"The term ‘Shutdown Corner’ originated with Roger Wehrli. There wasn’t a better cornerback I played against. He was a great, great defensive back. You had to be aware of him all the time." – Roger Staubach
Currently there are 14 former
The term shutdown corner was coined specifically for Wehrli. For fourteen seasons (1969-1982) he pestered opposing quarterbacks, intercepting 40 passes and piled up 898 all-purpose yards. He also scored 9 touchdowns and recovered 19 fumbles over the course of his career. At most schools that would be enough to take the honor of greatest NFL player produced by the program but the Tigers also had a player named Kellen Winslow make some noise in the NFL.
Before Winslow, the tight end was mostly a blocking and short yardage receiving position. Winslow had the size to be an effective blocker but also the speed, strength and hands to stretch the field as a receiver. From 1979-1987 Kellen Winslow caught 541 passes for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns. He surpassed the 1,000 receiving yards mark three times in his career including the current NFL record for tight ends of 1,290 yards.
When you compare these two former greats they are literally neck and neck. Both are in the Hall of Fame, both were multiple Pro Bowl selections (7 for Wehrli, 5 for Winslow) and both are among the greatest to ever play their positions.
It isn’t an easy decision and really could go either way but I’m picking Wehrli for two reasons. First, longevity – Wehrli played five more seasons than Winslow did. The second and most important factor in my decision is that while Winslow shared the spotlight with Ozzie Newsome, John Mackey and Dave Casper in redefining the role of the tight end, Wehrli stood alone in developing the role of the shutdown corner.
Roger Wehrli was taken with the 19th pick in the 1969 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.