50 Former College Football Players Who Still Give Us Nightmares

Alex CallosCorrespondent IJune 4, 2012

50 Former College Football Players Who Still Give Us Nightmares

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    Over the long history of college football, there have been some players that have not only given opposing fans nightmares, but also fans of their own team.

    Whether it is hard hitter that fans of a rival team can not seem to forget about or a player that simply could not be stopped, every fan has a player that still gives them nightmares.

    These are not necessarily the best 50 players in college football history, but some of the most memorable or hardest to forget.

    While some are certainly better than others, all 50 names on the list are definitely giving somebody nightmares somewhere around the country.

50. Reggie White-Tennessee

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    Known as 'The Minister of Defense', Reggie White starred at Tennessee from 1980-1983 and was one of the best defensive players in college football.

    During his senior season, the defensive end was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and finished his career with 32 sacks along with 51 tackles for loss.

    He was an All-American and went on to become one of the greatest pass rushers the NFL has ever seen.

49. Chris Spielman-Ohio State

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    Anybody would be hard pressed to find a college football player who played harder than Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman. Simply put, he brought it every Saturday. 

    Spielman was a tough-nosed linebacker who could hit as hard as anybody. He was a two-time All American at Ohio State and won the Lombardi Award during his senior season.

    No question, a lot of the B1G members during that time are still having nightmares about some of the hard hits he put on players.

48. LaRon Landry-LSU

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    Landry was a four-year starter at the safety position for LSU and was a consensus All-American during his senior campaign in 2006.

    LSU has produced a number of talented defensive backs and while Landry is not the best of them, he is certainly more feared than anybody else.

    Landry put fear into the eyes of SEC wide receivers when they came over the middle and fans of other SEC teams certainly were not sad to see him go.

47. Tommy Nobis-Texas

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    Many people may not know much about Tommy Nobis because he played so long ago. The linebacker was at Texas from 1963-1965 and perhaps one of the most amazing stats in college football history are the nearly 20 tackles a game he averaged.

    He was a two-time All-American and a true Iron Man as he played both sides of the ball, playing guard on offense. This allowed him to finish seventh in the Heisman voting.

    One of the best defensive players in college football history, Nobis was also one of the most feared.

    Perhaps the slightly older generation still has nightmares about him.

46. Jack Lambert-Kent State

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    Jack Lambert may be best known for what he did at the professional level, but he was also a hard hitter at the college level.

    He was possibly the hardest hitter the MAC has ever seen and was a two-time all-MAC selection.

    Long before he was a feared linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lambert was equally as devastating a hitter at Kent State.

45. Jerome Brown-Miami

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    Miami had some devastating defenses over the years and they were as good as ever in the 1980s.

    Leading the way along the defensive line during that time was defensive tackle Jerome Brown. He was an All-American in 1986 and helped anchor a defense that hardly anybody could score on.

    The Hurricanes were one of the best teams in college football during this time and nobody wanted to mess with Jerome Brown.

44. Red Grange-Illinois

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    Known as 'The Galloping Ghost', Red Grange was the best running back of his time and was one of the best players in the country from 1923-1925.

    During his sophomore season, he rushed for 12 touchdowns in only seven games, including three against Nebraska in his first ever game.

    As a senior he rushed for 237 yards in the mud, helping to lead Illinois to an upset 24-2 victory over Penn. He was a three-time All-American and was as tough to bring down as anybody during his time.

    Grange was known to lay the wood on anybody trying to stop him.

43. Derrick Thomas-Alabama

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    There is no question that nearly every quarterback in the SEC during the late 1980s, has had a nightmare or two with Derrick Thomas hovering over them after a big hit.

    Thomas was not only one of the best pass rushers in NFL history, but also one of the best ever at the collegiate level.

    He won the Butkus Award in 1988 after recording an NCAA record 27 sacks. He also finished 10th in the Heisman and had 52 sacks for his career. 

42. Bubba Smith-Michigan State

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    Bubba Smith had grown up wanting to stay in-state and play for Texas, but because of the segregation, he was forced to go up north and play at Michigan State.

    Smith was one of the meanest and most physical defensive tackles of all-time and was a two-time All-American in 1965 and 1966.

    He became even more popular with the chant "Kill, Bubba Kill." This was yelled by the Spartans faithful. Smith could put a hurtin' on opposing quarterbacks as was evident when he knocked Notre Dame starter Terry Hanratty out of their game.

41. Tony Dorsett-Pittsburgh

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    Tony Dorsett is on the list for a completely different reason than a lot of the other guys. He gave opposing defenses nightmares just with how good he could be when the ball was in his hands.

    He did a little bit of everything, including winning a Heisman in 1976. Stats aside, Dorsett was a smaller running back who was as elusive as they came during his time at Pittsburgh.

    Dorsett is one of the five greatest running backs in college football history and was as tough to bring down as almost anybody.

40. Joe Greene-North Texas

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    "Mean" Joe Greene became a staple for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense when he reached the NFL.

    As a defensive tackle at North Texas, he helped his team put up some staggering numbers, holding opponents to less than two yards per carry.

    He was an All-American in 1968 and the nickname all started when he played for North Texas during the late 1960s.

39. Warren Sapp-Miami

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    Warren Sapp was another star on those talented Miami Hurricanes defenses. He excelled during his time at Miami, but in 1994, was one of the best defensive players in the country.

    Sapp won nearly every defensive award imaginable and was a force up front for the Hurricanes during the early 1990s.

    Not many defensive linemen were as intimidating as Sapp.

38. Hugh Green-Pittsburgh

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    Hugh Green was a pass rushing defensive end at Pittsburgh from 1977-1980. During this time, he got to the quarterback at an unprecedented mark.

    He recorded 11 or more sacks in each of his four seasons, was a three-time first-team All-American and even a second team selection as a freshman.

    Ask any quarterback he played during his four seasons and I'm sure he got them at some point.

37. Rod Woodson-Purdue

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    Before he was a hard hitting and dominant safety in the NFL, Rod Woodson did the same in the B1G at Purdue.

    Woodson did a little bit of everything at Purdue, but excelled as a defensive back and punt returner who hit harder than anybody in the conference.

    He also played running back and receiver in spurts as well as shining on the track team. 

    Woodson was a two-time All-American who could put a licking on anybody.

36. Orlando Pace-Ohio State

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    There has never been an offensive lineman to dominate college football like Orlando Pace did at Ohio State from 1993-1996.

    Pace was a two-time All-American and had the best season of any offensive lineman in 1996.

    Defensive linemen simply could not get past him and there are definitely defensive coordinators who are still seeing Pace slam down their star player in their sleep.

35. Ed Reed-Miami

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    Ed Reed is one of the best safeties ever born and during his time at Miami he was as feared as anybody in the country. 

    He had 21 career interceptions and was a two-time All-American. Reed also knew how to put a heavy hit on a wide receiver coming over the middle.

    Big East offensive coordinators were certainly glad to see Reed leave 'The U'.

34. Michael Crabtree-Texas Tech

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    Michael Crabtree was a nightmare for defensive coordinators during his time at Texas Tech and he had one of the best freshman seasons in college football history.

    Crabtree caught 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns during that season.

    There isn't a defensive back in the Big 12 that did not get burned at one time or another by Crabtree and they are certainly still having nightmares about him.

    Just ask the Texas faithful.

33. Archie Griffin-Ohio State

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    A list of great college football players is never complete without including Archie Griffin.

    As a two-time Heisman winner, it goes without saying how talented he was. Defenses in the B1G certainly did not want to face this guy as he was a model of consistency during his four seasons at Ohio State.

    Nobody wanted to try to bring this guy down, that's for sure.

    He wreaked havoc on Michigan and many others during his day.

32. Tommie Frazier-Nebraska

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    Tommie Frazier ran the option to perfection at Nebraska and it is not just him that fans and coaches of the teams he ran all over have nightmares about, but the entire Nebraska offense.

    They were a well-oiled machine who seemed to do everything right and Frazier was the man who orchestrated everything.

    The offense was as tough to stop as anybody and Frazier was the main reason why.

31. Larry Fitzgerald-Pittsburgh

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    Larry Fitzgerald was one of the most complete receivers college football has ever seen and has the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown catch with 18.

    He definitely wreaked havoc on a lot of defenses during his time at Pittsburgh.

    Nobody wanted to try to cover this guy.

30. Deion Sanders-Florida State

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    "Prime Time" is perhaps the best cover corner football has ever seen. Going up against him no mater what level it was, made for a tough days work for any wide receiver.

    Sanders is one of the best athletes of all time and also starred in baseball and track.

    What perhaps drove college football coaches crazy more than anything was his ability to return punts. Nobody could do it quite like him and he certainly drove special teams coaches crazy.

29. Earl Campbell-Texas

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    The people who had nightmares of Earl Campbell more than any body are tiny defensive backs.

    Campbell was as big and bruising a running back as college football has ever seen and even though he may have taken the brunt of those hits over the years, as injuries cut his career short, when Campbell was in the open field he was a nightmare to bring down.

    In 1977 he won the Heisman Trophy and was an unstoppable force with the ball in his hands.

28. Bronko Nagurski-Minnesota

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    Not many individuals have an award named after them, and Bronco Nagurski is one of them.

    Nagurski played fullback on offense and tackle on defense. At 216 pounds, he was bigger than anybody on the field during the late 1920s.

    He had the athleticism and speed to play anywhere on the field. Certainly one of the meanest and most complete players in the history of the B1G.

27. Desmond Howard-Michigan

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    Desmond Howard was spectacular at Michigan during his time, but his Heisman season in 1991 was far and away his best year.

    He was the most explosive player in the country during this time and nobody in the B1G or in the entire country for that matter could figure out how to stop him.

    Howard gave opposing teams nightmares and probably still does.

26. Bruce Smith-Virginia Tech

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    Not many people could get to the quarterback like Bruce Smith and he put fear in their eyes when they saw him on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

    He had 71 tackles for loss during his career at Virginia Tech and the defensive end had 46 career sacks, including 22 during his junior season.

    He was an All-American and Outland Trophy winner as well.

25. Mike Singletary -Baylor

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    Mike Singletary is a model of intensity as most people recognize from when he was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

    That intensity began at Baylor where he was a two-time All-American. As a sophomore in 1978, Singletary recorded an amazing 232 tackles, undoubtedly with a few hard hits along the way.

    The man once had 35 tackles in a game. Unreal.

24. Charles Woodson-Michigan

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    Charles Woodson may be the most complete cornerback in college football history and played both sides of the ball real well for the Michigan Wolverines.

    Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997 during his junior season.

    As the only primarily defensive players to win the award, he is certainly one of the most feared corners opposing players have ever seen.

23. Brian Boswoth-Oklahoma

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    Just look at this guy. Who wouldn't have nightmares about him.

    Brian Bosworth was one of the best players in the country from 1984-1986. He had some of the craziest hairstyles of any player in the country.

    He is the only player to win the Butkus Award twice and was banned for steroid use from the 1987 Orange Bowl before being kicked off the team by head coach Barry Switzer.

    Who would ever want to try and run through this guy.

22. Patrick Willis-Ole Miss

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    Patrick Willis is dangerous with or without a club on his hand. He may be the most feared linebacker in the NFL right now, and was just as good at the collegiate level.

    Mississippi has not been a real power in recent years, but Willis brought some stability to the defensive side of the ball for the Rebels.

    Willis was a two-time All-American and won all the major linebacker awards during his senior season.

21. Mario Williams-North Carolina State

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    When it comes to being a freak, very few players were as complete along the defensive line as Mario Williams.

    Williams was a beast at getting to the quarterback and was one of the most feared pass rushers to ever enter the NFL draft.

    Nobody could block him and he was a force at getting to the quarterback.

20. Bo Jackson-Auburn

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    Bo Jackson is one of the most bruising running backs the college football world has ever seen.

    He averaged 6.6 yards a carry, an SEC record that still stands today.

    Jackson was a nightmare for defenses in the SEC from 1982-1985. He also starred on the baseball team as well, and his professional career has been well documented.

19. Julius Peppers-North Carolina

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    Julius Peppers was a man along the defensive line. He was the nation's top defensive player during his senior season in 2001 and also starred on the basketball team.

    He had 30.5 sacks and 53 tackles for loss. Peppers was one of the best and most athletic defensive linemen to ever play at the collegiate level.

    Peppers was definitely one of the most feared defensive players in ACC history.

18. Doug Flutie-Boston College

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    How could somebody so little be so good. Flutie may not be the best quarterback in college football history or even anywhere close to the most feared, but there is no question that he is found in the nightmares of Miami Hurricanes fans.

    Flutie's last-second Hail Mary pass to defeat the Hurricanes is one of the most memorable games in the history of college football.

    Jimmy Johnson has probably gotten over it by now, but I'm sure he still thinks about it once in a while.

17. Cam Newton-Auburn

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    When it comes to nightmares, the fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide may never forget just what Cam Newton did to them in the Iron Bowl, coming back from a 24-0 deficit.

    Newton had one of the best single seasons of any college football player ever and defenses could simply not find a way to stop him or even slow him down for that matter.

    He was on his way to a Heisman Trophy and was an unstoppable force in the SEC.

16. Maurice Clarett-Ohio State

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    The people having nightmares about Maurice Clarett are not only all of the players he ran over in helping to lead Ohio State to the BCS National Championship, but also Ohio State fans who wonder what might have been.

    Clarett never played another game at Ohio State and had he been able to stay out of trouble who knows what would have happened for Clarett and the Buckeyes.

    The nightmare was never knowing what could have been.

15. Randy Moss-Marshall

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    There have been a lot of great college football players, but perhaps the most unstoppable of them all is Randy Moss.

    Moss played at Marshall during a time when they were not playing top level competition. This made it even more difficult for teams to find a way to stop him.

    The Thundering Herd were undefeated during his final season and had one of the best seasons of any college football team no matter what level.

14. Terrell Suggs-Arizona State

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    Terrell Suggs was a sack master in college, much like in the NFL.

    He had 24 sacks as a junior and totaled 44 during his short career at Arizona State. He also had 65.5 tackles for loss.

    Nobody in the Pac-12 could even come close to slowing him down and he gave nightmares to opposing offensive lines.

13. Reggie Bush-USC

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    Reggie Bush was as hard to corral as anybody in recent memory.

    He was a force on both offense and special teams. Bush was one of the most explosive players in the country on his way to a Heisman Trophy in 2005.

    He was not only a nightmare for opposing defenses, but also for USC fans for the turmoil he has brought in recent years off the field.

12. Dick Butkus-Illinois

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    Dick Butkus is one of the meanest linebackers in college football history and even has an award named after him.

    He had 374 tackles in three seasons and twice finished in the top six in the Heisman voting.

    Butkus was a sure tackler and as hard a hitter as the college football world has ever seen. Nobody wanted to cross his path, that's for sure.

    A lot of people would consider him the greatest college linebacker ever.

11. Michael Vick-Virginia Tech

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    Michael Vick was in one word, explosive.

    He revolutionized the quarterback position and was one of the hardest players in the country to stop when he had the ball in his hands.

    Vick starred at Virginia Tech and even led them to a national championship in 1999. He made some awkward plays look easy, including flips for touchdowns and scrambles for scores that nobody else could even think about doing.

10. Lawrence Taylor-North Carolina

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    Lawrence Taylor is probably the best linebacker in NFL history and certainly one of the best in college history as well.

    Taylor was considered to be one of the most reckless players of his time and was never afraid to make a big hit.

    He was an All-American and in 1980, he set numerous defensive records.

    Taylor was a nightmare for opposing ACC offenses.

9. Ndamukong Suh-Nebraska

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    Ndamukong Suh has proved in recent years just how mean he is by his actions with the Detroit Lions.

    He is as aggressive as they come and if he wasn't a defensive player, he would have won the Heisman Trophy in 2009.

    Suh had 24 tackles for loss his senior season and was constantly in the other teams backfield.

    No doubt, he is the most feared defensive lineman in college history. Quarterbacks beware because this guy is still wreaking havoc.

8. Lavar Arrington-Penn State

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    Linebacker Lavar Arrington is perhaps best remembered for guessing the snap count and jumping over the offensive line to make the tackle in the backfield.

    The play became known as "The LaVar Leap" and Arrington could do more than just make amazing tackles. He was one of the most feared linebackers of all-time.

    There was nothing he could not do on the football field and he was as mean as they come when the game was on the line.

7. Barry Sanders-Oklahoma State

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    Barry Sanders is certainly the best running back in college football history, but maybe not the most feared.

    He did however cause nightmares to opposing defenders and could make anybody look silly in the open field. 

    Sanders was as electrifying as they come and nobody could ever figure out how to stop him at any level.

6. Ray Lewis-Miami

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    We all know how mean and intimidating Ray Lewis still is with the Baltimore Ravens and he was the same way in college.

    Lewis had 160 tackles as a junior and was an All-American two times.

    He no doubt hit a few people over the middle during his three seasons in Miami. This guy is one of the scariest players college football has ever seen.

5. Jim Brown-Syracuse

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    Jim Brown was one of the original big, athletic running backs and should have won at least one Heisman Trophy.

    He is considered by many to be the best all around athlete this country has ever seen. Brown would run over everybody in his bath and is one of the best football players of all-time.

    Brown gave everybody in his path nightmares.

4. Ronnie Lott-USC

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    Very few people could hit quite like Ronnie Lott. Lott was a superstar at USC from 1977-1980.

    Lott could play everywhere on the field, including wide receiver as a sophomore. As a junior he played receiver and safety. During his senior season, Lott was a quarterback and safety.

    He excelled at the safety position and nobody hit quite like Ronnie Lott.

3. Herschel Walker-Georgia

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    Do not get in this guys way, or a concussion is likely to happen. Walker is the most feared running back in college football history.

    He is a large man and is as difficult to bring down as any running back ever.

    Walker could run through anybody in his path. He was a nightmare for opposing defenses in the SEC.

2. Tim Tebow-Florida

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    Tim Tebow was quite a college football player and the main reason he is a nightmare for opposing fans and players is because of how much publicity he gets.

    Tebowmania swept across the college football landscape while Tebow won a Heisman Trophy during his sophomore season.

    He was also a nightmare for opposing defenses to slow down and is one of the best college football quarterbacks of all-time.

1. Jack Tatum-Ohio State

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    A lot of people could hit hard, but nobody could ever hit like Ohio State safety Jack Tatum.

    Tatum was the national defensive player of the year in 1970 and helped the Buckeyes win a national championship in 1968.

    Nobody wanted to go across the middle on Tatum and he was not afraid to lay the lumber on anybody.

    He is perhaps best known for a devastating hit on Darryl Stingley of the New England Patriots in a preseason game in 1978. The hit tragically left Stingley paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life.

    Tatum was as feared as anybody in college football history.