Making a list of the best college football players of all-time is no easy task, to say the least. There are so many great players that deserve to be on this list that we don’t have room for. Seriously, the #ManVs team nearly destroyed each other over it. Our editor is STILL in traction!
In any case, the first organized college football game was over 150 years ago. Thus, narrowing down this list was by far the most difficult part of making it.
Another difficult part of making this list was the broadness of it. In other lists we’ve done, like the Best Point Guards Of All-Time, it was a little easier to narrow it down. Lists like that focus on one position group.
This list, however, doesn’t have a specific focus. This means that players on offense, defense, or special teams are all possible. Seriously, anyone who has ever played a down of college football is fair game with a list like this. Therefore, you can see how we struggled with it.
We did our best to represent as many different position groups as we could as well as representing players in different eras. Of course, this is quite difficult, as some players have been overshadowed since their time. This is not uncommon when athletes continue to become more impressive as the years go on.
For this list, we have found what we believe are the best college football players of all time. Our list contains players that date all the way back to November 6, 1869. This was when Rutgers beat New Jersey (now Princeton) 6-4 in the first-ever game of college football.
With that said, let’s dive into our list of the best college football players of all-time.
Red Grange was a great running back for the University of Illinois in the mid-1920s. While most of the people who are reading this list did not see Red play, nor were most of us alive about 100 years ago, Grange’s name has managed to still stick out. Why is that? Possibly, it is due to Red’s success at every level he played.
Grange started his college career with a bang when he rushed for three touchdowns in his very first game. His team went on to win the 1923 National Championship, mostly due to Red’s running success. This was the start of something incredible and the beginnings of what eventually made him a college football great!
Grange went on to make the All-American team all three years he played college football. Then in 1924, he was named the MVP of the Big Ten conference.
His accomplishments did not go unnoticed. After going on to have a solid NFL career where he won two NFL Championships, Grange’s college number (#77) was retired. This solidified his legacy as one of the greatest college football players of all-time.
Roger Staubach is no stranger to our best of all-time lists. He is also no stranger to success.
In his first start as a college Sophomore, Staubach accumulated six total touchdowns and led his team (Navy) to a 41-0 victory. The game proved to be a great insight into what was to come for Staubach.
A season later, in 1963, Staubach won the Heisman Trophy. He even led his team to the National Championship game before falling to the University of Texas. Staubach would graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy following this point, but still had time left to play. He’d forgo this period, as he was able to serve the nation in the Navy for the Vietnam War.
Uncertain of his future, the Dallas Cowboys picked him in the 10th Round of the 1963 NFL Draft. Staubach had to serve his 4 years at least but with war ongoing, he may never come back to play. Luckily for the Cowboys, he was able to do so.
Since Dallas retained his draft rights the entire time, he’d join the team in 1969 and go on to play 11 years in the league. He’d lead the Cowboys to two Super Bowl wins and lead the league in Touchdowns once and Passer Rating four times!
Though his college career was cut a bit short, he accomplished a ton during this point. Keep in mind, at that time in history, running was more common than passing. Staubach had to be a dual-threat for the Navy squad. This is what made him such a great player, and why he’s known as one of the best college football players of all-time.
Staubach’s accomplishments were even enough to land him into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
Doak Walker proved to be a great asset to Southern Methodist University (SMU) as a halfback and a kicker. We often hear the name of Doak Walker each year due to his name being on the “best running back of the year” award in college football. However, the name is used here because Walker was such an incredible athlete in his time.
After only playing five games in 1945 and not playing at all in 1946, Walker proved his worth in his final three seasons as a college football player.
He made the All-American team three times in a row from 1947-1949. He then won the Maxwell Trophy in 1947, as well as the Heisman Trophy in 1948.
Walker is surely one of the best college football players of all-time. His excellent college career was rewarded in 1949 when he was selected as the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. Walker would go on to win 2 NFL Championships and also be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sammy Baugh accomplished a lot as a three-year varsity starter as a member of the Texas Christian University (TCU) football team. Of course, during his time, Baugh played quarterback in a world that mostly ran the ball. This means that while Sammy’s stats won’t blow people away, he was still critical to his team’s success.
As a utility man, Baugh was a two-time All-American. He led the Horned Frogs to two Bowl game appearances in his career, including a victory in the 1936 Sugar Bowl where he was named the MVP.
In one of the more shocking highlights of his career, Baugh led the College All-Stars to a 6-0 victory over the Green Bay Packers. You read that right, Sammy and a fully college all-star team defeated a notable NFL team. This is a game we may not even see today, much less assume college players could defeat pro players.
His number, 45, was retired upon the conclusion of his playing days. Then after a very successful NFL career, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
[Image via Syracuse.com]
Jim Brown was a fantastic running back for Syracuse University. While we mostly know him for his NFL career, Brown’s college career was filled with major highlights.
Despite not becoming a full-time starter until his Junior year, he made the most of his last two seasons of eligibility. This is when he quickly became a household name in the college football world.
After a solid outing his Junior Season, Brown turned it up during his Senior Year. He rushed for a school-record 6.2 yards-per-carry, which led to him finishing fifth in Heisman voting.
Brown broke another school record during his Senior year when he rushed for six touchdowns in one game.
Following his final college season as a Senior, he was selected sixth overall in the 1957 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Of course, this is the team Brown would stay with his entire NFL career. Jim is now in both the College & Pro Football Hall of Fame due to his successful running back career.
Gale Sayers had a lot of success as a running back and returner with the Kansas Jayhawks. In his college career, he rushed for 2,675 yards and accumulated 4,020 all-purpose yards.
He was selected to the Big-Eight All-Conference team three years throughout his career and was also selected as an All-American twice.
In three years as a starter, Sayers proved himself to be one of the best college football players of all time. Many felt at the time that Sayers was nearly impossible to stop. It should not be misunderstood that in his time, Sayers surely was one of the greatest running backs in college or the NFL.
He was rewarded for his great college career by being selected fourth overall in the 1964 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. This was where Sayers became a household name. It also where he played his entire career. He led the league in rushing twice and was a 4-time Pro-Bowl selection.
Although his NFL career was shortlived, he proved himself to be absolutely incredible during his college and pro time.
Michael Crabtree had a very impressive career for the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
The speedy wideout burst onto the scene, accumulating 27 catches for almost 300 yards and five touchdowns in just his first two games as a starter! Crabtree would go on to have a great Freshman season as well as an even more impressive Sophomore year. The latter of which, he finished fifth in Heisman voting.
After his Sophomore season, Crabtree decided to go pro, ending his college career. However, in his short time as a college player, he made his mark by accumulating eight NCAA records.
He is also one of only two men to have ever won the Biletnikoff Award for the Best Divison-1 Wide Reciever twice. Michael did it in back-to-back years too, also only one of two men to do so. Crabtree finished his college career with 3,127 yards receiving and 41 touchdowns. Both of which are among the highest for any person who played two full seasons only in Division-1 history.
He was drafted number 10 overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2009 NFL Draft. Though his NFL career has sometimes been suspect, his college time was not. Crabtree was so impressive that he must go down as one of the best college football players of all-time.
Glenn Davis is one of the most accomplished college football players of all-time. The 5-foot 9-inch back was a three-time All-American, three-time national champion, and a Heisman Trophy winner.
He averaged 8.5 yards-per-carry over the course of his college career with West Point (U.S. Army College) along with 59 career touchdowns.
After another stunning season in 1946, Davis was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year.
Following his Senior Year, Davis was unable to transition right into the pros because of service commitments. If you’re not aware, anyone who signs up to go to college at a school like Air Force, Navy, or Army must also serve in the Armed Forces once they graduate from their respective university.
Once doing so, they must serve a specific period of time and are free to do as they choose upon finishing their service. In the 1947 draft, Davis was the second overall pick. However, this was considered a “future rights” pick. In that, Davis was on the LA Rams roster but could not play for them until the 1950 season officially.
Charles Woodson was a great two-way player for the Michigan Wolverines in the late 1990s.
While mostly playing cornerback on defense, Woodson also had some success as a wide receiver on offense making him a lethal threat for opponents. Yet he was also a threat returning the ball too, making him a threat on Special Teams too. When you look up players who go above and beyond for their team, Woodson’s name will likely always appear near or at the very top.
After above-average campaigns in his Freshman and Sophomore seasons, Woodson had a phenomenal Junior Year. In that season, we saw him lead the Wolverines to a National Championship victory in addition to winning the Heisman Trophy for his impressive play. This is on top of other awards, including the Walter Camp Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Trophy, & Jim Thorpe Award.
He was also named the Big Ten Player of the Year & Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. If that wasn’t enough, he was also a two-time All-American selection.
He went on to get drafted fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders (now Las Vegas Raiders) in the 1998 NFL Draft. Woodson later became a Super Bowl Champion with Green Bay and was a 9-time Pro-Bowl selection. We should also mention that he led the NFL in INTs twice and was the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
He will likely end up in both the College Football & Pro Football Hall of Fames one day, without a doubt.
Reggie Bush was part of one of the best backfields in college football history with the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans.
Bush won two National Championships with the Trojans, competing in 3 National Championship games total in his USC career. In fact, Bush never played a bowl game in college football that did not have a National Title on the line!
As a player, he is a two-time All-American who won the 2005 Heisman Trophy. Although, it was vaccinated due to a lawsuit with the NCAA regarding his eligibility. It is said that Bush was paid to go to the university. Since the NCAA cannot possibly have anyone taking money for nearly killing themselves every week for our entertainment, this is considered a massive rule violation.
While Reggie technically did not have to give the trophy back, considering it was his property, he did end up doing so.
In his college career, Bush accumulated over 6,500 all-purpose yards as well as 42 total touchdowns. This makes him one of the most productive running backs in history. He played for 3 seasons with USC, splitting time with other running backs. He did not officially start until his last 2 seasons. Meaning most of his numbers come from those two years.
Bush went on to become the number two overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft when he was selected by the New Orleans Saints.
Dick Butkus had a terrific three-year college career with the University of Illinois from 1962-1964 as a linebacker and center. You read that right. He not only helped as a linebacker but also as a critical offensive lineman. In his time, playing both ways was relatively common. People did it all the time.
It was not until the late 1970s into the 1980s that teams felt they should keep people in set positions. On top of this, more scholarship opportunities were allowed by the NCAA & overall across the board at universities. This allowed college teams to no longer need players to play on both sides. Although to this day, it still happens from time to time.
As for Butkus, he was was a two-time All-American and won the Big Ten MVP award in 1963. In 1964, Butkus was named UPI’s Lineman of the Year. Grasp that for a second. Dick was so terrific at Center that he was given a lineman of the year award!
Another note to prove his dominance was that he was twice named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which is rare for either a lineman or a defensive player. Butkus finished sixth in the Heisman race in 1963 and third in 1964. He’d go on to the pros in 1965 and was drafted at the top of both the AFL & NFL Drafts. Butkus, of course, chose the NFL.
Obviously, Butkus went on to play the linebacker position for the Chicago Bears where he played for 8 years. Each year, he was selected to the Pro-Bowl and was twice named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In spite of his pro accomplishments, he’ll forever be known as one of the best college football players of all-time.
Ed Reed was one of the best defensive playmakers in college football history. He started four seasons at the University of Miami and accumulated 288 total tackles, seven of them were for a loss, forced four fumbles, deflected 52 passes, and managed to capture 21 interceptions throughout his college career.
His stats led him to become a two-time All-American as well as a Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award. Of course, Reed was part of the late-1990s to early-2000s Miami teams of college football folklore. In 2001, in fact, he was on the Hurricanes’ National Championship-winning team that went undefeated.
In total, he played all four seasons as a player for Miami from 1998 to 2001 and was a major name on a team filled with future stars. The 2001 team alone included Jeremy Shockey, Antrel Rolle, Sean Tayler, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Vince Wilfork, Andre Johnson, D.J. Williams, and Jonathan Vilma.
While not all came out in the 2002 NFL Draft, Reed did and was selected 24th overall by the Baltimore Ravens where he spent most of his NFL career. Reaching the Pro-Bowl 9 times with a Super Bowl ring and an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, Reed has solidified himself as one of the greatest defensive backs in college and the pros!
Reed was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019, his first year of eligibility. Meanwhile, he was also recognized for his college football accomplishments when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
Today, Reed is back in college as an administrator at his alma mater, the University of Miami. As of 2020, he is the Chief of Staff.
Tony Dorsett had a great college football campaign as a running back for the University of Pittsburgh. Many will point to Dorsett’s strong start to his college career that helped to propel him to a terrific three-year college career.
In his Freshman season, he finished second in the nation in rushing yards and became the first Freshman in 29 years to be honored as an All-American.
By Dorsett’s Senior season, he had solidified himself as the best back in all of college football. That season, he won the Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award, and the Heisman Trophy. On top of this, he led his team to a National Championship.
By the time he was finished in college, Dorsett had broken nearly every school record for a running back. Yet he also set some NCAA Division-1 records too, making him one of the best college football players of all-time.
Of course, Dorsett was drafted second overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1977 NFL Draft. He played with the Cowboys for most of his career, even winning a Super Bowl with them in the 1977-1978 season. This was Tony’s rookie year, allowing him to be one of the few Heisman winners to win a Super Bowl ring in his first NFL season.
Dorsett retired after the 1988-1989 season and was honored by both the Pro Football Hall of Fame & College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Kellen Moore was a great quarterback for the Boise State Broncos in his four years as a starter. In fact, Moore is one of the few top quarterbacks in the modern era to have played four complete seasons as a starter in college football. Moore is directly tied to Boise State’s rise in notoriety.
While Moore was on the 2007 team that defeated Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, he redshirted that year. However, he started the next four years from 2008 to 2011. In that time, he led Boise State to major winning seasons. He took the team to 12 wins 3 separate seasons, with one year of taking them to an undefeated 14 win season.
The latter occurred in 2009, which also led to a bid in the Fiesta Bowl where they beat top-ranked TCU. It was Moore’s exploits that took them to 3 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) titles in a row and led to the team moving into the Mountain West Conference by his Senior Year.
Moore was a two-time WAC Player of the Year and one-time MWC Player of the Year. This also includes two consecutive First-Team All-WAC & First-Team All-MWC honors. He was even a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010.
Moore’s 50-3 record as a starter with Boise State highlights his dominance as well as his accomplishments. He was actually the first Quarterback in FBS history to reach 50 wins too!
Moore’s individual and team success certainly makes him one of the greatest college football players of all-time.
While his professional playing career did not quite pan out, Kellen eventually became a coach. He joined the Dallas Cowboys as their Quarterback coach in 2018 and was upgraded to the Cowboys Offensive Coordinator position in 2019, where he remains today.
When you think of ‘mean and scary’ players, you think of players like Bronko Nagurski. He had a very mean look about him, which certainly helps as a football star.
Nagurski was a standout defensive tackle and fullback for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the late 1920s. He started three seasons with the Gophers too. In 1929, his Senior season, Bronko was named All-American as both a defensive tackle and a fullback.
He is one of the few to ever become an All-American at two different positions. However, he is only one of a select few to reach All-American status at two positions in the same season.
In Nagurski’s time as a starter, the Gophers went 18-4-2 and in 1927, they won the Big Ten Championship.
Nagurski was honored for his career when his number, 72, was retired by the Gophers. He was honored once more in 1951 when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Few are made like Bronko, that is for sure. It’s easy to see why so many see him as one of the best college football players of all-time.
Peyton Manning spent all four of his college seasons (three as a full-time starter) with the University of Tennessee. However, this shocked many in the college football landscape as Peyton’s father, Archie, had played for the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Archie Manning also played professionally, making Manning a major target for college scouts.
Yet everyone assumed Ole Miss had him…until then-Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer found a way to steal Peyton for the Volunteers. That helped to bring a small rivalry to Ole Miss & Tennessee for the years Peyton played in volunteer country.
Manning tossed for over 11,000 yards in his collegiate career as well as 89 touchdowns, which was good for a quarterback rating of 147.1. This is also among the best for anyone who played in a Power 5 Conference.
His most successful season as a Volunteer was his Senior season in 1997-1998. During that season, he won the Campbell Award, Maxwell Award, and was named an All-American. He also finished runner-up in the Heisman race to Charles Woodson. He also led Tennessee to an SEC Championship this season too.
Sadly, the Volunteers fell just short of becoming possible National Champions due to their loss in the Orange Bowl. Had they won and Michigan lost to Washington State in the Rose Bowl, the Vols would be the champions. Yet neither happened.
After his terrific college career, Manning went on to become the number one overall draft pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. In the NFL, Manning became one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever lived. However, his professional success all came after his time at Tennessee where he became one of the best college football players of all-time.
The infamous Jim Thorpe starred at Carlisle Indian Industrial School as a running back, defensive back, placekicker, and punter. This school shut down in 1918 and is now part of the U.S. Army War College. Of course, Jim Thorpe was a Native American, part of the Sac and Fox Nation.
During his run with the Carlisle team, he was a two-time All-American. Sadly, very few records were kept back then, so we do not have much information regarding his college stint. Yet we do for his time as a track star for the U.S. Olympic Team.
During the 1912 Olympic Games, he won two Gold Medals (Pentathlon & Decathlon). This made him the first Native American to ever win a gold medal for the United States. Sadly, the medals were taken away in 1913.
During this time period, athletes could not be considered “professionals” according to the International Olympic Committee’s “amateurism” rule. Since Thorpe played Semi-Professional Baseball before competing in the Olympics, he violated the IOC rule.
However, they later restored his Olympic Gold Medals in 1983. Sadly, this was 30 years after Thorpe’s passing. Yet Jim still had an amazing professional sports career.
He played for the New York Giants’ Major League Baseball for six seasons. Thorpe also played for the Canton Bulldogs NFL team where he won 3 professional championships, although he played for six other NFL teams afterward. He played on several “Indian” teams and starred on a professional basketball team made completely of Native Americans.
Jim was an All-Pro in 1923 and is part of the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team.
Thorpe was honored for his success and accomplishments when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was also part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 1963.
Barry Sanders had two decent seasons as a running back for the Oklahoma State Cowboys before exploding during his Junior season.
During his historic Junior season, Sanders rushed for an NCAA record 2,628 yards along with another NCAA record 37 rushing touchdowns. That season, he won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and the Heisman Award.
He finished his college career with over 50 rushing touchdowns and over the course of his career he set 34 NCAA Division I FBS records. Today, several of his NCAA Division-1 records are no longer in place. However, no one has come close to what he accomplished in his Junior season.
Those two major records still stand mightily. No one has come close to one of those records, much less both in the same season.
After college, Sanders was the number three overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. He’d play for the Detroit Lions for his entire career, reaching the Pro Bowl 10 times. He is among the only running backs to make it to 10 straight.
He has also led the NFL in rushing 4 times and once led the league in rushing touchdowns. To top this all off, he was also named the 1997 NFL MVP.
Surprisingly, he left the league and went into retirement just short of breaking the league’s career rushing yards number. This put him second on the list behind Walter Payton. Sanders is now 4th all-time in career rushing yards & 10th all-time in rushing touchdowns as of this writing.
Due to his immense success in the NFL, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. However, his impressive running back time began in college. This is why he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Derrick Thomas was a three-year starting linebacker for the Alabama Crimson Tide. In his first two years, he was a steady starter who could make big plays on occasion.
In his third season, however, he erupted for an NCAA record 27 sacks in a season. His accomplishments led to him winning the Butkus Award and becoming a unanimous All-American. Known as a major pass rusher, Thomas played at both the defensive lineman and linebacker spots while with the Crimson Tide.
Thomas to this day is considered the ultimate defensive player that Alabama defenders aspire to be like.
Thomas went on to become the fourth overall selection in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he played his entire 10-year career. He’d go on to become one of the best linebackers in NFL history, recording 126.5 sacks and forcing 41 fumbles in his career. This is combined with 642 career tackles.
Sadly, a car accident led to Thomas’ untimely death. He was not close to retirement yet either. Who knows how many more sacks he could have racked up had he lived and played again.
However, his impressive run began at the University of Alabama. His accomplishments while at Alabama made him one of the greatest college football players of all-time. Thus, the College Football Hall of Fame inducted him in 2014. Meanwhile, the Pro Football Hall of Fame actually inducted him in 2009. Both were well deserved.
Hugh Green was a great linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh from 1977-1980. In his time as a Panther, he accumulated 460 total tackles, 52 tackles for a loss, 53 sacks and 24 forced fumbles. This is considered one of the most dominant runs in FBS history.
After an impressive year in 1980, Green won the Walter Camp Award, the Maxwell Award, and the Lombardi Award. His 1980 campaign was quite impressive too as he racked up 123 tackles, 77 of which were solo. On top of this, he managed to get 17 sacks as well as force 7 fumbles, recovering 4 of them. These exploits led to -112 yards allowed by Green!
He was also a three-time All-American and four-time All-Big East player.
With Green on their squad, the Panthers went 39-8-1, while winning two Gator Bowls along with A Fiesta Bowl. When you have a man who performs like Hugh, it’s near impossible to lose.
In 1996, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame due to his impressive career. Hugh was a solid pro, but sadly injuries plagued his professional career. After going seventh overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1981 NFL Draft, Green was pretty impressive starting out. However, injuries eventually caught up to him, leading to only 3 full seasons in 10 years.
The thing is, Green was so good when healthy that Tampa Bay, as well as the Miami Dolphins, wanted to use him. Green did go to two Pro-Bowls, but he did not go very far beyond this. He ended his career with 6 INTs & 34.3 sacks in 70 career games from 1981-1991. Not bad for the time he played, for sure.
Tommie Frazier was a terrific quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in his four years with them. He led the Huskers to a 45-4, including two straight undefeated seasons to end his college career. It’s hard to have any great player list regarding CFB without Frazier on it.
People often forget that Frazier was a mobile QB in the 1990s. This is why he passed for a career total of slightly over 4,000 yards and 47 touchdowns while with the Huskers. However, he also rushed for a little over 2,200 yards and 36 touchdowns during this time too.
His “45 wins” was one of the best winning percentages in Division-1 Football history for years. Frazier led Nebraska to four straight Big Eight Conference Championships! He also won the National Championship in back-to-back years (1994 & 1995), which he was only one of three men to ever do up to that point.
His 1995 campaign is legendary. This was a year in which he was named an All-American, Quarterback of the Year, and won the Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year. All of this on top of being the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
In 2013, Tommie was finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
NFL teams did not take a chance on him due to a blood clot in his leg. However, he hoped to prove his skill by playing in the CFL for the Montreal Alouettes. Sadly, he was released after a case of severe pneumonia that led to him spitting up blood at the hospital, which seemed to occur due to blood thinners given to him by the medical professionals due to his blood clot history.
Tommie retired shortly after this and went on to coach for various programs.
Archie Griffin was a terrific running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes in his four years as a starter. He is one of the few running backs in memory to have started all four years rather than jump to the pros. However, rules were different back in the 1970s compared to today, of course.
During his time with OSU, he ran for over 5,500 yards and 26 touchdowns and was the core of the Buckeyes team for some of their best years. With Griffin, the Buckeyes went to four-straight Rose Bowls and they won one en route to an undefeated season in 1973. He also ran them to an impressive four-straight Big Ten Conference Championships.
Griffin also had plenty of individual success. He was a three-time All-American, two-time Big Ten MVP, two-time Walter Camp Award winner, and a Maxwell Award Winner.
He is also the only player in NCAA history to win two Heisman Trophies. That certainly puts him among the best college football players of all-time.
After his college career, he was selected 24th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. He did not have a lot of success as a pro but did have a relatively long career for a running back, 7 years. All of which were played with the Bengals, a team from his home state of Ohio.
In spite of his issues as a professional, Griffin had a legendary college football run. People talk about him today as one of if not THE best running back in college football history as a result.
In honor of his time as a college player, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986. On top of this, his college #45, is now retired by Ohio State.
Herschel Walker dominated the NCAA in the three years he started as a running back for Georgia Bulldogs.
In every season with the Bulldogs, he dashed for over 1,500 yards and accumulated 5,259 rushing yards in his career in addition to 49 rushing touchdowns,
He was a three-time All-American and was the first true freshman to be acknowledged as part of the First-Team All-American team. He also won a National Championship during his Freshman year in an undefeated, 12-0, season with the Bulldogs.
In addition, Griffin was also a three-time SEC Player of the Year.
Following his Senior Year, he won the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Heisman Trophy, and was named the United Press International (UPI) Player of the Year.
He went on to the pros but did so in a unique way. The USFL had truly just begun while the NFL had been around for several years up to this point. Due to being a new league, it wanted to sway players to come to their league over the NFL. That especially included highly touted college players.
Walker would opt to join the New Jersey Generals from that league. However, once the USFL went downhill, Walker jumped to the NFL where he played for the Dallas Cowboys initially. He’d go to play for 3 other teams before ending his career in Dallas after the 1996-1997 season.
While he was a USFL MVP and 2-time All-USFL selection, he also managed to become a 2-time NFL Pro-Bowler too. While not the greatest pro, he was a notable college player. It’s clear he is one of the best college football players of all-time. This is why he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Bo Jackson is undeniably one of the best college football players of all-time. As a running back for the Auburn Tigers, he accumulated 4,575 yards from scrimmage along with 45 total touchdowns. Of course, Jackson was not just a football player. He was also a great college athlete in many areas, including baseball and track.
He led the Tigers to a bowl appearance in each of the four years he played with them. This includes three-consecutive bowl victories, including their Sugar Bowl victory in 1983.
As a player, Jackson made the All-SEC team three times and was a two-time All-American. Following the 1985 season, he was honored as the UPI Player of the Year and even won the Walter Camp Award as well as the Heisman Trophy.
There was some controversy surrounding Jackson when he went pro, however. Due to wanting to focus more on baseball, he told teams that he’d be a waste of a draft pick for them. Tampa Bay did not care and took him anyway in the 1986 NFL Draft. Due to being lied to by the Bucs, he refused to play for them.
He’d then sign with MLB’s Kansas City Royals. In the 1987 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Raiders picked him in the seventh round and Jackson eventually played for them.
Though he did not have a long football career, he did become the first & only man to ever be named to and play in an NFL Pro-Bowl & MLB All-Star Game.
He finished his NFL season with a little over 2,700 yards rushing & 16 TDs while he finished his MLB career with 141 Homeruns & 415 RBIs. Due to his impressive college run, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Tim Tebow was an absolute stud of a quarterback for the Florida Gators. In four years with the Gators, three as a starter, he threw for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns to go along with a 9.3 yards per pass attempt average. This goes along with just under 3,000 career rushing yards and 57 rushing touchdowns.
If that is not enough to call him one of the best college football players of all-time, we are not sure what is. While his individual statistics are worthy of note, his team success is also very impressive. He won two SEC Championships & two BCS National Championships with the Gators. However, he won only one of each as the starter for Florida.
With Tebow as a starter, the Gators went 35-6 as a team. This included appearances in both the Sugar Bowl & Capital One Bowl games, with an overall 3-1 record in bowl games, 2-1 as a starter.
In his career, Tebow was also a two-time SEC Player of the Year, two-time Maxwell Award winner, Manning Award winner, and Heisman Trophy winner as well as the only three-time Heisman Trophy finalist. He has more Florida Gators team records to count, yet he also left Florida holding numerous Southeastern Conference Records too (Career Passing Efficiency & Total Rushing TDs).
Following his time with the Gators, he was selected 24th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Although he had a respectable rookie campaign, even a playoff win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Broncos moved away from Tebow following this run. They’d land Peyton Manning while Tebow never landed full-time on another NFL roster.
Tim has since moved into baseball under the New York Mets farm system, with occasional appearances with the Mets. He’s also currently an analyst for ESPN.