The 2015-16 National Football League season saw several UCF alumni have major impacts on their respective teams. Week one of the NFL season saw 14 former Knights in the mix, including 2015 NFL Draft picks Breshad Perriman and Clayton Geathers. That number increased to 20 former Knights being on active 53-man rosters by the end of the NFL season.
The players making the biggest impact on their teams were quarterback Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars, running back Latavius Murray of the Oakland Raiders and wide receiver Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets.
Blake Bortles, who was the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Jaguars, finished the 2015 season with 4,428 passing yards, ranking sixth in the NFL. With 35 touchdowns thrown, he was second only to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Bortles set the Jaguars’ franchise record in passing touchdowns, completions and passing yards this season, and became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 35 touchdowns and rush for at least one in a single season.
Latavius Murray, who was drafted by the Raiders in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft, ended the season fourth in the NFL in rushing at 1,035 yards in his first season as Oakland’s starting running back. Those 1,035 yards ranked first in the AFC, and his 1,242 all-purpose yards ranked in the top 20 of the league. Murray was also able to tally six rushing touchdowns on the year. Murray became the first UCF alumnus to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.
Brandon Marshall, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft, put together a Pro Bowl year with the New York Jets, making it his sixth trip to the Pro Bowl. Marshall broke the Jets franchise record in three categories including receptions with 109, reception yardage with 1,502 yards and reception touchdowns with 14. He became the first player in NFL history to have six seasons with more than 100 catches. With the assistance of Jets wide receiver Eric Decker, the duo broke a record for each having a touchdown in the same game nine separate times this season — an NFL single-season record.
These UCF alumni have made an impact on this NFL season like no other trio of alumni has done this year. Bortles, Murray and Marshall have combined for 57 touchdowns this season, more than any other trio from any other college in the country. Detroit Lions kicker and former UCF player Matt Prater also made NFL history by setting a franchise record for longest made field goal with a 59-yarder going through the uprights. Prater already has the NFL record for longest field goal ever made with a 64-yard kick occurring during his years with the Denver Broncos.
Bortles’ Jaguars finished their season with a 5-11 record. Murray and the Raiders concluded their season with a 7-9 record, and Marshall’s New York Jets ended the year with a 10-6 record. However, the Jets missed the playoffs due to a loss to Buffalo, which allowed Pittsburgh to advance.
Jimmy Calhoun is a senior staff writer for the Central Florida Future.