All-Time NFL Team, WAC Edition: Defense
Part Two of this article focuses on the defensive side of the ball.
Again, this edition details the WAC, an often forgotten and under-appreciated conference.
The teams as they stand now are Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, La Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, San Jose State, and Utah State.
Hopefully through reader feedback, I'll come up with a consensus for the next conference to try this on...so, let me know—SEC, ACC, Big Ten?
DE: Fred Dean (La Tech)
Fred Dean was a monster defensive end for the Chargers and then the 49ers. The 49ers traded for him mid-season, and in his first game he had three sacks.
He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Dean set the NFL record for sacks in a game with six, later surpassed only by the late Derrick Thomas' seven. He went to four Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls with the 49ers.
Sacks weren't an official stat till Dean's career had already started, but his registered total was 93, though most assuredly it surpassed 100.
DE: Rulon Jones (Utah State)
Rulon Jones, a second round pick in 1980, is an oft-forgotten defensive end from Utah State who played his entire 129-game career with the Broncos.
He was most dominant in a three-year stretch from '84-'86 where he had double-digit sacks each year. He also recovered 10 fumbles and scored one TD in '84.
DT: Kimo Von Oelhoffen (Hawaii/Boise State)
Kimo Von Oelhoffen was a solid defensive tackle/end who played for four teams after being drafted by the Bengals in '94.
Though the end of his career was marred by injuries, Kimo proved to be a steady, run-stopping tackle wherever he played.
DT: Merlin Olsen (Utah State)
Arguably the greatest DT to ever play the game, the Rams' Merlin Olsen was a force to be reckoned with. He played in 14 straight Pro Bowls, only missing it in his final NFL season.
The complete polar opposite of the gentle giant he played on Little House on the Prairie, Olsen was part of one of the fiercest defenses since the merger.
Though unofficial, his reputed 94 sacks is one of the highest totals among defensive tackles, and he was ranked No. 25 of the greatest football players ever by Sporting News.
OLB: Dave Wilcox (Boise State)
Dave Wilcox played for the 49ers from '64-'74 and made the Pro Bowl seven times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.
"The Intimidator" also intercepted 14 passes and was known as a fierce coverage linebacker—often disrupting the routes of tight ends and jamming receivers off the line with viciousness.
He only missed one game in his career due to injury.
OLB: Pisa Tinoisamoa (Hawaii)
A second round pick of the Rams in 2003, Pisa led the Rams in tackles his first three years there. Incredibly quick, Pisa was credited with amazing sideline to sideline coverage.
In 2006, just after signing a large contract extension, Pisa broke his hand, leading to two injury-filled years before finally getting healthy in 2008, playing the entire 16-game schedule.
However, he was released by the Rams and signed by the Bears in 2009. He started at outside linebacker, but a season-ending injury in December put his future with the Bears in doubt.
MLB: Wayne H. Walker (Idaho)
Wayne Harrison Walker was an outstanding linebacker for the Detroit Lions from 1958-'72 after a heralded career at Idaho.
He made three Pro Bowls with the Lions and played 200 games at OLB. He also kicked on occasion, going 53-of-131 on field goals and 172-of-175 on PATs when needed.
In the East-West Shrine game, he had 15 tackles, two picks, and blocked a kick, giving NFL fans a glimpse of the hard-nosed defensive play he would produce over his 15-year career.
CB: Gill Byrd (San Jose State)
A first round pick by the Chargers in 1983, Gill Byrd played 10 seasons for the Bolts and retired as their career leader for interceptions with 42.
Now involved in coaching, Gill enjoys watching his son, Bills FS Jairus Byrd, play. Drafted in 2009 by the Bills, Jairus was converted to FS and played in the Pro Bowl his rookie season.
CB: Doug Evans (La Tech)
The 1993 draft saw DB Doug Evans out of La Tech get drafted by the Packers in the sixth round. He went on to play 11 seasons for four teams, compiling 28 interceptions in that time.
He was the starting cornerback for the Packers when they won Super Bowl XXXI. Not bad for a sixth round pick, huh?
FS: Brock Marion (Nevada)
Brock Marion had to wait two seasons after getting drafted by the Cowboys in the seventh round of the '93 draft, but when he did get a chance, he responded with six interceptions.
By 1998 he had moved to the Dolphins, who mainly used him as a kick returned—he responded by leading the NFL in kick return yards that year. He finished his career with Detroit.
Marion totaled 31 picks over his career and made three Pro Bowls.
SS: Jim Norton (Idaho)
Jim Norton was a forgotten force in the AFL, playing from 1960-'68 for the Houston Oilers. He finished as the AFL's all-time interception leader with 45, and he also punted over 500 times with a lifetime 42.1-yard average.
He had his number retired by the Oilers. He was all-AFL four times.
K: Jason Elam (Hawaii)
A surprising third round pick in 1993, Jason Elam kicked as recently as the 2009 season, proving a longevity that rivals most players at any position. He kicked from '93-'07 for the Broncos before moving on to the Atlanta Falcons.
He holds numerous distinctions and awards, though perhaps none as amazing as a tie for the longest field goal in NFL history at 63 yards. His FG percentage stands at 81.2 percent, and his PAT percentage is 99.5.
He made three Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowl rings with the Broncos.
P: Louie Aguiar (Utah State)
Louie Aguiar punted for four teams from 1991-2000, with a lifetime average of 41.2.
While he never stayed with one team long, he proved a useful punter for a number of teams and earned All-Pro honors in 1995.
All-Time NFL Team: WAC Edition
There you have it—the first installment of an All-Time NFL Team composed of one conference.
While some schools didn't produce as many all-stars as others, there are some legendary players here, reminding one and all not to overlook the small schools and the small conferences when looking for their next all-star.
Imagine if a team passed on Terry Bradsaw, Merlin Olsen, Henry Ellard, Marion Motley, etc. just because of where they played.
For those teams who did—I think everyone on this list is enjoying the last laugh.