Being born in 1990, I’ve only been able to witness a fraction of the greatest moments in college sports. Whether it was Florida winning both a football and basketball national championship in 2006 or Michael Vick single-handedly carrying Virginia Tech to a national championship against Florida State, college sports have been very good the last twenty years.
Something over the last twenty years that I have not jumped onto the bandwagon for was the media monster, Tim Tebow. No, he did not ask for all the national attention on a daily basis. No, he did not ask for his name to pop-up on top of the Google suggested list only after typing in the letters: t-i-m. And no, he definitely didn’t ask for his perfect background to become a national conversation; maybe he did ask for that one just a little bit. Nevertheless, Tim Tebow is viewed as the greatest thing to put on a helmet since, well, ever.
It’s the last thing that I don’t agree with on this topic. Don’t get me wrong Tim Tebow played the game consistently better than anyone I’ve seen. I just feel that if ESPN cared enough to indulge themselves into Charles Woodsen’s, Vince Young’s or even Michael Vick’s life, they may have had a different story to tell. Below is my, Nick Gacos’, list of the top five players of his lifetime ever to call themselves grid-iron student-athletes.
#5 Reggie Bush (Southern California)- I truly believe that Reggie Bush was the first player of our generation to really have the “wow” factor. Matt Leinert probably hasn’t thanked Pete Carroll enough for putting Bush in a number 5 Trojan uniform behind him in the backfield. In just two years Bush ran for 2648 yards and 22 touchdowns. Oh, I almost forgot he made up more than half of the Trojan’s passing game with 80 receptions for 987 yards and 9 more touchdowns. The most impressive thing about Bush as I was gathering stats was his fumble to lost fumble ratio. Zero-Zero. Somehow Bush managed to hang onto the football better than anyone. Maybe that’s why they let him get away with pushing Leinert into the end zone with time expiring to beat Brady Quinn’s Fighting Irish. (Pictured above)
#4 Charles Woodson (Michigan)- Easily my favorite player on the board. If I had to start a college football dynasty around one player, Charles would be my man. Defense, offense and special teams made him a shoe-in for the Heisman Trophy in 1997. Yes, this drynamic player never left the field, but when on offense he could line-up as a tailback or receiver. He made defensive coordinators cringe when they saw number 21 jogging to the huddle. In three years Woodson had 18 interceptions, 31 broken-up passes and 182 tackles, but wait there’s more. He also returned 47 punts for 407 yards and a touchdown. When he didn’t return the ball on special teams, he was busy rushing for 173 yards and two touchdowns to accompany his 25 receptions for 402 yards and three touchdowns. I’d say he is rather dynamic.
#3 Michael Vick (Virginia Tech)- It’s not until I was accepted by Virginia Tech that I began to deeply regret my decision not to watch Hokie Football during the Michael Vick days. Sadly, Michael only played two seasons before signing with saving the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. It was in those two years that VT fans got more than they bargained for. With a 20-1 record as a starter, Vick could make plays with every inch of his body. With a man open downfield, Vick would throw a laser-rocket strike into the bread basket of the receiver. 3,504 yards and 22 touchdowns in two seasons shows the passing game that came with Michael Vick, but as I’ve stated in previous articles, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Watching Vick play was unique because when pressured, Michael would be able to tear defenses down with his legs. It was his 1,318 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground that made number 7, number 7. His longest rush went for 82 yards if you doubted his breakaway speed. If it wasn’t for legal trouble, Vick could have been the first man to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season in the NFL.
#2 Tim Tebow (Florida)- This is probably the first time you’ll ever see Tim Tebow’s name and the following collection of words in the same sentence; “second-greatest”. Actually, this past season’s SEC Conference final standing would agree with me, but that is besides the point. I understand that two national championships, a Heisman and three Heisman finalist selections is extremely impressive, but being an avid watcher of sporting news, I wasn’t able to see the “media-pedestal” that he was put on. I’m not the first person to think this, but just the first to admit it. However, Tebow earns the respect of 100 players due to the fact he stayed in college for all four years. Again, I think this is because he isn’t going to make a great pro and this was his moment (years) to shine. 12,232 total yards from scrimmage and 145 touchdowns is incredible, but I think only good enough to call him the greatest college football player to ever run the option.
#1 Vince Young (Texas)- First off I’d like to save all my readers the time and effort of searching to find the year Young won the Heisman. The year was two-thousand and never. He lost to Reggie Bush in the 2005 poll because I know this was the next thing you went to look up. His 6040 yards passing, 44 touchdowns through the air, 3,127 yards rushing and 37 touchdowns on the ground aren’t what you would expect from the number one on this list. It’s hard to top stats like Tebow’s, but I’m a firm believer in looking beyond the numbers. For those who can’t look past the numbers, here’s some that will make you agree with my decision of putting Vince atop this list. In his two Rose Bowl appearances, Young had 839 yards and 8 touchdowns. How? What? Really? Also, he was 30-2 as a starter. No wonder this guy went 3rd overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. Still not a believer? Vince Young only played two-and-a-half seasons and went to two Rose Bowls (then national championships), winning his final as a junior. Vince Young is truly the best college football player of the last twenty years and was hardly recognized because of such personnel: Reggie Bush, Brady Quinn, and Matt Leinert.
(Honorable mention: Troy Smith, Tim Couch, Carson Palmer, Ken Dorsey)
I could easily see this list being displayed 100 different ways and that is what makes this argument so great. No one is right, yet no one is wrong and the questions never end. Tim Tebow and Vince Young have the numbers to be easy choices for one and two, but it is ultimately up to the writer to pick who he thinks performed better. Despite all the debate, here is something that all journalists can at least agree with:
This debate has given us one of the greatest headaches of the last twenty years.