Maybe the football world has just been spoiled in the past decade or so, but the University of Miami is now a hotbed for making talented wide receivers and tight ends. There were skillful tight ends in the early glory days of the 1980s who didn’t put up gaudy statistics like the ones today but who’ve still helped shine the light on Miami as delivering some of the best players at the position. Young fans will recognize plenty of names on this list, as the success has only gotten stronger as the years have passed. Below are the top five tight ends to play for the Miami Hurricanes.
5. Bubba Franks (1996-99)
Born: Riverside, California
Weight: 265 lbs
Franks redshirted his first season on campus, but that did not diminish the footprint he left on the program. Franks was well-renowned for his one-handed catches and menacing frame. While today it’s practically expected, standing at 6’6″ and weighing 265 lbs was still noteworthy in the late ’90s. This helped Franks earn Big East honors two separate times and break the Hurricane record for touchdowns by a tight end, recording 12. Things would only get better, as Franks was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers with the 14th pick.
Franks would play nine seasons in the NFL with the Packers (2000-07) and New York Jets (2008) making three Pro Bowls from 2001-2003. He caught passes from one of the best ever in Brett Favre, who quarterbacked Franks for every one of those seasons. Franks would record seven or more touchdowns in three seasons, being emphasized mainly in the team’s run game as a blocking tight end. Despite the heavy lifting, Franks played in all 16 regular season games for seven of his nine seasons, proving himself to be durable. He retired after the 2008 season after playing in only eight games that year and the season prior.
4. Kellen Winslow Jr. (2001-03)
Born: San Diego, California
Weight: 240 lbs
Winslow, the son of San Diego Charger Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, didn’t burst onto the scene when he arrived in South Florida, but that was due largely to having an established teammate ahead of him. He still contributed in roles on special teams and played a role on a team that won the 2001 BCS National Championship. Winslow would live up to the bill in his next two seasons, catching 57 passes for 726 yards for eight touchdowns. Those set single-season records for Miami tight ends. He would have a monster performance in the 2002 BCS title game with 122 yards receiving on 11 passes and scoring a touchdown. In his final season, his production dropped noticeably, recording just 605 yards on 60 receptions and only one score. He still received the John Mackey award, given to the best college tight end, and was unanimous first-team All-American.
Winslow would be drafted by the NFL’s Cleveland Browns with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft. He would play five seasons with the team (2004-2008) before heading to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-11), Seattle Seahawks (2012), New England Patriots (2012) and New York Jets (2013).
He made the Pro Bowl in 2007 but otherwise has been a large disappointment from where he was drafted. For a career that’s currently on hold, he has 469 receptions for 5,236 yards and 25 touchdowns.
3. Jimmy Graham (2009)
Born: Goldsboro, North Carolina
Weight: 265 lbs
The Oklahoma Sooners and the Miami Hurricanes at Land Shark Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Graham’s career has been well-documented. Playing just one season of football at Miami, he spent four seasons as a basketball player at The U before taking his gifts from hardwood to gridiron. The lone season was good enough to get Graham drafted by offensive genius and head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton. The team took Graham in the 2010 NFL Draft with the 93rd pick in the third round. It was a pick chosen strictly on athletic prowess, as Graham only recorded 213 receiving yards on 17 balls in 13 games in 2009. However, in that short time, he proved to be a red zone threat, scoring five touchdowns.
Graham shoots up the list largely because of NFL success. Spending his first five seasons in the Big Easy (2010-2104), Graham was traded prior to the 2015 season to the Seattle Seahawks. In his seven seasons, he has been a Pro Bowler three times and has posted a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. He has played in no fewer than 11 games in any year and has scored 59 touchdowns on 499 receptions for 6,280 yards. When all’s said and done and Graham calls it quits, he could very well be higher on this list.
2. Greg Olsen (2003-2006)
Born: Paterson, New Jersey
Weight: 255 lbs
Like Graham, Olsen is still writing his football story, so his future success will only catapult him higher. Graham originally enrolled at Notre Dame but then transferred to Miami in 2003. He was a part of some down years at Miami, a program that was fresh off a pair of National Championship appearances. Olsen stumbled out of the gate, redshirting his first season due to a shoulder injury and then sitting behind Kevin Everett in 2004. By 2005, the starting tight end position was his and he amassed 1,235 receptions and six touchdowns in just two seasons. The limited action was still good enough to be taken in the first round 31st overall by the Chicago Bears in the 2007 NFL Draft.
From 2007-2010, his time in Chicago, Olsen made his name as a precise route runner. Ridiculed often for not bringing traditional tight end skill, Olsen made up for it with a vote to the All-Rookie team in 2007. The Bears didn’t think Olsen was worth paying big bucks to prior to free agency, so the team traded him to the Carolina Panthers where he has earned three Pro Bowl nods (2014-16) since his first season in 2011. Additionally, Olsen was voted second-team All-Pro for the 2015 season.
In a career that started off slow in both college and NFL, Olsen is finally reaching his stride having received 7,365 career yards on 622 receptions and 52 scores.
1. Jeremy Shockey (1999-2001)
Born: Ada, Oklahoma
Weight: 250 lbs
3 Jan 2002: Jeremy Shockey #88 tight end of Miami makes a catch during the Rose Bowl National Championship Game versus Nebraska at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Shockey set the standard of what was to come at the tight end position for Miami. Following Franks, he established himself as a very good blocking tight end after sitting most of the 1999 season. In 2000, he was proven worthy of receiving more passing opportunities after recording just 200 receiving yards and three touchdowns but also rewarded with Big East honors from coaches. In 2001, Shockey received 519 yards and seven scores in just 11 ballgames. He would be taken by the New York Giants in the 2002 NFL Draft with the 14th overall pick.
Shockey only improved with time, making the Pro Bowl in four of his first five seasons (2002-03, 2005-06). After spending the first six seasons in New York, Shockey went to the New Orleans Saints (2008-10) where he won a Super Bowl and then the Carolina Panthers for the final season of his career (2011).
Shockey was often controversial for his brash comments both on and off the field, but he possessed the best traits in both run and pass responsibilities for tight ends. In an NFL career that totaled nine seasons, Shockey received 547 passes for 6,143 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Overall, he has been the most impactful Miami tight end product at both the collegiate and professional level.