The Top 10 SEC College Football Players of All Time
The SEC has a rich and storied past. From the 1957 Auburn University team, the first SEC team to go undefeated, to Steve Spurrier's 1995-96 Gators a la Danny Wuerffel, every SEC football fan has their favorite memory.
What about a favorite player? It's often hard to decide, as the SEC has possessed so many gems.
Here I try my best to decide on a Top 10 SEC Players of All Time list. I will be counting down from No. 10, with No. 1 being the top SEC player of all time.
Hope you enjoy.
No. 10: John Hannah (OL, Alabama)
John Allen "Hog" Hannah is the son of an NFL player, Herb Hannah, an offensive lineman for the University of Alabama who played a year as a tackle for the New York Giants in 1951.
His brothers also decided to attend the University of Alabama to play football, and John followed suit. He played tackle and guard under Paul "Bear" Bryant from 1970-1972. He earned All-American honors twice, and was named to the University of Alabama All-Century Team.
During his time at Alabama, he also participated in shot put, discus, and wrestling.
His biggest achievements were at the pro level, where he became a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, a 10-time All-Pro selection, and was as a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-America Team.
No. 9: Tommy Casanova (DB/RB, LSU)
Tommy Casanova, who played from 1969-71, is one of the greatest LSU football players of all time.
During those three seasons, Casanova was a jack of all trades. He played running back, was a punt and kick returner, and played defensive back. During each of his three years at LSU, he was selected as a member of the College Football All-America Team.
In the Sept. 13, 1971 issue of Sports Illustrated, the magazine featured Casanova on the front cover, with the headline: "Tommy Casanova of LSU, Best Player in the Nation."
Casanova was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1972 as the 29th pick in the second round. He played five years in the NFL and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times.
Despite having a short NFL career, Tommy Casanova is the ninth-best SEC football player at all time for the amazing athleticism and skill he showed in college.
Major games from Casanova's time at LSU include No. 9 LSU's 21-20 victory over No. 14 Auburn in 1969, No. 14 LSU's 17-9 victory at No. 6 Auburn in 1970, No. 11 LSU's 14-9 victory at No. 19 Alabama in 1970, No. 8 LSU's 61-17 victory over No. 16 Ole Miss in 1970, and No. 14 LSU's 28-8 victory over No. 7 Notre Dame in 1971.
In 2000, Casanova was selected as a member of the College All-Century Team.
He now works as an ophthalmologist in Louisiana.
No. 8: Lee Roy Jordan (LB/C, Alabama)
Lee Roy Jordan played for the University of Alabama from 1960-1962.
In his sophomore season of 1960, he helped the Crimson Tide to an 8-2-1 record, finishing the year with a 3-3 tie against University of Texas at Austin in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Jordan was named MVP of the game.
The following season, Alabama recorded an 11-0 record and won the national championship.
In his final season with the Crimson tide, Jordan was a First-Team All-American and helped Alabama to a 10-1 season. He was named the outstanding player of the Orange Bowl that season.
No. 7: Bo Jackson (RB, Auburn)
Bo Jackson stands at No. 8 on this countdown. He's a multi-sport professional who was first drafted into Major League Baseball by the New York Yankees.
He instead decided to attend Auburn University on a football scholarship.
During his time on the Auburn football team, Jackson ran for 4,303 yards, the fourth-best performance in SEC history behind Herschel Walker of Georgia. Jackson finished his career with an average of 6.6 yards per carry, which set the SEC record.
In 1983, as a sophomore, Jackson rushed for 1,213 yards on 158 carries. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry, which was the second-best single-season average in SEC history. Auburn finished the season by winning the Sugar Bowl, where Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player.
In 1984, his junior year, he was named MVP of the Liberty Bowl. And in 1985, he won the Heisman Trophy.
Jackson is a tremendous athlete and definitely deserves a spot on this list.
No. 6: Archie Manning (QB, Ole Miss)
At No. 6 is Archie Manning, who is the father of current pro football quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning.
Archie was a quarterback himself at Ole Miss. During his three years as starting quarterback, he electrified his audience. In his first national primetime broadcasted game, Manning threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 104 yards in a 33-32 loss to Alabama.
That 540-yard performance is still tied for the SEC record for most total yards in a game.
Despite Manning's great talent, though, the rest of his team was not at his level. The Rebels only had a record of 15-7 during his last two years.
In his college career, he threw for 4,753 yards and 56 touchdowns and ran for 823.5 yards. He scored 14 touchdowns in 1969. In both 1969 and 1970, he was named to the All-SEC team, and his No. 18 jersey was retired by Ole Miss.
In 1969, Manning was named the Mississippi Sportsman of the Year. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame 20 years later.
No. 5: Jack Youngblood (DE, Florida)
Jack Youngblood=defense. That is why he sits at No. 5 on the all time SEC player list.
Youngblood earned a reputation as a tough player during his college years with the Florida Gators before he even made headlines playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg.
Starting out as a fullback in his football career, Youngblood graduated from Florida as one of the best defensive ends in the nation. Since Florida didn’t keep sack stats until the mid-1970s, we'll never know for sure how hard Youngblood crushed the competition, but we can definitely imagine.
Youngblood and his teammates were the first to try Gatorade. He has said, "That first stuff was lethal! It was thick, like syrup, and had an aftertaste. Then, it started to look like milk."
As a sophomore in 1968, Youngblood played defensive end and defensive tackle. He also handled the kicking chores for the Gators, kicking a career-long 42-yard field goal to provide the three-point winning margin in his first collegiate game against Air Force.
Youngblood first gained national attention in 1969 after a five-sack performance in the Gators' 21-6 win against instate rival FSU. He set a school record for sacks (14) in 1969 and led the teams' defensive linemen with 66 tackles.
In 1970, Youngblood was voted an All-American. Additionally, he was voted the 1970 SEC Lineman of the Year.
In 1971, Youngblood was the 20th pick in the first round of the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He went on to be named an All-Pro five times and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Youngblood used to come into my old place of work—a mail and copy center. We used to talk about the Gators. It was awesome.
No. 4: Joe Namath (QB, Alabama)
Joe Namath is a household name, and sits at No. 4 on the all-time best SEC players list. He also played for the University of Alabama under Paul "Bear" Bryant, and he led them to a national championship in 1964.
During his time at Alabama, Namath led the team to a 29–4 record over three seasons.
Bryant would one day call Namath "the greatest athlete I ever coached."
He played for the Crimson Tide from 1962-1964, with 2,713 yards passing, 655 yards rushing, and 25 touchdowns.
He then became one of the icons of the NFL.
No. 3: Peyton Manning (QB, Tennessee)
Manning stunned many when he chose to attend the University of Tennessee instead of Ole Miss, his father's alma mater, but that decision was obviously in the stars.
During his time at Tennessee, he became the school's all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards and 89 touchdowns. He won 39 of 45 games as a starter, breaking the SEC record. Clutch.
In his sophomore year, Manning came in sixth in the Heisman voting. During his junior year, he finished his degree. Despite being predicted as the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, he decided to attend his senior year at Tennessee and play another year of football.
As a senior, Manning won numerous awards. He was a consensus First-Team All-American, the Maxwell Award winner, the Davey O'Brien Award winner, the Johnny Unitas Award winner, and the Best College Player ESPY Award winner, among others. However, he did not win the Heisman, finishing runner-up to Charles Woodson.
In 2005, Tennessee retired Manning's number (No. 16). One of the streets leading to Tennessee's Neyland Stadium has been re-named Peyton Manning Pass.
No. 2: Herschel Walker (RB, Georgia)
It's easy to see why Herschel Walker is ranked No. 2. The University of Georgia phenom broke 11 NCAA, 16 SEC, and 41 Georgia Bulldog football records.
He almost single-handedly turned Georgia's football program around, leading it to a 12-0 record and national championship in 1980.
Walker gained an unbelievable 283 yards in one game against Vanderbilt in 1980, and most college football observers recognize Walker performance as the best ever by a freshman.
In three years at Georgia, Herschel Walker gained 5,259 yards—the most ever gained in three years in NCAA football history. It also was the third-highest total in NCAA history.
He was an All-American each of his three seasons at Georgia. And during his three years at UGA, the Bulldogs won the SEC title each year and posted a 33-3 record.
Walker won the 1982 Heisman Trophy, 1982 Maxwell Award, and the 1982 Walter Camp Award. His No. 34 jersey was retired by Georgia.
Walker stirred controversy when he decided to go pro after his junior season. At that time, the NFL did not allow that, so Walker went to play for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL.
After the USFL dismantled, Walker went to the NFL, where he was selected to two Pro Bowls.
No. 1: Tim Tebow (QB, Florida)
No bones about it, Tim Tebow, the current quarterback for the Florida Gators, stands at No. 1.
He was the first quarterback to both rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season, nailed a total of 50 touchdowns that same year, and the first sophomore to win a Heisman Trophy.
In addition to the Heisman Trophy, his performance in 2007 also earned him the Maxwell Award as the nation's top football player, the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback, and the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's most outstanding amateur athlete in any sport.
Tebow led the Gators to a 12–1 record in 2008. After clinching the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title, the team played for and won the SEC title in the 2008 SEC Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The win secured the No. 2 ranking in the final BCS standings, which earned the Gators the chance to play the No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game. Tebow's fantastic leadership helped them win 24–14.
In 2008, Tebow finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, and he will return for his senior season this year. He's sure to electrify Florida fans again this year, and the offensive scheme will be tailored to preparing Tebow for the NFL.
Talk about Team Tebow.
The 21-year-old will surely be drafted into the NFL, and is without a doubt, the No. 1 SEC Player of All Time.