The ACC is often thought of as a basketball league, And it's true that the teams in the league have been strong in round ball throughout their history. But the teams that comprise it also have a strong football foundation.
John Heisman came to fame as the coach of Georgia Tech. Teams in the league that have claimed a national championship include Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, and Maryland.
So who are the best players in each program...all time. Here are the selections....
Doug Flutie defined excitement for BC as a playmaker. He creatively avoided the rush with his legs to find open receivers, or scrambled to gain vital first down yardage.
At only 5'9", Doug Flutie was considered too small to become a major college quarterback. He planned to attend the University of New Hampshire when Boston College offered their final scholarship to him in 1981. With his size, many felt he was more suited to play defensive back as he began his freshman season as the team’s No. 5 quarterback. But he quickly worked himself up the depth chart and became a starter within six weeks.
Playing in nine games, he finished the year as the nation’s No. 9 passer. Still a bit raw and inexperienced as a sophomore he threw 20 interceptions. However, he showed flashes of brilliance as he threw for 520 yards against Penn State. He led BC to an 8-3-1 record and the school’s first bowl appearance in 40 years. In the bowl game he won game MVP honors in a losing effort. The following year he became one of the nation’s elite players as he placed third in the Heisman voting and was a second-team All-America. The Eagles went 9-3 appearing in the Liberty Bowl, where he once again performed well in a losing effort.
He put his stamp on the 1984 season as the nation’s best player and Heisman Trophy winner. Any doubt to his winning the trophy was ended with his last second, 48-yard touchdown pass against Miami. The play has become one of college football’s most memorable and replayed moments.
His pro career was equally as interesting as he played in the USFL, NFL, and CFL before returning to the NFL over a 21-year period. While playing in Canada he was a six-time CFL player of the Year. He is a member of the College and Canadian Football Hall of Fames.
Nationally famous as a broadcast personality from his days with Kurt Gowdy and pro football's game of the week, "DeRo" was a dominating lineman during his days at Duke.
DeRogatis was an all-star at three levels. He was all-state at Central High, Newark, New Jersey in 1944, All-America at Duke University in 1948 and All-Pro with the New York Giants in 1951.
He played center his freshman year at Duke and was a tackle the remaining years. He was Duke's captain in 1948. DeRogatis, who played for Eddie Cameron his first Duke year and for Wallace Wade the other three years, stood 6'4" and weighed 220, a sizable presence in an era of 190 pound guards.
He was with the New York Giants from 1949-1952. An ankle injury ended his playing career at age 25. He is in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Nicknamed "The Refrigerator", at 6'2" and 370+ pounds, Perry was nearly impossible for opposing linemen to block, and helped to lead Clemson to a national championship.
Perry was an All-American at Clemson in 1982, '83, and '84, the first three-time All-American in Clemson history. The three-time All-ACC middle guard led the nation in tackles for loss in 1984 with 27. He was named ACC Player of the Year in 1984. For his accomplishments in the 1984 season, he was a Lombardi Award finalist and an Outland Trophy finalist.
As a starter as a freshman on Clemson's 1981 National Championship team, he is the seventh member of that squad to be elected to the Clemson Hall of Fame.
He was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears in 1985 and was a member of the Bears team that won the Super Bowl. He played nine years in the NFL with Chicago and Philadelphia. Perry was a member of the ACC 50-year anniversary football squad and inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 2002.
When they name a trophy after you, you're pretty good. That goes for Fred Biletnikoff, who has the Biletnikoff trophy awarded annually to college football's best receiver named after him.
College football was still a one platoon game for Fred Biletnikoff's first two seasons at Florida State. As a sophomore in 1962, he scored on a 55-yard pass play against Georgia Tech. In his junior year he made a 99-yard run with an intercepted pass against Miami.
When college football became a two-platoon game he played only on offense. He had a 53-yard touchdown pass play against Kentucky and made the game-winning touchdown in a victory over Georgia. The Seminoles beat Oklahoma 36-19 in the Gator Bowl, and "Freddie B," as he was called, had 13 catches, 192 yards and four touchdowns - all Gator Bowl records. He was a campus hero. When he was injured, students gathered at night outside the windows of his dorm and sang "Get Well, Freddie" to the tune of "Hello Dolly." He was a consensus All-America in 1964, the first in the school's history.
He starred with the Raiders in the NFL, and in 1988 was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Florida State retired number 25, his jersey.
In 1959 he was Georgia Tech's captain, an All-American, the Southeastern Conference Lineman of the Year, and the Most Valuable Player in the 1960 Gator Bowl. He set a Georgia Tech single-season record with 124 tackles.
From 1960-1971 he was a linebacker with Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Washington and was three times all-pro. He became head football coach at Cornell in 1984, and his 1988 team was co-champion of the Ivy League. It was Cornell's first championship since 1971.
Georgia Tech has named him to its all-time football team. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Randy White came to the University of Maryland and was listed as a fullback. Coach Jerry Claiborne moved him to defensive tackle, and he was called, in some quarters, "the quickest lineman in the game."
He was named All-America by the Associated Press in 1973 and was a unanimous selection in 1974. Other awards in 1974 included: Outland Award - nation's best interior lineman; Lombardi Award - nation's best lineman or linebacker; Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year; State of Delaware Athlete of the Year; Columbus Touchdown Club, Washington Touchdown Club, Pigskin Club - Lineman of the Year; Philadelphia sports writers award - Amateur Athlete of the Year; United Press Lineman of the Year; Liberty Bowl Most Valuable Player. Maryland retired his jersey, number 94.
Next came 14 years with the Dallas Cowboys. In the Super Bowl following the 1977 season he was co-winner of the Most Valuable Player award. He hit the jackpot in the 1994 election to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As a two point defensive end during his three seasons with the Hurricanes, Ted received All-America recognition by totaling 327 tackles, a remarkable average of 109 tackles per season. In 1968, Hendricks was fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting even though he did not have the glamour of playing in the backfield. Actually, he spent most of his time in the backfield...the other team's. He was named UPI's lineman of the year in 1968.
In his junior year he caused nine turnovers by fumble recovery, stolen ball, pass interception or blocked kick. Against Pitt, Ted blocked a kick and recovered the ball 20 yards down-field. At Miami, he took the honors curriculum, majoring in math and minoring in psychology.
Hendricks played pro football as a linebacker, 1969-83, with the Colts, Packer,s and Raiders, and was a member of four winning Super Bowl teams. He is a member of the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame.
Off the field, Taylor was called "The Monster" because of his reputation for wild behavior.
In his first year at North Carolina, Taylor played exclusively on special teams. During his sophomore year, he was hampered by injuries and finished the season with only eight tackles.
As a junior, Taylor came into his own, and was a key part of a team that finished 8-3-1 and made an appearance in the Gator Bowl. The Tar Heels defeated Michigan 17-15, and Taylor made the play of the game by sacking Michigan quarterback John Wangler to stop a key drive. He finished the year with 80 solo tackles and five sacks.
During Taylor's final season at North Carolina in 1980, the team won its first seven games en route to an 11-1 record. The Tar Heels won the ACC title, and Taylor was named a first team All-American and the ACC Player of the Year. Taylor racked up 55 solo tackles and 16 sacks. After playing in the East-West Shrine Game, Taylor withdrew from North Carolina to prepare for the NFL draft.
He was subsequently drafted by the New York Giants, where he spent a storied career, being named to the Pro Bowl 10 times (9 times first team). He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Roman Gabriel did it all for the Wolfpack.
He was an All-America quarterback twice, Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year twice, Academic All-America, and captain of his team. Gabriel set 22 school and nine conference football records. He also played baseball and was voted the best amateur athlete in the Carolinas.
In a three-year career he passed for 20 touchdowns and ran for 15. Against Maryland in 1959 he completed 23 passes. Gabriel saw his jersey retired and presented to him by Governor Terry Sanford on Jan. 20, 1962 at halftime of an NC State-Maryland basketball game in Reynolds Coliseum. A first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Rams, he went on to a distinguished professional career.
He played 16 years as a pro in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1969 and earned Pro Bowl spots in 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970. He was the MVP of the 1970 Pro Bowl. He still holds the Rams’ career records for: touchdown passes (154), passing yards (22,223), passes attempted (3,313), and passes completed (1,705). Gabriel is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Jim Dombrowski won numerous accolades as one of the finest student-athletes in the history of the University of Virginia.
The recipient of the NCAA Today’s Top Six Award for his combined athletic ability, academic achievement, leadership characteristics, and campus involvement, Dombrowski was a unanimous first team All-America pick in 1985 and was a three-time First Team All-ACC selection. He also received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in back-to-back years (1984-85) as the ACC’s best offensive lineman. Equally impressive in the classroom, he earned first team Academic All-Conference honors in 1985.
The New Orleans Saints chose Dombrowski sixth overall in the 1986 NFL Draft. He spent 11 seasons with the Saints and was named to the franchise’s 30th and 35th Anniversary Teams.
Dombroski’s jersey has been retired by the university. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Bruce Smith’s combination of quickness, strength, intelligence, and relentless effort made him the model for a pass rushing defensive lineman.
When Smith came to Virginia Tech, the Hokies were a mediocre program. His play helped boost the program’s profile into the decades of subsequent success. Smith was injured for much of his freshman season not becoming a starter until a sophomore. That season Smith had eight sacks. In his junior year he became a first team All-America selection adding 22 sacks to his ever-growing total. That season Tech went 9-2, at the time the most single-season wins in school history.
As a senior, he took the Hokies to the Independence Bowl, accumulating 16 more sacks. Bruce was honored as a consensus All-America selection and won the Outland Trophy. Over his career, his 46 sacks and 71 tackles for loss resulted in an incredible total of 504 yards lost.
In the 1985 NFL draft he was the first selection of the Buffalo Bills. He was named the defensive Rookie of the Year. When his 19-year pro career ended he sat on top of the game’s all-time sack list with 200. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times. He is a member of both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame.
Snead was one of the premier passers in Atlantic Coast Conference history, and still ranks eighth on Wake Forest's career passing yardage list with 4,040 yards.
The first Deacon quarterback to earn All-America honors, he was named a second-team All-America in 1960 by UPI and the FWAA. Chosen second-team All-ACC in 1958, he earned first team all-Conference honors in 1959 and 1960. As a junior and senior, he led the ACC in passing and total offense. Named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary team in 2003, he was just the second person selected during the 1961 NFL Draft when he was selected by the Washington Redskins.
He went on to play with five different teams during a 16-year NFL career which saw him earn All-Pro honors three times. He still ranks 27th on the all-time NFL passing yardage list with 30,797 career yards and 29th in career touchdown passes with 196.