A Look Back:  The 2001 Michigan NFL Draft Class

A Look Back: The 2001 Michigan NFL Draft Class

May 12, 2017

Mo Williams (Getty images), pick #43 of the NFL draft in 2001, started 100 games as a pro after starting for Michigan in 2000.

 Michigan had a school record 11 players drafted in 2017.  It was, for sure, a great day to be a Michigan Wolverine.  In fact, as many Wolverines were drafted in 2017 as were drafted in the four previous years combined.  In light of this, I decided to look back this week at another one of Michigan’s most successful draft classes: 2001.


The 2001 draft wasn’t as deep for the Wolverines, as only five players were picked, but it was an insanely talented and relatively unique group.  All five players were taken in the first 43 picks of the draft, and they were all from the offensive side of the ball.  


#8 Overall – David Terrell – WR (Chicago Bears).  Terrell was a beast of a high school athlete, and was a two sport star at Huguenot High School (Richmond, Va.)  He was named to the all-metro basketball team, but focused on football for college.  It was the right choice, as he was a first team All-American in 2000 and became the first Wolverine ever to compile two 1,000-yard seasons.  Simply put, Terrell didn’t have the impact on the NFL level that his college statistics would have predicted.  He caught 128 passes for 1,602 yards over four seasons with Chicago before they let him go.  After getting cut from the Bears, Terrell was signed by the Patriots where he tried to rekindle some of the chemistry he found at Michigan with quarterback Tom Brady.  It never worked out and Terrell didn’t record a catch as a Patriot.  Terrell’s pro career ended when the Chiefs cut him in favor of another ex-Wolverine, Amani Toomer.  

#17 Overall – Steve Hutchinson – OG (Seattle Seahawks).  I think one of the greatest feats an offensive lineman can pull off is becoming a household name.  They don’t pile up any counting stats, and they don’t get any of the spotlight that some of the glamour positions get, but you simply cannot win on the NFL level without an offensive line.  Steve Hutchinson became that household name for Michigan fans.  Hutchinson, a Floridian, was named to the state’s all-century team for high school football players, alongside 32 other greats like Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders, and more.  Hutchinson redshirted in 1996 and started the next four years.  He was an All-Big 10 section every year he played.  His consistency and work ethic shined at the highest level.  He was a 7 time Pro Bowler, and started all 169 games in which he appeared in the NFL.  Most lists of Michigan’s greatest linemen in the modern era begin with Hutchinson, and he is a likely NFL Hall of Famer when he is eligible in 2018.  

#18 Overall – Jeff Backus – OT (Detroit Lions).  It is a shame that Backus toiled for the entirety of his 11 year career with the Detroit Lions.  Backus played for the Wolverines from 1997-2000, and joined Hutchinson on one of the most dominant lines ever at Michigan.  The most surprising thing about Backus is that he only missed one game during his entire NFL career.  He started the other 191 contests in which his team appeared.  Backus was praised by team president Tom Lewand for his “superhuman” pain tolerance when he retired following the 2012 season.   

#38 Overall – Anthony Thomas – RB (Chicago Bears).  The Bears must have liked what they saw from the Wolverines offense in 2000, as they used their second round pick to scoop up the “A-Train.”  Thomas, a Louisiana native, was a flat-out stud on the high school level, and rewrote state record books as he left for Michigan.  Thomas continued to rewrite record books at Michigan, and graduated with the school record for total rushing yards and touchdowns.  The craziest stat he put down at Michigan, however, was the 144 yards per game he averaged as a senior in 2000.  Now in hindsight, it is easy to say that Thomas ran behind the best offensive line in Wolverine history, but check out his career highlights and you’ll see some real talent, too.  Thomas had a breakout rookie season in Chicago, and rang up over 1,100 yards en route to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.  Thomas’s production slid a bit after that, and he was eventually replaced by Thomas Jones.  He left for Dallas, when he struggled to find the field due to the emergence of ex-Golden Gopher Marion Barber.  Thomas retired following the 2007 season.  

#43 Overall – Maurice “Mo” Williams – OG/OT (Jacksonville Jaguars).  Williams was the third piece of Michigan’s monster offensive line in 2000.  Actually, he, Hutchinson, and Backus shared the Hugh Rader Award for best Michigan lineman as seniors.   His senior year was the only year he started for the Wolverines, but his dominant frame (6’5”, 300 pounds) really took Michigan’s line to new heights.  He went on to have a successful NFL career, and started 100 games for Jacksonville and Denver, before retiring in 2010.  

We may never see 5 Michigan offensive players taken in the first 43 picks of the NFL Draft again.  The offensive linemen ended up having the best NFL careers, but the two skill position players, especially Thomas, helped define success at Michigan in the middle of the Lloyd Carr era.


  1. Comments: 1356
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    May 12, 2017 at 6:52 AM

    Two questions

    When did the “modern era” of professional football begin?

    Shined or shone?

    I’m thinking shone because the the verb here is intransitive, but I really don’t care one way or the other.

    • Comments: 34
      Joined: 2/24/2017
      Mike Knapp
      May 12, 2017 at 10:32 AM

      As for the “modern era” thing – My brain subconsciously divides Michigan football into three large “eras:” Pre Bo (everything before 1969), Bo (1969-89), and Post Bo (1990-present). I guess modern era to me is Post-Bo. Not sure that holds water, but that’s just the way my brain works.

      As for the shined/shone thing – I’m pretty sure you’re right. I should be embarrassed; I just taught a similar lesson to my high school students. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

      • Comments: 1356
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        May 13, 2017 at 6:40 AM

        Yeah, the pre-Bo, Bo, post-Bo thing is how I view Michigan football, but where do eras begin and end in the NFL?

        I really don’t perceive mush in the way of a change in play beyond the slow, but relentless move from a Running Backs league on offense to a Quarterbacks league, but that has been the trend for most of my lifetime.

        Personally, I think there are only two periods in Pro Football, Lions were good and Curse of Layne.

        But somebody else might have a more reasoned/less biased approach.

  2. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    May 12, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    Not only did all the 2000 OL starters play in the NFL – they all started there… as rookies! Williams/Backus/Hutchinson of course. Goodwin was drafted the next year and start 120+ games in the NFL too. But the least heralded of the group was David Brandt. While he didn’t get drafted, he did also start a game his rookie season in the NFL:


    The 2000 OL was the greatest in modern Michigan history and I don’t think it’ll ever be matched.

    • Comments: 34
      Joined: 2/24/2017
      Mike Knapp
      May 12, 2017 at 11:05 AM

      I completely agree. Something about the combination of talent, development, competition, and luck (regarding injuries) pushed that line into a class of its own. Any line that can produce a back averaging 144 yards/game (before the spead-to-run, mind you) is dominant.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        May 12, 2017 at 4:26 PM

        The top 3 RBs all averaged 5.4 ypc or better. That includes talented backs like Thomas and Perry but also Walter Cross. The RBs that returned in 2001 (Perry and Cross) saw their YPC drop significantly.

        That team was very influential in my view that OL is a bigger factor in run-game production than RB. The pass-game had a good bit of talent too though (Henson, Terrell, Walker).

  3. Comments: 262
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Painter Smurf
    May 13, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    Boy, that brings back memories. 2000 was the year of missed opportunities. Offense was totally loaded, defense was so so. Passing game was lethal, especially with how well that OL pass blocked. But it was only unleashed in spurts, especially in crunch time. Would have been a great year to jump on opponents from the opening kickoff.

You must belogged in to post a comment.