College football has a long and distinguished history. Dating back to the mid-19th Century, the first inter-collegiate game took place in 1869 between Rutgers University and Princeton University.
When it comes to identifying the best college football players, the traditional judge is the Heisman Trophy. Awarded annually to the most outstanding player during a college season, the trophy dates back to 1935. Each year, the favorites for the award are listed in the college football odds, with Bryce Young being tipped to take the award this season.
The trophy was created by the Downtown Athletic Club to recognize skill and ability alongside diligence and hard work.
The trophy was named after the club’s athletic director John Heisman after his demise in 1936.
While the Heisman Trophy is still respected as a major part of the college game, it doesn’t always get it right. As with any decisions or predictions, it can sometimes be misplaced.
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But who are the greatest college football players ever? Let’s take a look at the very best.
10. Jim Thorpe
Going back to the pre-Heisman days, Thorpe played as a running back for Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
The first Native American to win gold at an Olympics in 1912, Thorpe was also a talented baseball and basketball player. But it was as a college football player than he really shone.
Playing between the years 1907-1912 it was Thorpe’s strength and speed that led Carlisle to a memorable 18-15 surprise win over Harvard. Thorpe scored every point in that encounter and secured his place in the best college players ever.
9. Leroy Keyes
Another powerful running back, Keyes played ball for Purdue between 1966-1968. Propelling his team forward thanks to his powerful running and gifted sense of timing, Keyes caught 80 passes in his time in college football. 1967 was a strong year for the player, scoring 19 touchdowns and leading his side to winning a share of the Big Ten title.
8. Vince Young
Vince Young experienced an incredible college season in 2005 to 2006 when he secured 20 wins in a row for his team Texas. Finishing as the runner up for the Heisman that year, he is legendary for scoring a last-minute TD to topple USC in the Championship game.
That 2006 Rose Bowl performance was inspirational, seeing Young totalling 467 yards and three touchdowns to deny USC. 2006 Tommy also saw Young become the first player to pass for over 3,000 yards in a season.
7. Spencer Rattler
Tipped to go to the very top of the game, Rattler is a sophomore quarterback for Oklahoma. Last season the young player threw passes of over 3000 yards and made 28 touchdowns. With a full season under his belt, Rattler now looks set to make a case for the Heisman Trophy.
6. Peyton Manning
The quarterback for Tennessee between 1994 and 1997, Manning was a fan favourite thanks to his both his winging affability and strong athletic ability. During his senior season at the college, Manning won a string of awards including the Maxwell Award, the Sullivan Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
5. Dan Morgan
An incredible stalwart in the heart of the Miami defence in 2000, Morgan made 138 tackles over the season, 90 of them being solo. He won an award for the best linebacker, best defensive player and the college defensive player of the year. All of that was achieved while playing most of the year with a broken thumb.
4. Tommie Frazier
In 1994, the Nebraska QB Frazier missed the first half of the season with blood clots. He recovered and led his side to a memorable 24-17 win over Miami to claim the Orange Bowl. Next season, he also secured the honours for Nebraska with an incredible 75-yard touchdown run during a 62-24 mauling of Florida.
3. Red Grange
Nicknamed ‘the galloping ghost’, Grange played for Illinois between 1923 and 1925. He earned All-American honours three years in a row. His first game saw him score three touchdowns in the defeat of Nebraska.
Over 20 games, Grange ran for 3,362 yards and scored a total of 31 touchdowns.
2. Jerry Rice
Rice built a career for himself based on catches. At Mississippi Valley State in 1983 he caught 102 passes and the following year topped it with 112. Rice also caught 27 touchdowns in his time in college football, a record number across all NCAA divisions. Voted an AP all American, Rice is one of the best ever.
1. Cam Newton
Newton in effect had two college careers, and was magnificent in both. Starting out at Florida, at Blinn College, the QB led his side to wins in the national game over Fort Scott 31-26.
After decamping to Auburn, he enjoyed what many commentators recall as the greatest single season in college football in 2010. He produced perhaps the biggest comeback ever – referred to as the ‘camback’ – bridging a 24-point deficit against Alabama to win 28-27.
College football is always an exciting realm to watch for exciting. The prospect of seeing the best of future players is always there. The game offers the chance to see young players performing at their best and capturing the imagination and attention of audiences and scouts.