In its long history of athletics, Cal Poly has fielded highly talented student-athletes in every one of the 21 Division I programs on campus. Some of these Mustangs were successful enough to progress their athletic careers beyond the fields and gyms of San Luis Obispo onto the professional levels of sports. From MLB Hall of Famers to UFC champions, Cal Poly has a rich history of successful professional athletes.
John Madden – NFL Hall of Fame Coach
During his time at Cal Poly, John Madden played football during the 1957 and 1958 seasons. During his two year tenure, Madden and the Mustangs combined for a record of 17-2, outscoring opponents 531 to 168. Madden, an offensive tackle, was named to the All-Conference team in 1957. He also played catcher for the Cal Poly baseball team in the 1958 season.
After graduating from the university, Madden made an attempt at a professional career after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. However, his career was cut short after a knee injury during his first season. Soon after, Madden was hired as an assistant coach at Allan Hancock College in 1960, beginning his legendary coaching career.
Madden was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders for 11 seasons, winning Super Bowl XI with the team. The Raiders won over 100 games during Madden’s first 10 years as head coach, making him the first-ever coach to reach the milestone that early in his career.
After he finished coaching, Madden worked as a color commentator for the NFL from 1979-2008. To add to his long list of accolades, Madden has had his name bestowed on EA Sports’ football video games, the highest-selling football games in the world, since 1988.
Madden is now a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and widely considered one of the greatest football coaches of all time.
Ozzie Smith – MLB Hall of Fame Shortstop
As a Mustang, Ozzie Smith was a four-year starter at shortstop and was named an all-American athlete. Smith began in 1974 as a walk-on freshman and was able to secure a starting role until his graduation in 1977. “The Wizard,” as he would come to be known, is the Cal Poly record holder in stolen bases (110), stolen bases in a season (44) and career at-bats (754). In his senior season, the two-time All-California Collegiate Athletic Association First-Team honoree led the Mustangs to a berth in the NCAA Division II tournament.
Smith was drafted by the San Diego Padres following his senior season. After four years in Southern California, Smith was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals where his career took off.
Smith soon came to be known as the greatest defensive fielder in the history of baseball, racking up 13 Gold Glove Awards in his 19 seasons in the MLB, the most for a shortstop. Along with his defensive accomplishments, Smith was named to 15 All-Star teams, won a World Series in 1982 and was awarded a Silver Slugger in 1987.
The Wizard now resides in the MLB National Hall of Fame after being inducted in 2002. His jersey, No. 1, is retired by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Mike Krukow – Former MLB Pitcher/Broadcaster
Mike Krukow played for Cal Poly for three seasons from 1971 to 1973. In those three years, Krukow had an amazing career and set the school record for earned run average (1.94) and most shutouts in a season (5) before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs. Krukow’s school records still stand to this day.
In his professional career, Krukow played 14 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants. In the 1986 season with the Giants, he made the All-Star Game and boasted a 20-9 record with an ERA of 3.05, earning a third-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award race.
Although he played over a decade in the MLB, Krukow is probably most well known for his time as the radio and television broadcaster for the Giants. He has held this position of full-time broadcast since 1994, winning seven Emmy awards in the process.
Mitch Haniger – Current MLB Outfielder
Mitch Haniger had a phenomenal three-year career with the Mustangs, beginning in 2010 and ending in 2012. In his freshman campaign, Haniger hit .326 to go along with seven home runs, earning him the honor of Big West Freshman of the Year. Despite a dip in numbers during his second year, Haniger broke out in his third and final year at Cal Poly. After leading the Big West in home runs, runs batted in and slugging percentage, Haniger was awarded the Big West Player of the year and was recognized as an All-American outfielder.
After his time with the Mustangs, Haniger was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012, traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014, and found his current home with the Seattle Mariners after being traded in 2016.
During his tenure in Seattle, Haniger has cemented himself as one of their star players, earning his first career All-Star appearance in 2018.
David Nwaba – NBA Free Agent
David Nwaba played in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons for the Mustangs’ basketball team after transferring to Cal Poly as a sophomore. Nwaba averaged 12 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting during his career in the green and gold. Nwaba helped lead the 2013-14 Cal Poly team to the school’s first-ever Big West Championship before advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament under former head coach Joe Callero.
After entering the 2016 NBA Draft, Nwaba went undrafted and was signed by the Los Angeles Lakers to a 10-day contract. Since then, he has played for the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Brooklyn Nets. On December 19th of last year, Nwaba’s season was cut short due to injury before being waived by the Nets.
Chuck Liddell – Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, UFC Hall of Famer
At Cal Poly, Chuck Liddell was a member of the wrestling team from 1988-1993. After his career as a Mustang, Liddell graduated and pursued professional fighting.
“The Iceman” was a very skilled mixed martial artist, ending his 13-year career in 2010 with a record of 21-8. In 2005, Liddell earned a first-round knockout against Randy Couture. This victory made him the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, which is a position he defended five times over the following two years.
In June of 2009, Liddell was inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame thanks to his extensive mixed martial arts skills and successful career.
Sharon Day-Monroe – US Olympic heptathlete and high jumper
Sharon Day-Monroe is arguably the most successful track and field athlete in Cal Poly’s history. Day-Monroe won the 2005 NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship as a member of the Mustangs while setting the school record for high jump (6-4 ¾) and heptathlon (5,642 points).
After leaving Cal Poly, Day-Monroe has excelled in the professional world of track and field. Day-Monroe is a three-time national heptathlon champion (2011, 2013, 2014) and was the indoor pentathlon champion for four consecutive years from 2012-2015.
Day-Monroe is also a two-time Olympic athlete (2008, 2012) and three-time World Champions participant (2009, 2011, 2013).