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Why CSU produces better NFL talent than CU

Collegian | Madelyn Hendricks

A rivalry as old as time, the Rocky Mountain Showdown has truly been one of the driving forces in the divide between Colorado State and Colorado

With everything from stolen flags to poisoned bulldogs, CU has gotten the best of the Rams with an all-time record of 67-22-2


Although it might look like CSU is the subpar football program, that might not be the case. When you take a deeper dive into players and contributors at the NFL level, CSU takes the cake in that category.

Cliff Branch was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame playing for the Buffs, but the Rams tie that category with Jack Christiansen having been in the Hall of Fame far before Branch made it.

For starters, not only has a CU player never been drafted first or second overall, but CSU has succeeded in both of those. 

Legendary quarterback Gary Glick played for the Aggies from 1953-55. After his legendary career for Colorado A&M, Glick was selected first overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

That would leave Mike Bell as the second overall pick in the 1979 NFL draft. Going to Kansas City, Bell had a long career, playing 12 seasons for the Chiefs. 

When you look at Pro Bowls, the Buffs do have the Rams beat in total players they have sent to the game, 1511. Although CU comes in with a four-player advantage, the Rams win in the total selections by players for the Pro Bowl 35-34.

This proves the Rams produce high-quality NFL starters who stay in the peak of their careers for longer than those of the CU Buffs. 

This rings true, even recently. A look back in time will reveal CU hasn’t had a former player make the Pro Bowl since Andre Gurode did in 2010 for the Dallas Cowboys.

If you look at CSU’s record there, they have done it twice since that time frame, both by Shaquil Barrett. Barrett made the Pro Bowl in both 2019 and 2021. 


Barrett finally got his chance to start in 2019. The undrafted player spent the first part of his career playing behind Denver Broncos legend Von Miller. He then signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and showed the world what players out of CSU are truly capable of. 

That season is the reason Barrett went on to sign a four-year deal worth $72 million with the Buccaneers in 2021.

Barrett led the entire NFL in sacks, getting to the quarterback 19.5 times. He beat out future Hall of Famers Chandler Jones and Cameron Jordan to do it. 

The Rams have a track record of producing top-tier defensive talent throughout the history of the NFL, something CU hasn’t been able to replicate. One of the other players CSU produced was Al “Bubba” Baker.

Baker won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1978. One other thing Baker did that season was post 23 sacks, which remains an NFL record today. Unfortunately, sacks didn’t become an official statistic recorded by the NFL until 1982, just four years later. 

Despite the circumstances, a CU defensive player still can’t touch the kind of production that would lead Baker to the Defensive Rookie of the Year and the unofficial record holder for single sacks in a season. 

So while CSU often loses to CU, Ram fans can hang their hats on the fact that when watching football at the professional level, at least up to this point, the Rams have produced better NFL talent. 

While the introduction of Deion Sanders as head coach of the Buffs may make it difficult to keep that title in the Rams’ field, for now, that trophy belongs in Canvas Stadium.

Reach Damon Cook at or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

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About the Contributor
Damon Cook
Damon Cook, Sports Editor
Damon Cook is the 2023-24 sports editor for the The Collegian and has been at the paper since August 2022. He started doing coverage on volleyball and club sports before moving onto the women's basketball beat. He is in his third year and is completing his degree with a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management. As The Collegian's sports editor, Cook reports on CSU sports and helps manage the sports desk and content throughout the week. After having a year to learn and improve, Cook will now get to be part of a new age under the sports desk. The desk moved on from all but one other person and will now enter into a new era. Damon started school as a construction management major looking to go in a completely different direction than journalism. After taking the year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly realized that construction wasn't for him. With sports and writing as passions, he finally decided to chase his dreams, with The Collegian helping him achieve that. He is most excited to bring the best and most in-depth sports coverage that The Collegian can provide.

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    Steve SantiagoSep 15, 2023 at 8:21 am

    Good points, but you have to mention Joey Porter and Clark Haggans!