6 Greatest NFL careers in Iowa football history

Who were the Hawkeyes that made the biggest impact at the next level?
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While not the most lauded factory for NFL talent, the Iowa Hawkeyes have given more than their fair share of NFL legends over the years.

Over 300 players who once wore the Black & Gold for Iowa have gone on to play in the NFL. A whopping 290 of them have been drafted, and more are well on the way.

In the 2024 NFL Draft, Iowa will see at least three players drafted with a hopeful fourth. Still, it's not a necessity. Two of the players on this list weren't drafted, after all.

But who exactly makes up that list? To answer the question, we'll use Pro Football Reference's Weighted Approximate Value metric.

For those unfamiliar, a player's Approximate Value (AV) is specific to Pro Football Reference designed to be a "single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year." Conversely, a player's weighted AV is a method of balancing players out. Each player's AV is calculated with "100% of the player's best season, plus 95% of his 2nd-best season, plus 90% of his 3rd-best season, plus 85% of his 4th-best season, and so on."

With that in mind, it's not a perfect science. In fact, there's one player on this list that Pro Football Reference doesn't have a proper Weighted Approximate Value for.

So, with the formalities out of the way, let's look back on the Hawkeye program's greatest NFL careers.

. Jay Hilgenberg. 6. . 57. Jay Hilgenberg. 1982-1993. Jay Hilgenberg. player. Defensive Tackle

We get started with Jay Hilgenberg, a center who makes this list as one of two undrafted players. Hilgenberg entered the league in 1981 with the Chicago Bears and didn't start a game until 1983.

After starting eight games in '83, Hilgenberg earned the starting position in Chicago and went on to have a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Unfortunately, though he's been nominated for the hall, he's yet to be inducted.

Hilgenberg blocked for Walter Payton, so to tout the Bears rushing stats during his time would be underselling what Hilgenberg brought to the table. Nonetheless, Hilgenberg commanded an offensive line that paved the way for Payton and eventually a Super Bowl title.

Hilgenberg was named to seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. Pro Football Reference graded his career WAV at 83 and his Hall of Fame resume at 59.10, a few ticks below the lowest-ranked center in the Hall of Fame. While the wait could go on for several more years, hopefully, the Iowa City native will soon be rightfully enshrined in Canton.