A CFB History Lesson Courtesy of NFF, Nasdaq & the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame

Ladies and other people, you may not know everything about the history of your favorite college football team (assuming that you have actually had a life for some part of your life), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know about the great players that constitute your school’s history.  That is why the College Football Hall of Fame is a true gift and a blessing to you.  Once a year, you get to learn about the college greats that you don’t know about because you haven’t spent all of your time reading about what happened before you were born and/or arrived on campus.  It’s a great way to learn about who was relevant to the game; and rather than studying it all at once, we get to learn about them a dozen players at a time.

The National Football Foundation introduced their 2013 College Football Hall of Fame Class at The NASDAQ OMX MarketSite in Times Square today.  ESPN’s Rece Davis hosted the event and as he pointed out, The National Football Foundation was founded with the mission of “football matters” in mind, which luckily for us, includes history.  So what did we learn today?

North Carolina State had a great tailback in the 70’s (1975-1978) named Ted Brown.  He still holds the record today for the ACC’s most career rushing yards (4,601) and touchdowns (51).  He had 27 career 100-yard games and hehind his running, NC State went to three bowl games and won back-to-back victories in the 1977 Peach Bowl and 1978 Tangerine Bowl. He was a 1st round draft pick in 1979 by the Minnesota Vikings and to this day is their fifth-leading rusher in franchise history.

University of Arizona featured defensive end Tedy Bruschi (1992-1995) as part of its “Desert Swarm” defense (which positioned the defense in such a way that they could “swarm” to the ball).  Brushi was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1995 and graduated with 74 tackles for loss (ranked 6th in FBS history at the time).  He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1996 NFL Draft and had a 13-year career with the New England Patriots.  He suffered a stroke in 2005 and yet returned to the NFL (he wrote a book on the experience).

Wisconsin has had many great running backs and Ron Dayne (1996-1999), the “Dayne Train” or “Great Dayne” is no exception. Dayne won college football’s most prestigious aware, the Heisman Trophy, in 1999.  He rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his four years as a starter, carried the ball a total of 1220 times and he still holds the FBS record for the most career rushing yards. He was drafted in the 1st round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New York Giants and spent seven seasons in the NFL.

Nebraska won back-to-back national championships in 1994 and 1995 thanks in large part to quarterback Tommie Frazier (1992-1995).  Frazier’s significance was cemented by the fact that he was named MVP in three straight national championship games and won two national championships (1995 Orange Bowl vs Miami and 1996 Fiesta Bowl vs Florida).  Ultimately a blood clot prevented Frazier from playing in the NFL, but not from securing his place in Nebraska history.

In the early 80’s, the University of Texas came close to winning a national championship thanks in part to a defense that was led by defensive back Jerry Gray (1981-1984).  Gray was a two-time Southwest Conference Player of the Year (1983 and 1984) and in 1983 helped Texas come within just one game (and one point) of a national championship.  Gray had 297 tackles and 16 interceptions, which certainly impressed scouts enough for the Los Angeles Rams to select him in the 1st round of the 1985 NFL Draft.  He spent nine years playing in the NFL and is currently the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.

In the early 1950’s Kentucky had “Mr. Anywhere” Steve Meilinger (1951-1953) and he literally played anywhere.  On offense he played end, halfback and quarterback.  On defense he played end, linebacker and defensive back.  He also was the starting punter for two years and returned punts and kickoffs.  He was selected by the Washington Redskins in the 1st round of the 1954 NFL Draft, but before joining the NFL, he served in the military.  And his military career is equally as impressive, if not more so.  He was one of the original six marshals who founded the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program.

The Ohio State University’s success relies on players such as offensive tackle Orlando Pace (1994-1996).  He started every game of his career, didn’t allow a sack during 1995 or 1996 (the same years he was unanimous First-Team All-American) and was also the first player in history to win two Lombardi Trophy awards.  He was the 1996 Big Ten Offensive Player of the year and the 1st overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams (in his 13 seasons he earned 7 consecutive pro bowl selections).

In the early 1970’s Oklahoma went 29-4-1 while Rod Shoate (1972-74) dominated as linebacker.  Oklahoma won the 1974 National Championship and Shoate was named the Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year twice.  He led the Sooners in tackles each year he played and finished with 420 career tackles.  Shoate was selected in the 2nd round of the 1975 NFL Draft by New England.  His Hall of Fame selection is made posthumously as he passed away in 1999.

In the late 80’s Michigan State’s defense was called “Gang Green” and at the center of it was linebacker Percy Snow (1986-1989).  He led the team in tackles (total of 473) for three consecutive seasons and assisted the 1987 team with its Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory over USC (1988 Rose Bowl), where his 17 tackles earned him MVP.  He was selected in the 1st round of the 1990 NFL Draft by Kansas City (played 4 seasons).

The University of Miami got its first Heisman Trophy winner in 1986 in quarterback Vinny Testaverde (1982, 1984-1986).  Testaverde was 23-3 as a starter and led Miami to the national championship game his final season (lost to Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl). He passed for over 6,000 yards and 48 touchdowns and was the 1st overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay.  His NFL career spanned 21 seasons (and 7 teams).

Before Baylor University had RG3 at quarterback, they had Don Trull (1961-1963).  Trull didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, but he finished 4th as he led the nation in touchdowns, passing yards and completions.  Trull was the first two-time First Team Academic All-American honoree, Baylor’s first NFF National Scholar-Athlete and led Baylor to two bowl games.  He played in the NFL and CFL for 8 seasons.

In 1996 when Danny Wuerffel (1993-1996) won the Heisman Trophy, he was the first University of Florida player to do so since then-head coach Steve Spurrier had won it 30 years prior (as quarterback in 1966).  Wuerffel left Florida with a National Championship (1986), nearly 11,000 passing yards, 33 school records, four bowl games and countless other awards, including being twice named the Scholar Athlete of the Year.  He was drafted in the 4th round of the 1997 NFL Draft by New Orleans (he played for 6 seasons in the NFL).