Being a 28-year-old sports fan has it's ups and downs. I'm old enough to remember Michael Jordan's prime, unlike a 20 year old fan, however, I'm too young to have seen legends like Mickey Mantle, Terry Bradshaw and so on.
So as the summer arrives, I'm sitting around thinking of some of the great players in college football that I'm looking forward to watching this season. Tim Tebow, Eric Berry, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, the list goes on and on.
That got me thinking of how lucky I am to have seen some of the greats like Peyton Manning, Reggie Bush, Rocket Ismail and more, but also led me to think about some of the truly great players I didn't get to see.
Throughout my childhood on to growing into a man, I can't count the number of trips back and forth from Chattanooga to Knoxville on a football Saturday.
The same four of us have been in that car most every time, ranging from my Grandfather who is in his upper 70's, my Father who is 50, a close family friend around 50 as well and myself. There's a lot of football knowledge and memories in that car, and 3 men whose opinions I respect more than anyone else's.
Through the years, combined with watching a boat load of film on my own, I heard the memories those men have of some of the greats to play the game. Men they got to see in their prime, who I can only dream of witnessing.
So, this list is not a ranking of how good or great I think they were, since I've only seen film of them and heard stories, I think that would be unfair. These all time greats are ranked in order of who I would be the most excited to get to see live and in person.
Please, feel free to give me feedback and make suggestions of your own. I can remember players clearly back to about 1988, so I'm listing guys prior to that. Hope you all enjoy!
Try for one second to forget everything you know about O.J. Simpson.
Simpson played two years of football at USC, and led the nation in rushing both years. Simpson won the 1968 Heisman Trophy and according to many, should have won it in 1967.
He was a big, fast back that ran with power and grace. Many experts recall O.J. being the smoothest runner they've ever seen, making tacklers look almost foolish at times trying to stop him.
O.J. would have been an awesome sight to see in person, and he carried his college greatness on to the NFL, where he didn't drop off. The life of Simpson has turned out tragic, but no one can argue what he accomplished as a running back at USC.
Bo Jackson could possibly be the greatest pure athlete of all time. Bo was a multi-sport star at both the college and professional level. His success in multiple sports was something that was unprecedented, earning him a spot in history in most people's minds.
Bo's number 34 has been retired by Auburn, where he won the 1985 Heisman Trophy and rushed for a career total of 4.303 yards and over 6 yards per carry.
It's pretty simple why Griffin is on the list, he's the only two time Heisman Trophy winner in college football history. Legendary coach Woody Hayes "the best football player I've ever seen", a compliment that's very significant considering the stature of Hayes.
Griffin rushed for 239 yards in his second game as a freshman against North Carolina, which was the springboard for a historic career that hasn't yet been matched.
Griffin is one of only two players to start four Rose Bowl games.
Dick Butkus was a two-time All American and for many years was considered the ideal linebacker. Butkus finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1964 which, considering his position, was an amazing feat.
Butkus is the epitome of "blue collar" and "hard nosed". Known for his vicious hits and unrelenting determination, he ruled the field in college and in the NFL.
Butkus is still considered by many to be the greatest linebacker to ever play the game.
Tony Dorsett set the career NCAA rushing record while at Pitt, rushing for 6,082 yards, a record that would later be passed by Ricky Williams of Texas in 1998.
Tony carried Pitt to the 1976 National Title, winning the Heisman, Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards, and being a First team All American.
Dorsett went on to a productive career with the Cowboys, and is one of those guys I'm told you just had to really see to appreciate his greatness.
After backing up Thurman Thomas for two seasons, Barry Sanders had what many regard as the greatest season in college football history.
Sanders averaged over seven yards-per-carry and 200 yards per game. He had over 300 yards in four games and scored 37 rushing touchdowns. Not included in those numbers is Sanders' Holiday Bowl performance of 222 yards and five touchdowns, in only three quarters of action.
Barry won the 1988 Heisman Trophy and would go on to become one of the greatest running backs of all time in the NFL.
Sanders is right on the cut line of what I remember. I remember hearing all about him, but I don't ever remember seeing him play at FSU and that's why I'm putting him on the list.
"Prime Time" is known to many to be the most dynamic player in college football history, displaying freakish speed and an unbelievable knack to make plays.
Sanders was a two time All American and Thorpe Award winner as well as starring in two other sports. For anyone that's seen him live or on film, Sanders incredible athleticism still stands out to this day.
Jim Brown was a mixture of power and speed long before his time. He was a multi-sport legend who is unanimously considered one of the best running backs of all time, at the collegiate and professional levels.
Brown finished fifth in the Heisman voting of 1956 and was a unanimous First team All American.
John Majors, who finished second that year, has said on several occasions that he (Majors) shouldn't have even won the trophy, which was given to Paul Hornung, the only player to ever win the trophy from a losing team (Notre Dame, go figure).
Majors has stated Brown should have won it.
Growing up in Neyland Stadium, Vol fans are well educated on the accomplishments and great career of Reggie White.
The "Minister of Defense" set records at UT for sacks in a career, season and a game. White's number has been retired by the Vols and he has a street outside the stadium named in his honor.
Having seen a lot of film of Reggie, I'm never less than amazed at the athleticism he displayed for a man of his size and brute strength. There are few defensive linemen in the history of football at any level that have dominated the field of play like White.
Reggie passed all too early, at the age of 43. White's legacy as a football player is dwarfed by the impact his spiritual guidance and leadership by example of all the people he played with and against.
This is an easy pick for me. Remember the trips to K-town I mentioned in the introduction? Well, I've seen some great teams and great players on those trips, but anytime we start relishing as a group about how great someone is, the same comment always arises.
"But he isn't Herschel!"
It comes from all three men. According to them, and watching film, Herschel was a phenomenon even as a Freshman. An amazing sight to witness, Walker stood out among his peers immediately.
In 1979, the Georgia Bulldogs limped to a 6-5 record. The following season, Walker debuted against Tennessee, prompting Larry Munson's famous "He's running over people!".
Walker carried the 1980 Bulldogs to the National Championship and a 12-0 record, far surpassing the moderate pre-season expectations people had for them. He would also go on to win the 1982 Heisman Trophy.
Because of what I've seen and the fact that to this day, my father, who is the smartest man I know, still says he's the most amazing college football player he's ever seen hands down, Herschel Walker is the player I'd love to have seen the most.
Because there are so many great ones, I thought I'd list a few more that easily could have made the list.
Marcus Allen - USC
Dan Marino - Pitt
John Elway - Stanford
Archie Manning - Ole Miss
Lawrence Taylor - North Carolina
Eric Dickerson - SMU
Cornelious Bennett - Alabama
Lee Roy Selmon - Oklahoma
Doug Atkins - Tennessee
Earl Campbell - Texas
Have fun with this one guys!!!