Most fans are aware of at least some of the success the Mesa athletic program has had over the years. Start with 20 national championships, move to the many dozens of ACCAC and Region I titles, and let's not forget the literally hundreds of All-American athletes, many of whom have advanced to outstanding careers at four-year institutions all over the nation.
But you might not realize how many MCC athletes have gone on to careers in the major professional sports leagues in the United States.
Did you know, for instance, that there have been 26 Mesa grads who have played in the NFL? Or that 20 former T-Birds have reached the ultimate in baseball, the major leagues? There has even been one who played in the NBA and two who have reached the summit of athletics, the Olympics.
Let's start with football. Many fans will remember that former T-Bird Damarious Randall was the No. 1 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2015 and remains in the league with the Cleveland Browns. But there is another who may be on the cusp of joining the league. Shakial Taylor is on the Denver Broncos roster and, although he has not yet played a game, could be elevated.
Several former Mesa players had long NFL careers. The longest-tenured are Tony Banks who played nine seasons, from 1986 to 2005 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins and Houston Texas, as well as Monte Jackson, also with nine seasons from 1975-83 with the L.A. Rams, Oakland Raiders, L.A. Raiders and back to the Rams.
The 26 players have a total of 74 seasons of NFL experience.
Click here for the full list of T-Birds in the NFL
The experience of Major League Baseball is similar.
MCC has had 20 former players reach the majors.
Tops on this list is Dave Collins with 16 years of MLB play under his belt. He played for seven different clubs over the span of 1975-90. Hubie Brooks is next with a 15-year career from 1980-94 with the Mets, Expos, Dodgers, Angels, and Royals. Many others have played in the minor leagues. Another who gained fame in two way was Mickey Hatcher, a 12-year Major Leaguer and football All-American, as well as national champion, with the T-Birds. In all, those 20 players compiled 132 years of major league service.
Here is the complete list of Mesa major leaguers.
The former T-Bird who reached the NBA is Ernest Brown who played briefly for the Miami Heat during the 2001-02 season.
One, however, reached the league in a different way. Mike Brown has been a head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers and L.A. Lakers for a total of eight years and is currently an assistant with the Golden State Warriors where he has been since 2016. He has a head coaching record of 347-216 and his teams have reached the playoffs six times.
As for the Olympics, the most recent Mesa grad to participate is Pau Tonnesen who placed 16th in the decathlon in the Rio games of 2016. In addition, Neville Myton may have been the first Mesa super star. He ran in the Olympics in Tokyo in 1964 and then again in Mexico City in 1968.
Sure, Mesa has done quite well in NJCAA competition, but the excellence goes far beyond that level.