In considering the 10 best college football players ever, it is important to focus on a player’s collegiate career only and not be swayed by his success (or lack of it) in the NFL. Some players’ success transferred to the NFL, while others did not. But at the collegiate level, a few players stand above others for their absolute tremendous play.
- Barry Sanders Sanders’ junior season alone qualifies him as perhaps the best college football player ever. That year at Oklahoma State, he ran for a record 2,600 yards and 37 touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per carry and over 200 yards per game. He was unstoppable.
- Archie Griffin Griffin holds the distinction of being the only two-time Heisman trophy winner, obviously making him one of the best college football players ever. He had at least 1,400 yards for Ohio State his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
- Tony Dorsett Dorsett starred at Pitt, leading his team to the national title in 1976. Dorsett was a first-team All American his freshman, junior and senior seasons and finished his career with a then-collegiate record 6,082 rushing yards.
- Doug Flutie Flutie is best remembered for his Hail Mary pass to lead Boston College over Miami, but this quarterback won the Heisman his senior year and left school as the all-time collegiate passing leader with 10,579 yards.
- Red Grange Grange, the Galloping Ghost, was Illinois’ star running back and was one of the most famous athletes in the country during his heyday. He ran for 3,300 yards in twenty games and scored a TD in every game in which he played except for one.
- Jim Thorpe Thorpe was an all-around athlete, winning the decathlon at the 1912 Olympics, and is certainly one of the best college football players ever. Supposedly not encouraged to play football by his track (and football coach), Thorpe went on to lead Carlisle to the national championship in 1912, scoring 25 touchdowns.
- Herschel Walker Walker starred at Georgia and in his freshman season set the collegiate freshman rushing record and led the team to an undefeated year and the national championship. He won the Heisman his junior year, cementing himself as one of the best college football players ever.
- Dick Butkus Butkus is the other Illini on this list. Only he and Grange had their numbers retired at the school. He was a unanimous All-American twice and the award for the best college linebacker is named in his honor.
- Deion Sanders Sanders intercepted fourteen passes in his career and was twice named first-team All-American. He won the Jim Thorpe Award for best collegiate cornerback his senior year. He also broke Florida State’s punt return yardage record.
- Vince Young While at Texas, Young was 30-2 as a starting quarterback and was an All-American in 2005. He is perhaps best remembered for a dominating performance over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl where he accounted for 467 yards of offense and three touchdowns.
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