The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl has a history of producing elite and NFL talent. With a quickly growing roster of Bowl alumni, we decided to look back at the last five years and pick a player from each game to spotlight:
2010 - Zach Brown, LB (North Carolina) - North Carolina 30 vs. Tennessee 27 (2OT)
Brown entered his junior year at North Carolina having started six games as a sophomore and playing mostly special teams his freshman year. Brown’s stock sky-rocketed in 2010, placing second on the team in tackles (72) and serving as captain of the special teams despite starting only five games (but playing in all 13). Brown’s debut in Nashville at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl was a sign of things to come: he posted three tackles, one for a loss, and snagged a drive-killing interception that he returned 43 yards, leading to a North Carolina field goal.
Brown followed up his successful junior season with tremendous senior year, receiving numerous accolades (including being named as a Butkus Award semi-finalist). He led the team in tackles (105), 5.5 sacks (second on the team), and posted 13.5 stops-for-loss, totaling 49 yards.
Brown’s success his senior year caught the eye of the Titans, where they took him 52nd overall in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Brown has been a leader for the Titans defensive unit, starting 32 of 39 games to this point in his career (Brown missed most of the 2014 season with a torn pectoral muscle). In his time in Tennessee, Brown has posted some impressive stats: 223 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 11 passes defended, five interceptions returned for 204 yards, and two defensive touchdowns.
2011 – Fletcher Cox, DE (Miss. State) – Mississippi State 23 vs. Wake Forest 17
Cox, hailing from Yazoo City, MS, came to Mississippi State as a four-star recruit and one of the best defensive end prospects in the country. Cox was a major contributor for the Bulldogs in his first two years (as a true freshman and sophomore) and didn’t slow down his junior season. That year, Cox posted 56 tackles, five sacks, 14.5 tackle-for-loss, three QB hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble return for 52 yards, and two kicks/punts blocked.
Coming into the 2011 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Mississippi State one of the top-tier defensive units in the country. Cox didn’t disappoint. He posted seven total tackles, one sack, two tackles-for-loss, and blocked one field goal attempt early in the 2nd quarter as Mississippi State defeated Wake Forest 23-17.
Cox decided to enter the NFL draft following his junior year where the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to snag him at 12th overall in the 1st round. Cox has been productive for the Eagles since his rookie season, and has started every game this year and the past two seasons. Cox’s breakout year came in 2014, when he posted 61 tackles, four sacks, and one forced fumble.
Cox is off to a red-hot start this year. Through seven games, Cox has 24 tackles, five sacks, one pass defended and three forced fumbles, including a three-sack, two-forced fumble performance against the Saints last weekend.
2012 – Jordan Matthews, WR (Vanderbilt) – Vanderbilt 38 vs. North Carolina State 24
Matthews, who saw action and a starting role all four years he was at Vanderbilt, is the most prolific WR in Vanderbilt history (and one of the most productive in SEC history). He holds virtually every career and single-season Vanderbilt receiving record.
Matthews saw time in every game as a true freshman (2010), eventually working his way into the starting lineup in the final game of the season. Matthews came alive as a sophomore, hauling in 36 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns in the last seven games of the year. His junior year (2012), Matthews established himself as one of the best receivers in the country. He amassed 1,323 yards (a school record), 94 catches (2nd highest in school history and tied for 2nd all-time in the SEC), and added eight touchdowns.
Coming into the 2012 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Matthews was arguably one of the hottest receivers in the country, posting a three-game stat line of 26 receptions, 415 yards, and four touchdowns. His performance against NC State was quiet, but effective. Matthews hauled in seven passes for 61 yards to lead Vanderbilt in receiving. He also added one touchdown late in the 2nd quarter which helped put Vanderbilt ahead 28-14 at halftime. Vanderbilt would go on to win the game and finish 9-4 on the season. It was Vanderbilt’s first 9 win season since 1915 and the first time they would finish the season ranked in the top-25 since 1948.
Matthews continued to torment opponents his senior year and received numerous accolades, including being named 1st Team All-American, a consensus 1st team All-SEC, a Biletnikoff Award semi-finalist, and being named to the Maxwell Award Watch List. His senior season, Matthews had 112 catches (an SEC/Vanderbilt record), 1,477 yards (a Vanderbilt record and 3rd highest ever in SEC history) and seven touchdowns. Matthews finished his collegiate career as the all-time leader in the SEC with 262 receptions for 3,759 yards.
In back-to-back years, the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to draft an SEC standout. This time, the honor belonged to Jordan Matthews, taken 42nd overall in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL draft. In his young NFL career, Matthews has already started 14 games and has seen action in every game since joining the Eagles. Since being drafted in 2014, Matthews has posted 106 receptions for 1,270 yards and nine touchdowns.
2013 – Jeremiah Attaochu, DE (Georgia Tech) – Ole Miss 25 vs. Georgia Tech 17
Originally from Nigeria, Attaochu attended Georgia Tech coming in as the17th best prospect in the mid-Atlantic region (Superprep). As a true freshman Attaochu played in 12 games recording 23 tackles, and 3 sacks. The next three years were just as successful. As a senior, Attaochu’s 12.5 sacks tied for fourth-most in school history. He received All-American honors from two different sources, first team All-ACC (coaches) second team All-ACC (media) and invited to play in the Senior Bowl. In the final regular season game of his senior year, Attaochu notched a career-high four sacks and eight tackles in Georgia Tech's upset bid of Georgia (they fell just short, 41-34 in 2OT).
Attaochu was the defensive leader for the Yellow Jackets coming into the 2013 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against Ole Miss. Attaochu recorded five tackles and half a sack during the game. The half sack put him in the Georgia Tech record book with 31.5 sacks for his collegiate career, breaking Tech's previous all-time record.
However, the Ole Miss offense, led by QB Bo Wallace, proved to be too much for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Nashville as they won 25-17.
Jeremiah Attaochu entered the 2014 NFL Draft as one of the top-ranked outside linebackers in the draft. The San Diego Chargers drafted Attaochu with the 50th overall pick in the 2nd round. In his rookie season Attaochu played in 11 games recording 10 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 pass deflections in a spot-playing role.
Attaochu earned the starting job at OLB for the Chargers heading into the 2015 season. Through six games played, Attaochu has notched 21 tackles and four sacks, including two-sack performances against Cleveland and Green Bay.
2014 – Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU) – Notre Dame 31 vs. LSU 28
Leonard Fournette, this season’s Heisman frontrunner, had some big games in his freshman year at LSU, but none bigger than the 2014 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against Notre Dame (albeit in a losing effort). The world took notice that night in Nashville.
Coming into the game, Fournette had 891 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also the team’s primary kick returner, but had yet to take one to the house. That would all change against Notre Dame.
Against Notre Dame, Fournette rushed 11 times for 143 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown run (as well as an eight yard touchdown scamper). He also added a 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Fournette broke six Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl records that day: longest run from scrimmage (89), longest play from scrimmage (89), longest kickoff return (100), most all-purpose yards (264), most kickoff return yards (121), and highest kickoff return average (61).
Notre Dame, however, would not be outdone in this contest, breaking two records of their own (tied most rushing attempts – 51 and most rushing first downs – 21) and posting the most important stat of all: a win. Despite Fournette’s record-breaking day Notre Dame persisted, scoring 10 unanswered points down the stretch, including the game-winning 32 yard field goal by Kyle Brindza as time expired to win 31-28.
Fournette has continued right where he left off this season. He has helped lead LSU to a 7-0 record and has rushed 176 times for 1,352 yards and five touchdowns, eclipsing his entire production from his freshman year (despite LSU’s opening game against McNeese State being cancelled). He is currently the favorite to win the Heisman and has LSU fans dreaming of a national championship.