Season Review -- Cougars in the NFL

Keisel wrapped up his stellar post season play by recording three solo tackles in the Super Bowl.

Former BYU Cougars made a tremendous impact on the 2005 NFL season. Former Cougars' impact was felt strongest on football's grandest stage -- the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers had three former Cougars on their 53-man roster. No other college program had more than BYU's three former players on the Steelers' roster (Georgia and North Carolina also had three). BYU had four players total on both Super Bowl teams' 53-man rosters. Only Florida State (6) and Georgia (5) had more players on the Super Bowl rosters. Last season's National Champion, Texas, had three former players on the Super Bowl rosters, while runner-up USC had two players. Among Mountain West Conference teams, Colorado State and Utah had two players on the Super Bowl rosters, while Air Force and TCU had one each.

Aside from making an impact in the Super Bowl, former Cougars also left their mark among the NFL statistical leaders during the regular season and playoffs. Philadelphia Eagles all purpose back Reno Mahe led the NFL in punt return average with an average of 12.8 yards per return. On the other side of the ball, Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel found himself among the playoff league leaders. Keisel led all NFL defensive linemen with two sacks and led all NFL players with one forced fumble in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, former Cougar coaches continued their remarkable success as NFL head coaches. Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren became only the fifth coach to take two franchises to the Super Bowl and was attempting to become the first coach to win Super Bowls with two different franchises. A head coach with BYU ties has coached in two straight Super Bowls (Holmgren and Andy Reid), three of the past six (Holmgren, Reid, and Brian Billick), and five of the past ten Super Bowls (Holmgren three times, Reid, and Billick).

The following is a list of former BYU players and coaches who contributed to their NFL teams' success during the 2005 NFL season:

Ben Archibald

(T, Saints): Archibald played in 6 games in his rookie year. He made the Saints squad after going undrafted out of BYU.

Colby Bockwoldt

(LB, Saints): In only his second year, Bockwoldt started all 16 games at right side linebacker for the Saints and led the team in total tackles with 89. Bockwoldt finished the season third in solo tackles (60) and first on the team in assisted tackles (29). The former Cougar also recorded 3 pass deflections and recovered a fumble on the season. Bockwoldt has played in all 32 games for the Saints since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2004.

John Denney

(DE, LS, Dolphins): John finished his rookie season with 4 total tackles, including 2 solo. John also played in all 16 games for the Dolphins as their special teams long snapper.

Ryan Denney

(DE, Bills): Ryan, John's older brother, continued his solid NFL career with the Bills after being drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft. Ryan finished the season with 45 tackles, including 28 solo. Denney's 45 tackles ranked him second on the Bills in tackles among defensive linemen. Denney also had 4 sacks, which tied him for second on the Bills. He also finished the year with 3 pass deflections and one fumble recovery. Against younger brother John's Dolphins on October 9th, Denney recorded 4 solo tackles and 1 sack in the Bills' victory. John's Dolphins balanced the scales, however, with a victory in Miami on December 4th.

Ty Detmer

(QB, Falcons): Former Heisman Trophy Winner Ty Detmer finished his 14th year in the NFL. Ty spent the season on the sidelines as a mentor to superstar QB Michael Vick. Atlanta is Detmer's sixth NFL team.

Justin Ena

(LB, Eagles): Justin ended his 4th season in the NFL and continued his stellar performance on special teams. Ena recorded 9 tackles, including 8 solo, on the season. Ena played in 6 games after signing with the Eagles at mid-season.

Aaron Francisco

(DB, Cardinals): Francisco played in 11 games in his rookie season after making the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. Aaron finished his rookie campaign with 7 total tackles, including 5 solo.

Travis Hall

(DE, 49ers): Travis wound up his 11th year in the NFL as a 49er after ten seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Hall played in all 16 games and started one game for San Francisco. Hall recorded 18 tackles, including 12 solo, on the season. He also added 2 forced fumbles, a half sack, and one pass deflection. In his one start against Seattle on December 11th, Hall registered 4 tackles, including 3 solo, a half sack, and a forced fumble to pace the 49ers. Travis was originally drafted in the sixth round of the 1995 draft.

Chris Hoke

(NT, Steelers): Chris Hoke played in every game but one for the Super Bowl champion Steelers. Hoke recorded 6 tackles, including 3 solo, from his nose tackle position during the season. He rose to the occasion during the Steelers' road to the Super Bowl, recording 4 tackles, 3 solo, in the playoffs. He also registered a sack, which tied him for second among Steeler defensive linemen in the playoffs. Hoke registered one solo tackle in the Steelers' Super Bowl XL victory.

Scott Jackson

(OL, Buccaneers): Jackson, in his second season with Tampa Bay, originally joined the Bucs as a college free agent. Jackson spent the 2004 season on the practice squad but was promoted to the Bucs' active roster early in the 2005 campaign. Tampa Bay finished the season 11-6 after losing to Washington in the NFC Wild Card game.

Doug Jolley

(TE, Jets): Fourth-year veteran Doug Jolley played in all 16 games and started 7 games for New York. Jolley led all Jets tight ends with 29 receptions, 324 receiving yards, and 1 receiving touchdown. Jolley ranked third on the Jets among all offensive players in receptions and receiving yards. Jolley averaged 11.2 yards per reception on the season and his longest reception of 60 yards was the fourth longest among all NFL tight ends and the longest reception among all Jets offensive players. Against Miami on December 18, Jolley registered 9 catches for 102 yards and scored a touchdown. Doug was originally drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft by the Oakland Raiders.

Brett Keisel

(DE, Steelers): Keisel, in his fourth season with Pittsburgh, played in all 16 games and recorded 33 tackles, including 23 solo for the Super Bowl champs. He also finished with 3 sacks on the season, good enough to rank second among Steeler defensive linemen. Keisel also finished with 2 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In addition, Keisel returned two kickoffs for a total of 23 yards.

Notably, Keisel saved his best performances for the Steelers' run to the Super Bowl. Keisel recorded 3 solo tackles in the Super Bowl. Keisel's three solo tackles tied him for second most among all defensive linemen in the Super Bowl. His three total tackles ranked him third among all defensive linemen in the Super Bowl. Keisel's impressive Super Bowl performance capped a playoff run that left him among league and team leaders in various defensive categories. In the playoffs, Keisel led all NFL defensive linemen with two sacks. Four other defensive linemen had two sacks in the playoffs, including All-Pros Michael Strahan and Richard Seymour. Keisel also finished tied for third among NFL defensive linemen with nine total tackles in the playoffs. All-Pro Julius Peppers led the league with eleven total playoff tackles. Keisel's eight solo tackles also tied him for third among NFL defensive linemen in the playoffs. Peppers led the league with ten solo playoff tackles. In addition, Keisel's forced fumble tied for the NFL lead among all defensive players in the playoffs. Keisel's two playoff sacks, which led all NFL defensive linemen, also ranked him third among all Steeler defenders. Keisel also led all Steeler linemen with eight solo tackles and tied for the team lead among linemen with nine total tackles. Brett was originally drafted in the seventh round by Pittsburgh in the 2002 draft.

Chad Lewis

(TE, Eagles): Lewis sat out half of the 2005 season due to injury after helping the Eagles reach the Super Bowl last season. Lewis totaled 5 receptions and 64 yards in eight games. The three-time Pro-Bowl selection concluded his ninth season in the NFL after going undrafted out of BYU.

Reno Mahe

(RB, Eagles): Mahe led the NFL in punt return average (12.8 yards) in only his third professional season. He returned 21 punts for a total of 269 yards, including a long of 44 yards. In addition to leading the NFL in punt returns, Mahe had 20 carries for 87 yards, good enough for a 4.4 yards per carry average. He also had 12 receptions for 68 yards and returned one kickoff for 19 yards. Mahe also contributed without a ball in his hands, recording 7 tackles, 5 solo, and recovering a fumble on special teams.

Itula Mili

(TE, Seahawks): Mili's ninth season with Seattle was limited to two games as he struggled with injuries. The Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. For his career, Mili has 154 receptions, 1674 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns. Mili still holds the Seahawks franchise record for receptions in a season by a tight end, with 46. He also held the franchise record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end until this season.

Larry Moore

(OL, Bengals): Moore's eighth NFL season was limited to four games after he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Moore's Bengals advanced to the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years, only to lose to Pittsburgh in the AFC Wild Card game. Moore has played in 93 games and started 73 games in his career.

Rob Morris

(LB, Colts): Morris played in 14 games in his sixth season with the Colts. He registered 29 tackles, including 22 solo, on the season. Morris also added 2 pass deflections and one fumble recovery. Morris had 2 tackles in the Colts' divisional playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Rob was drafted by Indianapolis in the first round, 28th overall, in 2000.

Shaun Nua

(DE, Steelers): Rookie Shaun Nua was drafted by the Steelers in the seventh round of the 2005 draft. Nua joined Chris Hoke and Brett Keisel as one of three former Cougars along the Steelers' defensive line that helped Pittsburgh win the franchise's fifth Super Bowl.

Brady Poppinga

(LB, Packers): After being drafted in the fourth round, rookie Brady Poppinga immediately impacted the Packers by recording 28 tackles, including 23 solo. Poppinga also added 2 sacks. He played in 12 games for Green Bay before injuring his knee and having to sit out the remainder of the season. As fate would have it, Poppinga injured his knee against Detroit in the game in which he got his first career start.

Gabe Reid

(TE, Bears): Reid played in all 16 games this year after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. He also started 3 games. Reid had three receptions for 20 yards on the season, while also registering six solo tackles on the Bears' special teams.

John Tait

(T, Bears): In his seventh year in the NFL, veteran John Tait started all 15 games he played in while helping the Bears win the NFC North. Tait is in his second year with the Bears after signing a free agent deal before the 2004 season. In the last six years, Tait has started in all of the 91 games in which he has played. He was drafted in the first round, 14th overall, in the 1999 draft.

Scott Young

(G, Eagles): Young was drafted in the fifth round by the Eagles after the spectacle he caused at last year's NFL Combine when he came within two repetitions of the Combine's record for bench press. He joined fellow Cougars Reno Mahe and Chad Lewis in playing for head coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

COACHES

Brian Billick

(Head Coach, Ravens): In his seven years with Baltimore, Coach Billick has led the Ravens to the playoffs three times. His Ravens won the Super Bowl in only his second year with the team. Billick graduated from BYU, where he earned All-Western Athletic Conference and honorable mention All-America honors in 1976 as a tight end. Billick also served as a graduate assistant coach at BYU under Coach LaVell Edwards during the 1978 season.

Norm Chow

(Offensive Coordinator, Titans): In 2005, Norm Chow ended his prestigious collegiate coaching career when he became the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Chow has worked with three Heisman Trophy winners (Ty Detmer, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart) and has been on three collegiate national championship teams (BYU 1984, USC 2003, 2004). Chow coached at BYU from 1973 to 1999.

Mike Holmgren

(Head Coach, Executive VP of Football Operations, Seahawks): In 2006, Holmgren became one of only five coaches to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl (Packers). The Seahawks had the second best record in the NFL, as Holmgren continued the franchise's great turn around. Had the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, Holmgren would have become the first head coach to win Super Bowls with two different franchises. Holmgren joined the Seahawks in 1999. In 2003, the team recorded its first double-digit win total since 1986. He also coached the squad to their first NFC West title in 2004. Holmgren was the quarterbacks coach at BYU under Coach LaVell Edwards from 1982 to 1985.

Jim Lind

(Tight Ends Coach, Seahawks): Jim Lind finished his seventh season as tight ends coach for the Seahawks. Under Lind's tutelage, Seattle's Jerramy Stevens led all NFL tight ends in postseason receptions and touchdowns, and finished second in receiving yards. Lind served as a graduate assistant to Coach LaVell Edwards from 1981 to 1982.

Andy Reid

(Head Coach, Executive VP of Football Operations, Eagles): Coach Reid began his seventh season as head coach of the Eagles as the winningest coach in franchise history. He has twice been voted NFL Coach of the Year. He coached the Eagles to four consecutive NFC championship games before reaching the Super Bowl last season. Reid played tackle and guard for BYU from 1979-1981 before joining the coaching staff in 1982 as a graduate assistant to Coach LaVell Edwards.

Mike Sheppard

(Offensive Coordinator, Saints): Sheppard was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator for the 2005 season. Sheppard coached at BYU from 1977 to 1978. New Orleans' head coach and coaching staff were replaced after the 2005 season.

Ted Tollner

(Tight Ends Coach, Lions): Tollner served as the Lions' offensive coordinator and then tight ends coach during the 2005 season. Tollner was the quarterbacks coach at BYU in 1981 under Coach LaVell Edwards. Detroit's head coach and coaching staff were not retained for next season.

DeWayne Walker

(Cornerbacks Coach, Redskins): Walker spent the past two seasons as the secondary coach for the Washington Redskins but will not return to Washington as he was named defensive coordinator at UCLA in January of this year. In 2005, the Redskins defeated Tampa Bay in their Wild Card playoff game before losing in the second round to Seattle. Under Walker, the Redskins' pass defense ranked first in the NFL in lowest opponent passing percentage and second (tied) in fewest passing touchdowns allowed. Walker spent one season coaching at BYU in 1994.

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