock was a nine-time national champion and was named an All American 17 times. After his college career, Rock made the US Olympic team, winning gold in the 4×400 relay at the 2004 Olympics. He followed his Olympic performance with a silver medal in the 2005 World Outdoor Track Championship.
• London Fletcher, Football, John Carroll University (DIII)
A two-sport athlete (basketball and football) at John Carroll, Fletcher signed as a free agent linebacker with the then-St. Louis Rams in 1998. Fletcher led the Rams defense in tackles in 1999 and won a Super with the team the same year. Fletcher ended his 16-year career as one of only five NFL players to play in over 250 consecutive games and his 215 consecutive starts rank sixth all-time.
• Terry Porter, Basketball, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (NAIA)
After a distinguished college career at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Porter was drafted 24th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1985 NBA draft. Porter’s NBA career spanned 17 seasons and he remains Portland’s all-time assists leader. The team retired his #30 jersey in 2008.
• Ken Anderson, Football, Augustana College, (DIII)
Though originally recruited to Augustana as a basketball player, Anderson was drafted 67th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1971 NFL draft. During his 16-year NFL career with the Bengals, Anderson threw for 200 touchdowns, over 32,000 yards, and was named the league MVP in 1981.
• Jack Sikma, Basketball, Illinois Wesleyan (DIII)
Drafted 8th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the 1977 NBA draft. Sikma was an integral part of Seattle’s NBA championship team in 1979. During his 13-year NBA career, Sikma was also named an NBA All-Star seven times and his no. 43 was retired by the Supersonics. Sikma was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.
• Alex Hicks, Ice Hockey, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (DIII)
After a four-year hockey career at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Hicks spent three seasons in the minor leagues before catching on with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. HIcks went on to play in the NHL for parts of five seasons with four different teams before playing five seasons in the German Hockey League. Today, Hicks is the ice hockey coach for the DI Arizona State University hockey team.
• Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Football, Widener College (DIII)
One of the more dynamic and flamboyant receivers and kick returners in NFL history, Johnson’s NFL career began as a 15th round draft choice with the Houston Oilers in 1974. During his 14-year NFL career, Johnson, whose white shoes were notable in an era of predominantly black cleats, was a three-time 1st team All-Pro, named to the Pro Bowl three times, and was named to both the NFL’s 75th Anniversary and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
• Dennis Rodman, Basketball, Southeast Oklahoma State (NAIA)
After a three year career at SE Oklahoma State, during which he was a three-time NAIA All American, Rodman was drafted with the no. 3 pick in the 1986 draft by the Detroit Pistons. A defensive and rebounding specialist, Rodman led the NBA in rebounds for a record seven straight seasons. He won two NBA titles with the Pistons and, after several trades, three more league titles with the Chicago Bulls. In 2011, Rodman was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame.
• Scottie Pippen, Basketball, Central Arkansas (NAIA)
Though drafted 5th overall by Seattle in the 1987 NBA draft, Pippen was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls. With Chicago, Pippen played alongside Michael Jordan and became a 7-time NBA All-Star over the course of his 17-year career and is considered one of the greatest small forwards of all time. With the Bulls, Pippen won six NBA championships and his no. 33 was retired by the team. Pippen also won two Olympic gold medals and was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 2010.
This article “10 Small College Athletes Who Made The Big Time” is the perfect example of how when it comes to scholarships and financial aid packages, you may receive bigger and better offers from smaller schools. However, as this list shows, a smaller school won’t necessarily put a cap on your big-time athletics dreams!