The 2012 NFL season officially kicks off tonight, when the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants play host to the Dallas Cowboys.
While there are no former Kansas University football players on either roster, the Jayhawks are fairly well represented throughout the rest of the league, which begins play from coast to coast on Sunday.
Here’s a quick look at those former Jayhawks set to kickoff their NFL seasons this weekend:
Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Washington Redskins
Briscoe will begin his third NFL season with his third NFL team, as the former Cincinnati Bengal and Tampa Bay Buccaneer made the final cut with Washington and will enter the season as a third-string wideout with the Redskins. The former sixth-round pick played in all four of Washington’s preseason games, recording six catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Anthony Collins, OL, Cincinnati Bengals
The former Orange Bowl champion and fourth-round pick will begin his fifth season with the Bengals as the team’s back-up left tackle. Collins played in all four of the Bengals’ preseason games this year and has played in 39 games in four years, with 18 starts at tackle. He played just seven games of the 2011 season because of injury.
Chris Harris, CB, Denver Broncos
Harris, who surprised everyone last season by, first, making the Broncos’ roster, and then becoming a starter and one of the NFL’s top defensive rookies, held off a challenge this preseason to keep his job. Denver added a couple of veterans and a couple of rookies to compete with Harris, but the team’s nickel back was still standing at the end of the preseason. Harris appeared in all 16 games a season ago and made four starts. He finished with 72 tackles and one interception.
Steven Johnson, LB, Denver Broncos
Following in Harris’ footsteps as an undrafted free agent rookie to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster, Johnson was one of seven linebackers kept by the Broncos this preseason. The heart and soul of KU’s defense who led the Jayhawks in tackles in both 2010 and 2011, also led the Broncos in tackles in the preseason, making 16 stops, with a sack and a forced fumble. Johnson currently is listed as the Broncos’ backup at middle linebacker behind Joe Mays.
Mike Rivera, LB, New England Patriots
One of the truly great stories of all the former Jayhawks still playing is Rivera, who, after playing for five teams in four seasons, made an opening-day roster for the first time this year, when the Patriots added him to their final 53-man list. Rivera played in all four of New England’s preseason games and led the team with 18 tackles, including 15 solo stops. During his career, Rivera also has made stops in Chicago, Tennessee, Green Bay and Miami.
Darrell Stuckey, S, San Diego Chargers
The Kansas City, Kan., native and former fourth-round pick is set to begin his third season in San Diego as a second-string safety. Stuckey played in two games and made two tackles this preseason and is coming off of a 2011 season in which he played mostly on special teams and finished with 12 tackles.
Aqib Talib, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After putting offseason legal trouble behind him, Talib returns to the Bucs for his fifth season and fourth as a starter. The former Orange Bowl hero is listed as Tampa Bay’s starter at left cornerback. In 2011, he made 34 tackles, broke up 11 passes and recorded two interceptions in 13 starts. A year earlier, Talib was fifth in the NFL with six interceptions. The former first-round selection has recorded 161 tackles during his four-year career.
Jayhawks in the CFL
In addition to those seven guys, two former Jayhawks currently are playing in the Canadian Football League. Tailback Jon Cornish is in his sixth season with the Calgary Stampeders and has recorded 642 yards and four touchdowns on 119 carries. For his career, the native Canadian has rushed for 2,512 yards and 16 touchdowns while hauling in 73 catches for 491 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver.
Former KU wide receiver Marcus Henry is in his second year with the Edmonton Eskimos, but has been on injured reserve throughout the 2012 season. In 2011, Henry snagged 33 catches for 384 yards and a touchdown.