Seven former Hilltopper Football players represented WKU in the NFL during the 2014 season, a program record that included six of the seven being on active 53-man rosters.
WKU’s emergence as a consistent winner at the FBS level has resulted in the production of professional players that have succeeded early in their NFL careers over the past three seasons. The 2014 season proved to be the most collectively successful for former Hilltoppers in the NFL as the six active players combined to play in 70 games, score four touchdowns and make 26 tackles.
Three former players, Jack Doyle and Andrew Jackson of the Indianapolis Colts along with Quanterus Smith of the Denver Broncos, aided their teams to division titles and postseason berths.
Former All-American running back Bobby Rainey rushed for over 400 yards and tacked on more than 300 receiving yards while scoring a pair of touchdowns for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his third season in the NFL. The versatile back has scored eight touchdowns for the Bucs over the past two seasons and is tied with Jeremi Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals 2003-09) for the most NFL touchdowns scored by a former Hilltopper.
Doyle, a 2012 John Mackey Award semifinalist for WKU, played in every game for the Colts’ top-ranked passing offense and hauled in a career-best 18 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He scored his first-career touchdown on Monday Night Football versus the Philadelphia Eagles and added another score in a Week 17 win at Tennessee. Doyle’s touchdown catch against the Titans gave quarterback Andrew Luck his league-leading 40th scoring toss of the year. He consistently lined up at fullback and was also a major special teams contributor, which led to high praise from head coach Chuck Pagano.
“He’s doing a great job. Jack, he’s a warrior man,” Pagano told the media on Sept. 25. “Whatever you ask Jack to do, he’s going to go out and get the job done. I love Jack Doyle, that whole locker room loves Jack Doyle. You can’t have enough Jack Doyle’s around.”
Jackson, a three-time All-Conference linebacker for the Hilltoppers who was selected by the Colts in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, was a major special teams contributor for Indianapolis this season and made a career high five tackles and recorded his first-career sack in the regular-season finale at Tennessee. He totaled 10 tackles and a sack during his rookie season, where he was active for 13 games.
Smith was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft after leading the FBS in sacks as a senior for the Tops but missed his rookie season due to injury. He bounced back nicely in his second season, making 11 tackles and breaking up two passes as a reserve for Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware. He’s a consistent presence in Denver’s defensive line rotation and helped the Broncos tie for the best record in the AFC (12-4).
Two-time All-American running back Antonio Andrews was activated late in his rookie season by the Tennessee Titans and saw action primarily on the kick return team. He played significant snaps at running back in the Titans’ regular-season finale versus the Colts and hauled in his first two career catches for 11 yards.
Jonathan Dowling, who led the FBS in forced fumbles in 2013 and was a two-time All-Conference safety for WKU, played in seven games for the Oakland Raiders as a rookie. He was used primarily as a gunner on special teams and made four tackles before being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 6. Dowling was drafted by Oakland in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Former Hilltopper defensive back Derrius Brooks spent the first half of the season on the Buccaneers practice squad before landing on injured reserve with a leg injury of Oct. 27.
Doyle and Jackson kick off postseason action for the pro Hilltoppers this Sunday when the Colts host the Bengals on Sunday at 12 p.m. (CT) on CBS. Smith and his Broncos have a first-round bye and will host a divisional game on Jan. 11 at 3:40 p.m.