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Scouting the States in Search of N.F.L. Talent

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Earlier today, Paul Westerdawg published an interesting piece at the Georgia Sports Blog regarding the top 10 states for producing N.F.L. talent.

The N.F.L.'s numbers show that the most well-represented states in the National Football League are, in order: California (199), Florida (179), Texas (176), Georgia (90), Ohio (78), Louisiana (76), Pennsylvania (58), Michigan (50), Virginia (49), and South Carolina (48).

This correlates pretty strongly with the top 10 college football programs represented on N.F.L. rosters, seven of which are located in one of the aforementioned top 10 states.

Lots of these guys are playing on Sundays . . . by which I mean Californians, not Clausens, of course.

My initial thought upon seeing those numbers was to ask the same question posed by an anonymous commenter: "How does that work out on a per capita basis?" Although Dante took a stab at calculating those figures, I took a slightly different approach and reached similar conclusions.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the following figures represent the respective populations of the top 10 states in terms of N.F.L. talent, as of April 1, 2000:


  1. California - 33,871,648
  2. Florida - 15,982,378
  3. Texas - 20,851,820
  4. Georgia - 8,186,453
  5. Ohio - 11,353,140
  6. Louisiana - 4,468,976
  7. Pennsylvania - 12,281,054
  8. Michigan - 9,938,444
  9. Virginia - 7,078,515
  10. South Carolina - 4,012,012

Based upon those figures---the most recent official census numbers in our possession---here is how the top 10 states rank on a per capita basis, rounded off to the nearest whole number:

  1. Louisiana - 1 N.F.L. player per 58,802 people
  2. South Carolina - 1 N.F.L. player per 83,584 people
  3. Florida - 1 N.F.L. player per 89,287 people
  4. Georgia - 1 N.F.L. player per 90,961 people
  5. Texas - 1 N.F.L. player per 118,476 people
  6. Virginia - 1 N.F.L. player per 144,460 people
  7. Ohio - 1 N.F.L. player per 145,553 people
  8. California - 1 N.F.L. player per 170,209 people
  9. Michigan - 1 N.F.L. player per 198,769 people
  10. Pennsylvania - 1 N.F.L. player per 211,742 people

Given the disparities in population, the Buckeye State and the Old Dominion are turning out N.F.L. talent approximately at an identical clip---roughly one out of every 145,000 babies born in either state will grow up to play football professionally on Sundays---even though Ohio has almost 30 more of its native sons in the National Football League than Virginia can claim.

Ohio and Virginia turn out N.F.L. talent approximately at the same rate. In the comparatively less important competition to determine which state can produce more presidents of the United States, Ohio leads Virginia by a 6-4 margin.

The Golden State, on the other hand, produces the most total talent by a fair-sized margin, occupying first place by a gap of 20 total players. However, given its population, California actually lags behind other football-producing states on a per capita basis. If, for instance, California produced N.F.L. talent at the same rate as Louisiana, the Golden State would have 576 players in the league.

Interestingly, Georgia ranks fourth by either measure, whether we use raw numbers or a per capita breakdown, and babies born in the Empire State of the South are about equally as likely to end up in the N.F.L. as those from the Sunshine State.

Go 'Dawgs!