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.
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