10 well-known players to come out of UNLV


Editor’s note: During our 10 days of UNLV football, we’ll run a UNLV list a day leading up to the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day.

It may not be a Quarterback U, but UNLV has churned out some players whose names became recognizable to fans around the country. Here are our top 10:

1. Randall Cunningham

Cunningham, who played quarterback at UNLV 1981-1984, holds several UNLV records, including career passing with 8,020 yards, career touchdowns with 59, and all-time punting average at 45.6 yards.

Cunningham was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles 37th overall in the second round of the 1985 NFL Draft and remained with the team through the 1995 season, when he took a job as an analyst for TNT.

In 1996, Cunningham returned to football, going on to play for the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens before returning to the Eagles to retire in 2002.

In 1988, Cunningham became the first black quarterback ever elected a starter in the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl.

2. Ickey Woods

Woods was a pretty nondescript player until his senior year at UNLV, in 1987, when he ran for 1,658 yards, scored 10 touchdowns, averaged 6.4 yards per carry and had nine 100-yard games. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals as the 31st overall pick in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft.

The running back is perhaps best remembered, though, for the “Ickey shuffle,” the end zone dance he performed when he scored a touchdown that made him an NFL fan favorite. The dance even scored Woods some TV commercials.

Woods played for the Bengals until 1991, when a knee injury ended his football career.

3. Mike Thomas

Thomas’ 1,741 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns in 1973 set UNLV records, and Thomas was named all-American twice by the American Football Coaches Association.

The running back was drafted by the Washington Redskins as the the 108th pick overall in the 5th round of the 1975 NFL Draft. He played with the Redskins until 1978 and then with the San Diego Chargers until 1980.

Thomas was the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1975 and played in the Pro Bowl after the 1976 NFL season.

4. Kevin Thomas

In what has been called one of the most memorable plays in UNLV football history, cornerback Thomas scored against Baylor on a 100-yard fumble return in a Sept. 1999 game.

The game-winning touchdown went down in history as one of the greatest finishes to a college football game ever.

Thomas became the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and a sixth-round NFL Draft choice in 2002.

Thomas played four seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

5. Eric Wright

Wright was the first player in UNLV history to leave school early to enter the NFL.

The defensive back was the 53rd overall pick in round two of the 2007 NFL Draft and played with the Cleveland Browns until 2010, when he moved on to the Detroit Lions and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Wright had a rocky history with Tampa Bay. He was arrested for a felony DUI and a misdemeanor DUI on two different occasions, and was separately suspended four games for using performance enhancing drugs.

Wright signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers in August and debuted with the team last month.

6. Keenan McCardell

McCardell was the first UNLV receiver to post four consecutive 100-yard games.

He left UNLV in 2006 as the school’s leading receiver with 141 catches for 2,189 yards and 15 touchdowns.

McCardell was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 12th round of the 1991 NFL Draft and later played for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans. He won two Super Bowl rings, with the Redskins in 1991 and the Buccaneers in 2002.

7. Adam Seward

Seward was named All-Mountain West Conference three times while at UNLV.

He was the MWC’s all-time tackle leader upon graduating in 2004 and remain’s UNLV’s all-time tackle leader.

He was picked up in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, where he remained until 2008.

Seward also played for the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars.

He retired from football in 2010 and is currently Chinese-language analyst for NFL football in China.

8. Jon Denton

Denton is remembered because he could have given Cunningham a run for his money, had he not left UNLV football after two seasons in the mid-90s.

The quarterback threw for nearly 3,600 yards and 25 touchdowns in his last season. Denton was UNLV’s second-leading all-time passer, throwing for 6,177 yards and 43 TDs in 1996 and 1997.

Denton was suspended after his sophomore season for breaking undisclosed rules.

9. Jamaal Brimmer

Brimmer was one of those players who is perhaps best known for what he could have been.

The defensive back was a first-team All-American and finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award his junior year and was projected as a mid-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Instead of entering the NFL, Brimmer opted to stay at UNLV for his senior year — but failed to put up the impressive stats of his junior year.

Brimmer wasn’t picked in the draft, but ended up signing as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks, and later playing with the Berlin Thunder in NFL Europe.

10. Ryan Wolfe

Between 2005 and 2009, Wolfe recorded 283 receptions — 12th in FBS history — for 3,495 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Wolfe was the first-ever two-time first team all-conference receiver in UNLV history. The wide receiver graduated in 2009 with a 4.0.

He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons in April 2010.

Who would you put on the list? Let us know on Twitter: @reviewjournal.

Contact Stephanie Grimes at sgrimes@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @steph_grimes

 

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