Oklahoma State Football: 12 Best Defensive Players in School History

Bradlee Ross@rossbeCorrespondent IIFebruary 23, 2012

Oklahoma State Football: 12 Best Defensive Players in School History

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    The Oklahoma State Cowboys have had many talented defensive playmakers over their long history. It was extremely difficult to narrow down the 12 best.

    Some guys on the team now, like Justin Gilbert, have a chance to make this list if their careers continue on their current paths. But for now, there are no current, 2012 Cowboys on the list.

    Here are the 12 best defensive Cowboys in Oklahoma State football history (in no particular order).

Markelle Martin

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    The 6'1", 200-pound safety out of Wichita, Kan., was an integral part of the Cowboys' rise to prominence in the late 2000s. He amassed 179 tackles over his four-year career, and his athleticism, speed and big-hit ability has made him one of the top safety prospects for the 2012 NFL draft.

Antonio Smith

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    A part of the Les Miles era in the early 2000s, Antonio Smith was a big part of a Cowboys defensive line that terrorized opposing offenses. After being drafted in 2004, Smith became a perennial starter for the Houston Texans and a Pro Bowler in 2011.

Perrish Cox

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    Perrish Cox was a great cornerback for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Despite a lackluster end to his career, which included a bowl game suspension and the alienation of much of Cowboy nation, Cox is one of the best defensive backs in Cowboy history.

    He accumulated 134 tackles and 10 interceptions over four seasons with the Cowboys.

Leslie O'Neal

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    A two-time All-American at Oklahoma State, Leslie O'Neal played the defensive end in the early part of the 1980s. O'Neal earned All-Conference Honors three times, was runner-up for the Lombardi Award and was drafted eighth overall by the San Diego Chargers in 1986. He was the 1986 Defensive Rookie of the Year and went on to become a six-time Pro Bowler with 132.5 career sacks (eighth all time).

R.W. McQuarters

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    R.W. McQuarters is the most versatile player in Oklahoma State football history. The superb athlete played defensive back, wide receiver and kick returner for the Cowboys in the late 1990s. He also played for three seasons on Oklahoma State's basketball team.

    McQuarters had an 11-year NFL career as a defensive back and kick returner, which culminated in a 2008 Super Bowl victory with the New York Giants.

Jerry Sherk

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    Jerry Sherk was an All-Big Eight selection at the defensive tackle position for the Cowboys in 1969. Sherk went to have an 11-year career with the Cleveland Browns, where he accumulated 864 tackles, 69.5 sacks and 10 recovered fumbles. Sherk was a four-time Pro Bowler and was also an All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State.

Kevin Williams

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    Kevin Williams started 42 games at defensive tackle for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and was a key part of the turnaround of Cowboy football in the early 2000s.

    In his career, Williams recorded 160 total tackles, 38 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. After being chosen ninth overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Williams went on to become a six-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

Mike Green

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    Playing defensive back for the Cowboys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mike Green had three consecutive 100-tackle seasons from 1979-82. He recorded 485 total career tackles, which is one short of the school record. He also helped lead the Cowboys back to a bowl game for the first time in six years.

John Corker

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    John Corker is the man who holds the Cowboy record for career tackles with 486 over Mike Green. Corker, a defensive lineman, started as a freshman and recorded 111 tackles in that season (the lowest tackle season total of his career). He went on to have triple-digit tackles every season, including 1978 when he recorded 130 despite playing in just seven games due to injury.

    He was 1978's Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year for that effort and came back the next season to earn All-Conference and All-America honors. Corker went on to an eight-year career in the NFL and USFL.

Jason Gildon

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    A stellar defensive end for the Cowboys in the early 1990s, Jason Gildon holds the Cowboy record for career sacks with 35.5 and the season record with 16 in 1991. He finished his college career with 266 total tackles and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1994. A three-time Pro Bowler as part of the Steel Curtain defense, Gildon played for 11 years in the NFL.

Darrent Williams

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    Darrent Williams played defensive back for the Cowboys during their turnaround in the early 2000s. He finished his collegiate career tied for the career record in interception returns for touchdowns with five. Totaling 11 career interceptions, Williams also recorded nine total touchdowns.

    He was drafted in 2005 by the Denver Broncos and played for them for two seasons.

    Sadly, Darrent Williams isn't usually remembered for his stellar play on the field. Less than 12 hours after the Broncos' final game of the 2006 season on New Year's Day 2007, Williams was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting outside a Denver nightclub. Williams was not an intended target and his killer, Willie Clark was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010.

Orie Lemon

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    A middle linebacker for the Cowboys from 2006-10, Orie Lemon recorded 223 career tackles during his time at Oklahoma State. After sitting out the 2009 season due to injury, Lemon anchored a Cowboy defense in 2010 on a team that went 11-2, the first 11-win season in Cowboy history. After going undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, Lemon was signed as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys.