Heading into the start of the 2014 football season, at least four former South Dakota State standouts were in training camps of National Football League teams, continuing the Jackrabbits’ long tradition of developing players into pro prospects.
Headlining the list is Adam Vinatieri of the Indianapolis Colts. Vinatieri has earned a reputation as one the most consistent and clutch kickers in the NFL. After two Pro Bowl selections (2002, 2004), he left New England following the 2005 season as the team’s career scoring leader. Vinatieri’s career totals include 448-of-540 on field goal attempts, 83 percent, and 2,006 career points. He ranks fifth in career scoring, seventh in career field goals and 15th in career field goal percentage in NFL history. He holds the second-longest streak of consecutive 100-point seasons to start a career in NFL history with 13 — a streak that ended during an injury-plagued 2009 campaign — and is tied for the all-time NFL record with 16 career 100-point seasons.
Vinatieri also has excelled in the postseason. He holds the distinction of being the only kicker in NFL history to play in five different Super Bowl games, and made a field goal in four of those games. He kicked last- second game-winning field goals in Super Bowl XXXVI against St. Louis and Super Bowl XXXVIII versus Carolina, as well as a game-tying 45-yard field goal in a snowstorm against Oakland in the 2001 AFC Playoffs. His career postseason totals include 51-of-61 on field goals, and he shares the NFL single-game postseason record with five field goals — a feat he has accomplished twice.
Vinatieri’s field goal totals also are NFL postseason records, as are his 213 points. Vinatieri began his professional career with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe before signing with the New England Patriots in 1996.
Also in training camps this summer were three Jackrabbit standouts who completed their collegiate careers in 2013. Doug Peete and Bryan Witzmann reached free-agent agreements with the Houston Texans, while Winston Wright suited up for the Tennessee Titans.
Peete was a four-year letterman at defensive end who earned second-team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors in 2012, when he led the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and shared the team lead with six sacks. Peete closed his career by earning honorable mention all-MVFC accolades after tallying 70 total tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Witzmann started all 49 of his games of his Jackrabbit career at left tackle. He was a two-time All-America selection from both The Sports Network and Associated Press.
Wright was a three-year starter at cornerback who earned all-MFVC honors his sophomore and senior seasons. A two-time team captain, he earned third-team All-America honors from the Sports Network after sharing the team lead with four interceptions and adding 52 tackles.Three other former Jackrabbits were members of NFL teams in recent years, including Danny Batten, who became the first Jackrabbit player in 11 years to be drafted, when he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. A defensive end in college, Batten moved to linebacker at the professional level. He spent the entire 2010 season on injured reserve after being injured in training camp his rookie season, then played in all 16 games — four starts — in 2012. He tallied 25 tackles and recovered a fumble.
Also on NFL rosters were tight end Colin Cochart and wide receiver Dale Moss. Cochart signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals following his senior season in 2010 and caught five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown in 10 games — three starts — during his rookie season in 2011. He later saw action with the Dallas Cowboys.
Moss, who signed with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent following the 2012 NFL Draft, played only one year of football at SDSU after four years as a member of the Jackrabbit basketball team. In 2011, Moss shared the team lead with 61 receptions for a team-high 949 yards. He also scored six touchdowns. Moss also spent stints with the practice squads of the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers.
Other Jackrabbit players who received free agent tryouts in recent years include:
• Casey Bender, offensive lineman, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts
• Cole Brodie, defensive back, Jacksonville Jaguars;
• Zach Carter, defensive lineman, Buffalo Bills;
• Derek Domino, linebacker, Denver Broncos;
• Parker Douglass, kicker, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets — Douglass spent the 2010 season kicking for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League.
• Mitch Erickson, offensive lineman, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks;
• JaRon Harris, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers;
• Chris Johnson, linebacker, Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears;
• Ryan McKnight, offensive lineman, Cincinnati Bengals;
• Eric Schroeder, defensive lineman, Minnesota Vikings;
• Chris Wagner, tight end, Oakland Raiders;
• Andrew Wagstrom, offensive lineman, Miami Dolphins.
Three other Jackrabbit players wrapped up successful professional careers in recent years.
Adam Timmerman, who played in Super Bowls as a member of both the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Rams, ended his 12-year NFL career after the 2006 season. Timmerman was a Pro Bowl selection in 1999 and 2001.
Josh Ranek made a name for himself in the Canadian Football League, earning league all-star recognition three times. An original member of the expansion Ottawa Renegades, he posted three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons from 2003-05 and posted more than 6,800 all-purpose yards.
The last SDSU player drafted before Batten, tight end Steve Heiden, played 11 NFL seasons and recorded 201 receptions for 1,689 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Originally drafted by San Diego in the third round of the 1999 draft,
Heiden, a native of Rushford, Minn., played three seasons with the Chargers before being traded to Cleveland prior to the start of the 2002 season. He recorded a career-high 42 catches for 401 yards in 2005. Heiden is currently an assistant coach with the Arizona Cardinals.
John Beasey • 1924, Green Bay
Weert Englemann • 1930-33, Green Bay
Ray Jenison • 1931, Green Bay
Israel Ginsberg • 1935, Boston
Alfred Arndt • 1935, Pittsburgh, Boston
Paul “Whitey” Miller • 1936-38, Green Bay
Mark Barber • 1937, Cleveland
Robert Pylman •1938-39, Philadelphia
Doug Eggers •1954-57, Baltimore; 1958, Chicago Cardinals
Jerry Welch • 1955-56, Calgary (CFL)
Dominic “Dick” Klawitter • 1956, Chicago Bears
Pete Retzlaff • 1956, Detroit; 1956-66, Philadelphia
Wayne Rasmussen • 1964-74, Detroit
Ron Meyer • 1966, Pittsburgh
Darwin Gonnerman • 1969-70, Ottawa (CFL)
Jim Langer • 1970-79, Miami; 1980-81, Minnesota
Tim Roth • 1971-77, Saskatchewan (CFL)
Phil Engle • 1973, Birmingham (WFL)
Lynn Boden • 1975-78, Detroit; 1979, Chicago
Bill Matthews • 1978-81, New England; 1982-83, New York Giants; 1984, Denver Gold (USFL)
Chuck Loewen • 1980-84, San Diego
Bruce Klostermann • 1986-89, Denver; 1990-91, Los Angeles Raiders
Mike Busch • 1987, New York Giants
Brian Sisley • 1987, New York Giants
Doug Miller • 1993-94, San Diego
Dean Herrboldt • 1995-96, British Columbia (CFL)
Adam Timmerman • 1995-98, Green Bay; 1999-2006, St. Louis
Adam Vinatieri • 1996, Amsterdam (WFL); 1996-2005 New England;
Steve Heiden • 1999-2001, San Diego; 2002-09 Cleveland
Josh Ranek • 2002, Dallas; 2002-05, Ottawa (CFL); 2006, Hamilton (CFL); 2007, Edmonton (CFL),
Scott Connot • 2004-06, Kansas City
Mitch Erickson • 2008-09, Denver (practice squad); 2010, Seattle
Parker Douglass • 2008, California (UFL); 2009, Las Vegas (UFL)
Chris Johnson • 2010, Arizona/Chicago (practice squad)
Danny Batten • 2010-2012, Buffalo
Colin Cochart • 2011, Cincinnati; 2012, Dallas
1951: Harry Gibbons, back, Chicago (20)
1951: Dick Peot, tackle, Detroit (28)
1953: Pete Retzlaff, back, Detroit (22)
1955: Jerry Welch, back, Baltimore (22)
1956: Dick Klawitter, center, Chicago (8)
1957: Harwood Hoeft, end, Baltimore (24)
1958: Wayne Haensel, tackle, N.Y. Giants (25)
1959: LeRoy Bergan, tackle, Baltimore (17)
1961: Leland Bondhus, tackle, Green Bay (19)
1962: Joe Thorne, back, Green Bay (12)
1962: Ron Frank, tackle, San Francisco (16)
1964: Wayne Rasmussen, back, Detroit (9)
1966: Ron Meyer, quarterback, Chicago (7)
1966: Ed Maras, end, Green Bay (20)
1970: Tim Roth, defensive end, Oakland (16)
1973: Phil Engle, tackle, Green Bay (11)
1975: Lynn Boden, tackle, Detroit (1)
1975: Jerry Lawrence, tackle, Houston (8)
1976: Todd Simonsen, tackle, Houston (6)
1976: Bob Gissler, defensive end, Miami (14)
1978: Bill Matthews, linebacker, New England (5)
1980: Chuck Loewen, offensive lineman, San Diego (7)
1986: Bruce Klostermann, linebacker, Denver (8)
1993: Doug Miller, linebacker, San Diego (7)
1995: Adam Timmerman, offensive lineman, Green Bay (7)
1999: Steve Heiden, tight end, San Diego (3)
2010: Danny Batten, defensive end, Buffalo (6)
Note: Number in parentheses indicates round selected
For South Dakota State University fans, the 2002 Super Bowl game was the second Adam Bowl.
In the 1997 Super Bowl, two former Jackrabbits faced each other in the game between the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots. Adam Timmerman, was the starting right guard for the Packers, while Adam Vinatieri was the placekicker for the Patriots.
In 2002, they met again; this time Timmerman with the St. Louis Rams and Vinatieri with the Patriots. Vinatieri not only kicked the winning field goal in that game, but did it again in the 2004 Super Bowl.
Timmerman played in two Super Bowls for the Packers, then signed with St. Louis as a free agent and started for the 2000 Super Bowl champs, also going on to play in the Pro Bowl.
Vinatieri has, in effect, provided the winning points in three Super Bowls since his field goal in the 2005 game was the margin of victory. In addition, former Jackrabbit Brad Seely (1975-77) was the special teams coach for the Patriots in four Super Bowls. Seely currently is special teams coach and assistant head coach with the San Francisco 49ers.
Timmerman and Vinatieri are the fourth and fifth former SDSU players to appear in a Super Bowl game. Jim Langer was the starting center for the Miami Dolphins in three Super Bowls.
• Jim Langer, Miami Dolphins, 1972-73-74 (from Royalton, Minn.)
• Bruce Klostermann, Denver Broncos, 1988, 1990 (from Dyersville, Iowa)
• Doug Miller, San Diego Chargers, 1995 (from Sturgis, S.D.)
• Adam Timmerman, Green Bay Packers, 1997-98, and St. Louis Rams, 2000, 2002 (from Cherokee, Iowa)
• Adam Vinatieri, New England Patriots 1997, 2002, 2004, 2005, and Indianapolis Colts, 2007, (from Rapid City, S.D.)