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Next-Level Tigers

Ten Mizzou players join NFL rosters

Ten Mizzou football players have joined the ranks of Tigers in the NFL through the NFL Draft and free agency. Following a season during which Mizzou finished 12-2 with an SEC East title and the Cotton Bowl trophy, it's no surprise to see so many Tigers getting a shot at football's highest level. See where your favorite Mizzou stars ended up.

DL Kony Ealy — Carolina Panthers (second-round pick)

kony

Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy is the latest Tiger defensive lineman to be taken in the NFL Draft, joining Sheldon Richardson (2013 first round pick by the New York Jets), Aldon Smith (2011 first round pick by the San Francisco 49ers) and Ziggy Hood (2009 first round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers).

Ealy, a junior, was a first-team All-SEC defensive end. He had 43 tackles in 14 games (starting all 14) and was among league leaders in both tackles for loss (14.5) and quarterback sacks (9.5). He also led the Tiger defense in quarterback pressures (14) and forced fumbles (3), including one in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn that was returned by teammate E.J. Gaines for a touchdown. Ealy broke up six passes on the year (second on the team) and returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown in a road win at Indiana.

OL Justin Britt — Seattle Seahawks (second-round pick)

Justin Britt

Justin Britt

When Justin Britt was taken with the final pick of the second round, it marked the highest a Tiger offensive lineman has been drafted under coach Gary Pinkel and was the highest offensive-line pick since tackle John Clay went to Oakland with the 15th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft.

Britt finished his senior season in top form, holding down the left tackle position for all 14 games. He and his fellow lineman helped the 2013 Mizzou offense set a school record with 3,330 rushing yards.

CB E.J. Gaines — St. Louis Rams (sixth-round pick)

E.J. Gaines

E.J. Gaines

E.J. Gaines became the highest-drafted Mizzou cornerback since 1983, when Demetrious Johnson was a fifth-round pick. Gaines finished with a career-best 75 tackles and five interceptions on the way to earning first-team All-SEC recognition.

He had nine tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown against Auburn in the SEC Championship. The week before, he recorded six tackles against Texas A&M and held first-round receiver Mike Evans to just four catches for eight yards in the Tiger win. Gaines was also a first-team All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore.

DE/LB Michael Sam — St. Louis Rams (seventh-round pick)

Michael Sam

Michael Sam

Michael Sam was one of the nation's top pass rushers this year, and he became the second unanimous first-team All-American in Mizzou football history. Sam, who was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in both tackles for loss (19.0) and quarterback sacks (11.5), as he notched 48 tackles on the season. On May 7 Sam was named a recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, after coming out as the nation's first openly gay NFL-bound football player.

Sam was constantly involved in big plays during Mizzou's magical 12-2 season, including a 21-yard scoop-and-score fumble return touchdown at Georgia and a sack/strip late in the fourth quarter of the Cotton Bowl to clinch the win. He becomes the ninth Mizzou defensive lineman to be drafted under the tutelage of defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski.

QB James Franklin — Detroit Lions (free agent)

James Franklin

James Franklin

As a senior in 2013, James Franklin appeared in 10 games, missing four due to injury. He finished the season with 2,429 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. Franklin also amassed 510 yards on the ground with another four touchdowns.

RB Henry Josey — Philadelphia Eagles (free agent)

Henry Josey

Henry Josey

Henry Josey was one of college sports' best stories in 2013, coming back from a catastrophic knee injury and a year off the field to be the leader of Mizzou's offense. He had 1,166 yards on 174 carries (6.4 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns on the ground, adding another score on a reception.

WR L'Damian Washington — Dallas Cowboys (free agent)

L'Damian Washington

L'Damian Washington

L'Damian Washington was one of Mizzou's most explosive players in 2013, with 50 receptions for 893 yards (17.9 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns. An ESPN feature leading up to the draft showed just how far the Louisiana native has come.

WR Marcus Lucas — Dallas Cowboys (free agent)

Marcus Lucas

Marcus Lucas

The big-bodied Marcus Lucas was a monster for the Tigers' offense this season. The 6-foot-5 receiver caught 58 passes for 692 yards and three touchdowns, and he was also a key blocker in Mizzou's all-time best rushing season.

TE Eric Waters — Pittsburgh Steelers (free agent)

Eric Waters

Eric Waters

Tight end Eric Waters was often a blocker and helped Mizzou to an all-time best 3,330 rushing yards. In the pass game, he caught eight passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.

LB Andrew Wilson — Miami Dolphins (free agent)

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson, a native of Peculiar, Mo., was an unstoppable force for the Tigers' defense this season. The senior became Mizzou's all-time leader in tackles by breaking his father's record and was named the Defensive MVP in Mizzou's Cotton Bowl win with 15 tackles.

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