Texas Top Five: Quarterbacks

Dino NicandrosAnalyst IJuly 15, 2008

I have started a new segment called Texas Top Five.  What it consists of is a list of my top five Longhorns football players of all time at each position.  To kick it off, we will start with Quarterback.

5. James Brown (1994-1997)

At number five is James Brown.  James Brown may not have the same level of fame as a Young or an Applewhite, but he pulled off one of the greatest plays in Texas Longhorns history.  

In the inaugural Big 12 title game, Texas was a three-touchdown underdog to the team of the '90s, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  In a daring effort, the Longhorns, led by the fearless Brown, jumped ahead of Nebraska 30-27 late in the game.

Facing fourth down and inches at their own 28-yard line, and not wanting to give the ball back to the Huskers, James Brown executed the famous "Roll Left" play, a play-action pass that was completed downfield to receiver Wane Magarity for 61 yards down the sideline.

With little time left, Priest Holmes ran in the game-winning score, completing the upset of the decade.

James Brown finished his career at Texas with over 30 records broken, including passing yards (7,638), total offense (8,049 yards), and touchdown passes (53).  

In 1997, he was the first Texas QB to earn All-Southwest Conference honors since Marty Akins in 1975.  In the same year, Brown guided the 'Horns to a 10-2-1 record, the final SWC championship, and a trip to the Sugar Bowl.  Brown went on to play in NFL Europe.

4. Major Applewhite (1998-2001)

Coming in at number four is Major Applewhite.  Applewhite may very well be the most famous QB in school history, though I'm sure Vince Young has something to say about that.

It cannot be denied, however, that Major Applewhite was a fan favorite.  This was probably due to his humble nature, being a small town, Catholic schoolboy.  Every time Applewhite made his entrance into a game, the crowd responded with deafening roars.

Though Applewhite lacked ideal size, he made up for it with a heart the size of the state of Texas.

He earned the starting job two games into his freshman year.  He led Texas to a 20-16 victory over the No. 7 Cornhuskers, snapping their 47-game home winning streak.  

Sadly, Applewhite was in the middle of an ugly QB controversy with ChrisSimms, the son of NFL legend Phil Simms.

Though both quarterbacks were skilled, Simms was prone to turnovers, which cost Texas the 2001 Big 12 Title Game.  During that game, Simms threw three interceptions, but Major Applewhite nearly rallied the 'Horns when he replacedSimms.

His near-miracle comeback earned him the starting job for the 2001 Holiday Bowl.  In a thrilling 47-43 comeback victory over Washington, Applewhite threw for 473 yards and four touchdowns.

Applewhite set numerous Texas records, including longest pass play (97 yards), career passing yards (8,353), and career touchdowns (60).

He went on to pursue a career in coaching.  After time at Rice and Alabama, he has found himself back at the 40 acres as the new running backs coach, much to the delight of the burnt orange faithful.

3. Bobby Layne (1944-1947)

At number three is old-timer Bobby Layne.  Layne probably deserves a higher spot on this list, but because Vince Young and James Street are more recent in the minds of Texas fans, I thought third was best.  

He was selected to four All-SWC teams from 1944-1947.  His most memorable game was the 1946 Cotton Bowl against Missouri.  In a decisive rout, Layne accounted for every one of Texas' 40 points, scoring four times through the air, twice on the ground, and kicking four extra points.  He was one of the first inductees to the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame following the game.  

In 1948, Bobby Layne led Texas to an upset victory over No. 6 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and was named MVP of that game.  

Layne finished his career with 3,145 yards in a run-happy offense, throwing for 25 touchdowns.  He held a career record of 28-6 as a starter, which ranks number two all-time behind Vince Young.  

He pitched for the Texas baseball team during his time on the 40 acres.  

Layne went on to enjoy a very successful NFL career, being drafted by the Chicago Bears No. 3 overall in the 1948 NFL Draft.  He would play for the Bears, Bulldogs, Lions, and Steelers during his career in the NFL, earning five Pro Bowl bids.

2. James Street (1967-1969)

At number two is James Street.  Street was the facilitator of Darrell Royal's wishbone offense that took the nation by storm in the late '60s.  

What was so amazing about Street was his toughness.  Prior to the installment of the wishbone offense, quarterbacks didn't suffer as great a beating, unless you go all the way back to the days before the forward pass.

James Street was undefeated as QB of the Texas Longhorns.

Undefeated.  A perfect 20-0.

During his time at the helm, Texas defeated Arkansas in the "Game of the Century" in 1969 and Notre Dame in the 1970 Cotton Bowl Game.

During the game versus Notre Dame, Street pulled off perhaps the greatest play in Texas Longhorn history.

Texas was down 17-14 late in the game.  Under pressure from a stiff Irish pass rush on a crucial fourth down play from the Notre Dame 10-yard line, Street rolled right and hit an open Cotton Spryer for an eight-yard gain.  Three plays later, Texas would score the winning touchdown.

Street's performance in that game solidified his place among the Texas legends.

His gutsy performances will forever be remembered.

Like Bobby Layne, Street also pitched for the baseball team, leading Texas to two SWC titles.

1. Vince Young (2003-2005)

If anyone can find an argument against placing Vincent Paul Young number one on this list, come forward now and let me hug you.

Vince Young is not only the best QB in Texas history, he may very well be the greatest QB ever at the college level.

At 6'5", 225 lbs, Young is a formidable athlete.  His rare blend of a rocket arm and quick feet make him the ultimate physical specimen.

Highly recruited out of Madison High School in Houston, Young burst onto the scene during his redshirt freshman year in 2003, awing fans as he made mincemeat out of opposing defenses.

In 2004, he led Texas to an 11-1 record and a victory over Michigan in Texas' first-ever BCS appearance.

Vince Young came of age during that classic game as he rallied Texas to a 38-37 victory, throwing for 185 yards, rushing for 192, and scoring five total touchdowns.

Young's flair for the dramatic made him a household name.  The Rose Bowl was just one of many fourth quarter comebacks he orchestrated. 

There was no one quite like him.  He possessed physical gifts that surpassed those of Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb.

Entering the 2005 season, Young had the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people riding on his broad shoulders.

He would deliver.

On a crisp night in Columbus, Ohio in early September, Young worked his magic again.  Down 22-16 with a little over two minutes left, Young hit Limas Sweed in the corner of the endzone, giving Texas the lead for good.

Texas would go on to win every game on the schedule, most of them decisively.  The Longhorns found themselves in the National Title Game after a 77-0 massacre of Colorado in the Big 12 title game.

Vince Young was about to seal his legacy on college football's greatest stage.

USC and Texas were ranked one and two all season long and were destined to meet.

In an offensive slugfest filled with offensive stars, Vince Young shined brightest, throwing for 267 yards and running for 200 more and three touchdowns.  On fourth and five from the USC five-yard line with 19 seconds left to play, Young scrambled into the endzone to give Texas the win.

Young's performance in the national spotlight was perhaps the greatest by any player ever.  He took over games like no player had ever done before.

Though he lost the Heisman Trophy race to USC's Reggie Bush, Young got the last laugh and firmly placed himself and his team atop the college football world.

Young finished with a career record of 30-2 as a starter, and he broke tens of Texas and NCAA records.  He was the first QB to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in a single season.

Young was drafted third overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2006 NFL Draft.  He is now enjoying a successful career in the NFL.

Next Up: Running Backs


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