Top 5 defensive backs to play at Rutgers

In its 150-year history as one of the oldest collegiate football programs, the Rutgers football team has consistently produced NFL players on the defensive side of the ball, particularly the secondary.

Since the turn of the 21st century, nine Scarlet Knights have been drafted between rounds 1 and 7 of the NFL Draft. As of this past weekend, that list now includes senior defensive backs Blessuan Austin, who was selected by the local New York Jets, and Saquan Hampton, who was picked by the New Orleans Saints.

The secondary, consisting of safeties and cornerbacks, are responsible for covering the wide receivers and the running game at certain points. Having a speedy group of defensive backs is critical to a team's defensive success in stopping the offense from scoring.

While many Rutgers players have played the role of defensive backs, here are five standouts who were a part of some of the Knights' best teams throughout history:

Logan Ryan

Logan Ryan was a member of Rutgers' secondary for only three seasons between 2010 and 2012. But, while on the Banks, the former four-star recruit captured numerous honors such as First Team All-Big East and first-team All-American during his junior year in 2012.

Ranked as the No. 32 defensive back in his freshman class of 2010, Ryan played in 11 games, but it was his sophomore season where he became one of the marquee cornerbacks in the Big East. In his second season on the Banks, the Berlin, New Jersey native tallied 67 total and 48 individual tackles after earning the starting job in the spring of 2011. 

That year was also the year he was a second All-Big East honoree. In the Knights' New Era Pinstripe Bowl win over Iowa State, Ryan had seven tackles and one interception.

After he was drafted in the third round by New England in 2013, Ryan was a part of the Patriots' Super Bowl XLIX and LI teams. In the 2015 season, he started 14 of 16 games at corner back. 

He is currently with the Tennessee Titans, but was sidelined with a broken fibula last season. 

Jason McCourty

Alumnus defensive back Jason McCourty was known in the Big East as a lockdown cornerback along with being one of the conference's top kickoff returners. 

McCourty earned the starting role in the secondary during his sophomore season in 2006, the same year Rutgers had one of its best seasons, going 11-2 and finishing it off with a No. 16 ranking in the Associated Press polls.

In 2006, McCourty capped off his sophomore season with 45 total tackles. He was a part of the Knights defense that ranked seventh in total defense nationally, allowing opposing defenses 106.8 yards per game.

McCourty's senior season featured career highs in solo tackles (33), total tackles (52)and 12 passes deflected. The Nyack, New York native also finished second in the Big East in kickoff returns.

After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by Tennessee, McCourty would spend seven seasons with the Titans. His career year with the team was 2011, when he finished the season with 83 total tackles while combining for 103. 

He was reunited with his twin brother, Devin, this season in New England. They became the first pair of twins to win a Super Bowl together when the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams. 

Billy Austin

Regarded as a two-way player as a defensive back and a running back, and a standout lacrosse player, Billy Austin left an impact on Rutgers Athletics. 

He recorded 13 interceptions, including the third-longest interception return for a touchdown in Knights history. Against Richmond in October of 1957, he picked off a pass, running it in the end zone for a touchdown.

In 1958, Austin finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy ballot as a running back. 

Courtney Greene

Between 2005-2008 alumnus defensive back Courtney Greene was an instrumental part of a Rutgers defense that consistently was ranked in the top 20 on ESPN's total defensive efficiency ratings.

Greene's name fills the Knights' record books with numerous top-five category placements like his 386 total career tackles and his 219 solo tackles. 

A New Rochelle, New York native like former Rutgers running back standout Ray Rice, Greene was a part of the Knights' starting lineup since his freshman season in 2005. He instantly made his name known in Piscataway, leading the team with 116 tackles.

When Rutgers completed one of its most noteworthy seasons in 2008, Greene was an instrumental part of the defense, picking off four passes.

Greene was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He last played with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012.

Devin McCourty

Along with his brother, Jason, alumnus defensive back Devin McCourty was a vocal member of the Knights' defensive unit between 2006-2008 after redshirting his freshman year. McCourty shared the cornerback role with his brother.

In 2008, his senior season, McCourty made a career-high 49 total tackles and 31 assisted tackles. During last season on the Banks, he was selected to the All-Big East first team.That season, he had a career-high 80 tackles while averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff return.

McCourty has spent his nine-year professional football with the Patriots, who drafted him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He is a three-time Super Bowl champion  and a two-time Pro Bowl selection. McCourty has consistently been one of the premier safeties in the NFL.

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