In honor of the 150th anniversary of college football, Sporting News has put together a list of the greatest players of all time. The publication asked a group of 54, comprised of former players and media members, to rank their top 10 players each, and tabulated the results.
Obviously, with 150 years to consider, with great shifts in the sport from era to era, this is a very difficult exercise. Overall, it seems like Sporting News got pretty solid results.
In the end, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner out of Georgia beat out a very strong list of players to earn top honors. Running back Herschel Walker was the most dominant player of the early 1980s, and now, he can call himself the greatest player of all time, per at least one major publication.
Larry Munson’s call still rings in every college football’s fans ears — and perhaps Tennessee’s Bill Bates’ too — when Walker is mentioned. “My God, a freshman.” It was that freshman season that elevated the running back era of the 1970s to the next level. Walker led Georgia to a national championship with 1,616 yards and 15 touchdowns in 1980, finishing third in the Heisman voting. That was just the start of a prolific career in which he totaled 5,259 yards and 49 touchdowns, though it took him three years to finally win the Heisman Trophy in 1982. He is the only player to finish in the top three in the Heisman voting three times, and was a three-time unanimous All-American selection. The truth is, everybody knew who the best and most intimidating player in college was for those three seasons, and it still registers in the college football memory bank 40 years later. Consider that, of the 54 voters in Sporting News’ panel, 31 voted Walker in the top spot. His is an immutable legacy that sees him stand above all others as college football’s greatest.
Herschel Walker edged out former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for the No. 1 spot.
The list is weighed pretty heavily toward the 1980s and 90s, but there is some diversity in eras included. Illinois legend Red Grange, who played in the 1920s, made the top 10, while Auburn’s Cam Newton appears to be the most recent player to crack the honorable mention list.
In total, Sporting News released a full top 10 with 16 more honorable mention players listed.