You never know where greatness will come from. For all those stud NFL players who find themselves taken in the first round of the draft, there are others — the overlooked ones — who get their shot and use that opportunity to wreak havoc on all the teams who made the mistake of passing them over.
For those associated with the NFL, missing out on an eventual superstar is a tough pill to swallow. If only these individuals could’ve known that said player was going to grow into something special, perhaps things would’ve turned out differently. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20. Still, just because a person can’t predict where a superstar will come from, that doesn’t mean they can’t tell you where a player will likely come from.
Thanks to a study performed by AreaVibes, we now know which cities produce the most NFL players. In order to come to this conclusion, the folks at AreaVibes used the following methodology:
We collected player information from Sports-Reference.com sites related to baseball, football, basketball, and hockey to determine pro athlete birth states and cities. We compared the number of players by state per 100,000 residents and by city per 10,000 residents. The graphic titled “Athletic Hometowns” shows the cities with the highest total number professional athletes by place of birth.
Some cities give birth to more NFL players than others. Which towns top the list? See for yourself.
Players per 10K residents: 5.2
Not everyone born in the city of Cleveland finds their way to the NFL. However, based on this particular study, it sure doesn’t hurt. Per AreaVibes, the city has produced just over five players per 10,000 residents. One such individual is Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, who’s been to four straight Pro Bowls (2013–16), earned one First-Team All-Pro honor, and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy back in 2015.
Players per 10K residents: 5.3
Cleveland isn’t the only city in Ohio that sends players to the NFL. According to AreaVibes, Cincinnati gives birth to 5.3 players per 10,000 residents. If you’re a Carolina Panthers fan, this has definitely worked out in your favor, as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly was born in The Queen City.
For those who don’t know, since entering the league back in 2012, all he’s done is make four Pro Bowls and garner three First-Team All-Pro selections. Anyone who’s watched Kuechly play over the years knows that the former Boston College standout is only getting started.
8. New Orleans
Players per 10K residents: 5.5
New Orleans, La. sends its fair share of residents to the NFL; 5.5 players per 10,000 residents to be exact. Yet, we’re not sure if any of those individuals have had a greater impact on the game than Eli Manning and his big brother, Peyton. Football has seen some historically great quarterbacks over the years. But “The Sheriff,” well, let’s just say he took the position to rarefied heights.
7. St. Louis
Players per 10K residents: 5.6
Although St. Louis is better recognized for its contributions to Major League Baseball, it’s impossible to overlook everything the city brings to the NFL. Sure, the Rams organization opted to take their talents elsewhere, but at least that decision didn’t influence running back Ezekiel Elliott’s eventual rise to superstardom. Some players, like Zeke, were simply born to entertain.
6. Pensacola, Fla.
Players per 10K residents: 5.7
Coming in at No. 6 on the list is Pensacola, Fla.; a city that gives birth to 5.7 NFL players per 10,000 residents. Seattle Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin is among those individuals who were born and raised in this particular city. Given the success of the state’s college programs, it’s hardly surprising to learn Florida has a legit pipeline to the National Football League. And we haven’t even gotten to…
Players per 10K residents: 6.0
Miami, obviously. According to AreaVibes’ study, Miami, Florida is No. 5 on the list with six players per 10,000 residents. As you can imagine, we could choose to focus on plenty of individuals from this area. However, we opted to acknowledge Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper.
Taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, the former Alabama star has amassed over 70 catches and 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons in the league, resulting in two straight selections to the Pro Bowl. His NFL future, like so many other players born in Miami, is bright.
4. Birmingham, Ala.
Players per 10K residents: 6.5
Birmingham, Ala. has a history of producing NFL players. As AreaVibes notes, out of 10,000 residents, 6.5 players reach the peak level of professional football. One such individual is Buffalo’s Marcell Dareus, who’s made two Pro Bowls and earned one All-Pro honor since entering the league out of Alabama back in 2011. Something tells us Birmingham will continue to be the birthplace for NFL players for years to come.
Players per 10K residents: 6.5
Although the Steelers couldn’t stop the New England Patriots from representing the AFC in the upcoming Super Bowl, the city of Pittsburgh still has plenty to be proud of. After all, with 6.5 players per 10,000 residents, the town is one of the top producers of NFL talent in the country. Something we’re sure Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino (pictured above) feels good about.
2. Canton, Ohio
Players per 10K residents: 7.5
Canton, Ohio is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This something most, if not all, NFL fans already know. What they may not know, however, is that the city produces the second-most players — per 10,000 residents — according to AreaVibes. It’s only fitting that we use Dan Dierdorf (pictured above) as the example of what this city has to offer. After all, not only was he born in Canton, but he has a matching bust residing in the city as well.
1. Youngstown, Ohio
Players per 10K residents: 10.6
When it comes to cities that produce the most NFL players, no town is better represented than Youngstown, Ohio. According to AreaVibes, Youngstown gives birth to nearly 11 players per 10,000 residents; by far the most out of any American city. Perhaps there’s just something in the water.
Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.
To see the complete “Hometown Heroes” study, courtesy of AreaVibes, click here.