Earl Thomas

As the Longhorns suited up on Saturday to face off against Kansas State in Austin, numerous former Texas players took the field in the NFL. Here’s how four former
Longhorns fared in week five.

D’Onta Foreman

Foreman forewent his final year of eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft after leading the Longhorns in yards, carries and touchdowns in 2016. And in the draft, Foreman landed three hours southeast of Austin, ending up with the
Houston Texans.

So far in his rookie campaign, Foreman has mainly been used as a complimentary piece to starting running back Lamar Miller. In a limited sample size, Foreman has averaged roughly four yards a carry. He has shown flashes of the power and speed that helped him rush for over 2,000 yards in his final season as a Longhorn. And while he is not yet a featured part of the Texans’ offense, his performance suggests that he will be more involved in weeks to come.

Kenny Vaccaro

Vaccaro has fought his way out of the dog house and back onto the field after being benched by Saints’ head coach Sean Payton three weeks ago. The former All-Big 12 first-teamer has raised his level of play for the New Orleans Saints’ defense, which is ranked No. 16 against the pass this year. The Saints are up from their No. 32 pass defense a year ago.

So far this season, Vaccaro has 21 tackles and one interception. He will look to improve upon a solid first quarter of the season on Sunday against the Lions.

Adrian Phillips

Phillips has worked his way up from being undrafted in 2014 and was signed from the practice squad in October 2015 to the Los Angeles Chargers after an injury to starting safety Eric Weddle. The former Longhorn is looking to build on a 2016 campaign in which he had six starts.

The 25-year-old safety has become a viable option in the Chargers’ secondary. He is coming off of an eight-tackle performance against the Giants, which was also the team’s first win of the season.
His season thus far has included 13 tackles and one interception.

Earl Thomas

After suffering a broken leg last season, Thomas is back and playing at his usual All-Pro level. Thomas had a busy day on Sunday, tallying seven tackles, one interception and a forced fumble on the goal line. His performance warranted him the NFC defensive player of the week award. The former Texas standout has been a top contributor on an NFC West contender for eight years now and has helped lead one of the most elite pass defenses in the entire NFL.

Former Longhorn safety Earl Thomas will be suiting up for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday as they face off against the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

When Super Bowl XLVIII concludes on Sunday, at least one former Longhorn defensive player will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. 

This year’s game features Seattle’s Earl Thomas against Denver’s Michael Huff and Quentin Jammer, continuing a tradition in which a former Longhorn has made it to the Super Bowl every year since 2007. 

Texas junior cornerback Quandre Diggs, who is Jammer’s younger brother, is excited for the matchup and to see the trio represent Texas as “Defensive Back University.”

“It means a lot just to know that pretty much every year for a long time there has been a DB in that game,” Diggs said. ”No matter who wins, we know a DB will get the Super Bowl.”

 

Earl Thomas, safety:

Thomas was drafted No. 14 overall by the Seahawks in the 2010 NFL draft, following a sensational redshirt sophomore season in which he was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist.

Thomas is regarded by many to be the best safety in the NFL and is a crucial piece in the Seahawks’ secondary. If the Seahawks are going to win, they will need their defense to step up, which means Thomas playing at a high level. Though it wouldn’t be a surprise if he makes a game-changing play, Thomas is focused on just doing the little things right.

“You see a lot of guys that aren’t tackling as well; they’re not doing as well as they started,” Thomas said. “That’s what it’s all about — sticking to your core beliefs, sticking to who you are and everything else will take care of itself.”

Of the three Longhorns in the game, Thomas has the most potential to decide the game with a decisive interception or pass breakup.

 

Michael Huff, safety:

Huff was drafted seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2006 NFL draft, following the 2005 season, in which he became Texas’ first Thorpe Award winner while helping the Longhorns to their first national title in 35 years.

Huff’s best season was in 2010 when he recorded career-highs in tackles, sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions en route to being named a second-team All-Pro safety. He spent his first seven seasons in Oakland before being cut in March 2013, he was later picked up by the Ravens before being cut again mid-season. Now Huff is on the verge of winning the Super Bowl, having been picked up by the Broncos in November. With the humbling experience of losing in Oakland behind him, he realizes the need to seize the moment now.

“Those years in Oakland, getting cut by two teams this year,” Huff said. “To know nothing but winning in college, struggle for seven years and never even get to the playoffs, all of those losing seasons, just makes what I’m feeling right now extra special.”

 

Quentin Jammer, cornerback:

Jammer was drafted fifth overall in 2002 by the San Diego Chargers, after being named a unanimous All-American in 2001.

In 2009, Jammer was named to the Chargers’ 50th anniversary team as a cornerback. After 11 seasons with San Diego, the Broncos picked him up and he is now primarily cornerback Champ Bailey’s backup. Like Huff, Jammer probably won’t have much impact in the game, though he should see some important playing time.

“I am excited to be able to share it with him and go up there and be by his side through the rest of the weekend and hope they go out and get the win,” Diggs said.

For former Texas Longhorns, Week 2 of the NFL season was collectively one of the most impressive in recent memory.  Here's a recap of some of the great Longhorn performances this week, as well as a look ahead to their teams' matchup in Week 3.

Earl Thomas - Safety, Seattle Seahawks

Along with Seattle's deafening home crowd, Thomas was a large part of a phenomenal defensive effort against the potent 49ers' offense. He recorded three tackles and intercepted the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick. This week the Seahawks will host the Jaguars. Expect Thomas and the Seahawks' secondary to perform well against struggling Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Brian Orakpo - Defensive End, Washington Redskins

Orakpo filled out his stat sheet nicely this week against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Despite the Skins' 18-point loss, Orakpo's never-ceasing motor earned him five tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.This weekend he'll face another relatively immobile quarterback in the Lions' Matthew Stafford.

Aaron Williams - Cornerback, Buffalo Bills

The Bills fought hard for new head coach Doug Marone's first NFL victory against Carolina last week. Aaron Williams made a pretty bit difference in the Bills' secondary, as he made a game high 12 tackles including one for a loss. He's always been a lock down corner but sometimes had issues tackling. It appears he's corrected that problem since he left Texas.  This weekend, Geno Smith and the New York Jets await Williams, a great matchup.

Jermichael Finley - Tight End, Green Bay Packers

Finley had an effective outing last week against the Redskins. With Greg Jennings gone, Finley figures to be a bigger target for Rodgers going forward. His six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown last week certainly validates that claim. He and Rodgers will face a tough Cincinnati secondary next week.

Jamaal Charles - Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs

Compared to Charles' standards, last week's results weren't all that impressive: 16 carries for 55 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, is far below his career averages. But he made big runs when the Chiefs needed them the most. He ran for a key first down late in the fourth quarter to keep Dallas' offense off the field, sealing the win.