While most colleges and universities field a football team as part of its general athletics program, there are some for which football is more than merely a sport—it’s akin almost to a religion. Devotion to the team and its colors is as important to that school’s culture as a religious icon is to a believer. These programs actively scout and recruit notable high school players, and are in turn rigorously applied to by matriculating seniors eager to make a name for themselves at the collegiate level.

Among the most notable college football empires are Notre Dame, the universities of Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State—the list goes on and on. But for every touchstone football school, there is an outlier that has produced some of the most successful and cherished players in the game. Think Jackson State, which gave us “Sweetness” himself, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. Or Mississippi Valley State, which yielded 3-time Super Bowl champion and #1 Player in NFL History, as voted by the NFL Network, ‘49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice.

Each year, the college draft serves as a source of renewal to professional football and a testament to the quality of college programs nationwide. With the 2022 NFL draft set to take place April 28-30 in Las Vegas, Stacker compiled a list of the highest NFL draft picks from the Southern Miss Golden Eagles using data from Pro Football Reference. Ties were broken by the most recent year drafted.

#20. Terry Hardy (TE)- Draft pick: Round 5, #125 overall in 1998

  • Drafted by: Arizona Cardinals
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 2 (0 Pro Bowls)

#19. Amos Fowler (C)- Draft pick: Round 5, #121 overall in 1978

  • Drafted by: Detroit Lions
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 4 (0 Pro Bowls)

#18. Shawn Nelson (TE)- Draft pick: Round 4, #121 overall in 2009

  • Drafted by: Buffalo Bills
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#17. Cedric Scott (DE)- Draft pick: Round 4, #114 overall in 2001

  • Drafted by: NY Giants
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#16. Perry Carter (DB)- Draft pick: Round 4, #107 overall in 1994

  • Drafted by: Arizona Cardinals
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#15. Tarvarius Moore (S)- Draft pick: Round 3, #95 overall in 2018

  • Drafted by: San Francisco 49ers
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#14. T.J. Slaughter (LB)- Draft pick: Round 3, #92 overall in 2000

  • Drafted by: Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 3 (0 Pro Bowls)

#13. Lamar Holmes (T)- Draft pick: Round 3, #91 overall in 2012

  • Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#12. Khyri Thornton (DT)- Draft pick: Round 3, #85 overall in 2014

  • Drafted by: Green Bay Packers
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#11. Marvin Harvey (TE)- Draft pick: Round 3, #70 overall in 1981

  • Drafted by: Kansas City Chiefs
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#10. Jamie Collins (LB)- Draft pick: Round 2, #52 overall in 2013

  • Drafted by: New England Patriots
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (1 Pro Bowls)

#9. Patrick Surtain (DB)- Draft pick: Round 2, #44 overall in 1998

  • Drafted by: Miami Dolphins
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 8 (3 Pro Bowls)

#8. Richard Byrd (DE)- Draft pick: Round 2, #36 overall in 1985

  • Drafted by: Houston Texans
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 3 (0 Pro Bowls)

#7. Todd Pinkston (WR)- Draft pick: Round 2, #36 overall in 2000

  • Drafted by: Philadelphia Eagles
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 4 (0 Pro Bowls)

#6. Brett Favre (QB)- Draft pick: Round 2, #33 overall in 1991

  • Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 19 (11 Pro Bowls)

#5. Fred Cook (DE)- Draft pick: Round 2, #32 overall in 1974

  • Drafted by: Baltimore Ravens
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (0 Pro Bowls)

#4. Ray Guy (P)- Draft pick: Round 1, #23 overall in 1973

  • Drafted by: Oakland Raiders
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#3. Louis Lipps (WR)- Draft pick: Round 1, #23 overall in 1984

  • Drafted by: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (2 Pro Bowls)

#2. Hanford Dixon (DB)- Draft pick: Round 1, #22 overall in 1981

  • Drafted by: Cleveland Browns
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 9 (3 Pro Bowls)

#1. Tony Smith (RB)- Draft pick: Round 1, #19 overall in 1992

  • Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons
  • Years as a starter in NFL: 0