The Lone Star Conference… home to some of the best college football programs in D2, and also some of the best talent to ever reach the pro level in the history of the division.
Continuing our breakdown of each conference in D2 and how current member programs have fared in sending players to the pro ranks, we now come to the biggest state in the contiguous United States, and one of the true power house leagues that the NCAA has to offer. Ten teams grace the LSC landscape, but only few can call themselves home to some premier NFL talent.
If you missed any of the previous conferences we have looked back to, you can view them below:
5. Dominic Rhodes, RB — Midwestern State
Starting off our list is a key cog for the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts team that won a Super Bowl title in 2006, as Rhodes started every game during that season.
Rhodes only topped the 1,000 yard mark once in his career — his first season in the league in 2001 — but was a key contributor for a pass-heavy offense led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The 2006 season saw Rhodes put up 641 yards — his second best single-season mark — with 251 receiving yards to add on top of that, giving the Colts a decent threat in the backfield.
Rhodes scored just one touchdown during his terrific 2006 season, and it just so happened to be the score that put the Colts ahead for good over the Bears in the Super Bowl. While the former Midwestern State back won't ever be mentioned among the best to ever run the ball, he has a special place in the hearts of Colt fans everywhere.
4. Michael Sinclair, DE — Eastern New Mexico
One of the premier pass-rushers during the late 1990's, Sinclair was a three-time pro bowler during his most dominant run from 1996-1998 as a member of the Seahawks.
Finishing with 73.5 sacks in his 11-year career, the former Greyhound product also forced 25 fumbles, recovering nine and bringing two back for scores. Making four All-Pro teams in his career, Sinclair was a beloved member of the Seahawks' defense before it was cool to be part of it.
3. John Randle, DE — Texas A&M-Kingsville
Welcome now to the part of the list that from here on out, will only feature players from Kingsville — because they are that good. Starting off our triumvirate is John Randle, a 2010 inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the ninth-place holder on the list of career sacks with 137.5 through his 14 seasons.
Known most for his time as a member of the Vikings, Randle was also a Seattle player from 2001-2003, putting up 23.5 sacks in his final three seasons. A seven-time pro bowler, six-time All-Pro, and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Decade Team for the 1990s, Randle was one of the most notable rushers in the league during his prime, and will forever go down as one of the best defensive players to ever come from the D2 ranks.
2. Darrell Green, DB — Texas A&M-Kingsville
"The Ageless Wonder", Green was the leader of the Washington secondary from 1983-2002, one of the longest spans for a defensive back in the history of the league. Finishing with 54 career picks, Green ranks 21st on the all-time list with those takeaways, and he returned a six-pack of picks for scores in his career.
A seven-time pro bowler, Green was also the 1996 winner of the Walter Payton Man of The Year Award for community service in the NFL. Enshrined in the Hall of Fame during the 2008 festivities, Green was also a first round pick by Washington at 28th overall in the 1983 draft.
1. Gene Upshaw, OL — Texas A&M-Kingsville
One of the best offensive linemen to ever play in the NFL, Upshaw was a standout along the offensive line for the Raiders during his 15-year career. While no stats are available for linemen in those days, Upshaw's impact on the league went far beyond his playing days.
The head of the NFLPA for many years, Upshaw was one of the leading voices in fighting for player rights, even though some players during the modern era were against his policy wishes. Making an even bigger impact on D2, Upshaw is the namesake for the Gene Upshaw D2 Lineman of The Year award, first presented in 2004 to the best lineman across D2.
Passing away at age 63 in 2008 — the same number as his jersey — Upshaw was remembered by many as one of the best players the Raiders ever had, and a man who went above and beyond outside the field. The only player to ever play in three Super Bowls in three different decades with the same team, Upshaw was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1987 for his efforts as a player.