Calvin Johnson (WR, Georgia Tech, 2004-2006)
I’ve never been as sure about anybody going from college football to the pros as I was about Calvin Johnson coming out of Georgia Tech. Was it his size? Nope. His athleticism? It certainly helped. The one deciding factor, though, the one thing that made Calvin Johnson a surefire superstar in the NFL? Reggie Freaking Ball. Calvin’s college quarterback wasn’t bad, he was abysmal. Nearly every throw required a superhuman adjustment, and nearly every adjustment was made. Calvin consistently caught balls that were overthrown, under thrown, behind him, or aimed at a defender’s chest. After Reggie Ball, surely any NFL quarterback would be a gift from God to this supremely talented receiver. Then he met Matthew Stafford…
DJ Shockley (QB, Georgia, 2001-2005)
DJ spent most of his career playing behind David Greene, but when he finally got a chance in 2005 he made the most of it. Shockley was a great passer, but unlike typical Georgia quarterbacks he could also use his legs. He used these skills to do what Aaron Murray and Mathew Stafford failed to do after him, win an SEC title. I was in attendance as he led Georgia to a 34-14 victory over LSU in the Dome (sorry Bear), one of my earliest college football memories. If not for an injury that forced him to miss the Florida game, DJ’s Georgia team might have achieved even more. Following his college career, he further endeared himself to local fans by serving as the Falcons’ backup quarterback. (I recommend turning down the volume on the highlight video.)
Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia, 2009-2012)
There are few guys I’ve watched in college football that have the speed that matches Tavon Austin. Austin was a do-everything guy for the Mountaineers, and he did everything well, very well. Despite his small stature, he made big plays game-in and game-out throughout his four years in Morgantown. Out of all of the guys I have on my top 10 list, I think he probably has the second best highlight tape, which says a lot about his play-making ability. His most memorable performance was in the 2012 Orange Bowl vs. Clemson, his last college game. Austin set a bowl record for recording four touchdown receptions (WVU scored 70 points). Though he hasn’t been a huge success in the NFL, his dazzling play-making ability will last forever in my mind.
Jacob Hester (RB, LSU, 2004-2007)
LSU plays so many night home games and during their 2007 National Championship season I vividly remember staying up to watch Florida and Auburn play LSU in Death Valley. The player I remember most from those games is Jacob Hester running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. Hester wasn’t a great player, and although he was the starter, the LSU ground attack was a platoon system. However, Hester took over the final drive of that Florida game like the workhorse that he was, delivering on two fourth down conversions and scoring the go ahead touchdown to lead #1 LSU over Florida and Tebow 28-24.
Not to mention this run during that huge fourth quarter^