At this point we have reached over seven months since our last live college football game. Around this time every year I find myself thinking about football seasons past. and warming the cold hearth of my soul with the flickering embers of old memories. When I travel back in my mind to a given year, I rarely find myself thinking about the team who won the national championship or the player who won the Heisman.
You see, every college football season is a story, and sometimes that story gives us characters so colorful that it’s hard to believe they are real when we’re watching them. The beauty of our sport is in its variety, and the most memorable figures are sometimes found in tradition rich places like Tuscaloosa or Columbus. However, the most flavorful morsels of our game often lie in places like DeKalb, Illinois or Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
We are gathered here today to acknowledge those players whose feats so boggled our minds that they made us jolt up in our recliners. If those feats happened long past midnight while watching a late Mountain West game, then all the better. I’m talking about the type of players who made their teams appointment viewing even if that team was in the middle of a 5-7 season. They may have been physical anomalies. They might have performed super human feats. Maybe they were just blessed with impeccable timing.
This list is a compilation of the most “collegiate” college football players of all times. The only requirement is that they feel like they belong. There can be as many or few players at each position as feels appropriate. When you see their names you should immediately go, “Oh yeah!” The greatest among them feel like a created player from a video game whose feats couldn’t possibly have happened in real life.
Without further ado...
The Most “Collegiate” College Football Players Ever
Antwan Randle-El, Indiana - Randle-El is unique to this list because he actually had a sustained career in the NFL. He is allowed on this list because he had that career at an entirely different position than the one he played in college. Randle-El remains the only player in college football history with 40 passing touchdowns and 40 rushing touchdowns. Randle-El gets bonus points for playing three sports while at Indiana.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois - Remember that time that Northern Illinois played FSU in the 2012 Orange Bowl? Lynch was the guy that was built like a running back who happened to play quarterback. The difference between Lynch and all the other guys that fit that description is he threw the ball pretty damn well. Lynch finished 7th in the 2012 Heisman race and 3rd in 2013 when he lead NIU to an undefeated regular season. He also ran for 313 yards in a game once and narrowly missed throwing for 3,000 yards and running for 2,000 in 2013. There’s also the fact that he did this once.
Bradlee Van Pelt, Colorado State - Van Pelt is basically the spiritual predecessor to Lynch and every other quarterback this century who decided to say to hell with the coaches and SEEK contact. Van Pelt was really good, and made he was appointment viewing on at least three Thursday night football games a year from 2001-2003. His greatest achievement is spiking a ball on a defenders head against Colorado as he scored the game winning touchdown to upset #7 Colorado in the 2002 Rocky Mountain Showdown, but perhaps the most bulletproof reason for putting him on this list is his participation in a 7-2 Thursday night loss against Louisville in 2001. He is at least partially responsible for 12 year-old me putting on pads and playing Pop Warner football for the first time. Thanks for the CTE, Bradlee.
Jared Lorenzen, Kentucky - Lorenzen was maybe the greatest athlete I have ever seen play football in person. He could whip a perfect spiral 60-yards downfield with a flick of a wrist, scramble better than your average qb and was virtually impossible to sack without at least three defenders. He did all of this at about 300 pounds while running major college football’s first true Air Raid attack. He had a hand in one of the more underrated games in Georgia Football history, the 2000 classic where the Dawgs topped the Wildcats 34-30 behind backup Cory Phillips despite Lorenzen’s 538 yards on 39-58 passing (If anyone has this game on tape please send me a copy or upload it to YouTube). He spawned a thousand nicknames- The Hefty Lefty, Pillsbury Throwboy, BBQ (Big Beautiful Quarterback), Battleship Lorenzen, He Ate Me, J-Load, Quarter(got)back, The Abominable Throwman and The Round Mound of Touchdown. He played with a childish joy and spontaneity that I will tell my grandkids about. RIP, big guy.
Tyson Browning, Georgia - Browning never looked like your typical running back, but he could fly. Weighing in at 5’10” and 165 pounds soaking wet, Browning gave UGA a change of pace in the backfield early in the Richt-era. He belongs here because he never looked like a guy who should be playing football in the SEC. As a scat back he turned many games around for the Dawgs in the early-2000’s, and his 93-yard touchdown off a screen pass at LSU in 2003 would have lived in history if the Dawgs had pulled out the victory. He gets bonus points for being one of nine players suspended for the start of the 2003 season. Sadly, no highlight tape of Browning exists on YouTube. Go to the 3:43 mark of this clip, but don’t watch the rest.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon - Thomas was perhaps the most disrespectful ball carrier of all time. He was faster and more agile than every player on the field, and he knew it. DAT’s best work happened in the return game and he lined up all over the field in Chip Kelly’s “Blur” Offense despite never being a starter. His highlight tape features clip after clip of Thomas shredding ligaments and looking cool as hell in a thousand different shiny Oregon jerseys of the day. He was never the feature back at OU, playing behind LaMichael James, but that makes him all the more appropriate for this list. He Is awarded one million cool points for being nicknamed the “Black Mamba” by Snoop Dogg while playing for the rapper’s Pop Warner team as a kid.
Owen Schmitt, West Virginia - Schmitt was the battering ram that allowed West Virginia’s backfield of Steve Slaton and Pat White take College Football by storm in Rich Rodriguez’s Read Option attack during the sport’s wettest and wildest year of 2007. Schmitt was known for hitting himself in the head with his helmet to get fired up before games, and received perhaps the greatest nickname of all time during the 2008 Fiesta Bowl when the Fox announcer described him as, “A Runaway Beer Truck.” After the game, Schmitt sobbed while talking about West Virginia. Bonus points here for the fact that Schmitt owned a bar in Morgantown called “Schmitt’s Saloon” after his playing days, and the fact that his current employer, the local branch of UPS, is currently involved in a wrongful discrimination suit for promoting the former hometown hero to an on road supervisor suit over a more tenured colleague.
Tory Carter, LSU - Carter is here because he is the only goth fullback I am aware of and I am 100% sure that he listened to Slipknot and cried in his room after his first meeting with Joe Brady.
Charles Rogers, Michigan State - Today we consider the prototypical wideout to be 6’4” with track speed. Before Charles Rogers, we didn’t know that was what the perfect receiver looked like. Rogers was one of the most hyped recruits in college football history, and his college decision helped fuel the recruiting industry in the early days of the internet. He would be athletically superb by today’s standards, but in 2001 he was comically better than every defensive back he faced. Rogers life didn’t go as planned after college, and he passed away at 38 years old in 2019 while waiting for a liver transplant and fighting cancer. In green and white he lives forever in perfection. Sit back and enjoy watching a bunch of early-2000’s Wisconsin corners from small Midwestern towns attempt to cover him.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St - Blackmon was a three-star recruit out of Ardmore, Oklahoma that ended up being an unstoppable force of nature. He was basically uncoverable for most of his career, and would belong here if only for the reason that he almost carried Oklahoma State to a national title game appearance. What really makes him collegiate though is the fact his commitment to humiliating opponents was so strong that it sometimes superseded his desire to score actual touchdowns.
Wes Welker, Texas Tech - Everything about Welker being good at football made no sense. He was 5’9”, ran a 4.8 forty, looked like a “Generic Frat Guy A” and could have been mistaken for a a small child on Halloween when in full pads. Yet Welker was exceptionally agile. His highlights are almost comical to watch, and his preternatural ability to find space remains striking. He gets extra credit for being a high-school soccer player and an incredible kick returner.
Watts Dantzler, Georgia - Dantzler was a reserve lineman who was as entertaining of a Twitter follow as any active college football player since the platform’s inception. His blog post on an ill-fated Greyhound Bus trip from Panama City remains immortal. We laughed at his tweets, and we cried when he did the Ice-Bucket Challenge with Mark Richt to honor the memory of his father, a former Bulldog player who died of ALS. We swelled with pride when he fought tornados for America.
This is what I say to Tornados pic.twitter.com/T6KL8pA0— Watts Byron Dantzler (@wattsdantzler) January 30, 2013
David Pollack, Georgia - Pollack played the game with Rudy’s heart, pissing off upperclassmen from the moment he got on campus by sprinting an extra ten yards on every rep and never taking a play off. He danced between plays, always urging the crowd to yell a bit louder. His strip-sack-catch touchdown against South Carolina in 2002 remains the most mind-boggling thing ever to happen on a football field. He finished his career with four interceptions- absurd for a defensive-end, and we maintain to this day that Georgia would have shared the 2002 National Championship had his brilliant lateral to a teammate on an interception return in the Florida game not been wrongfully ruled illegal.
Terrence Cody, Alabama - A man nicknamed “Mount Cody” who was plucked from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College that weighed 350 pounds and was somehow fleet footed is absolutely on this list. The fact that he blocked two field goals as a defensive tackle to save a national championship season is just icing on the cake.
Scooby Wright III, Arizona - Scooby was a no-star recruit named “Scooby” who racked up 164 tackles and helped the Wildcats derail Oregon’s season in 2014 when there path to a national title game berth seemed all but assured. His presence on this list is secured by his relentless effort, penchant for body slamming opponents whenever possible and the fact he had maybe the nastiest chop move we’ve ever seen, turning him into a strip sack machine.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia - Jones’s career was supposedly over after a spinal cord injury as a freshman at USC. He found a doctor who said different, and returned to his home state to wreak havoc for two years. Jarvis was a sack master all the time, but he saved his best efforts for Florida, and there’s nothing more collegiate than hating your rival. In two games against the Gators, Jones recorded seven sacks, two forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and seventeen tackles. Bonus points here for looking like he was forty-five years old and having the name “Jarvis Jones.”
Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M - Dat Nguyen was raised by Vietnamese refugees who made their living as shrimpers on the Gulf Coast of Texas. At 5’11’ and 238 pounds, he was told his entire life that he was too small to play linebacker. Nguyen was basically the Big 12’s version of Rudy, accept he was onside for all his sacks and actually became a star. Here he is involved in one of the most college football plays of all-time.
Ed Reed, Miami - It’s hard to put too many corners on this list, because all corners talk trash and that’s our main criteria for the list. However, Ed Reed makes the cut because he always looked cool as hell with the ball in his hands and he put his heart in this shit.
Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia - The man, the myth... Blankenship is perhaps our most-collegiate player ever at any position. Over his four years, he improved as much as any player we’ve ever seen in college football. His clutch moments on the field were legendary, but they pail in comparison to the God level achievements of wearing rec specs, doing an interview in his helmet and befriending Quavo. It is no coincidence that the World fell apart the moment Blankenship left college football.
Who’d we miss? Let us know in the comments, and as always... Go Dawgs!