There is something very special about Texas A&M football – its specialists.
Punters, kickers, deep snappers, returners…some of the best in NFL history came off the A&M campus.
Start with Shane Lechler, who was named as one of two punters to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team. He holds the NFL record with his 47.6-yard career average and ranks second all-time in both punts and yards. He won five NFL punting titles and was selected to eight Pro Bowls.
Only one player in school history ever went to more Pro Bowls -- Yale Lary, who went to nine in becoming a Hall-of-Fame safety for the Detroit Lions. But he did more for the Lions than intercept 50 passes on defense and collect three championship rings. Lary also handled the punting, winning three NFL crowns of his own. His 44.3-yard average ranks 34th all-time.
Steve O’Neal also punted for the Aggies and although his NFL career lasted only five seasons, he left an indelible mark on the record book. His 98-yard punt for the New Orleans Saints in 1973 remains the longest in NFL history. O’Neal was a fifth-round pick of the New York Jets, who also used a sixth-round pick in 2020 to select their current punter Braden Mann off the A&M campus.
Don Muhlbach was not drafted out of Texas A&M in 2004. He should have been. Muhlbach signed as a college free agent with the Baltimore Ravens but didn’t make the training-camp cut. The Detroit Lions signed him in November when their deep snapper suffered an injury. Muhlbach has been there ever since – 17 seasons and 260 career games plus two Pro Bowls. Only one deep snapper in NFL history (Trey Junkin) played more games.
Dante Hall was a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2000 who went on to become the first-team punt returner and second-team kickoff returner on the NFL’s 2000 NFL all-decade team. Nicknamed the “Human Joystick,” Hall scored 12 touchdowns on returns in his nine-year career, returning six punts and six kickoffs for scores. He led the NFL in punt returns with a 16.3-yard punt return in 2003. He averaged 23.8 yards in his career on kickoff returns and 10.5 on punts.
Tony Franklin was a third-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1979 and Randy Bullock a fifth-rounder of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012. Franklin spent 10 seasons in the NFL and went to a Pro Bowl. He kicked 177 career field goals and scored 872 points. Bullock just finished up his ninth season, having scored 719 points with 168 field goals. He has posted three 100-point seasons.
Detron Smith was selected as a fullback in the third round of the 1996 draft by the Denver Broncos. He touched the ball only 18 times over the next eight seasons but he certainly wasn’t a disappointment. That’s because he evolved into one of the NFL’s best coverage players on kicking downs. He was selected for the 1999 Pro Bowl as the AFC's special-teams ace and helped the Broncos win two Super Bowls.
And by the way, A&M has proved to be a fertile ground for pass rushers as well, with Von Miller, Jacob Green and Myles Garrett combining for 12 Pro Bowls and 245 1/2 career sacks. Garrett was the first overall pick of the 2017 draft, Miller went second overall in 2011 draft and Green went 10th overall in 1980.
Here’s Texas A&M’s all-time NFL team:
QB Ryan Tannehill Pro Bowl, 2019 NFL passing champion
RB John David Crow 1960s NFL all-decade team
FB Roger Vick 4 years, 1,289 rushing yards, 66 catches
WR Mike Evans 3 Pro Bowls, 7 1,000-yard seasons
WR Bobby Joe Conrad 1963 NFL receiving champion
TE Martellus Bennett Pro Bowl, 10 years, 433 catches
OT Richmond Webb 1990s NFL all-decade team
OT Cody Risien 10 years 140 career starts for Browns
G Steve McKinney 10 years, 133 career starts
G Mo Moorman 1969 NFL champion, 68 career starts
C Geoff Hangartner 9 years, 85 career starts
DE Myles Garrett 2 Pro Bowls, 42 ½ sacks in 4 seasons
DE Jacob Green 2 Pro Bowls, 97 career sacks
DT Ray Childress 5 Pro Bowls at both DE (1) & DT & (4)
DT Sam Adams 3 Pro Bowls, 177 starts, 44 sacks
OLB William Thomas 2 Pro Bowls, 160 starts, 27 INTs
MLB Dat Nguyen 3 100-tackle seasons for Cowboys
OLB Von Miller 8 Pro Bowls, 106 career sacks
CB Lester Hayes 5 Pro Bowls, 1980 NFL INT leader (13)
CB Aaron Glenn 3 Pro Bowls, 41 interceptions, 6 TDs
S Yale Lary Pro Football Hall of Fame
S Dave Elmendorf Started all 130 games of career, 27 INTs
K Tony Franklin Pro Bowl, 872 career points
P Shane Lechler NFL’s 100th anniversary team
KR Dante Hall 2 Pro Bowls, 12 career return TDs
ST Detron Smith Pro Bowl, 2 Super Bowl rings
DS Don Muhlbach 17 years, 260 games all with Detroit