Portions of this article were originally published at The Daily Nole on April 18, 2016
The pipeline from Tallahassee to the National Football League hasn’t been pumping the way it used to in recent years, but Florida State football has never had trouble putting players in the NFL.
During next week’s NFL Draft, a handful of FSU players are expected to hear their names called. The most notable is defensive end Jermaine Johnson II.
A number of great players have come through FSU, but not all turn out to be great at the next level. Every once in a while, there comes a player who actually performs better on the professional level than in college. Here’s a look at five of those players from FSU:
Anquan Boldin, WR (1999-2002)
It would be more than a decade later before another FSU receiver eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark as Anquan Boldin did as a junior in 2002. That year, Boldin led the ACC with 13 touchdown grabs and was named to just the conference’s second team. Though he was sidelined for all of 2001 with a knee injury, Boldin tallied less than 800 combined receiving yards over his first two seasons.
Over his 13-year NFL career however, Boldin became the epitome of consistency. Twice, Boldin caught more than 100 passes in a season. He finished with more than 1,000 yards receiving seven times. Boldin was named the Associated Press’ Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2003 when he set the NFL rookie receptions record — one that lasted 18 years. He proceeded to play in three Pro Bowls. Boldin played in two Super Bowls and scored the first touchdown in the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Laveranues Coles, WR (1996-99)
Despite beating Deion Sanders’ school-record for fastest time in the 40-yard dash, speedster Laveranues Coles never finished with as much as 400 yards receiving in any season at FSU. He was dismissed from the program midway through the 1999 season after receiving heavily discounted merchandise from a Tallahassee Dillard’s. In 10 NFL seasons, Coles tallied three 1,000-yard receiving seasons and 49 touchdown catches. After finishing seventh in the NFL with 1,204 yards receiving in 2003, Coles was named to his only Pro Bowl.
Antonio Cromartie, CB (2003-05)
Antonio Cromartie was a freakish athlete at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, but Cromartie’s FSU career could have been much better had he not suffered an injury prior to the 2005 season. As a sophomore in 2004, Cromartie finished with four interceptions and a touchdown and was named first-team All-ACC. Many believe Cromartie could have been an All-American had he not gotten injured the following offseason. Despite entering the NFL after a knee injury, Cromartie played in four Pro Bowls in 11 years. For the San Diego Chargers in 2007, Cromartie led the NFL with 10 interceptions. His 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings that year is an NFL record for longest touchdown that can only be tied.
Brad Johnson, QB (1987-91)
Brad Johnson’s five years at Florida State were spent mostly as a backup. As a redshirt junior in 1990, Johnson passed for 1,136 yards in his only dance with meaningful playing time. As a senior in 1991, Johnson attempted just 61 passes while sitting behind Heisman Trophy runner-up Casey Weldon. Despite little experience in college, Johnson went 72-53 as a starter in 15 NFL seasons. Johnson was a 2-time Pro Bowl selection and in 2002, he quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first world championship. Johnson completed nearly 62% of his career passes in the NFL and tossed 166 touchdowns.
Walter Jones, T (1995-96)
After going the junior college route, Walter Jones spent one real season in the FSU lineup. During the 1996 campaign, Jones was outstanding and earned second-team All-American honors. At the next level, Jones would become one of the best to ever play the game. In 12 NFL seasons — all with the Seattle Seahawks — Jones was named to nine Pro Bowls. In 2005, he helped Seattle reach the Super Bowl for the first time ever. Jones was a 4-time All-Pro and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All Decade team for the 2000s. In 2014, his bust was enshrined in Canton.