College Favorites Countdown #5

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To kick off the NCAA football season, we’ve been counting down our favorite college football players of all time.  Today we’re down to number 5 in the countdown.  If you want to see any of the previous picks, just click on the links below:

#10

#9

#8

#7

#6

Darren McFadden (RB, Arkansas, 2005-2007)

The affectionately nicknamed Run-DMC never played on a great college football team, but damn was he a great college football player.  A two-time winner of both the Jim Brown and Doak Walker awards, McFadden sported a ridiculous blend of speed and power that sometimes seemed unfair at the college level.  He was everything you wanted from a player you loved on another team.  He juked, he trucked, he flew, he danced, he threw (a lot, and well!), and he did it all while playing for a team that was just bad enough that you didn’t feel bad when you cheered for him.  McFadden played against nine and ten man boxes every single week and still managed to rank second in career rushing yards in the SEC.  Hell, the second and third best players on that team might have been the two running backs who played behind him.  The video above is a 13-minute highlight video with grainy footage and terrible music and I just watched it twice.  Any player that can make me listen to an entire hick-rap remix of Wild Boy, that can make the Razorbacks interesting, that can – almost – make living in Arkansas bearable, is a player that has to be in my College Favorites top 5.

-Sam Slappey

Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia, 2009-2013)

Throughout these rankings, I’ve tried to include personal or unique reasons why I liked a certain player at a certain time. Most of my remaining picks have some element of personal connection for why I liked them, despite playing for teams I dislike or not necessarily being great. But for this spot, something can be said for a guy on your favorite team who is really good for a really long time. Aaron Murray was a four year starter at UGA, and a steady foundation for consistently good Bulldog teams. After a 6-7 season as a freshman, Murray led Georgia to ten and twelve win seasons before a senior season injury slowed them to an eight win season. He led Georgia to within five yards of a likely National Championship before heartbreakingly falling to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship. When all said and done, Murray finished his career as the all-time SEC passing touchdown and passing yards leader.

Aaron Murray.jpg

-John Mahaffey

Todd Gurley

I can’t imagine a fan base or student body adoring a student athlete the way the University of Georgia appreciated Todd Gurley. The guy ran as hard and gracefully as anybody I have ever seen. I know Gurley has already been mentioned in the countdown, but I have never witnessed a louder, more raucous, explosive moment in a college football game than the way Sanford Stadium erupted when Gurley returned a kickoff to the house the first time he touched the ball after returning from suspension against Auburn in 2014. Granted, the play got called back for a holding call, but it didn’t matter. Sanford loved it. Despite getting suspended for taking payment for signing merchandise, Gurley was still adored on campus; the ill will was at a minimum. I think some people understood, get it while you’re here. On top of it all, Gurley could have just called it a season and started getting ready for the NFL, but he came back to finish the season for that 2014 team that probably wasn’t going anywhere. And after tearing his ACL during that Auburn game, in a different era it would have been a perfect example of why college players deserve more. But that’s for another time. Todd Gurley was thrilling to watch and go to school with.

See the first play of this clip for the Auburn return.

– Will Mahaffey

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Football was one of those “must watch” guys every Saturday. He is probably the third most dominant college player in the last 10 years behind Tebow and Cam Newton. Despite having multiple first-round offensive lineman throughout his tenure in College Station, it seemed that he never had any protection, yet was always able to find Mike Evans downfield for a 40+ yard play. His Heisman season was one of the easiest decisions for voters in the last 20 years. His NFL career might be a bust, but watching Manziel run around Kyle Field, likely under the influence of one substance or another, was a spectacle to behold.

– Bear Deneau

College Favorites Countdown: #6

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To kick off the NCAA football season, we’ve been counting down our favorite college football players of all time.  Below is #6 on each of our lists.  Before you take a look at #6 on the countdown, check out who we picked for #10#9#8, and #7.

David Pollack (DE, Georgia, 2001-2004)

David Pollack is perhaps the most memorable defensive player from the last two decades of Georgia football.  The Dawgs have had plenty of defensive standouts, but nobody has delivered consistent excellence while also supplying signature plays in big moments like David Pollack. A three time all SEC team member, two time sec player of the year and Lombardi award winner, Pollack was dominant throughout his career at Georgia. Still, one moment stands out above the rest. With the Bulldogs leading 3-0 early in the 4th quarter, Pollack managed to beat a double team on the end and then miraculously intercepted a pass that was never thrown, batting the ball from the quarterback’s hands and catching it before it hit the ground.. Like the Immaculate Reception, this is a play that people will be trying and failing to explain to their kids for years to come, only to resort to a grainy video when their words fail to do it justice. A devastating injury put an end to what could have been a great professional career, but around Athens David Pollack is and will always remain a legend.

Pollack Continue reading College Favorites Countdown: #6

College Favorites Countdown: #7

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College Favorites Countdown: #10

College Favorites Countdown: #9

College Favorites Countdown: #8

AJ McCarron (QB, Alabama, 2009-2013)

This spot in the rankings could also be filled by John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy, or Jake Coker, because they’re all essentially the same person. They were all good “game managers” that excelled because of the players and schemes around them, doing just enough to maintain Nick Saban’s dominance. AJ separated himself on the field, winning two national championships compared to JPW’s zero and McElroy and Coker’s one each. More importantly, he separated himself in personality- he actually had one. In uniform he was just like the others, Alabama bangs tucked under a crimson helmet. But outside of it, he had the chest tattoo! He had Katherine Webb. He was the perfect combination of absurdity and cockiness, with the success to justify it. This makes him the face of Alabama’s near decade of dominance outside of Nick Saban in my mind. I’m by no means an Alabama fan, but during McCarron’s time there it seemed as though Alabama was playing on CBS every Saturday afternoon. It was hard to not have at least a little fun watching McCarron give goofy interviews with Tracy Wolfson while Nick Saban stared daggers into the camera.

AJ.jpg Continue reading College Favorites Countdown: #7

College Favorites Countdown: #8

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College Favorites Countdown: #9

College Favorites Countdown: #10

Calvin Johnson (WR, Georgia Tech, 2004-2006)

I’ve never been as sure about anybody going from college football to the pros as I was about Calvin Johnson coming out of Georgia Tech. Was it his size?  Nope. His athleticism? It certainly helped. The one deciding factor, though, the one thing that made Calvin Johnson a surefire superstar in the NFL? Reggie Freaking Ball. Calvin’s college quarterback wasn’t bad, he was abysmal. Nearly every throw required a superhuman adjustment, and nearly every adjustment was made. Calvin consistently caught balls that were overthrown, under thrown, behind him, or aimed at a defender’s chest. After Reggie Ball, surely any NFL quarterback would be a gift from God to this supremely talented receiver. Then he met Matthew Stafford… Continue reading College Favorites Countdown: #8

College Favorites Countdown: #9

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College Favorites Countdown: #10

Demaryius Thomas (WR, Georgia Tech, 2006-2009)

Demaryius Thomas, or “Bay Bay” as he was affectionately known in his college years, was big, fast, and could usually catch. This made him a unique and fun weapon for Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense. In those early years of the option at Tech, 99% of the time Josh Nesbitt was taking the snap and running himself, handing it off to Jonathan Dwyer, or pitching it to Roddy Jones while Thomas lined up wide and blocked. But when you least expected it, Demaryius would go long and Nesbitt would heave the ball as far as he could in his best attempt at a “pass.” If Nesbitt managed to get the ball close, Demaryius would out-strength and out-jump the defense for a long gain. He was criminally under-utilized by Paul Johnson’s offense, but that made it all the more special when Thomas got a chance to show off the skills that would make him a first round pick and Super Bowl 50 champ. While in college he was an important piece of the 2009 Yellow Jacket team that won the ACC Championship, but soon had to vacate that title because he accepted clothing from an agent. Either way, for a Georgia Tech fan in the Paul Johnson era, Bay Bay provided an element of excitement that the triple-option sometimes struggles to produce.

-John Mahaffey Continue reading College Favorites Countdown: #9