Each Teams All Time Best Player: Mountain West Edition
The Mountain West Conference...eight teams from the old WAC and TCU. TCU, for years a SWC mainstay, spent some time in the WAC and some in Conference USA before joining the Mountain West five years ago. They appear to have found a home.
The Mountain West continues to nip at the heels of the big six BCS conferences. Much speculation abounds that they will take Boise State in and thus become the seventh BCS conference...perhaps with a home bowl in the Cotton. Jerry World, here we come.
Mountain West teams all have sturdy football pedigrees, and the players selected as all time best reflect this. In some cases, the selection process was very tough given the number of quality players involved. So, starting with Air Force...
AIR FORCE: Chad Hennings, DT
Hennings, a 1988 graduate of the Academy, is considered one of college football's great defensive linemen of his era. A unanimous first-team All-American selection in 1987, Hennings received the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman. A two-time first-team all-conference selection, he is a member of the Western Athletic Conference all-time team and was named WAC defensive player of the decade for the 1980s.
Hennings led the nation with 24 sacks in 1987 and played in numerous postseason all-star games including the Japan Bowl and East-West Shrine Game. He is a two-time first-team Academic All-American and earned Academic All-WAC honors three times. Hennings also received the Stan Bates Award as the conference's top scholar-athlete in 1987. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Although he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1988 NFL Draft, Hennings fulfilled a four-year military commitment, serving during the first Gulf War. In 1992, he rejoined the Cowboys and embarked on a nine-year NFL career that brought him three Super Bowl titles.
BYU: Steve Young, QB
Young's senior season (1983) was spectacular. He passed for 3,902 yards and 33 touchdowns in the regular season, and his 71.3 completion percentage set an NCAA single-season record. He also added 544 yards rushing. With Young at quarterback, BYU set an NCAA record by averaging 584.2 yards of total offense per game, with 370.5 of those yards coming from Young's passing and rushing.
The Cougars finished the year with an impressive 11–1 record. Young was named first-team All-American and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Young's record-breaking season was honored when he won the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. Young capped his college career by scoring the game-winning touchdown with a flea-flicker in BYU's 21–17 victory over Missouri in the 1983 Holiday Bowl.
Young finished his three seasons with 592 pass completions for 7,733 yards and 56 touchdowns, along with 1,048 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. In 2001, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Young had a 16-year professional career in the NFL, winning Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers three times. He holds numerous records and was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first left-handed quarterback to be so honored.
COLORADO STATE: Joey Porter, DE
Porter was a standout on the football field for the Colorado State Rams.
He began his college career as an H-Back and didn't see his first action on the defensive line until his junior year. He was a third-team All-American and All-Western Athletic Conference first-team. He registered 22 career sacks.
As a senior, he recorded 53 tackles (36 solos) with eight quarterback pressures and 12 tackles for losses of 67 yards. He finished third in NCAA Division I-A with a school single-season record-tying 15 sacks for minus 63 yards.
He has played for nine years in the NFL, including four Pro Bowl selections. He was a member of the 2005
Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl-winning team. He currently plays for the Miami Dolphins.
NEW MEXICO: Brian Urlacher, S/LB
Under the tutelage of head Coach Rocky Long, Urlacher became a “Lobo-Back,” a cross between a linebacker and safety and garnered much success in Long's 3-3-5 defense.
He recorded 422 tackles—third most in school history— three interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and 11 sacks. He was also the team’s return specialist and clutch wide receiver, catching seven passes for six touchdowns.
Urlacher also earned several honors during his collegiate career. He was named an All-American by Sports Network, Walter Camp, Football Writers Association of America and the Associated Press.
Urlacher was drafted in the first round by the Chcago Bears in 2000, where he continues to play. He has been named to the Pro Bowl at linebacker six times in his NFL career.
SAN DIEGO STATE: Marshall Faulk, RB
Faulk compiled one of the greatest freshman seasons in NCAA history, gaining 1,429 yards rushing, with 23 total touchdowns (21 rushing), and 140 points scored.
Although he would not replicate that kind of success in the next two seasons, he showed in his senior season that he was still an all-purpose back. He caught 47 passes for 640 yards. He ranked third in all-purpose yardage and second in scoring.
Faulk left San Diego State University with many of the school's offensive records. Among them is 62 career touchdowns, which is the eighth most in NCAA history. He was a first-team All-American in 1991, '92 and '93.
Faulk spent a 13-year career in the NFL. He set the record for most yards from scrimmage in 1999, was named to seven Pro Bowl squads and won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams. He finished with over 12,000 yards rushing and over 6,800 yards receiving. He is expected be elected to the Hall of Fame upon eligibility.
TCU Sam Baugh: QB/DB/P
The Horned Frogs of TCU boast a heritage of fine players. Heisman winner Davy O' Brien, Mr. Cowboy Bob Lilly and LaDaniel Thomelson all wore the purple. But it was Slingin Sammy Baugh who transformed the college game with his forward passing for the Frogs in the mid '30s
While at Texas Christian, he threw 587 passes in his three varsity seasons for 39 touchdowns. Baugh was named an All-American in 1935 and 1936. He also led TCU to two bowl game wins—a 3–2 victory over Louisiana State in the 1936 Sugar Bowl to claim the national championship, and a 16-6 victory over Marquette in the first annual Cotton Bowl Classic in 1937. He was named MVP of the game. He finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1936. Playing in the era of 60-minute men, Baugh also was an outstanding safety and punter.
Drafted by the Washington Redskins, Baugh had a 16-year career. He was such a good athlete that in 1943 he led the NFL in passing, punting and interceptions. He retired with 13 NFL records at three positions: quarterback, punter and defensive back. He is member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fames.
UNLV: Randall Cunningham, QB/P
No player in UNLV football history has drawn more recognition than Randall Cunningham.
A two-time All-American as a punter, Cunningham also remains the top passer in school history with more than 8,000 yards and 59 touchdowns in just three seasons. Cunningham also holds the record in punting with a career average of 45.6 yards per kick. As a senior, Cunningham led the Rebels to a school best 11-2 record, which culminated with a victory over Toledo in the 1984 California Bowl.
Cunningham had a 16-year NFL career as a quarterback, being named to the Pro Bowl four times.
UTAH: Larry Wilson RB/DB
Wilson was a two-way star for the Utes at running back and defensive back. He still holds the Ute career record for most touchdowns in a game, scoring five against Arizona in 1959. Known for his savage hitting, he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the NFL, he became the premier free safety of his era, making the Pro Bowl eight times in his 13-year career, with 52 career interceptions. He popularized the safety blitz and continued to be known for his hard hitting. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
WYOMING: Jim Kiick, RB
Wyoming's leading rusher for each of his three seasons, 1965-67, he totaled 1,714 yards and 10 touchdowns on 431 carries. He also had 561 yards and five touchdowns on 52 pass receptions. He was the first player ever to earn first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors three times.
Kiick was co-captain of the team as a senior. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the 1966 Sun Bowl victory over Florida State. He rushed 25 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns and caught four passes for 42 yards. He also played in the 1968 Sugar Bowl against LSU; he rushed 19 times for 75 yards and a touchdown and catching five passes for 48 yards. Kiick played in the 1968 Senior Bowl, and was selected to play in the 1968 College All-Star Game.
He played 10 years in the NFL and was a key member of the Miami Dolphins dynasty of the early '70s, including their famous undefeated team of 1972.