From college to the pros
As with many professional pursuits, the path to gridiron glory begins in college. NFL rosters are comprised of players from colleges large and small, but some NCAA programs excel at constantly cranking out top-quality players who go on to the pros. While some schools are known for producing CEOs or millionaires, these 11 colleges, accounting for ties, have the most NFL players on active rosters in the 2021 season, according to the most recent NCAA data.
Pennsylvania State University–University Park
NFL players: 31
U.S. News rank: 63 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 46,313
4-year graduation rate: 70%
The Penn State Nittany Lions, who began play in 1889, are among the most storied programs in NCAA history. To date, Penn State has racked up more than 880 wins and four conference championships, and has played in 50 bowl games. PSU also claimed the NCAA national championship twice in the 1980s and has remained an enduring force in college football for decades.
Learn more about Pennsylvania State University–University Park.
University of Oklahoma
NFL players: 31
U.S. News rank: 127 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 27,772
4-year graduation rate: 46%
The first season of Oklahoma football was in 1903. The Sooners have since hit more than 870 overall wins, claimed 49 conference championships and played in 54 bowl games. Oklahoma also has seven national championships and produced back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in 2017 and 2018, a prize awarded to the top college football player at the end of each season.
Learn more about the University of Oklahoma.
University of Florida
NFL players: 32
U.S. News rank: 28 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 53,372
4-year graduation rate: 67%
The Gators have bit down on more than 700 victories since the program launched in 1911. Along with those wins come nine conference championships, 46 bowl game appearances and three national championships, most recently in 2008.
Learn more about the University of Florida.
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
NFL players: 32
U.S. News rank: 23 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 47,907
4-year graduation rate: 81%
A perennial force in college football, the Wolverines have racked up more than 940 wins, 42 conference championships, 48 bowl appearances and 11 national championships, with most of those coming in the early decades of the program, which started in 1881.
Learn more about the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.
Clemson University (SC)
NFL players: 33
U.S. News rank: 75 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 26,406
4-year graduation rate: 63%
Since 1902, the Clemson Tigers have clawed their way to more than 750 overall victories, 22 conference championships and 47 bowl appearances. Clemson has also amassed three national championships, the first coming in 1981 and more recent titles coming in 2016 and 2018.
Learn more about Clemson University.
University of Iowa
NFL players: 33
U.S. News rank: 83 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 30,318
4-year graduation rate: 54%
The history of football at the University of Iowa goes all the way back to 1899. Since then, the Hawkeyes have racked up more than 640 wins, tacking on 12 conference championships and appearing in 33 bowl games along the way.
Learn more about the University of Iowa.
University of Notre Dame (IN)
NFL players: 34
U.S. News rank: 19, National Universities
Total enrollment: 12,809
4-year graduation rate: 93%
Since first taking the field in 1899, the Fighting Irish have gone on to become one of the more storied programs in college football. The program has amassed more than 865 wins, 39 bowl game appearances and 13 national championships, according to the NCAA, the most recent in 1988.
Learn more about the University of Notre Dame.
University of Georgia
NFL players: 35
U.S. News rank: 48, National Universities
Total enrollment: 39,147
4-year graduation rate: 68%
The Bulldogs kicked off their inaugural season in 1902 and surpassed the 800 win mark in the 2019 season. Those wins are paired with 13 conference championships and 57 bowl appearances over the years. Georgia claims five national championships, with its most recent in 1980.
Learn more about the University of Georgia.
Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge
NFL players: 46
U.S. News rank: 172 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 34,285
4-year graduation rate: 43%
The history of LSU football stretches back to 1902. The program has claimed 12 conference championships, played in 52 bowl games and has more than 790 wins. The Tigers have also won four national championships, most recently in 2019.
Learn more about Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge.
Ohio State University–Columbus
NFL players: 47
U.S. News rank: 49 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 61,369
4-year graduation rate: 65%
The Buckeyes have won more than 825 games since the inaugural 1904 season. Those wins include 40 conference championships, 53 bowl appearances and eight national championships, with the most recent title in 2014.
Learn more about Ohio State University–Columbus.
University of Alabama
NFL players: 53
U.S. News rank: 148 (tie), National Universities
Total enrollment: 37,840
4-year graduation rate: 52%
The Alabama Crimson Tide program has been a dominant force in college football since 1902. The program counts more than 949 wins, 28 conference championships, 73 bowl game appearances and a slew of national championships. The university counts 18 national titles to its name, albeit with some dispute, and has won six since 2009.
Learn more about the University of Alabama.
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Colleges with the most NFL players
— University of Alabama: 53
— Ohio State University–Columbus: 47
— Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge: 46
— University of Georgia: 35
— University of Notre Dame: 34
— Clemson University: 33
— University of Iowa: 33
— University of Florida: 32
— University of Michigan–Ann Arbor: 32
— Pennsylvania State University–University Park: 31
— University of Oklahoma: 31
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Update 10/19/21: This slideshow has been updated to include new information and reflect ranks from the 2022 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.