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Claim to Fame: 15 Of The Greatest Small-School Legends In College Football

These players have brought endless joy to their schools.
A closeup of a football with the Utah Utes logo on it.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 10: A ball boy holds up a football during warm-ups before the Utah Utes and Brigham Young Cougars college football game at Rice Eccles Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

There have been countless college football stars over the years. Teams like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas - they boast too many to count. While those players were great to watch, sometimes something even cooler happens: a really small school has a guy that rises so high that he puts his school on the map. These fifteen players keep their alumni base bragging.

The List:15. Steve McNair - QB

Alcorn State University
Where: Alcorn State, MS
Enrollment: 3,300

"Air" McNair turned down a scholarship for the University of Florida (it wanted him as a DB) in order to go play quarterback at Alcorn State instead. In his senior season, he gained nearly 6,000 all-purpose yards and scored 53 total touchdowns.

14. Danny Woodhead - RB

Chadron State College
Where: Chadron, NE
Enrollment: 2,900

To say Danny Woodhead was a beast in college would be an understatement. Woodhead rushed for more than 200 yards in 19 of 39 career appearances, and scored a touchdown in 37 consecutive games at one point. He ranks second all-time in NCAA all-purpose yards, trailing only the great Brian Westbrook. Woodhead also was the first person ever to get a full athletic scholarship at Chadron State. And he earned it.

13. Cortland Finnegan - CB

Samford University
Where: Birmingham, AL
Enrollment: 2,950

Cortland Finnegan actually played safety while at Samford. After earning all-conference honors in his first two playing years, he made First-Team All-American as a senior, which led to him getting drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.

12. Terry Bradshaw - QB

Louisiana Tech University
Where: Ruston, LA
Enrollment: 9,100

Bradshaw is definitely more well-known for winning four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he also had quite the college career. In his junior year he threw for 2,890 yards, tops in the NCAA (boy, have times changed). He was considered by pro scouts to be the nation's most outstanding college football player.

11. Tony Romo - QB

Eastern Illinois University
Where: Charleston, IL
Enrollment: 9,600

At Eastern Illinois, Tony Romo threw for over 8,000 yards, finishing third in Ohio Valley Conference history. He was also the first person in OVC history to win the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the nation's top player at the I-AA level.

Small-School Legends #10-6 >

10. Jason Taylor - DE

University of Akron
Where: Akron, OH
Enrollment: 23,000

Jason Taylor was a four-year letterman and three-year starter at the University of Akron. He racked up 279 tackles during those years, and was named an All-American his junior year. He actually was a two-sport athlete at Akron, playing basketball as well.

9. Michael Strahan - DE

Texas Southern University
Where: Houston, TX
Enrollment: 6,900

Strahan was absolutely dominant during his years at Texas Southern, where he eventually ended up being the Division 1-AA Defensive Player of the Year. He was double-teamed so often that double-teaming actually was nicknamed "Strahan rules".

8. Terrell Owens - WR

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Where: Chattanooga, TN
Enrollment: 9,900

T.O's receiving numbers in college will surprise you, and not like you'd think. His senior season he caught 43 balls for 667 yards and one touchdown - and he played in every game. That just speaks to how often he faced double and triple coverage. Owens was three sport athlete at UTC, playing basketball, football, and track. Fun fact: T.O. had an opportunity to play in the 1995 NCAA Tournament.

7. Ben Roethlisberger - QB

Miami University (Ohio)
Where: Oxford, OH
Enrollment: 15,000

Like fellow Steeler Terry Bradshaw, Roethlisberger is known more for his esteemed professional career, in which he has already won two Super Bowls. Big Ben only played for three seasons at Miami, but he made the most of them. His junior year he threw for over 4,300 yards, and led the RedHawks to a #10 ranking in the AP Poll. They beat Louisville in the 2003 GMAC Bowl, and they eventually retired Roethlisberger's jersey in 2007.

6. Adam Vinatieri - K

South Dakota State
Where: Brookings, SD
Enrollment: 11,000

Vinatieri actually went to West Point for two weeks before transferring back home to South Dakota State. He holds the school record for most points, racking up 185 in his career. During his years there he was part of two Division II championship teams.

Small-School Legends #5-1 >

5. Walter Payton - RB

Jackson State University
Where: Jackson, MS
Enrollment: 6,800

"Sweetness" had an incredible college career where he rushed for over 3,500 yards. He broke the NCAA scoring record by rushing for 65 total touchdowns while at Jackson State. He was an All-American in 1973, an honor bestowed upon few black players at the time.

4. Kurt Warner - QB

University of Northern Iowa
Where: Cedar Falls, IA
Enrollment: 11,400

Interestingly enough, Warner was third on the depth chart for three years while at UNI. His senior year he finally got a chance to start, and was named the Gateway Conference's Offensive Player of the Year. Following that season, he went undrafted and was bagging groceries before joining the NFL and eventually becoming MVP.

3. Jared Allen - DE

Idaho State University
Where: Pocatello, ID
Enrollment: 10,500

The players on this list have some serious swag, but none more so than Jared Allen. He also had an absurd college career, starting in 33 of 41 possible games. He was a three-time All-Big Sky Conference selection, and eventually was named a second team All-American. His season senior he had a whopping 17.5 sacks.

2. Randy Moss - WR

Marshall University
Where: Huntington, WV
Enrollment: 10,000

Moss had an interesting college career. His dream was to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but after getting involved in a racially-charged fight in high school, Notre Dame denied his admission. Moss then moved to Marshall where he set the freshman receiving yardage record, which still stands today, with 1,708 yards. He also was there for Marshall's last season in Division I-AA, when they won the national title.

1. Jerry Rice - WR

Mississippi Valley State University
Where: Itta Bena, MS
Enrollment: 2,000

The Greatest Wide Receiver of All-Time, hands down. No small school can be more proud of a player than MVSU is of Jerry Rice. The students gave him the nickname "World" because there wasn't a ball in the world he couldn't catch. By his senior year, he was on every single All-America Team and Award Lists possible. He finished his career with 310 receptions for 4,856 yards and 51 total touchdowns. His career earned him a spot in the college football Hall of Fame, and also earns him the title of the #1 Greatest Small-School Legend.

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