UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A total of 38 Penn State football alumni are populating the rosters of 23 National Football League teams as the 2020 season begins Thursday. Thirty-two made 53-man rosters, while three are on practice squads, two will start the season on injured reserve and Jordan Lucas opted out of the season due to concerns over COVID-19. In addition, there are two Nittany Lions — men’s lacrosse alum Chris Hogan and men’s basketball alum Ross Travis — on the New York Jets who did not play football at Penn State, bringing Penn State’s grand total to 40.
Penn State’s opening day NFL representation is at its most since at least 2006 and surpasses its high of the last 15 years of 34 (2018). The Nittany Lions’ 32 alums on active rosters are also its most since at least 2006 and surpasses its best mark of the last 15 years of 29, which was reached four times (last in 2019).
Two Nittany Lions enter the season as team captains, as defensive lineman DaQuan Jones (Tennessee) and running back Saquon Barkley (New York Giants) were both elected as such.
The Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers boast a league-high three Penn State football alums each. Jason Cabinda, Jesse James and Amani Oruwariye return for their second season together in the Motor City, while Barkley welcomes a pair of former teammates in free agent acquisition Austin Johnson and rookie Cam Brown. Tampa Bay will entrust a pair of veteran Nittany Lion linemen with protecting newly acquired quarterback Tom Brady, as Donovan Smith is set for his sixth season with the Bucs and nine-year veteran A.Q. Shipley is set for his first. Wide receiver Chris Godwin will sport a new number (14) for his fourth season in Tampa Bay after giving his familiar No. 12 to his new quarterback.
Nine teams – Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Tennessee - each have two Penn State alums. Sixteen-year vet and San Francisco All-Pro placekicker Robbie Gould is Penn State's elder statesman, while linebacker Sean Lee, who will start the season on injured reserve, returns for his 11th season with the Cowboys. Two-time Super Bowl champion Stefen Wisniewski joins the Steelers in 2020 for his 10th NFL season after starting for the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs last season.
A total of eight players from Penn State's 2019 Cotton Bowl champion team are on NFL rosters. Yetur Gross-Matos (Carolina Panthers), KJ Hamler (Denver Broncos), John Reid (Houston Texans), Dan Chisena (Minnesota Vikings) and Cam Brown (New York Giants) are on active rosters, while Robert Windsor (Indianapolis Colts) and Nick Bowers (Las Vegas Raiders) will start the season on the practice squad and Blake Gillikin (New Orleans Saints) will start the season injured reserve.
Additionally, seven former Nittany Lions are members of NFL coaching staffs, led by first-year Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. Also among the ranks are Tom Bradley (Pittsburgh, defensive backs); Bobby Engram (Baltimore, tight ends); Al Golden (Cincinnati, linebackers); D'Anton Lynn (Houston, secondary), Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Munchak (Denver, offensive line) and Jeff Nixon (Carolina, senior offensive assistant/running backs).