2024 College Football Players With NFL Fathers Headlined by Shedeur Sanders and Antonio Gates Jr.

    A handful of NFL sons are set to be drafted this April, but there are still plenty of other college football players with NFL fathers playing next season.

    Pedigree goes a long way in athletics, which was on full display at the NFL Combine this past weekend. Players like Marvin Harrison Jr., Frank Gore Jr., and Brenden Rice demonstrated the athletic traits they inherited from their fathers in an effort to follow in their footsteps to the NFL.

    As those players will soon join the NFL sons of NFL fathers fraternity, plenty of others across the current college football landscape could follow suit when their collegiate careers are finished. Let’s look at a handful of college football sons of prolific former NFL players.

    Top 5 College Football Players with NFL Fathers

    Antonio Gates, Jr., WR, Michigan State

    Antonio Gates Sr. was a six-time All Pro selection at tight end for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers (2003-2018), and was recently snubbed of a Pro Football Hall of Fame induction his first year eligible. We’ll eventually see his bust in Canton, but until then, we can watch his son, Antonio Gates Jr., catch passes for the Michigan State Spartans.

    After taking a redshirt as a true freshman in 2022, Gates Jr. played in all 12 games off the bench for the Spartans last season. He caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in his first season of action. That’s five more passes than Gates Sr. caught in college, who famously played basketball, not football, at Kent State before embarking on his dazzling NFL career.

    Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado

    Prime Time, Neon Deion, Coach Prime, whatever moniker you choose, the name Deion Sanders is synonymous with football. If you know football, you know who he is. Now he’s making a name for himself as the head coach of the Colorado Buffalos, and he shares an especially close relationship with the Buffs signal-caller.

    Shedeur Sanders had some FBS offers out of high school, originally committing to FAU, but he followed his dad to Jackson State when he was hired in 2021.

    He then followed him to Colorado before this season, throwing for 3,230 yards, 27 touchdowns, and three picks in 11 games. While Shedeur gets most of the headlines, his brother, Shilo, is also making waves at safety with Colorado, leading the team in tackles in 2023.

    E.J. Smith, RB, Texas A&M

    Emmitt Smith (III) is one of the most decorated running backs in NFL history as the league’s all-time leader in rushing yards with 18,355 yards. He won three Super Bowls, the 1993 NFL MVP, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

    His son, Emmitt “E.J.” Smith IV, played his first four seasons at Stanford (2020-2023), with injuries slowing him down until he played the full season in 2023. After gaining 557 yards rushing and 386 receiving with six touchdowns for the Cardinal, Smith transferred to Texas A&M in January.

    Cristian Driver, WR, Minnesota

    Donald Driver went from near homelessness as a child to a seventh-round NFL Draft pick in 1999 as a WR out of Alcorn State. From there, he made four Pro Bowls, won Super Bowl XLV, and made the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame after grabbing 741 catches for 10,137 yards and 61 touchdowns, all with the Packers (1999-2012).

    His son, Cristian Driver, spent his first two seasons playing sparingly at Penn State (2022-2023) before transferring to Minnesota this offseason. He was listed as an ATH and played special teams with the Nittany Lions, but he is listed as WR with the Gophers, the position he played in high school — and the same position his father thrived at.

    Mason Taylor, TE, LSU

    After a star career playing football and basketball at Akron (1993-1996), Jason Taylor enjoyed a 15-year career in the NFL, 13 playing for the Miami Dolphins (1997-2007, 2009, 2011). With six Pro Bowls, three All-Pro selections, and earning 2006 NFL Defensive MVP, Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

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    His son, Mason Taylor, has an advantage over others on this list with two Hall of Fame family members. His uncle, Zach Thomas, was Taylor’s teammate on the Dolphins from 1997-2007. Now Mason Taylor is on his way to being one of the top tight ends in the country, amassing 75 catches for 762 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons with the LSU Tigers (2022-2023).

    Complete List of College Football Players With Fathers Who Played in the NFL

    • Antonio Gates Jr., WR, Michigan State
    • Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado
    • E.J. Smith, RB, Stanford
    • Mason Taylor, TE, LSU
    • Christian Harrison, DB, Tennessee
    • Eden James, RB, Howard
    • Cole Pennington, QB, Marshall
    • Owen McCown, QB, UTSA
    • Carson Bruener, LB, Washington
    • Joey Hobert, WR, Texas State
    • Drew Donley, WR, Texas State
    • Shilo Sanders, S, Colorado

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