The Big East As a Cult: The League's Most Worshipped Players

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIAugust 1, 2009

12 Sep 1998:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Syracuse Orangemen in action during a game against the Michigan Wolverines at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Orangemen defeated the Wolverines 38-28. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Laforet  /

A cult is a cohesive group with devotional beliefs and practices which are considered to be outside of mainstream cultures.

Sounds like the Big East football conference.

Here’s my list of my favorite players from the cult that is the Big East.  I've outlined one per team, great players, many of whom had an impact on their respective programs beyond statistics. Included are schools that are currently members as well as the schools that left the conference.

Boston College – Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback:  In Hass’ senior year, he led an exciting squad that would unfortunately get down big early then rally back late with resilience to almost pull it off.  Of course, winning is the only thing, but the scholar-athlete left it all on the field.

Miami – Ray Lewis, linebacker:  At Miami, Ray Lewis was the fiery, heavy-hitting linebacker all men on defense looked to for leadership.  In the mid-'90s the Hurricanes’ D was the quintessential immovable object.  Most of that had to do with Lewis.  He was too strong to run at and too fast to run away from.

Temple – Dan Klecko, linebacker:  Temple football left a lot to be desired during its time in the Big East.  Dan Klecko, a Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, did his best in the early 2000s to allay that image.

Virginia Tech – DeAngelo Hall, defensive back and receiver:  Primarily a defensive back, DeAngelo put time in as a kick and punt returner as well as wideout.  Tremendous speed (4.37) and strength (300 lb. bench) made him one of the most, if not the most, superior and feared athletes on the field.

Cincinnati – Tony Pike, quarterback:  Tony led the Bearcats in 2008 to back-to-back upsets against South Florida and at Morgantown against West Virginia.  Despite being in the pressure-packed situation of the four QB "rotation," he was amazing against Pittsburgh.  Pike looks to emerge as the man in 2009.

Connecticut – Donald Brown, running back:  The Huskie ran hard and fast in his time at Connecticut.  His talent was evident with his 4.29 40 and a 600 lb squat, earning him a No. 1 draft choice by Indianapolis.  Donald Brown was also a Big East Offensive Player of the Year. 

Louisville – Mario Urrutia, Jr., wideout:  At 6'6" 232, Mario is the prototype receiver: big, fast, and scary.  He was a huge target for quarterback Brian Brohm’s rockets and ropes, tingling fans and amassing 17.5 yards per catch in his career with the Cardinals.

Pittsburgh – HB Blades, linebacker:  HB hit like a cement truck, just as his father used to do for Miami.  Playing at a time when offense ruled at Pittsburgh, Blades was a fan favorite.  For his efforts and leadership, he was named Big East defensive player of the year as a junior.

Rutgers – Brian Leonard, running back:  In preseason 2006, Rutgers touted Leonard as a Heisman Trophy candidate.  Thing is, Brian saw himself as a role player whose job it was to make fellow running back Ray Rice great.  His selflessness won the hearts of fans in New Jersey and across the nation, as well as the NFL.

South Florida – George Selvie, defensive end:   George Selvie is the consummate pass rusher: huge, strong, hostile, and cat quick.  Among the sack and tackles for loss leaders in the FBS, Selvie does his job and does it well, imploring other Bulls to sell it all out with their best.

Syracuse – Donovan McNabb, quarterback:  Big with quick feet, foot speed, and a cannon for an arm, McNabb was the soul of the Orange in the mid-1990s.  He would do anything to win, but amazingly his value as an NFL quarterback was questioned by some scouts.  Guess he put those fears to rest.

West Virginia – Owen Schmidt, fullback:  Schmidt was a walk-on for Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers.  He soon kept the equipment guys very busy, breaking a number of facemasks while carrying out his duties, including being among the nation’s leaders for bone crushing blocks resulting in touchdowns.


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