Pac-10 Football: The 20 Most Entertaining Players of The Past Decade
Whether it's strength, speed or personality, the Pac-10 conference has provided an abundance of entertaining athletes over the past decade. Every fan defines the word "entertaining" with different characteristics, and the conference has consistently filled those needs. Here are the twenty most entertaining players from the Pac-10 since the 2000 season.
Toby Gerhart, Stanford
The former Cardinal running back was nicknamed "Touchdown Toby" with good reason. The two-sport athlete scored 44 touchdowns on 3,522 yards in four collegiate seasons. A 6-0', 235 pound workhorse, he was difficult to bring down and deceptively quick. Loyal Pac-10 fans are looking forward to seeing Gerhart as play as a Minnesota Viking.
Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State
The 2009 Pac-10 defensive freshman of the year, the Arizona State linebacker turned heads soon after beginning his collegiate career. Burfict was flagged for numerous unneccessary penalties, and he plays with an unpredictable mentallity that Dennis Erickson covets. The only reason I watch the Sun Devils play is to see what this player will do next.
James Rodgers, Oregon State
One could make a strong case for his little brother, but the elder Rodgers is entertaining returning kicks, catching the ball, and running the good old "fly sweep" out of the backfield. Entering his senior season, Rodgers caught 91 passes for 1,034 yards, and 9 touchdowns in 2009. The Beaver wide receiver has also added over 1,900 return yards during his collegiate career. The 5-7', 185 pound Texas native has found the end zone a total of 23 times as a Beaver.
Reggie Bush, Southern Cal
Personally, I believe that Reggie Bush is the most entertaining player I have seen play in person in over twenty years of attending collegiate games (I have seen every player on this list). The 6-0', 203 pound athlete was blessed with speed, elusiveness, agility, and natural talent. The former Trojans tailback was named an All-American in 2004 and 2005, and won numerous national awards including the Heisman Trophy during his junior season. In 2005, he totaled 2,611 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns.
Desean Jackson, California
The former California wide receiver was lethal returning punts and receiving the football. Jackson was blessed with the speed and agility that made him pure entertainment. Making a name for himself in the NFL, the 5-10', 175 pound athlete left Berkeley after his junior season holding numerous conference and school records. Jackson finished his collegiate career returning six punts for touchdowns, along with recording 162 receptions for 2,423 yards and 22 touchdown receptions.
Rey Maualuga, Southern Cal
The 6-2', and 255 pound former Trojan linebacker was simply intimidating. From 2005 until 2008, Maualuga wrecked havoc on conference opponents and was named first team all Pac-10 three straight years. The fierce, emotionally charged Samoan won the 2008 Bednarik Award, and was named the 2008 conference defensive player of the year.
Dennis Dixon, Oregon
While Dixon didn't breakout until his senior season, the former Oregon quarterback mastered one of the most entertaining offensive systems in the country. The California native was poised, athletic, and unpredictable with the ball. Despite missing the final four games of the 2007 season, Dixon was still named the Pac-10 offensive player of the year. A duel-sport athlete, he finished fifth in the 2007 voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Mike Williams, Southern Cal
A mediocre professional, the former Trojan wide receiver was phenomenal as an underclassman. The 6-5', 235 pound receiver possessed great hands, size, and speed. As a freshman he caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards, and 14 touchdowns. The following season he recorded 95 receptions for 1,314 yards, and 16 touchdowns. Williams certainly could be considered one of the most entertaining wide receivers in the conference over the past decade.
Jake Locker, Washington
Entering his senior season, Locker is projected to be selected very high in the upcoming NFL draft. A duel-sport athlete, the Washington quarterback has proven to be effective with both his arms and legs. The 2007 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year has the size (6-3', 226 pounds) to shake off defenders, and make the big throws.
Mike Hass, Oregon State
An undersized former walk-on, it was hard not to pull for Hass to succeed at the collegiate level. A 6-1', 205 pound wide receiver, the Oregon native could be considered the best at his position in school history. Hass was awarded the 2005 Biletnikoff Award after he caught 90 passes for 1,532 yards. He still holds the majority of Beaver receiving records, and is the only player in conference history to reach 1,000 yards receiving during three consecutive seasons.
Jahvid Best, California
The former Cal running back is the definition of an explosive big-play athlete. Best averaged 7.3 yards per carry in three seasons at Berkeley, including an 8.1 yard per carry average in 2008. At 5-10', 199 pounds the current Detroit Lion relied on pure speed, agility, and vision of the field. Best rushed for 2,668 yards and 29 touchdowns during his collegiate career.
Troy Polamalu, Southern Cal
The former Trojan was the most dominating conference safety for the first three years of the decade. Easy to recognize with his lack of height, and long growing hair, Polamalu was a sure tackler that found his way into nearly every play. In three years as the Trojans starting safety, he recorded 278 tackles, six interceptions, and four blocked punts.
Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
The former Wildcat tight end simply ran over linebackers and defensive backs. In two years of action, Gronkowski hauled in 75 passes for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns. The ability to run after the catch, and drag defenders made his play more then entertaining. Pac-10 fans missed out in 2009 when he was sidelined for the entire year with an injury.
Terrell Suggs, Arizona State
A collegiate defensive end, the former Sun Devil could be considered the best pass rusher in conference history. From 2000 until 2002, Suggs recorded 163 tackles with 44 sacks and 65.5 tackles for loss. The 6-3', 260 pound athlete could not be stopped during his junior season. In 2002, Suggs recorded an NCAA record 24 sacks and proceeded to win the Hendricks Award, Lombardi Award, and Nagurski Trophy.
Reggie Williams, Washington
The former Husky wide receiver could be considered the most dominant at his position in the conference from 2001 until 2003. He recorded sixteen games with over 100 yards receiving. The 6-4', 225 pound athlete caught 238 passes for 3,536 yards and 22 touchdowns as a Husky. Williams dominated Washington State in 2003, with 11 receptions for 203 yards.
Rien Long, Washington State
At 6-5', 264 pounds, the Cougars defensive lineman wrecked havoc on the conference in 2001 and 2002. Long was awarded the Outland Trophy in 2002 as a junior. Undersized, the motor of Long was relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback. Watching the Cougar defense early in the decade was always focused on the unpredictability of Long.
Teyo Johnson, Stanford
The athletic ability of the former Cardinal was evident at all times. A former quarterback, and college basketball player, Johnson possessed the hands, size, and speed to hurt Pac-10 defenses. The 6-5', 260 pound wide receiver was named the 2001 conference freshman of the year. In two seasons in Palo Alto, Johnson caught 79 passes for 1,032 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Marcedes Lewis, UCLA
Lewis played for the Bruins from 2002 until 2005 and started 32 games. A 6-6', 275 pound tight end, he was awarded the 2005 John Mackey award after catching 58 passes for 741 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Lewis was a complete player as he dominated as a blocking, and receiving tight end. In four years at UCLA, he finished with 126 receptions for 1,571 yards, and 21 touchdowns.
Maurice Jones-Drew, UCLA
In three collegiate seasons, the former Bruin running back was an all-around versatile threat. Jones-Drew led the team in rushing all three seasons, including 1,007 yards during his sophomore year. In 2005, he set an NCAA mark when he averaged 28.5 yards on 15 punt returns. During his collegiate career he totaled over 4,500 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns.
Joey Harrington, Oregon
The piano-playing Oregon native had the charisma and natural ability to will his team to victory. While many have since labeled him "soft", Harrington was 25-3 in three years in Eugene, and named a first team All-American as senior in 2001. The former Duck quarterback threw for 2,415 yards and 23 touchdowns during the 2001 season.