The 10 Best College Football Players Of All Time

A dominant college football player does not always translate to being a dominant NFL player, but that does not mean their college accolades are all for not. While the game has evolved over the years, going from pure rushing to excessive passing, there have been a number of players who have left their mark. The following list was made up by taking into account factors such as stats, winning, Heisman’s, and pure dominance that could not be ignored.

10. Randy Moss, WR, Marshall (1995-97)

While his two-year stint in college was a bit shorter than some of the other guys on this list, Randy Moss dazzled as much as anyone had ever done so at the collegiate level, even at a tiny school like Marshall. In all 28 games that Moss suited up for the Thundering Herd, he scored at least one touchdown. On top of that, he put up a combined 3,529 yards, with a whopping total of 53 touchdowns on 168 receptions. These numbers were unheard of. However, Moss found himself fourth in the Heisman vote in his superior 1996-1997 season. This may have been the result of Marshall being such a small school and not warranting the credit that Moss deserved.

9. Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State (1985-88)

Deion, “Prime Time”, Sanders is the first defensive player to find this list. One of the most electric players to take the field, Prime Time also pulled off 10 complete seasons in Major League Baseball, while enduring his dominant performances in the NFL that put him in the Hall of Fame. Prior to all that, Sanders was creating his character during his time at Florida State University. In 1986, Sanders’ first season as a full time, every-down starter; he put up four interceptions on his way to being first-team All-American. During his junior season, Sanders made his way back on the first-team All-American list while putting up another four interceptions along with a touchdown in the return game. In his final year at FSU in 1988, Sanders may have fall to third-team All-American, however, his presence on the field may have been felt more than it ever had due to his dominance in the return game. He put up a whopping total of 503 yards on punt returns (leading the FBS) with an average of 15 yards per return. You wonder why this guy went on to be the most electric return man the NFL had ever seen, now you know.

8. Jim Brown, RB, Syracuse (1953-56)

Arguably the greatest athlete to ever play in the NFL, his collegiate career at Syracuse was no different. For starters, the guy earned 10 varsity letters through football, basketball, lacrosse, and even track. There was really nothing this guy could not do. In this era of football, passing was almost unheard of, so many teams had to sport multiple running backs, making it difficult for individuals to have the kind of stats that compare to what guys are putting up today. In his final year at Syracuse, Brown put up 986 rushing yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry, while also adding a phenomenal 13 touchdowns. During this season Brown finished 5th in the Heisman voting, but that had nothing to do with his play. These were racist times, and the NCAA was not prepared to award an African-American man with the highest honor just yet. A few years later, Brown’s successor, Ernie Davis became the first African-American to win the Heisman, and Brown taught him everything he knew and was the reason Davis chose to attend Syracuse.

7. Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn (1982-85)

One of the most dominant player to ever put on the pads, Bo also played with a lot of grace, which could explain why he was also so good at baseball. With career totals of 4,303 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns in basically three and a half seasons, there’s no question Jackson was making this list. The Heisman winner in his senior season was averaging 6.4 yards per carry, the highest mark the SEC had ever seen up to that point. Jackson went on to be the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, but he never actually played a game for them due to disputes between him, the Buccanneers, and the NCAA regarding a visit he made to Tampa. This caused Bo to venture in to the baseball world, where he was selected by the defending champion Kansas City Royals in the fourth round. After one season with the Royals, Bo re-entered the NFL draft, where he was selected in the seventh round by the Los-Angeles Rams. Injuries took their toll on Bo, allowing him to never reach his full potential in either sport, however his collegiate greatness will be remembered forever.

6. Tony Dorsett, RB, Pittsburgh (1973-76)

The three-time first-team All-American safely finds his way into this list. All he did was set the all time-rushing record at the time with a grand total of 6,082 career rushing yards at the University of Pittsburgh. This record stood until 1998 when star Texas running back Ricky Williams had finally eclipsed that mark. Receiving accolades such as the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, and the Walter Camp Player of the year, along with leading Pitt to a national championship, Dorsett was then selected by the Dallas Cowboys, second overall, where he played a Hall of Fame-worthy career. His quickness, speed, and ability to stay healthy albeit going through the ringer of carries, was unmatched by few if any.

5. Vince Young, QB, Texas (2002-05)

The first quarterback to make this list, Vince Young, is more than worthy. Sadly for him, all people can remember now is the bust that he was in his rather short NFL stint. This is unfortunate because he put together one of the best seasons in college football history, leading Texas, a massive underdog in the national championship against powerhouse USC, to victory. The game goes down as one of the greatest college football games ever played. Prior to the Rose Bowl Victory, Young led the Longhorns to a perfect 12-0 record, while putting up incredible numbers that included 3,036 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 1,050 rushing yards, and 10 rushing touchdowns. During this season, Vince Young was the Texas Longhorns. And just when you think it can’t get any better, on fourth down in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl, Young and the Longhorns trailed the Trojans 41-39, until Young ran for the end zone with 19 seconds left in the game; an iconic play. I think it’s safe to say he avenged his Heisman Trophy snub, which was given to star running back at USC, Reggie Bush.

4. Charles Woodson, CB, Michigan (1994-97)

The second defensive player to find his way on this list could only be defined by one adjective, dominant. On his way to leading Michigan to a perfect 12-0 season with a share of the national title, Woodson also became the first defensive player to ever win the Heisman. He beat out this stud quarterback at the University of Tennesse, Peyton Manning. With career totals of 16 interceptions along with 5 offensive touchdown, his future greatness was easy to predict. After being selected fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders, Woodson went on to have a Hall of Fame career, but his mark in history will always be remembered at Michigan, where he still remains the only defensive player ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

3. Barry Sanders, RB, Oklahoma State (1985-88)

Arguably the most elusive running back to take the field, Sanders finds himself third on this list. After serving as a backup to Thurman Thomas for his first two seasons, Sanders took the NCAA by storm in his first season as the teams’ featured back. In what is known to many as the greatest season college football has seen, Sanders put up gaudy numbers such as 2,628 rushing yards, along with an improbable 42 touchdowns. As imagined, these numbers set him up for a runaway Heisman win, followed up by a third overall selection by the Detroit Lions where he went on to reach the Hall of Fame and is widely known as one of, if not the best to ever suit up from the tailback position. The only thing that is stopping him from being top on the list was his sample size. Give him one more year as the starting running back and I’m sure there wouldn’t be only one player to ever win the Heisman twice.

2. Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia (1979-82)

As a freshman, Walker made his presence felt like no other man had before. With 1,616 rushing yards, paired with 15 touchdowns, Walker led the Bulldogs to a national championship in just his first season taking the gridiron. His combination of size, power, explosiveness, and speed are what separated him from the rest. While his encore to his freshman season was just as dazzling, with numbers such as 1,891 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, he fell just short of the Heisman, who went to star USC running back Marcus Allen. After the third season of pure excellence, Walker finally took home the legendary trophy in a landslide after posting 1,752 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Due to rules about underclassmen entering the NFL, Walker decided to join the USFL (United States Football League) where he went on to win two rushing titles before being a part of one of the worst trades in NFL history.

1. Archie Griffin, RB, Ohio State (1971-75)

The only player to ever win the Heisman trophy twice would only be right to be featured at the top of this list. After rushing for over 100 yards in 31 consecutive games, the NCAA had no choice but to award him with two Heisman trophies after snubbing him in his excellent sophomore season. Griffin, like Walker, also started as a true freshman, and in his four seasons with the Buckeyes, he led them to four straight Rose Bowls and a total record of 40-5-1. His consistency at the collegiate level was unmatched. Although he failed to live up to his sky-high expectations in the NFL, his dominance at the collegiate level could never be forgotten and he should be remembered as the best player to put on a college uniform. Winning two Heisman’s, along with his fifth-place finish in his sophomore season is what gives him the edge over a legendary field.

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