Tight End University  

Posted by Walter

This one was tough, and before I name my winner and runner up I have a few observations:

1) Unlike any other position, some of the greatest tight ends of our generation have come from some really obscure schools. For example: Ben Coates (Livingstone), Shannon Sharpe (Savannah), Eric Green (Liberty), Brent Jones (Santa Clara), Steve Jordan (Brown), Antonio Gates (Kent), Pete Metzalaars (Wabash), Jay Novacek (Wyoming).

2) To really decide who was TE University, it was imperative that I open up the years a bit. The previous list is fairly comprehensive of the best TE's of the past 20 years and I don't think anyone would be suprised to discover that schools like Livingstone and Wabash only had one TE in the NFL.

3) Although they didn't make the top 2, the University of Washington once again suprised me with the amount of TE talent they have sent to the NFL. While none of them are great players, Washington has sent the NFL 5 servicable tight ends in the last 10 years: Eric Bjornson, Mark Bruener, Cam Cleeland, Ernie Conwell, and Jerramy Stevens.

4) The obvious urge is to pick the University of Miami based on their amazing run of tight ends recently, but if we are basing this list on pro production Miami is lacking. Bubba Franks has been OK in Green Bay and made a few pro bowls, but he is far from the dominant TE the Packers had hoped for. Jeremy Shockey has been very good in NY, but Kellen Winslow Jr. has yet to take the field. For me, Miami was eliminated rather early.

Runner Up - Brigham Young (Todd Christiensen, Doug Jolley, Chad Lewis, Itula Mili)
The TE has always been a big part of the BYU offense and this list proves that the playes are ready to contribute in the NFL when they leave Provo. Christiensen was one of the best recieving tight ends ever being named to five pro bowls in the 1980's. Three times he topped 1000 yards with the raiders and missed a fourth time by 13 yards. Chad Lewis was a solid TE for an Eagles team that racked up wins in the 2000's. He made two pro-bowls and was a key player in their consecutive runs to the NFC title game. Both Mili and Jolley showed promise as rookies but never really built on that momentum. Still, both are servicable players and give BYU the depth to make the top 2.

My Selection - Notre Dame (Dave Casper, Mark Bavaro, Pete Holohan, Tony Hunter)
Notre Dame gets the nod based on straight up excellence. The Irish boast the greatest tight end of the 1970's in Casper, and one of the greatest tight ends of the 1980's in Bavaro. Holohan was an above average TE for the Chargers and Rams in the late 80's racking up nearly 4000 career receiving yards. Hunter led a rather uninspiring four year career, but like Mili and Jolley had his moments (50 catches for 562 yards in 1985). The bottom line, though, is excellence. I consider Dave Casper and Mark Bavaro to be two of the three best tight ends ever because they were dominant all around football players. Dave Casper racked up over 5000 recieving yards and 52 TD playing in an era where "pas interference" was still a foreign term to officials. Bavaro has similar career numbers with just under 5000 yards and 39 TD. However, the thing that sets both players apart from their peers was their blocking ability. In this era of Shannon Sharpe's and Kellen Winslows we forget that tight ends are supposed to be able to block too. Casper and Bavaro were the best of the best, acting as an asset in the running game (rather than a liability like Sharpe and Winslow). Casper was the best blocking tight end ever. A hulking 6'4'' 250 lbs., Casper played some tackle in college and used that ability to dominate defensive ends in the NFL. New Irish product Anthony Fasano is playing for Bavaro's old coach (Parcells) and could continue the great lineage of Irish tight ends.


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