Last week, longtime NFL kicker Stephen Hauschka, who began his football career at Middlebury College, officially hung up his cleats.

Hauschka is part of a small fraternity, a group of NFL players with a Vermont connection, whether they were born here or played high school or college ball here.

Hauschka was originally cut from the Panthers’ men’s soccer team, but eventually found his way to the gridiron, where he found his calling. He graduated from Middlebury and played a season as a graduate student at North Carolina State.

In this 13-year career, his biggest achievement was the Super Bowl XLVIII win with the Seattle Seahawks. Hauschka made two field goals in that game.

Let’s take a look at the small group of Vermont guys that have reached the pinnacle of pigskin.

Steve Wisniewski

Steve Wisniewski was born in Rutland, but called Houston, Texas home for his formative years.

He went on to become the star on the football field, racking up All-American honors twice at Penn State at his guard position, before moving on to the NFL and dominating there too.

In the NFL, Wisniewski is known for his time with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, where he made eight Pro Bowls, two All-Pro first teams and was a a member of the 1990s All-Decade team.

Tough to argue that he’s the most successful NFL player to be born in the Green Mountain State.

Joe ShieldJoe Shield had a cup of coffee in the NFL. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1985 and spent two seasons with them as a backup quarterback, getting into three games in 1986.

Shield was more well-known for his prowess at Trinity College. His college football career started when the starting quarterback had to come out with a broken jaw. Shield never came out after he replaced the starter and threw for 6,646 yards in college.

Shield was a standout at Brattleboro Union before landing at Trinity in Hartford, Connecticut.

Ricky ParkerRicky Parker jumped around in professional football, starting with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997, where he played in 12 games.

He moved on to NFL Europe and the Amsterdam Admirals, before playing in 14 games for the XFL’s Los Angeles Xtreme in 2001, racking up 40 tackles that season.

Parker was born in Burlington, but made much of his early football impression in California, before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1997.

Scott CurtisScott Curtis spent three seasons in the NFL and played in 41 games, starting just one.

The Burlington-born linebacker was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988 and he saw action in all 16 games that year.

In 1989, he joined the Denver Broncos, where he was a teammate of John Elway on the Super Bowl team that lost to Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers.

Pierre GarconPierre Garcon is more likely known for his college career at Mount Union, but the speedy receiver began his collegiate days at Norwich University.

In his lone season in Northfield, Garcon led the Cadets in every receiving category with 44 receptions, 13 touchdowns and 990 yards.

After his time at Mount Union, Garcon was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and was a consistent target for Peyton Manning. As a member of the then-Washington Redskins, he led the NFL in receptions in 2013.

Garcon wasn’t the only one to go from Norwich to Mount Union. Fellow receiver Chris Denton did the same during his college career.

Bob YatesBob Yates was Northeast-bred and that’s where he made his football mark.

Yates was a standout student-athlete at Montpelier High and found his way to Syracuse University, where was part of the Orange’s 1959 national title and was an offensive line All-American.

He played for the then-Boston Patriots from 1960 to 1965, before getting into coaching. He was the head coach at Gloucester High in Massachusetts, before coming back to Vermont and coaching Burlington for nine seasons.

Yates was an inaugural inductee to the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

Bob Laraba

Bob Laraba’s pro career was short, but he made an impact in those two seasons.

Laraba was born in Sheldon and played his college ball at University of Texas-El Paso, before he got drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1959. He never played for the Packers and joined the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers.

With the Chargers, the linebacker had six interceptions, five coming in 1961.

Unfortunately, his football career came to an end when he was killed in an automobile accident after his second pro season.

Paul Ricker

Paul Ricker never played in an NFL game, but was on the brink many times.

The Norwich product was cut twice by the New England Patriots in 1979 and 1980 and once again in 1985, after playing a full preseason with the Pats team that went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.

Ricker was a key receiving piece for the USFL’s Chicago Blitz and Arizona Wranglers, going to the USFL championship game with the Wranglers in 1984.

Jim Laird

Of the Vermonters who played in the first half of the 20th century, it was Jim Laird who had the most fruitful professional football career.

Laird was born in Montpelier in 1897 and played professionally from 1920 to 1931, with a break in the middle to coach at Norwich from 1923 to 1925.

Laird started his pro career with the Rochester Jeffersons and went on to play for a handful of teams, winning a NFL title with the Providence Steam Rollers in 1928 and finishing his career with Staten Island Stapletons in 1931.

He went back to coach at Norwich after his playing days.

Rutland’s Peter Bove, Fairfield’s Phil Branon and St. Johnsbury’s Gordon Patterson are other Vermont-born players to play during that time.

MSJ connections

Mount St. Joseph Academy has had a few guys that had viable NFL dreams.

Quarterback Sean Keenan was on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad during the 2000 season.

One of his coaches at MSJ also had a cup of tea in the NFL. Steve Wolf signed a contract with the Houston Oilers, following his college career at Kentucky Wesleyan, but was cut before the season.

Jason Foster was on practice squads for the Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the preseason roster for the Colts in 2012. Nowadays, you can catch him on your TV screen, where he competed on ABC’s The Bachelorette on the currently-airing season.

UVM players

Nowadays, football is a club sport at the University of Vermont, but at one time it was a varsity sport. From 1886 to 1974, UVM was a Division I club, playing its football in the Yankee Conference.

A handful of guys from those teams made it professionally., most notably Leo Douglass, who was a NFL champion in 1926 with the Frankford Yellow Jackets.

Art Harms played in 17 NFL games with the Yellow Jackets and New York Giants. Lou Little also played in 17 games, with the Buffalo All-Americans. Frank Trigilio played eight games for the Los Angeles Dons and Miami Seahawks. Frank Seyboth and Oscar Johnson both played in one game.

Paul Harasimowicz, Jack Schweberger and Jeff Kuhman were all drafted but never played in a professional game.

adam.aucoin

@rutlandherald.com

Follow on Twitter: @AAucoin_RH

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