There are a lot of things that Texans love: Barbeque, rodeos and country music to name a few.
Nothing, though, is more important to the state of Texas than sports. Texans love their sports.
Whether it be college football, professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or otherwise, Texas not only loves sports, but it also breeds athletes.
You all know plenty of these names: Kevin Durant, Emmitt Smith, Nolan Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson, the list goes on and on.
So let's pay some tribute to the great athletic legacy that Texas has created.
Here are the 50 best athletes with ties to Texas.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Bum Phillips was one of the best defensive coordinators around, working for the San Diego Chargers and the Houston Oilers in that capacity.
Phillips is known for his cowboy hat, thick Texas accent, and relatively successful coaching career, a legacy which is continued through his son Wade Phillips, a very successful defensive coordinator and, most recently, the last head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
After a very successful college career at the University of Texas, where he won two Doak Walker Awards, two Jim Brown Trophies, the Walter Camp Award, the Maxwell Award, the Heisman Trophy, and the AP College Player of the Year in 1998, Williams was drafted as the No. 5 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.
For most of his career, though, Williams has played for the Miami Dolphins, where he has been a big part of the implementation of the wildcat package.
Most people know Dwight D. Eisenhower as the 34th president of the United States, as well as being an accomplished general during World War II.
Little do people know, though, that Ike was a standout running back and linebacker at West Point in 1912, where he even tackled the legendary Jim Thorpe.
His career was unfortunately cut short, though, when he suffered a career-ending knee injury.
Steven Anderson, better known as wrestling star Stone Cold Steve Austin, is arguably the most recognizable professional wrestler of all-time.
With a career spanning roughly 14 years, Steve Austin held 19 championships throughout his careers in the WCW, ECW, WWF, and WWE, including six world championships and six WWF championships.
Steve Austin retired officially in 2003, but he continued to make guest appearances in big wrestling events for years afterwards.
With a career lasting over 20 years, Shawn Michaels has done it all: two-time AWA world tag team champion, four-time world champion, three time WWF champion, world heavyweight champion, the list goes on and on.
Upon retiring due to injury, Michaels opened his own wrestling academy and currently lives in San Antonio, Texas.
There may be no better hockey player to play in the state of Texas than the great Mike Modano.
In his long and illustrious career in Dallas, which spanned roughly 20 years, Modano has been to nine All-Star games, won a Stanley Cup, and scored over 500 goals.
Modano is, as far as most concerned, the best hockey player to come out of or pass through the state of
Way back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was not a better cowboy than Bill Pickett.
While most people today will not remember who he is, Pickett is certainly famous in his own circles. He was inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1970, and was even a part of the early film industry, staring in The Bull Dogger and the Crimson Skull.
A lot of people will argue that Colt McCoy does not deserve to be on this list, considering the fact that he has only just entered the NFL.
Just look at his college resume, though:
- The Sporting News 2006 National Freshman of the Year
- AP Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year
- 2006 Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP
- 2008 Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP
- Two-Time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year
- Two-Time Walter Camp Award
- Archie Griffin Award
- Heisman Runner-Up
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
- Maxwell Award
I would keep going, but there are at least another 10 awards left, so how about these other random facts:
- Had his number retired right after his graduation
- Holds 10 University of Texas records
- Holds three different NCAA records
Colt McCoy may be young, but his resume is more than impressive.
Cedric Benson started all four years at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a freshman All-American, a two-time first team All-Big 12 selection, and a Doak Walker Award winner.
Benson also ended his college career with 5,540 rushing yards, ranked No. 6 in NCAA history.
Cedric Benson has since gone on to a relatively successful professional career, in which he has posted 4,136 yards and 20 touchdowns over his five years in the league.
There is a bit of a surprise in Benson's past, though, that adds an extra dimension to him as an athlete. Benson was, believe it or not, drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2001 MLB Draft.
Ty Detmer may not have been extremely successful in the NFL, but his college career at BYU earns him enough respect to merit a spot on this list.
Detmer was one of the first big undersized college quarterbacks of the modern era and he really opened the door for guys like Drew Brees, Kellen Moore, and others to not only take on starting spots in college, but contend for time in the NFL.
As for the solid facts, here is a quick look at Detmer's college resume:
- 1990 Heisman Trophy
- 1990 Maxwell Award
- 1990 Davey O'Brien Award
- 1991 Sammy Baugh Award
- 1991 Davey O'Brien Award
- Two-Time All-American
Sheryl Swoopes deserves a lot of the credit for the success of the WNBA and for women's basketball in general.
As a WNBA player, Swoopes has four championships, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and three MVPs to her name.
As a member of the women's olympic squad, Swoopes has been a part of three gold-medal-winning teams (1996, 200, 2004).
It's hard to judge a pitcher who made his MLB debut in 2002 at the age of 24, but let's give John Lackey some credit.
Despite his relatively late start in the major leagues, Lackey has posted a career win-loss record of 116 to 82, an ERA of 3.89, 1,357 strikeouts, and 14 complete games. He won a World Series with the Los Angeles Angels in 2002, was an All-Star selection in 2007, and led the American League in ERA in 2007.
Very impressive for a guy who hasn't played a large amount of games, and who continues to perform well despite his age.
Personally it seems like the closer is the most overrated player in baseball.
That having been said, though, Joe Nathan does seem to earn his money in the position.
With a career ERA of 2.75, a win-to-loss record of 46 to 22, and 247 career saves (over the span of 10 seasons), Nathan has been a bright spot for the Minnesota Twins, and has left his mark permanently on the team, as he holds the team record for single season saves at 47.
Nathan has also been selected to the All-Star team four times in his nine season (yes, I'm discounting 2010 because he sat following Tommy Johns surgery).
Vince Young may have alienated many of his fans on account of his actions as a Tennessee Titan, but it is hard to deny the kind of splash he made at Texas, as well as in his first year or two in the NFL.
As a Longhorn, Vince Young was the MVP of the Rose Bowl twice. He won the Manning Award, the Davey O'Brien Award, the Archie Griffin Award, and was a Heisman runner-up. He passed for over 6,000 yards and ran for over 3,000 yards, and posted a combined 81 touchdowns.
As an NFL player, Vince Young entered with a bang, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he was selected to two Pro Bowls.
Vince Young may be one of those guys whose athletic achievements may be mired by his lack of discipline and poor attitude, but it is still tough to deny what he has been able to accomplish.
It's shameful that Grant Hill has been in the League for 16 years, played phenomenal basketball, and has not won a championship.
As a Piston, Grant Hill joined Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as one of the only players in NBA history to lead his team in scoring, rebounds, and assists more than once.
In his entire career, Hill has been selected as a seven-time All-Star, a first-teamer, a four-time second teamer, Rookie of the Year, and a three-time NBA Sportsmanship Award winner.
Grant Hill is probably not long for the NBA at this point, and it'll be a shame if he goes without a ring.
He can hit.
He can run.
He can field.
Carl Crawford, now of the Boston Red Sox, can do it all, and his resume shows it. Four-time All-Star, Golden Glove winner, Silver Slugger winner, four-time AL Stolen Base Champion and three Fielding Bible Awards.
He is also tied for first for most bases stolen in one game (6) and was the MVP of the 2009 All-Star game.
He's going to have a great career.
Before Tom Landry became one of the most successful coaches in the history of the Dallas Cowboys franchise, he was a standout quarterback, fullback, and defensive back for the University of Texas.
Although his college career was interrupted by his service as a pilot in World War II (during which he survived a crash in a B-17), Landry went on to be a very successful cornerback for the New York Giants, posting 32 interceptions in only 80 games.
He then, of course, went on to be the coach of the Dallas Cowboys for 22 years, during which he won several Coach of the Year awards, set the record for career wins as a Dallas head coach at 250, and won two Super Bowls (VI and XII).
Warren Moon may be one of the most recognizable quarterbacks in NFL history and really set the stage for mobile quarterbacks in the NFL.
As the quarterback of the Houston Oilers, he helped the program to its first winning season since the tenure of Bum Phillips, and subsequently became the highest paid player in the NFL at the time.
When all was said and done, after Moon had played for three other teams, he retired at the end of the 2000 season with an incredible list of accolades:
- Nine Pro Bowl selections
- Three All-Pro selections
- NFL MVP
- NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1990)
- 1989 Man of the Year
- 1998 Pro Bowl MVP
- No. 1 retired
- NFL and CFL Hall of Famer
While Josh Beckett may not have much of a legacy built just yet, he can easily be called one of the better pitchers in the MLB right now and he certainly has the numbers to back that up.
In his 10 years in the MLB (five with the Marlins and five with the Red Sox), Beckett has a win-to-loss ratio of 112 to 74, an average ERA of 3.96, and 1,446 strikeouts. He has won two World Series titles, been named the MVP of the ALCS and the World Series, and has been selected twice as an American League All-Star.
Beckett is still building his legacy, but he sure does have talent.
Called by some the most versatile female athlete ever, Babe Didrikson Zaharias was a champion in several track and field events, a star basketball player and one of the best female golfers in history.
She medaled in three events in the 1932 Olympics: gold in the 800-meter hurdles, gold in the javelin throw, and silver in the high jump.
By 1935, though, Didrikson was golfing, and finally turned professional in 1947. She won 10 LPGA majors, was enshrined in the World Golfing Hall of Fame and was the AP Female Athlete of the Year five times, but that barely explains how great of an athlete she was.
Despite golfing in the 1950s and 1960s, Didrikson made most of the cuts in the PGA tournaments that she competed in, beating out a lot of the male golfers of the age, a killer for gender stereotypes.
It's hard to give a lot of credit to a Yankee if you're not from New York, but Andy Pettitte really did have a stellar career for them and it earns him this spot.
In his 15 years in the MLB, Pettitte has a ridiculous 240 to 138 win-to-loss ratio and couples that with an average ERA of 3.88 and 2,251 strikeouts.
He was a three time All-Star selection, won five World Series titles, was the 2001 ALCS MVP, and owns two MLB records:
- Most postseason series-clinching wins (6)
- Most career postseason wins (19)
Clutch player, great starting pitcher, the man deserves a lot of respect.
Dirk Nowitzki has come a long way since his days in Germany.
After being a standout for the German team DJK Wurzburg, Nowitzki came to the United States as the future of the Dallas Mavericks and has more than delivered on that promise.
In his time with the Mavericks, Nowitzki has built up quite a rap sheet:
- 2007 NBA MVP
- 9 All-Star selections
- 4 All-NBA First Team selections
- 4 All-NBA Second Team selections
- 2006 NBA 3-Point Shootout champion
And that is barely the tip of the iceberg. Nowitzki is a star in international play and is one of the most recognizable faces of the Dallas Mavericks, as well as of the Mark Cuban regime.
As far as professional golfers go, Tom Kite is one of the best.
After attending college at the University of Texas, Kite went pro in 1972. He has since won 38 tournaments, one major championship, has been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and has won numerous awards in both the PGA and Champions Tours.
Known as one of the best players in professional baseball right now, Josh Hamilton is the future of the Texas Rangers and played a huge part in their push to the World Series this year.
While he doesn't have much experience under his belt (Hamilton entered the MLB in 2007), he currently has a career batting average of .311 with 93 home runs and 331 RBIs, very good marks for someone so young.
Even more impressive is the fact that, with the exception of 2007 (which hardly counts on account of the fact that he made his debut in April of that year), Hamilton has been selected as an All-Star every year of his career.
He has won two Silver Sluggers, he was the 2010 AL and ALCS MVP, and led the AL in RBIs.
Hamilton has a very promising career in front of him.
Lee Trevino, at the age of 71, is still competing in the Champions Tour.
Impressed? Take into account the fact that he went professional 50 years ago.
Now that's impressive.
Trevino has won six majors, has 89 all-time wins, and is in the record books with 29 Champions Tour wins (second all-time) and 29 PGA Tour wins (T-19th).
He has won the Vardon Trophy five times, he has been inducted into the World Golfing Hall of Fame, heck, he even has a street named after him.
Most of you know Tony Dorsett.
In all seriousness, though, Tony Dorsett played a big role in creating the dynasty in Dallas (despite exiting shortly before the coming of guys like Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith), and was also a major superstar in college, winning every trophy from the Heisman to the Maxwell Award to the Walter Camp Award.
Tony Dorsett finished his NFL career with very impressive numbers: 12,739 yards and 92 touchdowns. And mind you, this was in the span of an 11-year career.
As another part of the great era of Dallas Cowboys football, Michael Irvin deserves a lot of recognition.
Not only was he one of the best receivers in the league during his time, but he can be considered one of the best to ever come around.
Five Pro Bowls and three Super Bowls were enough to earn Irvin a spot on the 1990s All-Decade team and a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Where does one begin with Drew Brees?
He was a standout at Purdue in college but was held back in the NFL Draft on account of his size. He quickly proved doubters wrong, though, as he led the San Diego Chargers out of the hole that they had dug themselves into since the Dan Fouts era.
In 2006, though, Brees suffered a shoulder injury that could have ended his career.
Instead, though, he signed with the New Orleans Saints as the keystone to the rebuilding project in the Bayou and has since become a superstar in the NFL, as well as to the city of New Orleans.
It even got to a point where, in 2008, Brees was a mere 13 yards away from breaking Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record.
In the span of 41 years, Ben Hogan became arguably the most famous professional golfer of all-time, next to guys like Jack Niklaus and Arnold Palmer, that is.
Hogan has a career total of 64 PGA Tour wins, placing him as No. 4 all-time, and he won nine majors, including four U.S. Opens.
He was the PGA Player of the Year four times, a Vardon Trophy winner three times, and the AP Male Athlete of the Year in 1953.
As a collegiate football player, Earl Campbell certainly earned his stripes, winning the Heisman Trophy, the Harley Award, two different Player of the Year awards, and two All-American selections as a running back at Texas.
As a professional, though, he made his name as a big part of the Houston Oilers for six years, where he led the League in rushing for three consecutive years (the only other player to do that was the great Jim Brown), was selected to five Pro Bowls, and ended his career with 9,407 yards and 72 touchdowns, a ridiculous mark for a player who played only eight years.
As a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Troy Aikman did it all: Three Super Bowls, Six Pro Bowls, NFL Hall of Fame. You name it, Aikman did it.
As a part of the Dallas Cowboys legacy team known as America's Team, Aikman has become one of the most recognizable players in NFL history and ended his career just short of 33,000 yards, averaging a 81.6 quarterback rating, a ridiculous career mark.
Despite being disqualified in the 4 x 400 meter relay in Sydney in 2000, Michael Johnson has more gold medals than one could imagine, earning four in the Olympics and eight in the World Championships.
Johnson has also been billed as the World's Fastest Man, after being clocked at an incredible pace of 10.35 meters per second. However, he was unable to finish the World's Fastest Man race against challenger Donovan Bailey, as he suffered a hamstring injury mid-race.
Before Mary Lou Retton became a part of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, she was one of the best gymnasts the United States had to offer.
As a member of the US 1984 Gymnastics team, Retton placed in five different events, earning gold in all-around, silver as a part of the team and for the vault, and bronze in uneven bars and floor exercises.
She may not have left a lasting legacy, but she was the first official spokeswoman for Wheaties and was named Sports Illustrated's Sportswoman of the Year.
As a professional jockey, Willie Shoemaker ended a long and illustrious career with 8,833 wins during his professional career.
This included four Kentucky Derby wins, two Preakness Stakes wins, five Belmont Stakes wins, and one Breeders Cup win.
He was also the highest-earning jockey for 10 years, the highest-winning jockey for five years and he is not only a part of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, but he is also the namesake of the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup.
Adrian Peterson may be the best running back since Jim Brown.
After winning more awards and breaking more records in college than one can count, Peterson moved on to the NFL, where he has been selected to the Pro Bowl every year since entering the league, despite the ups and downs suffered by the Minnesota Vikings.
He is lightning fast, very physical and has balance to rival the great Jim Brown.
The only problem people might have with him is that, despite being born in Texas, he chose to attend Oklahoma, one of Texas' biggest rivals.
Sure, Kevin Durant may be young and relatively new to the NBA, but many recognize him as one of the best young talents in the league and he is the superstar of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He has been compared to players like Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett, but has a major upside, and could be the driving force behind making the Oklahoma City Thunder a viable force in the NBA.
Roger Staubach is, without question, the most recognizable face in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, and he was the kind of player that kids grew up wanting to be.
Despite winning the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, and the UPI Player of the Year award in 1963, Staubach was not drafted until the 10th round of the 1964 NFL Draft.
He made history as the Cowboys quarterback for 11 years, though, winning two Super Bowls, in one of which he was the MVP, and being selected to six Pro Bowls.
Staubach has since been selected as part of the 1970s All-Decade team, and has been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
AJ Foyt is well known as one of the best and most versatile drivers of all-time.
He is the only driver in history to win the Indy 500 (which he won four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of le Mans.
He has been named the Driver of the Century, he is considered one of the best NASCAR drivers of all-time and he is in the Midget Racing, Sprint Car, Motorsports, and International Motorsports Halls of Fame.
It is hard to argue that a racer like Foyt has ever existed.
Jack Johnson is considered one of the best and most well recognized boxers of all-time, and mostly on account of one great fight.
You all know it as The Fight of the Century.
In 1912, Jack Johnson was challenged by James Jeffries, who felt a duty to "take back the honor for the white race". The bout does not have an official end, as Jeffries pulled out of the fight in the 15th round, but Johnson did end up walking away with the heavyweight title anyway, making him the first African American heavyweight champion in US history.
With a career spanning over 20 years, Frank Robinson has distinguished himself as one of the best players baseball has ever had to offer.
With a career batting average of .294, Frank Robinson was a fantastic hitter and managed to convert many of those to home runs, with a final tally of 586 homers in 2,943 hits.
Robinson was selected as an All-Star a mind-boggling 14 times, won two World Series titles, and won a number of awards, including both the AL and NL MVP award, World Series MVP, the Babe Ruth Award, and the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Robinson was also a great fielder, despite winning only one Golden Glove in 1958.
LaDainian Tomlinson can probably be considered the most well-known football player of the last decade, and for good reason.
In his nine-year career, LT has papered his name all over the record books and is still in a position to break more.
He is a five time Pro Bowler and a six-time All Pro, he has won Offensive Player of the Year, MVP, and has led the league in rushing on more than one occasion.
Before all this, though, Tomlinson was a standout at TCU, winning the Doak Walker and Jim Brown awards his senior year.
He currently holds six NFL records and continues to move in on Emmitt Smith's career rushing yards record.
Between his time at SMU, affectionately referred to as the Pony Express, and his time in the NFL, where he set the single season rushing record, there is not much Eric Dickerson didn't do in the NFL.
He was only the seventh player to reach 10,000 yards on his career and was the fastest to reach it (at 91 games). He was a six-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro and is the only Indianapolis Colt in the Hall of Fame (at least the only one since their move from Baltimore).
The famous death penalty may have followed him shortly after his departure from SMU, but it doesn't change how great Eric Dickerson was. He simply could not be stopped.
There was a time when Roger Clemens would have topped this list.
He played for over 23 years, during which he posted a win-to-loss record of 354 to 184 with an ERA of 3.12 and 4,672 strikeouts.
That's just plain ridiculous.
There was plenty of recognition for his feats, too. Clemens was an All-Star 11 times, a six-time AL Cy Young winner and a part of the MLB All-Century Team.
What's dragging him down, you wonder?
Well, if you're actually wondering, than allow me to explain.
Roger Clemens was a steroid freak. A lot of players were at the time, so that's not quite as big of a deal as you expect it to be. What is a big deal is the fact that Clemens lied under oath about doing steroids.
That's just wrong.
Unfortunately, though, he was still a phenomenal athlete.
Arguably the most well known basketball in Texas history, Hakeem Olajuwon was a monster athlete.
After being a part of "Phi Slama Jama" at the University of Houston, Olajuwon was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft.
He went on to become one of the most recognizable players in the NBA, and ended his career in 2002 with two NBA Championships, 12 All-Star selections, two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, five NBA All-Defense First Team selections, four NBA All-Defense Second Team selections, and an NBA MVP selection.
Olajuwon finished his career with a grand total of 26, 946 points (averaging just under 1,500 points per year), 13,747 rebounds, and 3,830 blocks.
Olajuwon was simply the man.
Mike Singletary was a big part of one of the best defenses in NFL history: the 1985 Chicago Bears.
He was selected to a mind-blowing 10 Pro Bowls in a row (every year except for his first two years), won a Super Bowl (Super Bowl XX), was an eight-time All-Pro, and a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Singletary is to this day considered one of the best linebackers of all-time and he certainly does Texas proud.
To win seven Tour de Frances is one thing.
To do it after surviving brain, lung, and testicular cancer is a whole different thing entirely.
The fact that Lance Armstrong was able to get back on the bike after all of the cancer treatment that he went through was amazing, and to go on to set the Tour de France wins record was the icing on the cake.
Lance Armstrong is certainly the face of international cycling and he is a truly inspirational figure as an athlete as well as as a person.
Considered one of the best Chicago Cubs of all-time, Ernie Banks played a great 18 seasons with the Cubs.
Sure, he may never have won anything with them, but to be selected to the All-Star team 14 times, win the Golden Glove, the NL MVP (twice), the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, and to be placed on the MLB All-Century Team says a lot about the player that Ernie Banks was.
His number is one of two Cubs numbers that has been retired (the other being Ron Santo's), and is known for his outstanding vigor.
Not only is Nolan Ryan a great manager, but he was one of the best pitchers that the MLB has ever had. His win-to-loss record isn't fantastic (324-292), but Ryan finished his career with a 3.19 ERA and MLB records in strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (7).
Ryan was elected to the Hall of Fame almost unanimously and he is the only player to have his number retired by three different teams (Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim).
Oh yes, George Foreman is famous for more than just making grills and children named George.
Foreman is arguably one of the three best boxers in boxing history (the other two being Ali and Tyson), and was a part of two of the most famous bouts in history, the Rumble in the Jungle and the Sunshine Showdown.
Foreman had hands like steel, winning 69 matches by knockout, and he was a man of steel himself, losing only five bouts in his entire career.
He also holds the gold medal for heavyweight boxing from the 1968 Olympic games.
Here he is, ladies and gentlemen, your No. 1, the great Emmitt Smith.
Emmitt Smith defined an era of professional football, he holds enough professional records to make your head spin, he won three Super Bowls, he went to eight Pro Bowls, the list goes on and on.
Emmitt Smith was the player that current running backs grew up watching and wanting to be. Words can hardly do credit to how great of a player Emmitt Smith was and the kind of impact that he had on the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL, and the sport of football.