Since the Big 12 was formed from the old Big Eight conference, what was once the most run-oriented conference in college football has become a bastion of the passing game.
Stars like Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles are still in the process of rewriting the conference record books as spread offenses score points in untold quantities.
Read on for a look at the 25 greatest wide receivers ever seen on Big 12 rosters.
Michael Westbrook earns a permanent place in Colorado lore on the strength of one play: he was on the receiving end of Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary pass that gave Colorado a stunning win at fourth-ranked Michigan in 1994.
On the strength of all his other plays, he’s the greatest wideout in Colorado history.
Westbrook holds the Buffaloes’ career records for both receptions (167) and yardage (2548), and his 19 TDs are second all-time at the school.
Westbrook would go on to an unspectacular NFL career, mostly with the Redskins. Since his retirement, he’s had three bouts as a professional MMA fighter.
Kerry Meier was never going to be mistaken for a speedster, but his soft hands more than made up for it. A converted QB, Meier would become one of the best receivers in Kansas history.
Meier’s 226 career receptions are a Kansas record, placing him seventh among wideouts on the Big 12’s all-time list.
Meier did not appear in a game as a Falcons rookie last season.
On his kick returning alone, Jeremy Maclin would belong among the Big 12’s best. He has two of the conference’s all-time top 10 seasons in kick return yardage, and ranks fourth in career yardage.
Of course, Maclin could play a little at wide receiver, too.
Maclin’s 102 catches in 2008 put him in the conference’s top 10 all-time for a single season. His 22 career receiving TDs are tied for the Missouri record.
As Oklahoma State fans wait to see what he can possibly do for an encore, Justin Blackmon already stands as one of the most dominating wideouts in the school’s impressive history.
Blackmon’s 2010 season was among the top five in Big 12 history in receptions (111), yards (1782) and TDs (20).
After seeing minimal action as a freshman, Blackmon’s career totals aren’t yet on a par with other receivers on this list, but he’s a virtual lock to finish several spots higher by the time he’s done in Stillwater.
Few receivers in Missouri history have been as easy to find on the field as Justin Gage. At 6’4”, and with the athleticism to play guard for the Tigers’ basketball team, Gage became one of the great possession receivers in conference history.
Gage set a Mizzou record with 200 catches for his career, while also piling up 2704 yards and 18 TDs.
Like the rest of his Titans teammates, Gage can only wonder who’ll be throwing him the ball next season.
Justin Gage’s polar opposite at 5’8”, Nehemiah Glover played a lot bigger than his size. One of many receivers to shine in Texas Tech’s pass-pass-pass offense, Glover found plenty of holes in opposing defenses.
Glover’s 223 career catches place him eighth all-time among Big 12 WRs. He also racked up 2725 yards at 21 TDs.
Likely due to his lack of size, Glover went undrafted and never played in the NFL.
Dez Bryant’s 147 career receptions are among the fewest of any receiver on this list, but he made the most of his opportunities.
Bryant racked up 2425 yards at Oklahoma State, and his 29 receiving TDs are 11th in conference history. Bryant also notched one of the Big 12’s best single seasons as a sophomore, gaining 1480 yards receiving with 19 TDs.
As Missouri’s career leader in receiving yardage (2778), Danario Alexander was more than just a one-year wonder. Still, it was mostly his final season that raised him into the company of the Big 12’s all-time greats.
As a senior in 2009, Alexander caught 113 passes for 1781 yards, both in the top four single-season totals in conference history.
Alexander caught 20 passes in eight games as a Rams rookie last season.
Though older brother Rashaun got most of the accolades, D’Juan Woods put in an impressive career in his own right at Oklahoma State. He also had the benefit of having the third Woods brother, Donovan, as his QB for most of his college career.
In four seasons in Stillwater, Woods caught just 163 passes, but turned them into an impressive 2751 yards and 20 TDs.
Woods went undrafted, and has thus far appeared in just one game in the NFL, with the Jaguars in 2008.
Although his career totals of 206 catches and 2822 yards compare favorably with other elite receivers in Big 12 history, Jordy Nelson belongs on this list primarily because of what he accomplished as a senior.
Nelson’s final season with the Wildcats saw him catch 122 passes, the third-highest total in conference history. His 1606 yards that year are sixth all-time for a single Big 12 season.
Nelson is also one of just two receivers on this list with a Super Bowl ring, earned last year with the Packers.
Though somewhat overshadowed by the impressive recent history of Sooners wideouts, Joaquin Iglesias played some outstanding football in Norman. One of Sam Bradford’s top targets, Iglesias made his mark on the Big 12 record books.
Iglesias’ 2861 career yards are good for 12th on the conference’s all-time list. He also caught 202 passes in his Sooners career.
Iglesias was drafted by the Bears in 2009 and signed by Minnesota late last season, but has appeared in just one NFL game to date.
Like many Red Raiders’ wideouts, Jarrett Hicks put up impressive career totals: his 198 catches and 2859 yards rank him with the best in Texas Tech history. It was near the goal line, however, that Hicks made his biggest impact.
Hicks’ career total of 30 receiving TDs ties him for ninth on the all-time Big 12 list.
Hicks went undrafted and was last seen with the Arena Football League’s Los Angeles Avengers before that team folded in 2009.
Texas Tech has been a haven for undersized pass catchers, and 5’10” Carlos Francis took full advantage. Paired largely with QB Kliff Kingsbury, Francis put up impressive numbers even by Red Raider standards.
Francis is one of 11 wideouts in conference history to accumulate over 3000 receiving yards. He also caught 216 passes and scored 21 TDs for the Red Raiders.
Francis was drafted by the Raiders, but appeared in just five games in his NFL career.
Though Kevin Lockett doesn’t appear in the official Big 12 record books (he played most of his career in the Big Eight), he stands as one of the conference’s most accomplished receivers.
Lockett holds Kansas State records with 217 catches, 3032 yards and 26 TDs in his career. He’s 10th all-time in yardage among Big 12 receivers.
Lockett was drafted by the Chiefs in the second round in 1997, and went on to a serviceable career as a third or fourth receiver.
Iowa State’s football history has been a difficult one, but Todd Blythe stands as the best WR, and one of the best players, the school has ever seen. A goal-line terror at 6’5”, Blythe also had the elusiveness to be a big-play threat.
Blythe’s Iowa State records of 3096 receiving yards and 31 TDs are both among the Big 12’s top 10 all-time totals. He also holds the school mark with 176 catches.
Blythe went undrafted by the NFL and eventually caught on with the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers, for whom he currently plays.
It took a special player to take any attention away from the running game at Oklahoma State when Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders were piling up records.
Hart Lee Dykes was a special player.
Despite playing with two of the greatest runners in college history, Dykes managed to accumulate 3171 yards receiving on 203 catches. He also scored 29 TDs as a Cowboy.
Dykes would become a first-round pick of the Patriots, but injuries ended what might have been a solid career after just two seasons.
As a sophomore, Dezmon Briscoe set single-season Kansas records with 1407 yards and 15 TDs.
He wasn’t done yet.
Briscoe shattered the Jayhawks’ career records by accumulating 3235 receiving yards and 31 TDs. Both totals place him in the conference’s top six all-time.
Briscoe caught six passes in two games as a Tampa Bay rookie last season.
Wes Welker was the best punt returner in Big 12 history, having made more returns (152) for more yards (1761) and more TDs (8*) than any other player in the conference.
He wasn’t a bad wide receiver, either.
Welker holds Texas Tech’s all-time record for a WR with 259 catches, second-most among Big 12 wideouts all-time. He gained 3069 receiving yards in his Red Raiders career.
*Okalahoma’s Antonio Perkins later tied this record.
Arriving at Oklahoma on the heels of the Sooners’ 2000 national championship, Mark Clayton would leave as the greatest wide receiver in school history. His sure hands and quick feet helped QB Jason White win the 2003 Heisman Trophy.
Clayton finished his Sooners career with then-school records of 221 catches for 3241 yards. He’s still fourth on the conference’s all-time receiving yardage list, and his 31 TDs are tied for sixth.
After playing most of his NFL career in Baltimore, Clayton appeared in just five games in his first year with the Rams in 2010.
Colt McCoy’s record-breaking career as a Longhorns QB wouldn’t have been possible without Jordan Shipley. Though Shipley’s senior season (116 catches for 1485 yards) is one of the best in Big 12 history, it’s his career totals that will define his legacy.
In four seasons with Texas, Shipley piled up a Longhorns-record 248 catches for 3191 yards and 33 TDs. All three figures are in the conference’s all-time top five.
Shipley caught 52 passes as a Bengals rookie last year.
After a jaw-dropping 2010 season, Ryan Broyles could easily have declared for the NFL draft and still been one of the all-time greats in Big 12 history. His senior year is likely to push him to the very top of this list.
Broyles has already amassed 266 catches (second among Big 12 WRs) for 3429 yards (third all-time) and 35 TDs (fourth). His 131 catches in 2010 were the second-best season total in conference history.
Big, fast and physical, Roy Williams had every attribute of a great wide receiver. He used them to put up some of the most impressive stats in Big 12 history.
Williams holds the Longhorns’ career marks with 3866 yards (second all-time in the conference) and 36 TDs (third). He caught 241 passes in his career.
Though he was considered something of a bust in Detroit, Williams has made one Pro Bowl appearance so far in his NFL career.
The argument can certainly be made that Johnny Rodgers was more of a running back than a wide receiver. Nebraska’s greatest player of all time, Rodgers played both positions better than anyone in school history.
Rodgers still holds the Cornhuskers’ career records with 2479 yards and 25 TDs receiving. The 1972 Heisman Trophy winner finished his career with 5487 all-purpose yards, then an NCAA record.
Rodgers turned down an NFL contract to star for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. After four years, he tried to join the NFL with the Chargers, but a knee injury ended his career after 17 NFL games.
The eldest of Oklahoma State’s three superstar Woods brothers, Rashaun Woods didn’t just rewrite the school record books. By the time he was done in Stillwater, Woods held every major receiving record in conference history.
Woods is the Big 12’s career leader in catches by a WR (293), yards (4414, more than 500 yards ahead of second place) and TDs (42).
Woods played just one NFL season, catching seven passes with San Francisco in 2004.
He left for the 49ers too soon to own the career record books, but no receiver has ever dominated the Big 12 like Michael Crabtree. His impressive career numbers (231 catches, 3127 yards, 41 TDs) are only part of the story.
Crabtree’s freshman season was one of the best receiving performances in college football history, with Big 12 records of 134 catches for 1962 yards and 22 TDs. Though he played only two seasons, his 41 TDs are second in conference history.