The Wolverine

June-July 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2020 THE WOLVERINE 55 BY AUSTIN FOX M ichigan has often been known for the success of its players in the NFL, but has also produced several strong alums in the MLB, NHL and NBA over the course of 2019‑20. Here is our version of the 10 best former Michigan athletes playing professional sports during the past year: 1. QB Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL) It is impossible not to put him No. 1 on this list when considering his six Super Bowls and four championship game MVPs are both the most in NFL history, while his 541 scoring tosses and 74,571 pass‑ ing yards are each the second most the game has ever seen. A 14‑time Pro Bowler, Brady led his Patriots squad to the Super Bowl nine times during his 20 years in New England (2000‑19). He played the 2019 cam‑ paign at the age of 42 and saw his numbers take a slight dip, but still managed to complete 60.8 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 24 touch‑ downs and eight picks. He led New England to a 12‑4 record for its NFL‑record 11th straight AFC East championship, making it one of just two franchises in NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL history to win 10 consecutive division titles, along with the Atlanta Braves (14). The San Mateo, Calif., native will now begin a new chapter in his NFL career, having signed a two‑year deal worth $50 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers March 20. 2. DE Frank Clark (Kansas City Chiefs, NFL) He boosted his overall career ré‑ sumé in a big way this past winter, racking up five sacks in three post‑ season games en route to the Chiefs' Super Bowl win over the San Fran‑ cisco 49ers. Clark's five quarterback take‑ downs were the most for any NFL player in the playoffs since Den‑ ver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller also tallied five in 2015. The 2019‑20 season was Clark's first in a Kansas City uniform after he had spent the first four years of his pro tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, racking up a minimum of nine sacks his final three seasons with them. The 26‑year‑old's eight‑sack 2019 campaign helped earn him his first Pro Bowl invitation. 3. DE Brandon Graham (Philadel- phia Eagles, NFL) He etched his name in Eagles lore when he strip‑sacked Brady with only 2:14 remaining in the 2018 Super Bowl, allowing his club to recover the ball and all but seal the win. Graham has been a model of con‑ sistency throughout his NFL career, playing in at least 16 games in seven of his 10 pro‑ fessional seasons and compil‑ ing at least 5.5 sacks during six of those campaigns. Even at age 31, the defensive end showed no signs of slowing down this past season by reg‑ istering 8.5 sacks, just one shy of the career‑high 9.5 he set in 2017. He was actually was one of just two alums who make Pro Football Focus' (PFF) count‑ down of the league's top 101 players during the 2019 sea‑ son, slotting in at No. 60 af‑ ter they credited him with 67 quarterback pressures on the year. 4. OT Taylor Lewan (Ten- nessee Titans, NFL) The 6‑7, 309‑pound lineman has been a mainstay on the Ti‑ tans' offensive line ever since they drafted him in 2014, start‑ ing all 58 of the games he has appeared in with the organiza‑ tion since the beginning of the 2015 season. After Lewan earned three consecutive Pro Bowl bids from 2016‑18, he became the highest‑paid offensive line‑ man in NFL history when he signed a five‑year, $80 million contract prior to the 2019 campaign. After being voted No. 77 overall by his peers last July on the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2019 list, the lineman missed the first four games of the season after test‑ ing positive for a banned substance, before reclaiming his starting role as the Titans' left tackle in the final 12 contests of the regular season and all three of the team's playoff games. He checked in at No. 88 on PFF's countdown, in a year where both Brady and Clark went unranked by the outlet. "Lewan didn't start the season due to suspension, but he ended it play‑ ing like the best tackle in football in the postseason," PFF wrote, while noting he allowed just 12 pressures in 19 total games.   MICHIGAN IN THE PROS The 10 Best Wolverines In Professional Sports Tom Brady will begin a new chapter in his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this fall, after leading the Patriots to nine Super Bowls during his 20 seasons in New England. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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