By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director/Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Jerry Rice annually returns to his FCS roots by handing out the national freshman of the year award that is named for him.
The FCS, of course, isn't considered "prime time" college football by some, but Rice knows what it's like to come from a smaller program and prove other people wrong. The one-time Mississippi Valley State wide receiver went on to become one of the greatest players in NFL history.
So Rice might have an edge on "Prime Time" himself, Deion Sanders, when they match wits this week as the two captains selecting the teams during the first- ever Pro Bowl draft.
Denver Broncos breakout tight end Julius Thomas (Portland State) is a little preoccupied this week to be playing in Honolulu Sunday night, so that leaves Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert (Coastal Carolina), Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (Grambling State), Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis (Alabama A&M) and Justin Bethel (Presbyterian) as FCS candidates for Team Rice and Team Sanders.
With roughly 150 former FCS players in the NFL this season, we're taking it one step further and nominating a few other players as additional candidates for the draft. The Sports Network 2013 All-FCS NFL Team is our second straight of spotlighting the former FCS players starring in the league.
There are 12 repeat selections on the 29-member team, including Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois), wide receivers Marquis Colston (Hofstra) of the New Orleans Saints and Victor Cruz (Massachusetts) of the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (Idaho State).
The depth from the FCS is provided in the secondary, which is ridiculously strong. Standouts like cornerbacks Corey Graham (New Hampshire) of the Baltimore Ravens and Buster Skrine (Tennessee at Chattanooga) of the Cleveland Browns and safeties Mike Adams (Delaware) of the Denver Broncos and Yeremiah Bell (Eastern Kentucky) of the Arizona Cardinals didn't make the cut.
And, Jerry and Deion, if you need some assistance, there are seven NFL head coaches who are alums of FCS programs. We'll let the Saints' Sean Payton (Eastern Illinois) coach this team.