Florida Gators Football: Top 10 Greatest Players of All Time

Jim FolsomContributorOctober 4, 2011

Florida Gators Football: Top 10 Greatest Players of All Time

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    The University of Florida has produced many great players. Some went on to NFL greatness. Others did not but were fantastic college football players.

    It's hard to pick just 10. With that in mind, I'm sure I will get some arguments on some of my picks. My personal favorites will be the tiebreaker. Also bear in mind that Florida football is a bit older than I am, so I haven't seen everybody play. Some I just heard about or read about.

    OK, here goes.

Cris Collinsworth

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    Many only know him for his work in the broadcast booth or on the studio set. But Collinsworth first made his mark as a Gator football player. He started out as a QB and still holds the school record for the longest TD pass (98 yards).

    Later he became a WR and a good one—so good he played the position for the Cincinnati Bengals for several years and was one of their main weapons on two AFC Championship teams.

Rex Grossman

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    While Rex has been up and down in his NFL career, he was a very good QB for the Gators. He really should have won the Heisman Trophy over Eric Crouch.

    Rex led the Gators to two BCS bowl appearances, the Sugar Bowl following the 2000 season and the Orange Bowl following the 2001 season. After shredding Maryland's defense in the Orange Bowl, some Terps fans told Gator fans that they had never seen a passing attack like that one.

Percy Harvin

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    This guy was a touchdown waiting to happen from the first day he set foot on campus. No Gator player has ever been as electrifying as Percy Harvin.

    In his three years in Gainesville, Florida won two national titles. Had he stayed for his senior season, they would have won three. He would be higher on the list if it weren't for the fact that he only played three years and also missed some big games due to injuries and migraine headaches.

    When he was healthy, there was none better than Percy Harvin.

Wilbur Marshall

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    Maybe the most dominating player on defense the Gators have ever had. In what was probably the school's biggest win at the time, a 1982 win over USC, he lived in the Trojans backfield. If not for him, Florida likely loses.

    He went on to a great NFL career where he was one of the key players for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. Many say that Bears defense was the best in NFL history.

Jack Youngblood

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    Youngblood played in the Super Bowl following the 1979 season...on a broken leg. He was the first Gator elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An original member of the Ring of Honor at Florida, Youngblood was probably the first Gator to go on to NFL stardom. He was part of some very good Gator teams in the late 1960s.

    In 1969 Florida routed the No. 1-ranked team in the nation on the opening weekend when they blasted Houston. Youngblood was the anchor of that team.

Wes Chandler

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    Wes was the Percy Harvin of his day. He was the Gator offense. He just about single-handedly beat Georgia in one of his finer performances. Back then, Gator wins over Georgia were pretty rare.

    He went on to NFL stardom as one of the main targets for Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts in the pass-happy Chargers offense under Don "Air" Coryell.

Emmitt Smith

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    The second Gator elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Smith was an outstanding running back at Florida. He holds the school record for the longest TD run (99 yards) and was the greatest running back at UF ever.

    He went on to become the NFL's all-time rushing leader and has three Super Bowl rings to show for it. He was also a Super Bowl MVP. It doesn't get any better than that.

Danny Wuerffel

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    Danny Wuerffel led Florida to their first national championship in 1996. He also won the school's second Heisman Trophy that year. Florida had another title game appearance in 1995 following an undefeated regular season. In Wuerffel's four years, Florida won four SEC Championships.

    How good was Wuerffel? In three head-to-head meetings with Peyton Manning, he went 3-0.

Steve Spurrier

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    Not only is he Florida's greatest coach of all time, but also one of its greatest players. In 1966 he won the school's first Heisman Trophy, beating out Purdue's Bob Griese. Griese went on to NFL greatness, winning two Super Bowls as the Miami Dolphins QB and later went to the Hall of Fame. Spurrier went on to coaching greatness.

    He was Florida's coach for the school's first six SEC Championships. Had they been eligible in 1990, it would have been seven. He also coached the first national championship team in 1996 in school history. But it was as its first bona fide superstar QB where Spurrier made his mark on the program. He is one of the original Ring of Honor members, along with Smith, Weurffel and Youngblood.

Tim Tebow

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    Who else? Tebow was a key part of two Florida national championship teams. He won the school's third Heisman Trophy becoming the first sophomore in history to win it. He went to New York three times as a Heisman finalist.

    He broke the SEC record for rushing touchdowns, not by a QB, but by anyone. Think about that. More than Bo Jackson. More than Herschel Walker, more than Emmitt Smith. And he was a QB.

    Yes, I know. Those guys only played three years and Tebow played for four. OK. But Tebow was a backup in his freshman year. And by the end of his junior year, he had tied Jackson and was only six behind Walker on this list. He ended with 57.

    Oh, he three for a few TDs too—88 to be exact. He also holds the Sugar Bowl record with 482 yards passing.

    He, along with Spurrier and Wuerffel, has a bronze statue erected outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Truly the greatest Gator football player of all time, Tim Tebow.

Honorable Mentions

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    There are many great Gator players that did not make the list. Fred Taylor, the NFL's 18th-leading rusher comes to mind first. Then there is Scot Brantley, Joe Haden, Kerwin Bell, Carlos Alvarez, Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony, Shane Mathews, John Reaves, Tommy Durrance, Tiger Mayberry, Lee McGriff, James Jones, Jarvis Moss, Reggie Nelson, Louis Oliver, Lawrence Wright, Willie Jackson and Jaquez Green, just to name a few.

    But I believe the 10 on this list stand out as being a cut above the rest.