Shedeur Sanders, Marvin Harrison Jr. lead next gen football

ByAnthony Gharib ESPN logo
Friday, September 22, 2023

Being the child of a former professional athlete isn't easy. The familiar name adds pressure to perform. Fans expect a similar level play, which in most cases doesn't come to fruition.

But, it doesn't mean it can't happen.

Deion Sanders' two sons, Shedeur and Shilo, have played a massive role in the No. 19 Colorado Buffaloes' success as they face the No. 10 Oregon Ducks this weekend.

Shedeur Sanders has thrown for 1,251 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception. His 510 passing yards, plus four touchdowns, in a road victory against then-No. 17 ranked TCU Horned Frogs is the Buffaloes' single-game passing record.

Shilo Sanders has been a key part of the Buffaloes defense this season. His 19 tackles and one interception are second for Colorado. He also forced a fumble and raced home for a pick-six against the Colorado State Rams.

Shedeur and Shilo aren't the only children of former NFL athletes that are off to hot starts. Here are other athletes across the country who are succeeding this season.

Marvin Harrison Jr. -- Ohio State Buckeyes

One of the best wide receivers in the country is back at it again this year.

Predicted as a first round pick in next year's NFL Draft, Marvin Harrison Jr., son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, has 304 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Harrison Jr. left the Buckeyes' season opener early, but returned with 160 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2.

The junior earned All-American honors last season with 1,263 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Brenden Rice -- USC Trojans

The son of Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Brenden Rice is off to a hot start in his senior year.

Through three games, Brenden has five catches for 124 yards and three touchdowns, on pace for a career year. His touchdown total is already one fewer than his career high, achieved last season with USC, and is tied for a team high.

E.J. Smith -- Stanford Cardinal

Following in the footsteps of the NFL's all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith, E.J. Smith has started strong in his senior year after an injury-filled junior season.

E.J. has 135 yards and one touchdown, including 7.5 average yards per rush. Before suffering an injury early last season, E.J. had 114 total yards and two touchdowns against the USC Trojans in Week 2.

Antonio Gates Jr. -- Michigan State Spartans

Antonio Gates Jr., son of legendary tight end Antonio Gates, redshirted his first season with the Spartans. So far, he's appeared in one game this season, but recorded one catch for 45 yards and a touchdown.

Frank Gore Jr. -- Southern Miss Golden Eagles

After a career high 1,382 yards rushing in his junior year, Frank Gore Jr. is living up to his father Frank Gore's legacy. Gore Jr. has 76 yards and one rushing touchdown on 30 carries in three games, but ended last season on a high note.

He set a bowl game and Southern Miss record with 329 rushing yards in last year's LendingTree Bowl. Gore Jr. also added two rushing touchdowns and one passing score.