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My Favorite SEC Football Players of All-Time

Last week was a busy one for SEC football. Coaches wish it weren’t so, but it seems as though there is never a dull moment when it comes to headlines that don’t spotlight the positives in and around their programs.

Hugh Freeze got blindsided (pun intended) with the resurrection of the Laremy Tunsil debacle just as Ole Miss is about to hear from the NCAA and its investigation into their program. Also, it appears that Freeze and Jim Harbaugh will attend the same satellite camp in Mississippi.

As the football world turns. These soap operas are highly entertaining and they give people like me something to write about.

Speaking of smoking weed with a gas mask device, four Auburn players were arrested on the Plains Saturday night for, you guessed it, ganja possession, and much to the chagrin of Gus Malzahn and the rest of us in the Auburn family. How long, oh Lord?

Then there was the NFL draft. Ohio State had the most first round picks with five and Alabama had only one, which surprised many “experts”, but the SEC, once again, had more players drafted than any other conference. So there! Nanny nanny poo poo!

So much for all of that. In my last couple of blogs I, subjectively ranked, in order, SEC head coaching jobs and power rankings of the fourteen schools in the conference.

I like lists. From top tens to favorites to whatever. I think most people do enjoy these.

That being said, this week I’m going to give you my top ten favorite SEC players of all time, excluding Auburn. If I allowed my Tigers’ players on the list you would have Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley, Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Phil Gargis, James Brooks, Joe Cribbs, Cadillac Williams, Bobby Hunt, Travis Tidwell, and the like to dominate it.

Here we go! My top ten favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. I will do them alphabetically.

Billy Cannon – LSU – 1957-59. Cannon is most remembered for his 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss, in Tiger Stadium on Halloween night in 1959, to give the Tigers a 7-3 win. He won the Heisman that year, as well. Cannon was also named the SEC player of the year in both 1958 and 1959. LSU won the National Championship in ’58.

Randall Cobb – Kentucky – 2008-10. Cobb was an electrifying player at multiple positions for the Wildcats including quarterback, wide receiver and return specialist. He could do it all.  He is not to be confused with boxer, Randall “Tex” Cobb. 

Archie Manning – Ole Miss – 1968-70. Archie is, actually, one of my favorite players in any sport at any level. I never enjoyed watching a player from a team, not named Auburn, more. Just go back and watch some of the old clips from his days as a Rebel. Simply amazing!

Peyton Manning – Tennessee – 1994-97. Does anyone really need to be familiarized with Peyton? He led the Vols to an SEC Championship in 1997. He was a consensus All-American that year and also won the Maxwell Award. He should have won the Heisman Trophy.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 2012- 13.  Has there ever been a more exciting college football player than “Johnny Football”? Incredible. Love him or hate him, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The 2012 Heisman winner pulled off more incredible escapes than Houdini. I truly hope his story turns out to be one of redemption.

Darren McFadden – Arkansas – 2005-07. McFadden could flat out tote the rock. He rushed for 4,590 yards at a 5.8 yards per carry clip during his years as a Razorback.  He tied the SEC record for most yards rushing in one game, in 2007, with 321 against South Carolina. McFadden won the Doak Walker Award twice, 2006-07, and the Walter Camp Award, given to the nation’s best overall player, once, in 2007.

Joe Namath – Alabama – 1962-64. “Joe Willie”, “Broadway Joe.” These are two of the monikers that Namath was known by during his playing days with the Crimson Tide. I loved him. Most boys loved him. All the girls loved him. Bama won the National Championship, with Joe under center, in 1964. But he is most famous for guaranteeing that his New York Jets would win Super Bowl III, and they did.

Dak Prescott – Mississippi State. The best player in the history of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, no? He was a gifted athlete who could both run and throw the ball. He carried the Bulldogs to heights henceforth unknown as they topped the polls for several weeks during the 2014 season. That season he also passed for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns, and accumulated 4,435 total yards. He rushed for 2,411 yards in his time at State and that is third all-time, by a quarterback, in SEC history.

Steve Spurrier – Florida – 1964-66. Spurrier may be best known as the Head Ball Coach, but he was also a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the Gators in 1966. There may have never been a more competitive, driven player and coach in the annals of the SEC. Football, golf, tiddlywinks, Spurrier just wants to beat you. And, he was always good for a great quote.

Herschel Walker – Walker is,  arguably, the greatest running back in the history of college football. Bo Jackson is my choice for the greatest athlete of all-time, but Herschel, both a Heisman winner and a national champion, carried the mail. He rushed for 5,259 yards in only three years as a Bulldog. And he was a sprinter, mixed martial artist and bobsledder!

There is my list of favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. Why not come up with your own list? I am also open to suggestions for future lists as they are a lot of fun, and great conversation centerpieces at home, or at your favorite sports bar.

Now, who was the greatest fighter that ever lived? 😉

50 Years Ago: The 1964 Auburn Tigers

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It was September and the excitement was building to a fever pitch in the state of Alabama. Auburn was coming off a 9-1 regular season record with a heartbreaking 13-7 loss to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl (AU’s last appearance in the game). Alabama finished 8-2 with a victory over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. To make things even more exciting, the Tigers were picked by Sports Illustrated to be the number one team in the country.
Boys and girls, this was before any hint of a BCS, a College Football Playoff or anything resembling a way to come up with a “true” national champion.
Jimmy Sidle, Auburn’s All American quarterback, who set their single season rushing record with 1,006 yards in 1963, was back as was Tucker Frederickson and a host of other talented teammates. The stage was set for a monster season on the Plains.
The first game in 1964 was played on a muggy Saturday afternoon in Auburn. The University of Houston was the opening day opponent and the Cougars were a decided underdog. Auburn had traveled to Texas to defeat this team, 21-14, in it’s 1963 opener and fans were more than ready to “tee it up.”
The Tigers prevailed over the Cougars by a score of 30-0. It truly did appear that this team was capable of accomplishing very big things. An SEC Championship ? Maybe. A national championship ? Possibly. BUT Jimmy Sidle hurt his right shoulder and did not pass the ball well in the next game versus Tennessee, although he did run for 94 yards, and Auburn eked out a 3-0 conference win.
Next on the schedule was a night game at Stoll Field in Lexington, KY. Auburn lost three fumbles and, without Sidle being able to pass effectively, the Wildcats came away with a 20-0 victory over the Tigers. A once promising season was now beginning to take on a more somber tone and just when it didn’t seem that things could get much worse… they did. Sidle suffered a double shoulder separation in the next game against Chattanooga and the visions of grandeur, less than one month ago, were now becoming only shattered images of what might have been.
Auburn went on to stumble to a 6-4 record in 1964.
I attended my first Iron Bowl in ’64. It is now a bittersweet memory. The game was played on Thanksgiving Day and it was televised nationally. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. The undefeated Crimson Tide were solid favorites but that did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. We were on the way to visit my father’s family In Isabella, AL on Wednesday of that week en route to Birmingham. As we passed through Selma a short sports segment played on the AM radio of our 1963 Plymouth Fury. Frank Gifford was doing predictions and he informed us listeners that the undefeated Tide should have “no trouble” with “Ah-burn.” I was livid !
Alabama had a great deal of trouble with “Ah-burn” on that brilliant Saturday afternoon in the “Football Capital of the South.” My Tigers led the Tide 7-6 at halftime and our hopes were very high. Tom Bryan, the sophomore AU quarterback, was having a solid day and Tucker Frederickson was simply playing his heart out. But Ray Ogden ran the second half opening kickoff back 107 yards for a touchdown. Bama made the two-point conversion and we trailed 14-7. Later, in the fourth quarter, Joe Namath hit Ray Perkins on a 23-yard pass and Auburn lost a tough one 21-14.
It is hard to believe the 1964 college football season is now that far back in the rear view mirror. It does seem like just yesterday when a 12 year old kid from LA (Lower Alabama), who had earlier in the year contracted a permanent case of Beatlemania, experienced the heady highs and lasting lows of this great, great game we know as college football.
But hey ! Let’s do it once more with feeling !!!
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Why Isn't Phil Simms in Canton?

If what Phil Simms stated in Simms To McConkey (written with Dick Schaap) is true, San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh wanted to draft Simms in the 1979 NFL draft.  The problem was, the 49ers didn’t have a first round draft pick, and as Simms claims to have said “I don’t think I’ll be around in the second round”.  (Or words to that affect.)  Instead, the 49ers had to ‘settle’ for Joe Montana, who turned out to be a fairly decent system quarterback who made a couple throws and may have won 4 Super Bowls.  If Walsh had got his wish, it’s highly probable that Simms would have been equal to the task and flourished just as well under Walsh’s system, and I might then be writing about how much Montana had been jobbed by having the door to Canton slammed shut in his face.

For those who didn’t watch the NFL in the 1980s (and even in to the mid-1990s) it might be almost impossible to understand how different the NFL game is today compared to then.  Sure, there were teams that put up tremendous offensive numbers (Walsh’s west coast offenses being one, Warren Moon’s Oilers teams being another) via the air, but it wasn’t the wide-open no contact league that the NFL has become today.  Receivers expected to get pummeled on crossing routes, and catching a pass on the sideline wasn’t what it was today.  It simply wasn’t.

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