The 10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Idaho

Ricky FrechCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2011

The 10 Best Professional Athletes Born in Idaho

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    Idaho isn't exactly a hot bed for all-star athletes, but they have been able to produce a few great players over the years. Don't expect a top ten list that matches bigger states like California, but the citizens of Idaho have plenty of players to be proud of.

    Who exactly makes up the best of the best from Idaho? Read on to find out.

10) Merril Hoge

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    Born: Pocatello

    Sport: Football

    Position: Fullback

    Notable Achievements: 34 career rushing touchdowns

    Trust me, the list gets better after this first one. Merril Hoge wasn't a terrible fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he was susceptible to concussions during his career. At one point, he actually had to re-learn how to read. That's pretty impressive.

    Hoge did have one season in which he had 10 rushing touchdowns from the fullback position. Plus, there's not really anyone else to give this spot to unless you really like A.J. Feeley.

    Side note: does it look like Hoge has a booger hanging out of his nose in the provided picture or is it just me?

    Anyways, Hoge gets the 10th spot. Let's move on.

9) Jordan Gross

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    Born: Nampa

    Sport: Football

    Position: Offensive Tackle

    Notable Achievements: two-time Pro-Bowler, 2008 All-Pro.

    Jordan Gross was an excellent collegiate lineman at the University of Utah and was drafted eighth overall in 2003 by the Carolina Panthers. He still plays there to this day and has recently been a fixture on the annual Pro Bowl team.

    Gross is a guy who has proved himself to be a solid starter on the Panthers line. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010, so he's still producing at a high level as he ages. If he continues playing at a high level, he could see himself move higher up this list. 

8) Larry Jackson

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    Born: Nampa

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Pitcher

    Notable Achievements: five-time All-Star.

    Larry Jackson just got better with age. In his last 12 years, he never had less than 13 wins. Not many pitchers can say they were able to play with that kind of dominance as they moved into the twilight of their careers. He never picked up a Cy Young trophy but did finish in second place in 1964 when he won 24 games.

    Jackson may have never played for a division-winning team, but he was still able to pile up quite a few wins in his career (of course, he also almost had just as many losses). His ability to win games even while playing on bad teams gets him this spot on the list. 

7) Wayne Walker

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    Born: Idaho

    Sport: Football

    Position: Linebacker/Kicker

    Notable Achievements: three-time Pro-Bowler, 1965 All-Pro

    The combination of linebacker and placekicker isn't seen very often in the modern football world, but Wayne Walker was able to play both positions fairly well. He has 14 career interceptions from the linebacker spot and converted 172 of 175 extra point attempts. His field goal percentage isn't quite as good, as he only made 53 of 131 attempts.

    Walker was a unique player in his day and even had his number retired by the University of Idaho. That and his solid play in the Pros get him this spot on the list.

6) Jake Plummer

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    Born: Boise

    Sport: Football

    Position: Quarterback

    Notable Achievements: 2005 Pro-Bowler, 1996 Pac-10 Player of the Year.

    First of all, look at that picture. What a mustache. He'd make the list on that thing alone. That said, Jake Plummer had amazing ability but was never able to quite put together the mental side of the game. His gun-slinging style of play led to some great plays but also quite a few bad turnovers. This led to his career TD-INT ratio of 161-161. Perfectly even; just like that mustache.

    All kidding aside, Plummer was never quite the player he could have been, but he still managed to have some bright moments during his career, and that gets him a spot on this list. The mustache is what puts him higher up than he might deserve. 

5) Vern Law

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    Born: Meridian

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: Pitcher

    Notable Achievements: two-time All-Star, 1960 Cy Young winner, 1960 World Series Champ.

    Vern Law didn't get named to as many All-Star teams as Larry Jackson, but he was able to do two big things Jackson couldn't. He won a Cy Young and, possibly more importantly, was able to help his team win the World Series the same year.

    As a solid pitcher and a one-time Cy Young winner, Law deserves a spot on this list. His World Series win is what puts him over other guys from Idaho.

4) Gary Stevens

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    Born: Caldwell

    Sport: Horse Racing

    Notable Achievements: three-time winner at the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. Two-time winner at the Preakness Stakes.

    Gary Stevens was probably the best jockey in the world during the late 90s and early 2000s. As you can see in his notable achievements, he led his horse to multiple wins at each of the major races in American horse racing.

    Usually, I wouldn't give too much credit to a horse jockey, but it's hard to deny how good Gary Stevens was at his job. Plus, he once rode a horse called "Da Hoss," which just helps his candidacy for this list.

3) Larry Wilson

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    Born: Rigby

    Sport: Football

    Position: Free Safety

    Notable Positions: eight-time Pro-Bowler, eight-time All-Pro.

    Larry Wilson was a dominating force for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1960s. He was able to snag 52 interceptions, which he returned for 800 yards and eight touchdowns. His ball-hawking ability was a major reason he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.

    Wilson is the first guy on this list that would probably make most states' top 10 list. He may not be the most well-known safety of all time, but his play more than makes up for it and gets him a top three spot on this list.

2) Picabo Street

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    Born: Triumph

    Sport: Skiing

    Notable Achievements: two-time Olympic Medal winner.

    Picabo Street is probably the most famous women's downhill skier from the 1990s, if not all time. She began her Olympic career with a silver medal during the 1994 games in the downhill competition. Two years later she would become the first American to capture a World Championship in a speed event when she won the gold in downhill. She was finally able to capture an Olympic gold during the 1998 games, winning the Super G in Nagano.

    Olympic medals are pretty hard to come by, and winning even a bronze shows that you're a superior athlete. Street was able to win a silver and gold during her career, and that is what puts her this high on my list.

1) Harmon Killebrew

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    Born: Payette

    Sport: Baseball

    Position: First basemen, Third basemen, Left Fielder

    Notable Achievements: 13-time All Star, 1969 AL MVP.

    Harmon Killebrew was an offensive force for the Washington Senators (who later became the Minnesota Twins) during the late 50s and early 60s. He led the league in home runs six times and retired behind only Babe Ruth on the all-time list.

    That kind of offensive firepower is what led to Killebrew being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. He's one of the best to ever play baseball and also the best athlete to ever come out of Idaho.