There's nothing I'm going to say here that's better than this fine graphic the folks at UTSports.com have put together, so go check that out first.
The NFL Top 100 is voted on exclusively by the players, so being on this list actually means something. The Vols led the way in the SEC with six players in the Top 100, a number second only to Miami's ten nationally. Chad Clifton was 99th, Eric Berry 93rd, Jerod Mayo 62nd, Jason Witten 36th, Arian Foster 25th, and Peyton Manning 2nd overall (behind Tom Brady, who has more rings, so we won't have that argument in this space on this day).
It's interesting to note that the only other SEC program with more than one player on the list was Georgia with two. It's also interesting to note that Florida and Alabama have zero. The Vols need all the help they can get these days, so we'll take good news anywhere we find it and this list is certainly something to be proud of. However, getting into an "Oh yeah, well we've got more great players in the NFL!" argument with Gators and Elephants when you haven't beaten either since 2004 and 2006, respectively, is a fruitless debate, so we'll simply note it and move on.
A more fruitful debate would be, say, to point out that USC has only two players on this list - Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews - offering additional evidence to show that when Lane Kiffin took down the images of former Vols and replaced them with former Trojans during his year in Knoxville in an attempt to sell recruits on the NFL, it wasn't just arrogant, it was stupid. Videos of Matt Leinart and Dwayne Jarrett are great if you're trying to sell kids on how to lose your starting job three times or find yourself out of the league in three years. Highlights of Reggie Bush are great if you want to show how to have a Heisman Trophy taken away from you, which at least we can appreciate around here.
I guess it's not enough to have the leading rusher in the NFL. Or the guy who's fifth all-time in receptions for a tight end. Or the 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year who then made first-team All-Pro in 2010. Or the rookie safety who made the Pro Bowl. Or the guy who's spent his entire career being the left tackle for Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers. Or, you know, the guy who is Peyton Manning.
The Vols may have been down the last few seasons, but the quality of our NFL pipeline is better than any other program in the SEC, and is certainly better than Southern Cal right now. Anyone who says otherwise not only ignores the traditions of this great university, but ignores fact. If Kiffin is still trying to sell recruits on the NFL first and foremost, perhaps he should start calling USC the Tennessee of the West.
If you want to succeed in the NFL, former Vols are doing it better right now than every program in the SEC and every program in the nation outside The U. And if you're trying to sell kids on that, there's never been any need to look anywhere else for evidence.