Tennessee football: 15 Vols who were better in the NFL

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Chad Clifton, Green Bay Packers
Chad Clifton, Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Just like Shaun Ellis, Chad Clifton was a very valuable part of those Tennessee football teams during the late 1990s. Both played from 1996 to 1999, started on the national title team and were certainly NFL bound.

However, like Ellis, Clifton didn’t receive much national recognition during this time, despite being the Vols’ most reliable lineman. In 1999, Cosey Coleman received All-American honors over him, but he did get dinged up at times that year.

Still, Clifton saved his greatness for the NFL. The Green Bay Packers selected him in the second round, showing they also had major expectations for him. He delivered almost immediately for Title Town.

In 2000, Clifton started 10 games. He then started 13 in 2001 before having his year cut short with only nine starts in 2002. This was due to a cheap shot he received from Warren Sapp that caused him to suffer a season-ending injury. But he came back in 2003 and started every game from 2003 through 2008 except for two, one in 2006 and one in 2008.

While becoming a reliable blocker, Clifton emerged as a star in the late 2000s. He made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2010. During Green Bay’s Super Bowl title season, Clifton helped guide the Packers through a rash of injuries that turned them into a Wild Card team.

He hung it up in 2011 after a 12-year career that saw him make two Pro Bowls, block for two Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks and win a Super Bowl. That’s a pretty impressive list of accomplishments for a guy who wasn’t an All-American in college.