You might not realize it, but PA is a football-obsessed state. Pennsylvania loves its football teams, and the state’s passion for the sport means it has produced many NFL players over the years. But we’re not looking at all the players to come from the state – we’re looking at the top-five NFL players from Pennsylvania right now.
Top 5 NFL Players From Pennsylvania
5: James Conner (RB, Arizona Cardinals – Erie, PA)
One of the most inspirational players in the league, James Conner hails from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he played running back and defensive line. He played his college ball at Pitt and had an incredible sophomore year that led to ACC Player of the Year and First Team All-American honors. Conner entered the draft in 2017, forgoing his last year of eligibility, and was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As a Steeler, Conner was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and rushed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. His career slowed in 2019 before a current resurgence for the Arizona Cardinals, which has earned him another trip to the Pro Bowl in 2021.
4: Kevin Byard (FS, Tennessee Titans – Philadelphia, PA)
Kevin Byard attended high school in Georgia but was born in Philadelphia. The former Middle Tennessee standout has surprised many in his NFL career.
As a third-round pick out of Conference USA, Byard has shattered the expectations placed on him when he entered the league. He has already made two Pro Bowl appearances (2017, 2021), been a First Team All-Pro (2017) and Second Team All-Pro (2018), and was the NFL’s interception co-leader in 2017. He has played in almost 100 games since starting his NFL career in 2016 and appears set for a long time in the league.
3: Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons – Exton, PA)
The 14-year NFL veteran is originally from the Philadelphia area, where he attended William Penn Charter School. Matt Ryan had an above-average high school career, being named All-League three times and picking up some decent college opportunities. He ultimately chose Boston College as his higher education destination.
Ryan didn’t secure the full-time starting role at BC until his junior year. As a senior, his draft stock rose quickly as he put up gaudy numbers against top opponents. In 2007, “Matty Ice,” as he would come to be called, won ACC Player of the Year, the Manning Award for the nation’s top quarterback, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (given to the top upperclassman QB in the country), as well as First Team All-American honors.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Ryan has been starring for the Atlanta Falcons his entire NFL career. So far, he’s racked up an NFL MVP (2016), five Pro Bowl trips, 58,000 passing yards, and 362 touchdowns.
2: Cameron Heyward (DT, Pittsburgh Steelers – Pittsburgh, PA)
Cameron Heyward was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, though he went to high school in Georgia. In 2006, he was the Georgia Defensive Player of the Year and was ranked as the No. 13 best defensive tackle in the nation. He chose Ohio State for college and became a consensus All-American as a freshman. Heyward ended his Buckeye career as a three-time Big Ten champion with a Rose Bowl victory to boot.
Heyward was selected No. 31 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, bringing him back to his hometown. His pro career started slow, but he’s been an absolute force since 2017. Heyward has three All-Pro distinctions, five Pro Bowl nods, and almost 500 tackles and 63 sacks to his name.
1: Aaron Donald (DT/DE, Los Angeles Rams – Pittsburgh, PA)
This absolute specimen of a human being hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he attended Penn Hills High School and was a two-time All-Star award winner. Aaron Donald then took his talents all the way down the road to Pitt, where he starred for four seasons. That culminated in an outstanding senior year in which he won the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player), the Lombardi Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), and was a unanimous All-American.
Donald was drafted No. 13 overall by the Rams in 2014 and has basically been the best defensive lineman in the league since his rookie year. Over the past eight seasons, Donald has been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times, earned Pro Bowl trips eight times, and found a spot on the NFL All-Decade Team.