Who was the best player on your college football team?

Who is generally considered the best player on your favorite college football team. It’s totally subjective, and not necessarily based on the best statistics. I guess I could put it as the “most famous or most legendary” or the player that the school identifies itself the most with. For instance George Jones has more rushing yards than Marshall Faulk, but I’m sure most San Diego State fans would pick the latter.

I realize players may have stellar college careers, but may be average in the pros… or vice versa, so I’ll put two categories: Best college player, Best NFL player

To start the ball rolling, here are the three schools I went to:

Nebraska: NCAA: Tommie Frazier, NFL: Roger Craig
Hawaii: NCAA: Colt Brennan, NFL: Jesse Sapolu
Northwestern: NCAA: Otto Graham, NFL: Otto Graham
Edit: Hmm, Northwestern fans might say Darnell Autry or Pat Fitzgerald, so maybe I could say old and new, but it’s hard to draw the line (1970? 1980?). Oh well, that’s why it’s subjective.

University of Iowa: Nile Kinnick. He won the Heisman in 1939 (and died in World War II):

The football stadium is named after him.

University of South Carolina - George Rogers won the Heisman in 1980 but some might say Jadaveon Clowney was better.

Some other guesses, some of which I figure to be unanimous

Virginia Tech: Michael Vick (both NCAA and NFL)
Georgia: Herschel Walker (both)
Auburn: Bo Jackson (both)
Boston College: Doug Flutie (both)
Kansas: Gale Sayers (both)

Some are really difficult, like Miami, USC and Notre Dame. Even Pitt (Dorsett or Marino) and Illinois (Nagurski or Butkus). Plus you’d have to count for short memories and more intense media coverage nowadays. I wonder if Texas fans would pick Vince Young over Earl Campbell, Baylor with Robert Griffin III over Mike Singletary.

And then there’s BYU: Detmer (stats, Heisman), Boscoe (national title), McMahon (famous NFL), and Young (NFL, plus decendent of Brigham). Or Marc Wilson, who put BYU’s incredible QB string on the map.

Cornell doesn’t send many players on to the NFL, but for lasting football legacies it’s hard to beat Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner (class of 1894).

University of California

College: Aaron Rodgers (Maybe Chuck Muncie? Or one of our 2000s RBs?)
Pro: Tony Gonzalez

University of Chicago: Jay Berwanger
University of Minnesota: Bronco Nagurski, though Bobby Bell and Carl Eller would be up there

Kirk Gibson

University of Michigan: Charles Woodson (modern-day)/ Tom Harmon (old school)

You mean Grange. You can’t go wrong with either Dick Butkus or Red Grange.

It’s a sad fact about the University of Illinois that our consensus greatest players played 50 and 90 years ago.

Georgia Tech:


College: Eddie Lee Ivory
Pro: Calvin Johnson

Coach: John Heisman
Pro: Pepper Rodgers


My dad insisted on yelling “Reet-zo!” at games even though Rizzo pronounced his own name the American way. I think my dad was just showing off, that he knew the correct Italian pronunciation. He didn’t really care about Rizzo.

I’m still embarrassed, 40 years later.

The University of Oregon, home of many great NFL QB busts.

Our best player ever is probably our current QB, Heisman frontrunner Marcus Mariota, holder of the Pac-12 passing record since last weekend.

In terms of NFL success, probably Norm Van Brocklin, though he was way before my time. The other two who might be considered are Dan Fouts and Ahmad Rashad (known as Bobby Moore during his Duck days).

Akili Smith, Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli, Darron “We Smoked It All” Thomas, Kellen Clemens, Chris Miller, Joey Harrington…well, they’re all fondly remembered in Eugene if not in their NFL (or in some cases CFL or AFL) cities. And who could forget LaGarrette “Punchy” Blount, unless they suffer from some sort of short-term memory loss?

For the college career, some may argue Ed Marinaro who was runner up for the Heisman.
Personally, I think the best player was probably George Pfann who was quarterback of 3 national championship* teams which cumulatively outscored opponents 1051-81 from 1921-1923.

For the NFL
Well the most important Cornell grad was probably Pete Gogolak who invented soccer style place kicking. It’s hard to judge other players who were offensive linemen in the 1940’s or whatever, so I’ll go with Gogolak.

  • The national championship wasn’t actually awarded back then but the sort of groups that go back and decide who should have won usually pick Cornell of Phann’s 3 years.


College career - Ron Dayne, though Melvin Gordon’s current season is one for the ages. If Gordon maintained his career ypc average and got the same number of carries as Dayne, he’d be at 10,000 rushing yards. Course, with that many carries, his average would almost certainly drop.

Pro- Mike Webster. JJ Watt will probably take this crown in a few years.

College: Daunte Culpepper. NFL: Brandon Marshall.

Hey, UCF is a young school.

Vanderbilt, my undergrad school:

In college: Jess Neely is the only one who has a street named for him, but Jordan Matthews was the best player on our best teams of the SEC era.

In the NFL: Neely predates the NFL and went straight to law school and college coaching, eventually getting into the College Football Hall of Fame. Will Wolford was Jim Kelly’s LT during most of the K-Gun era and has the most Approximate Value of all VU alumni according to Pro Football Reference. Jay Cutler is on pace to pass Wolford, though.

Memphis, my grad school:

In college: DeAngelo Williams, and it’s not very close

In the NFL: Isaac Bruce, and it’s not very close, either

I absolutely meant Red Grange! :smack:

I think I shall extend the OP to mean any college football team, including your favorite ones, not necessarily ones you’ve enrolled in. I’m curious to see what fans of powerhouses like Florida State, Alabama, and USC might put as their top players.

College: it’s hard to choose anyone over Rogers, but what about Steve Bartkowski? And I can only wonder how well Joe Roth would have played in his senior year had he not had cancer.

Pro: I was going to suggest Ron Rivera - until I remembered that Joe Kapp went to Cal. Ironically, Rivera pretty much singlehandedly pulled Kapp’s butt out of the fire in Kapp’s first game as Cal’s head coach; at Texas A&M with the score tied late, Cal kicked a chipshot field goal, but Kapp took down the points to accept a roughing the kicker penalty that gave them the ball first and goal on the 5…and Cal fumbled it away…only for Texas A&M to do something almost as boneheaded, and run a handoff inside their own end zone, where Rivera made a tackle for a game-winning safety.

I was going to say Chuck Muncie college, Aaron Rodgers pro – although the latter might be premature.