25 Greatest College Football Players Never to Win a National Championship
Championships separate the great players from the good ones. College football, however, is a little different. Some players are not around long enough to win championships.
Plenty of lists have been made naming the best players in college football, but what about the best players never to win a national championship?
Sorry Herschel Walker, Red Grange, O.J. Simpson and others, but this list is not for you. This is for the guys who were not lucky enough to win a national championship.
Here are the best 25 college football players never to win a national championship.
25. Lawrence Taylor: North Carolina
Lawrence Taylor may have been better known for his exploits in the NFL, but what he did at the collegiate level is nothing to be ashamed of either.
During the 1980 season, Taylor had 16 sacks, was a first-team All American and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
He did a little bit of everything for the Tar Heels and was a menace from the linebacker position.
24. Peyton Manning: Tennessee
Speaking of guys who had success at the next level, Peyton Manning is certainly in that number.
Manning was dominant over four years at Tennessee, finishing his collegiate career with 11,201 yards, 89 touchdowns and a 39-5 record as a starter.
Even though the Vols did not win a national championship when he was there, he certainly set them up for their first BCS National Championship a year later.
23. Mike Rozier: Nebraska
Mike Rozier spent three years at Nebraska and is one of the best running backs in college football history.
Many people may not know too much about him, but Rozier had a senior season that was one of the best in college football history.
He rushed for 2,148 yards on 275 carries, good for an amazing 7.8 yards a carry. That number that still stands today for those with enough attempts.
He went over 200 yards in each of the last four games of the 1983 season.
22. Randy Moss: Marshall
Randy Moss is easily one of the top five receivers in college football history and probably the most talented player ever to play the position.
In his two seasons at Marshall he was too good for the competition. Moss totaled 3,529 yards receiving with 54 touchdowns.
Had he played four years, he might have gone down as the best receiver of all time.
He scored a touchdown in every game he played at Marshall and also finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 1997.
21. Orlando Pace: Ohio State
Orlando Pace is certainly one of the best offensive lineman in college football history and was only the second true freshman to start on opening day for Ohio State
He was a two-time first team All-American and during his senior season in 1996 he won the Outland Trophy for the best interior lineman in the country.
Pace also won the Lombardi award twice and was a finalist in 1996 for the Heisman Trophy, finishing fourth. That was the highest finish in 16 years for a lineman on either side of the ball.
20. Derrick Thomas-Alabama
Everybody knows how good Derrick Thomas was in the NFL, but what he did at Alabama was equally impressive.
Thomas won the Butkus Award in 1988 after finishing the season with an NCAA record 27 sacks. This propelled him to a top 10 finish in the Heisman balloting.
He finished his career with 52 sacks and was a consensus first team All-American in 1988 as well.
19. Howard Twilley: Tulsa
When it comes to wide receivers in college football, nobody was further ahead of his time than Howard Twilley.
He was the 1965 Heisman Trophy runner-up and had back-to-back 1,100 yard seasons in 1964 and 1965, while totaling 29 touchdowns during his final two seasons in the program.
What he did in the 60s was so far ahead of its time, making Twilley is one of the best players in college football history.
18. Ernie Nevers: Stanford
Ernie Nevers did a little bit of everything on the football field as an All-American during his time at Stanford in the 20s.
He played all 60 minutes in the 1925 Rose Bowl on two broken ankles. During the game he rushed for 114 yards, which was more than the Four Horsemen combined.
No fullback ran harder than him during the time.
17. Ryan Broyles: Oklahoma
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Ryan Broyles is the most complete wide receiver in college football history.
No player has more yards receiving than him and over his four years at Oklahoma he totaled 4,586 yards with 45 touchdowns.
He was a model of consistency during his time and in his junior season caught 131 passes for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
An injury cut short his junior year, but nobody made quarterbacks better like Broyles did.
16. Hugh Green: Pittsburgh
Hugh Green was one of the best defensive ends in college football history and during his four seasons at Pittsburgh he was a monster.
Green totaled 460 tackles and 53 sacks during that span. He had double digit sacks in all four seasons, including 17 during his senior campaign.
Some consider him the most productive player at his position in the history of college football.
15. Roger Staubach: Navy
Roger Staubach was one of the best quarterbacks in college football history and certainly the best of his time.
He finished first in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1963. During that season he passed for 1,474 yards with seven touchdowns.
This may not look like much, but during the time it was virtually unprecedented.
14. Mike Singletary: Baylor
Everybody knows what Mike Singletary did as a head coach, but his exploits at Baylor were second to none.
He was an All-American in both his junior and senior seasons, during which time he averaged 15 tackles per game.
In 1978 however, during his sophomore season, he had one of the best years for any defensive player in college football history. Singletary totaled 232 tackles in 1978 and had 35 in a game against Houston.
13. Tom Harmon: Michigan
Michigan has won plenty of national championships and perhaps their greatest player of all time, Tom Harmon, was not there for any of them.
Harmon finished second in the Heisman voting in 1939 and won the award in 1940. He rushed for over 800 yards during both of those seasons and also passed for around 500 yards in both years.
He also starred on the defensive side of the ball with six career interceptions and excelled on special teams as well.
12. Dave Rimington: Nebraska
Many consider Dave Rimington to be the best center of all time and there is now an award named after him.
He was a first-team All-American in both 1981 and 1982 and finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1982.
Rimington and Orlando Pace are the only offensive linemen in history to win the Outland and Lombardi trophies three times.
With an award named after him, there is no question that he is one of the greatest offensive lineman ever.
11. Eric Dickerson: SMU
Eric Dickerson was a member of the SMU football program when they were at their height.
He had some amazing years, particularly during his final two seasons. As a junior in 1981 he rushed for 1,428 yards with 19 touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards a carry.
As a senior he was even better. During the 1982 season he rushed for 1,617 yards with 17 touchdowns while averaging seven yards a carry.
He was a consensus All-American in 1982 and finished third in the Heisman voting.
10. Deion Sanders: Florida State
Deion Sanders may be the greatest athlete in college football history with the exception of probably Jim Brown.
Sanders is considered the best cover corner in football history and also excelled in track and field and baseball while at Florida State.
He was a two-time, first-team, All-American cornerback and a third-team selection as well. He also had 14 career interceptions and was electric on special teams.
9. Jim Brown: Syracuse
When it comes to the greatest college football athletes of all time there are none better than Jim Brown.
He averaged over five yards a carry in each of his three seasons at Syracuse and many say he should have won the Heisman in 1956 when he finished fifth.
Brown totaled eight career interceptions and also returned kicks and punts on special teams. No college athlete could do what Brown could on a football field.
8. Bronko Nagurski: Minnesota
Like many players who excelled during the 1920s, Bronko Nagurski played both ways for Minnesota during his time at the collegiate level.
He played tackle on defense and fullback on offense. In 1929 he led the nation in rushing yards with 737 and was a consensus first-team All-American at fullback.
He was also an All-American at tackle. At 216 pounds he was very large for his time and was one of the more intimidating players of the era.
7. Billy Sims: Oklahoma
Billy Sims was a beast in his final two seasons at Oklahoma. During his junior season he rushed for 1,762 yards and 20 touchdowns on his way to the Heisman Trophy.
The following year in 1979, he nearly won the Heisman again, finishing second after rushing for 1,506 yards with 22 touchdowns.
Clearly one of the best running backs in college football history, anybody would be hard pressed to find a player who produced more in his final two seasons than Sims did at Oklahoma.
6. Archie Griffin: Ohio State
Once the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin won it back to back in 1974 and 1975. He also finished third in 1973.
Griffin totaled 5,177 yards over four seasons with 25 touchdowns.
What helps to set him apart from a lot of the others is the 6.1 yards per carry he averaged during his career at Ohio Sate.
5. Bo Jackson: Auburn
Bo Jackson was one of the most fierce running backs in college football during the 80s.
As a sophomore in 1983 he rushed for 1,213 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging an amazing 7.7 yards per carry.
During his senior season he rushed for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns averaging 6.4 yards a carry on his way to the Heisman Trophy.
The two-time All-American is considered one of the best running backs in college football history.
4. Earl Campbell: Texas
Earl Campbell was one of the hardest players to bring down and had stats very similar to Bo Jackson.
As a sophomore he finished with 1,118 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards a carry.
During his senior season, Campbell finished with 1,744 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards a carry on his way to the Heisman Trophy.
He finished with 40 touchdowns and averaged nearly six yards a carry.
3. Dick Butkus: Illinois
Quite possibly the greatest linebacker in college football history, Dick Butkus was a star during the 60s at Illinois.
He not only played linebacker from 1962-1964, but was also a center on those Fighting Illini teams. He was a two-time All-American in 1963 and 1964.
Butkus was sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1963 and third in 1964, while finishing his career with 374 tackles.
2. Barry Sanders: Oklahoma State
The most explosive player in college football history and winner of the 1988 Heisman Trophy was Barry Sanders.
Had he seen more action during his first two seasons or stayed around for his senior year, he would have been first on the list and considered the greatest player in college football history. As it stands now, he still might be.
During the 1988 Heisman season, Sanders rushed for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards a carry.
This was without question the best single season in college football history.
1. Doak Walker: SMU
To have an award named after you is one thing, but Doak Walker did things in the 1940s at SMU that the college football world had never seen.
Walker did everything on the football field, rushing for nearly 2,000 yards during his four seasons and scoring 27 touchdowns on the ground along with four receiving scores and 454 yards on 27 catches.
He could also throw the ball a little, passing for 1,654 yards and 14 more scores.
On special teams he served as the punter, kicker, punt returner, kick returner and played a little defense as well, totaling eight career interceptions.
In 1947 he was third in the Heisman, followed by a first place finish in 1948 and another third place finish in 1949.