NFF Announces 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class
13 players and two coaches to be immortalized in Atlanta
|The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced today the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class, which includes the names of 13 First Team All-America players and two standout coaches. The inductees were selected from the national ballot of 76 All-America players and six elite coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and the 100 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks.
2019 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS
“We are extremely proud to announce the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class,” said Archie Manning, NFF Chairman and a 1989 College Football Hall of Famer from Mississippi. “Each of these men has established himself among the absolute best to have ever played or coached the game, and we look forward to immortalizing their incredible accomplishments. The Class will be part of a momentous year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football this season.”
The announcement of the 2019 Class was made today live on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” from Santa Clara, California, the site of the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship, which will be played tonight at Levi’s Stadium between No. 1 Alabama (14-0) and No. 2 Clemson (14-0). Raghib “Rocket” Ismail appeared live during the telecast for the announcement, representing the class and sharing his thoughts on induction. Ismail will be joined tonight by Patrick Willis, participating in the coin toss on the field during the championship game.
The tradition of announcing the College Football Hall of Fame class in conjunction with the CFP National Championship began in 2015 before the inaugural CFP title game in Dallas. The 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class will be officially inducted during the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 10, 2019, at the New York Hilton Midtown. The inductees will also be recognized at their respective collegiate institutions with NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salutes, presented by Fidelity Investments, during the fall. Their accomplishments will be forever immortalized at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
“We would like to thank CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock and his staff for the continued opportunity to announce the Hall of Fame Class in conjunction with the championship game,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “We are also grateful for the guidance, knowledge and vision of honors court chairmen Archie Griffin (FBS) and Jack Lengyel (divisional) for the essential role that they each play in guiding the committees in the selection of the inductees.”
2019 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS NOTES
*among head coaches with more than three years at the helm
1. First and foremost, a player must have received First Team All-America recognition by a selector organization that is recognized by the NCAA and utilized to comprise their consensus All-America teams.
2. A player becomes eligible for consideration by the Foundation’s honors courts 10 full seasons after his final year of intercollegiate football played.
3. While each nominee’s football achievements in college are of prime consideration, his post football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and fellow man. Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether or not the candidate earned a college degree.
4. Players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years*. For example, to be eligible for the 2019 ballot, the player must have played his last year in 1969 or thereafter. In addition, players who are playing professionally and coaches who are coaching on the professional level are not eligible until after they retire.
5.A coach becomes eligible three full seasons after retirement or immediately following retirement provided he is at least 70 years of age. Active coaches become eligible at 75 years of age. He must have been a head coach for a minimum of 10 years and coached at least 100 games with a .600 winning percentage.
6. Nominations may only be submitted by the athletics director of a potential candidate’s collegiate institution; by the head coach or sports information director (SID) representing a dues-paying college/university; or by a dues-paying chapter of the National Football Foundation.
* Players that do not comply with the 50-year rule may still be eligible for consideration by the Football Bowl Subdivision and Divisional Honors Review Committees, which examine unique cases.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME QUICK FACTS
2019 College Football Hall of Fame Inductee Bios
Florida State University
Defensive Back, 1989-91
An absolute terror to opposing quarterbacks throughout his Florida State career, Terrell Buckley cemented his name among the all-time greats when he took home the 1991 Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation. He becomes the seventh Seminole player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.
A unanimous First Team All-American in 1991, Buckley took home the Thorpe Award and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting after leading the nation with 12 interceptions and 238 interception return yards (both single-season school records). The Pascagoula, Mississippi, native’s 501 career interception return yards remain an NCAA record while his 21 career interceptions remain atop the Florida State record books. A Second Team All-American in 1990, Buckley helped the Seminoles finish with a top four national ranking in each year of his career. The two-time All-South Independent First Team selection guided the Seminoles to three consecutive bowl victories, including wins over Nebraska in the 1990 Fiesta Bowl and Texas A&M in the 1992 Cotton Bowl.
Leading the Seminoles to an overall record of 31-6 during his career, Buckley is tied for many other Florida State records, including career punt returns for a touchdown (three), career interceptions returned for a touchdown (four) and consecutive games with an interception (five in 1991). He played for College Football Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden and alongside Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Charlie Ward during his remarkable career in Tallahassee. A member of the Florida State Hall of Fame, Buckley’s No. 27 jersey was retired by the Seminoles in 2011.
The fifth overall pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 1992 NFL Draft, Buckley played 14 years (1992-2005) in the NFL with the Packers, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, New York Jets and New York Giants. He won Super Bowl XXXVI with the Patriots following the 2001 season.
A multi-sport athlete, Buckley also played two seasons for Florida State’s baseball team and ran track for the Seminoles. Off the field, he has been active with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Feed the Children. Following his NFL career, Buckley returned to Florida State to earn his bachelor’s degree in 2007 while starting his coaching career in various roles on the Seminoles’ staff from 2007-11. After stints as the cornerbacks coach at Akron (2012-13) and Louisville (2014-15), he has served in the same role at Mississippi State since 2016.
University of Oklahoma
Defensive Back, 1984-87
One of the greatest defensive backs in Oklahoma history, Rickey Dixon guided the Sooners to a national championship during a standout career in Norman. He becomes the 22nd player in school history to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.
A consensus First Team All-American in 1987, Dixon was the recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation after leading the Big Eight Conference with nine interceptions (a single-season school record). The two-time First Team All-Big Eight selection guided the Sooners to four consecutive conference titles and two wins in four Orange Bowl berths. As a sophomore, Dixon played a key role in Oklahoma’s 1985 national championship season, which culminated with a win over Penn State in the 1986 Orange Bowl. He was the Big Eight Defensive Player of the Week four times during his stellar 1987 season, and he intercepted two passes in the game that year between No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma, which was billed as the “Game of the Century II.”
Dixon finished his career with 17 interceptions, which stood as a conference record for almost 20 years and rank as the second most in Oklahoma history. A member of the Big Eight All-Time All-Conference Team, he also tallied 170 tackles and 303 interception return yards while leading the Sooners to a 42-5-1 record during his four seasons. The Dallas native will join his coach, Barry Switzer, and teammates Brian Bosworth, Tony Casillas and Keith Jackson in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The fifth overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1988 NFL Draft, Dixon played five seasons for the Bengals before finishing his career with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1993. He helped the Bengals reach Super Bowl XXIII following the 1988 season.
Following his football career, Dixon became a motivational speaker for at-risk youth. He also owned a landscaping business, coached high school football and taught physical education at Red Oak High School in Texas. Dixon was diagnosed with ALS in 2013.
John Carroll University (OH)
A legend at John Carroll University, London Fletcher set multiple records during one of the best careers in program history. He deservedly becomes the first Blue Streak (player or coach) to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A two-time First Team All-American, Fletcher was the Football Gazette’s 1997 Division III Linebacker of the Year. A team captain his senior season, he helped the 1997 JCU squad become the first team in school history to win a Division III playoff game as the Blue Streaks reached the quarterfinals. A two-time First Team All-Ohio Athletic Conference selection, Fletcher was named the OAC’s Bill Edwards Most Outstanding Linebacker in 1997, and he helped JCU finish second in the conference standings his final two seasons behind only Mount Union (OH), the eventual national champion both years.
Fletcher recorded 202 tackles during his stellar final season in University Heights, which remains a single-season school record. That year, he also set the single-game record with 29 tackles against Ohio Northern. By the end of his Blue Streak career, Fletcher had tallied 386 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and three interceptions. His No. 3 jersey was retired by JCU in 2017 during a special 20-year celebration of the 1997 football team.
After going undrafted in 1998, Fletcher spent an impressive 16 seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. He helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV following the 1999 season, and he earned four Pro Bowl selections with the Redskins. Fletcher finished his NFL career with 215 consecutive games started, which are tied for the sixth most in league history and the most by a linebacker.
A two-sport athlete, Fletcher also played basketball at JCU. Off the field, he established the London’s Bridge Foundation in 2003 to assist with inequalities facing underprivileged and underrepresented children through mentoring, charitable giving, life skills and community responsibility. Fletcher was the 2012 Athletes in Action Bart Starr Man of the Year and a finalist for the 2010 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The Cleveland native is currently an NFL analyst for the CBS Sports Network.
Texas A&M University
Defensive Lineman, 1977-79
One of the greatest defensive players in the old Southwest Conference, Jacob Green terrorized quarterbacks while setting multiple sack records at Texas A&M. He becomes the 11th Aggie player elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Green was named a First Team All-American in 1979 after recording 20 sacks, which still stand as a Texas A&M single-season record. He finished his career as the Aggies’ all-time leader with 38 career sacks, which currently rank second in the school record books and remain the most by a defensive lineman. A two-year team captain, Green also owns the Texas A&M record with 12 career forced fumbles, and his 22 tackles against Baylor in 1979 were an Aggie single-game record (currently tied for third). He finished his career with 283 total tackles.
The two-time All-Southwest Conference selection guided the Aggies to two bowl games, including a victory over No. 19 Iowa State in the 1978 Hall of Fame Classic that helped A&M take over the No. 19 spot in the final AP rankings. During the 1979 season, Green led the Aggies to upsets over No. 6 Penn State and No. 6 Texas. A member of Texas A&M’s All-Decade Team for the 1970s, he is enshrined in the Texas A&M Athletic, Southwest Conference, State of Texas Sports and Texas African-American halls of fame.
The Seattle Seahawks selected Green with the 10th overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, and he spent 12 years with the Seahawks before a short stint with the San Francisco 49ers. A member of the Seahawks Ring of Honor, he went to two Pro Bowls and finished his career third on the NFL’s all-time sacks list with 97.5.
Active in the community, Green has helped raise millions of dollars for cancer research and remains involved with Jaycee’s Children’s Center in his hometown of Houston, which is named for his father who passed away from cancer. He was also the recipient of the Seattle Distinguished Community Service Award in 2000. Ever loyal to his alma mater, Green currently serves as Vice President of Major Gifts and Endowments for the 12th Man Foundation at Texas A&M.
North Carolina State University
Wide Receiver, 1995-98
A human highlight reel at North Carolina State, Torry Holt rewrote the school and conference record books during a legendary career in Raleigh. He is the sixth Wolfpack player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.
A consensus First Team All-American in 1998, Holt was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and the only receiver in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy voting that year. The 1998 ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year remains NC State’s all-time leader in career (3,379), single-season (1,604 in 1998) and single-game (255 vs. Baylor, 1998) receiving yards as well as single-season (88 in 1998) and single-game (15 vs. Wake Forest, 1998) receptions. A two-time First Team All-ACC selection at wide receiver, Holt also earned first team all-conference laurels as a punt returner in 1998 and led the Wolfpack to a berth in the MicronPC Bowl.
A two-year team captain, Holt owns other Wolfpack records, including single-season all-purpose yards (1,979 in 1998) and career (31), single-season (16 in 1997) and single-game (five vs. Florida State, 1997) touchdown receptions. The Gibsonville, North Carolina, native’s career receiving yards were a then-ACC record (now rank sixth), and he still holds conference marks for single-season receiving yards, single-season receiving yards per game (145.8) and single-game touchdown receptions. A member of the NC State Athletic Hall of Fame, Holt’s No. 81 jersey was retired by the school, and the team named its Offensive MVP award in his honor. He was named an ACC Football Legend in 2012.
The St. Louis Rams selected Holt with the sixth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, and he played for the franchise from 1999-2008 before a final season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection led the Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV following his rookie season. A member of the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s, Holt retired from the league with the 10th most receiving yards in history.
Holt remains busy with Holt Brothers Inc., which he founded with his brother, Terrence, who also played at NC State. Their companies include Holt Brothers Construction (Torry serves as vice president), Holt Brothers Football Camps and the Holt Brothers Foundation. Torry serves as president of the foundation, which supports programs for children who have a parent with cancer. He can also be heard on SiriusXM’s NFL Radio and Fantasy Sports Radio stations.
University of Notre Dame
Kick Returner/Wide Receiver, 1988-90
One of the most electrifying players in college football history, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail tormented opponents as both an All-America receiver and kick returner while also returning punts and even rushing the ball. He becomes the 47th Fighting Irish player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame, the most of any school.
A two-time First Team All-American, Ismail earned consensus honors in 1989 (kick returner) and unanimous laurels in 1990 (wide receiver/kick returner). The 1990 Walter Camp Player of the Year, he was also named The Sporting News’ College Player of the Year and finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, native led the Irish to an undefeated national championship season in 1988 that was capped by a win in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl. Ismail also guided Notre Dame to two Orange Bowl berths, claiming MVP honors in the 1990 edition after he led both teams in rushing in a 21-6 win over Colorado. The only college football player among the finalists for the 1990 Sullivan Award as the best amateur athlete in the nation, he guided the Irish to top six finishes all three seasons of his career and an overall record of 33-4.
Few in the game’s history can match Ismail’s versatility. One of only two Irish players to amass more than 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a career, his 22 yards per reception average remain a school record. His five kickoff returns for a touchdown are a Notre Dame record, and he remains the only player in NCAA history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in two games. In 1988, Ismail led the NCAA after averaging 36.1 yards per kickoff return, and his six career returns for touchdown (five kickoffs, one punt) are tied for a Notre Dame record. He ranks sixth in Irish annals with 4,187 career all-purpose yards, 268 of which came in an upset of No. 2 Miami (FL) in 1990 after he rushed for 100 yards and returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. While with the Irish, Ismail played for College Football Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz and alongside Hall of Famer Chris Zorich.
Projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft, Ismail instead signed with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. He played two seasons for Toronto, leading them to a Grey Cup Championship in 1991 and taking home the game’s MVP honors. The Los Angeles Raiders selected Ismail in the fourth round of the 1991 NFL Draft to own his rights, and he returned to play in the NFL for the Raiders (1993-95), Carolina Panthers (1996-98) and Dallas Cowboys (1999-2001).
A two-sport athlete, Ismail was also an All-America track star at Notre Dame. A member of Sports Illustrated’s All-20th Century College Football Team, he was inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame in 2003. He was a contributor to ESPN’s “College GameDay” for two seasons. Ismail now lives in Dallas where he serves as a motivational speaker while visiting military bases throughout the state of Texas.
University of Arkansas
Running Back, 2005-07
One of the most decorated players in both Arkansas and SEC history, Darren McFadden twice claimed the Doak Walker Award as the best running back in the nation. The Razorbacks’ all-time leading rusher becomes the ninth player in school history to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A two-time First Team All-American, “Run DMC” earned consensus honors in 2006 and unanimous recognition in 2007 while finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up both seasons. The 2007 Walter Camp Player of the Year and Sporting News Player of the Year, he won back-to-back Doak Walker Awards in 2006 and 2007 to join Hall of Famer Ricky Williams(Texas) as the only two-time recipients of the award. A two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Year, McFadden is the Razorbacks all-time leader with 4,590 career rushing yards and 5,881 career all-purpose yards, which both rank second in conference history. The three-time First Team All-SEC selection led Arkansas to the 2006 SEC Western Division title, two bowl berths and a No. 15 final ranking in 2006. McFadden also earned First Team All-America honors as a kick returner in 2006 while finishing as a finalist for the 2006 Walter Camp and 2007 Maxwell Award.
McFadden also owns Arkansas career records for rushing attempts (785) and 100-yard rushing games (22) while sitting second all-time with 41 rushing touchdowns. He owns the two-highest single-season rushing totals (1,830 in 2007, 1,647 in 2006) and single-season all-purpose yard totals (2,310 in 2007, 2,058 in 2006) in school annals. The only Razorback to ever gain 2,000 all-purpose yards in a season, his 2,310 in 2007 rank fourth all-time in SEC history. A First Team Freshman All-American and the 2005 SEC Freshman of the Year, McFadden is one of only three players in conference history to rush for 1,000 yards in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. His 120.8 rushing yards per game during his career are third all-time in SEC annals while his 321 rushing yards against South Carolina in 2007 remain tied for a single-game conference record.
Chosen as the fourth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2008 NFL Draft, McFadden played 10 seasons in the league for the Raiders (2008-14) and the Dallas Cowboys (2015-17).
A stalwart in the community, McFadden has volunteered for events with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Salvation Army, Special Olympics and Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. The Little Rock, Arkansas, native also visits local hospitals and helped with disaster relief in North Dallas, where he now lives after retiring from the NFL. A member of the State of Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, McFadden was named an SEC Football Legend in 2018.
Arizona State University
One of the greatest passers in Arizona State history, Jake Plummer led the Sun Devils to one of the greatest seasons in the program’s history. He is the eighth player in school history to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.
A First Team All-American in 1996, “Jake the Snake” finished third for the Heisman Trophy after leading Arizona State to an 11-1 season that included an undefeated regular season and the program’s second-ever Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl berth. The 1996 Pac-10 Player of the Year was also a finalist for the Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas awards as a senior. A two-time First Team All-Pac-10 selection, Plummer led the Sun Devils to a No. 4 national ranking in 1996 while claiming the Pop Warner Trophy as the most valuable player on the West Coast.
A four-year starter, Plummer was the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Sun Devils in nearly a decade. Boasting an Arizona State-record 34 games with either a passing or rushing touchdown, the Boise, Idaho, native ranks third in school history with 8,827 career passing yards and 1,142 career pass attempts. Plummer also sits fourth in Sun Devil annals with 65 touchdown passes while ranking fifth with 632 completions and 8,711 yards of total offense during his career. The 1996 team captain and two-time Arizona State MVP earned Honorable Mention All-America honors in 1995. Plummer also excelled in the classroom, earning First Team Academic All-Pac-10 honors as a senior and Honorable Mention laurels as a junior and sophomore.
Taken in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Plummer played 10 years in the NFL for the Cardinals (1997-2002) and Denver Broncos (2003-06). He led the league in passing yards per completion as a rookie, and the following season he led the Cardinals to their first postseason victory since 1947. Plummer’s best season in the NFL came in 2005 when he was named to the Pro Bowl after leading the Broncos to the AFC Championship Game.
Off the field, he established the Jake Plummer Foundation, which is geared toward Alzheimer’s research, caregivers and kids while also giving back to the Family Tree in Denver and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. An avid handball player and promoter, he created the “Plummer Family Helluva Handball Bash” to benefit Campfire USA. He supports and promotes Athletes for Care and the Pat Tillman Foundation, named for College Football Hall of Famer Pat Tillman, who was Plummer’s teammate in college and the NFL. He also co-founded ReadyList Sports, a fully interactive digital playbook tool.
University of Southern California
Defensive Back, 1999-2002
Known for his fearless hitting and flying tackles, Troy Polamalu ranks among the greatest defensive backs in USC history. He becomes the 32nd Trojan player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A two-time First Team All-American, Polamalu earned consensus honors in 2002 and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation. He led the Trojans to consecutive bowl games, including a victory in the 2003 Orange Bowl (he missed the game with an injury) and an appearance in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl, where he set a Las Vegas Bowl record with 20 tackles. A two-time First Team All-Pac-10 selection, Polamalu guided the 2002 USC squad to its first 11-win season since 1979, a share of the conference title and a No. 4 national ranking.
A two-year team captain, Polamalu was USC’s MVP in 2001 and Most Inspirational Player in 2002. The Tenmile, Oregon, native recorded 281 tackles and six interceptions in his four-year career in Los Angeles. Polamalu led USC in tackles (118) and interceptions (three) in 2001 after topping the team in interceptions (two) and deflections (seven) in 2000. A member of the Pac-12 All-Century Team, he was inducted into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
Polamalu was selected in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he spent his entire 12-year career with the franchise. The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year went to eight Pro Bowls and led the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances, including wins in Super Bowls XL and XLIII. Polamalu is a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team. During his NFL career, he earned his degree from USC in 2011.
Polamalu and his wife established the Troy & Theodora Polamalu Foundation, which has raised millions for charity. Paying tribute to his American Samoan heritage, he supports the Fa’a Samoa Initiative, set up a medical clinic in Samoa, and serves on the board of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, of which he is an inductee. He currently serves as the Head of Player Relations for the Alliance of American Football, a new professional league that will kick off in February 2019.
University of Wisconsin
Offensive Lineman, 2003-06
One of the most decorated players in Wisconsin history, Joe Thomas built a strong athletic and academic record during his career in Madison. He becomes the 10th Badger player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A unanimous First Team All-American in 2006, Thomas became the first player in Wisconsin history to claim the Outland Trophy as the most outstanding interior lineman in the nation. A three-time All-Big Ten selection, he earned consensus first team honors in 2005 and 2006 after receiving honorable mention laurels in 2004. The Brookfield, Wisconsin, native started 39 games and led the Badgers to four bowl berths, including consecutive Capital One Bowl victories to finish his career. The latter Capital One Bowl victory capped a 2006 season that saw Wisconsin go 12-1 and finish with the No. 7 final AP ranking.
A Second Team All-American in 2005, Thomas was chosen by the Touchdown Club of Columbus as the 2006 recipient of the Jim Parker Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman. A team captain and team co-MVP as a senior, he guided the Badgers to top 20 finishes in his last three seasons. Matching his performance on the field, Thomas was selected as an NFF National Scholar-Athlete in 2006. The three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection was a Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient and a Second Team Academic All-American as a senior. Thomas played for Bret Bielema and College Football Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez during his Wisconsin career.
The third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas played all 11 seasons of his career with the Cleveland Browns. He is the only offensive lineman and one of only five players overall to be selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons in the league. After Thomas retired in early 2018, the Browns enshrined the number “10,363” in their Ring of Honor in recognition of his historic consecutive-snaps- played streak.
Thomas was also a Second Team All-Big Ten selection in track and field at Wisconsin, qualifying for the NCAA Championships in the shot put. Active in the community, Thomas was a finalist for the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and he is the only player in Browns history to claim the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year honors in multiple seasons. Thomas currently hosts a weekly podcast with his former Browns teammate, Andrew Hawkins, called “The ThomaHawk Show,” and he has been a regular contributor to official Browns media platforms.
Michigan State University
Running Back, 1984-87
One of the greatest running backs in Michigan State history, Lorenzo White rewrote the school and conference record books and remains the Spartans’ all-time leading rusher. He becomes the 10th player in school history to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A two-time First Team All-American, White earned unanimous honors in 1985 and consensus laurels in 1987 while finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in both seasons. A First Team All-Big Ten selection in 1985 and 1987, he also garnered second team all-conference recognition in 1986 and led Michigan State to three bowl games. The first player in program history to lead the team in rushing for four consecutive seasons, White holds nearly every Michigan State career rushing record, including rushing attempts (1,082), rushing yards (4,887), rushing touchdowns (43) and 100-yard rushing games (23). At the end of his career, his 4,887 rushing yards were the second most in Big Ten history, and they still rank in the top 10. He also owns two of the top three single-game rushing performances in school history, including a career-best 292 yards against Indiana in 1987.
During his senior season in 1987, White guided the Spartans to the Big Ten title and their first Rose Bowl berth since the 1965 season. In that Rose Bowl, the team captain capped his stellar career with a 113-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win over No. 16 USC to help Michigan State earn the No. 8 final ranking. During his stellar 1985 campaign, White rushed for a school and Big Ten single-season record 2,066 yards. His 1,908 yards during the regular season at the time were the fourth-highest single-season rushing total in the history of college football and the highest by a sophomore. White rushed for 100 or more yards in all but one game in 1985, including four occasions over the 200-yard mark, and he became the first Spartan to lead the FBS in rushing (173.5 yards per game). He also set a still-standing FBS record that season for most rushing attempts in two consecutive games, racking up 102 combined carries against Purdue (53) and Minnesota (49).
A first round pick in the 1988 NFL Draft, White played seven seasons for the Houston Oilers before a final season with the Cleveland Browns in 1995. His best season as a pro came in 1992 when he was selected to the Pro Bowl.
White has given back to the community through the Lorenzo White Foundation, which supports local and national organizations in establishing and promoting athletic youth programs. A member of the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010, he played alongside College Football Hall of Famer Percy Snow during his career in East Lansing.
University of Mississippi
Patrick Willis compiled one of the best careers in Ole Miss history capped by winning the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker. He becomes the ninth Rebel player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A consensus First Team All-American in 2006, Willis took home both the Butkus Award and the Jack Lambert Award as the best linebacker in the country. The 2006 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and SEC Most Valuable Lineman was also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defensive player. A two-time First Team All-SEC selection, Willis also earned honorable mention laurels in 2004, and he led the conference in tackles as both a junior (128) and senior (137). As a junior, his 9.0 solo tackles per game led the nation while his 12.8 total tackles per game ranked sixth. During his senior campaign, he averaged 11.4 tackles per game, which also ranked sixth in the nation, while his 7.25 solo tackles per game were the third best. As a freshman in 2003, Willis helped the Rebels to a share of the SEC West title, a victory in the 2004 Cotton Bowl and a No. 13 final ranking.
The senior team captain ranks sixth all-time at Ole Miss with 355 career tackles, and he is tied for fifth with 33 career tackles for loss. Willis was the recipient of the 2006 Conerly Trophy as the best college football player in the state of Mississippi and the Ole Miss Chucky Mullins Courage Award. The Bruceton, Tennessee, native ended his collegiate career as the Defensive MVP for the South Team in the 2007 Senior Bowl. Willis matched his on-field success in the classroom, earning Academic All-SEC honors and receiving the 2007 Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. A 2015 inductee into the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame, he was selected to SI.com’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
The 11th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Willis played eight seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. The 2007 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and seven-time Pro Bowl selection twice led the NFL in tackles and won the professional Butkus Award in 2009.
Overcoming adversity, Willis was able to find success on and off the field despite an unstable upbringing where he was forced to raise his three younger siblings. A member of the 2006 SEC Community Service Team, he was active in reading, mentorship and food drive programs during his time at Ole Miss. Since his retirement from the NFL, Willis has been a technology investor in Silicon Valley and remains active with local charities.
University of Texas
One of the most exciting players the game has ever seen, Vince Young turned in one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history in 2005 while memorably leading Texas to a national championship. He becomes the 19th Longhorn player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A consensus First Team All-American in 2005, Young was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy while claiming the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell awards. That season, the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year and First Team All-Big 12 selection led the Longhorns to a conference title and a perfect 13-0 season after winning the BCS National Championship Game against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl. Regarded as one of the greatest games in college football history, Young earned MVP honors after completing 30-of-40 passes for 267 yards, rushing for 200 yards (a Rose Bowl record among quarterbacks) and delivering the game-winning eight-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 19 seconds remaining. The win capped a remarkable season that saw the team captain become the first player in FBS history with more than 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single-season. The winner of the 2005 Manning Award and ABC Sports Player of the Year, Young also led the Big 12 in passing efficiency (163.9), and he became the first player in FBS history to rush for more than 250 yards and throw for more than 230 yards in a single game (vs. Oklahoma State).
Boasting a 30-2 record as a starter for College Football Hall of Fame coach Mack Brown, Young’s 93.8 winning percentage was the sixth best in FBS history at the time. The Houston native owns multiple Longhorn records, including single-season (1,079) and career (3,127) rushing yards by a quarterback and career (37) rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. With 6,040 passing yards and 3,127 rushing yards in his career (both marks rank sixth in Texas history), Young became just the fourth player in FBS history to pass for 6,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards in a career. The 2003 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year guided the Longhorns to two other bowl games, claiming MVP honors after a win over Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl that secured a No. 5 ranking in the final polls. Young holds the top three single-game rushing performances by a quarterback in school history, and he set Texas records for total offense in a career (9,167), single season (4,086 in 2005) and single game (506 vs. Oklahoma State, 2005), which all currently rank second. A member of the Longhorn Hall of Honor, his No. 10 jersey is one of only six retired by Texas, and he is enshrined in the Rose Bowl, State of Texas Sports and Texas High School Football halls of fame.
The Tennessee Titans selected Young with the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, and he played six seasons in the league with the Titans (2006-10) and Philadelphia Eagles (2011). The 2006 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year was selected to two Pro Bowls, becoming the first rookie quarterback to play in the game.
Wanting to give back to the community, he established the Vince Young Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for underprivileged children through academic and athletic excellence. He also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018 to raise funds for sustainable water wells in East Africa. In 2013, Young earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas, and he now works as a development officer in the university’s Department of Diversity and Community Engagement.
University of Idaho (1982-85, 2006), University of Wyoming (1986),
Washington State University (1987-88), University of Miami [Fla.] (1989-94),
Oregon State University (1999-02), Arizona State University (2007-11)
Head Coach, 179-96-1 (65.0%)
Highlighted by two national titles at Miami, Dennis Erickson led his teams to 12 bowl games and at least a share of six conference titles in 23 successful seasons as a head coach. In addition to his success with the Hurricanes, he became the first coach to earn Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors at three different institutions.
Erickson began his head-coaching career at Idaho from 1982-85, where he became the first coach since 1938 to post consecutive winning seasons at the school and the first coach in Vandals history to have four-consecutive winning seasons. Erickson led Idaho to the Big Sky Conference title in 1985 and two trips to the FCS Playoffs. Following a one-year stint as the head coach at Wyoming in 1986, he took over the program at Washington State for two seasons. In his second year, Erickson was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year after leading the Cougars to their first nine-win season since 1930 and their first bowl victory in 73 seasons – a win over Houston in the 1988 Aloha Bowl.
Erickson would see his greatest success at Miami from 1989-94, posting a 63-9 record and an 87.5 winning percentage, which remains the highest in school history. The only coach to win two national titles at Miami, his Hurricanes took home the crown following the 1989 and 1991 seasons while playing in two other national championship games in 1992 and 1994. The 1989 national title earned Erickson the distinction of being only the second Division I head coach to win a national crown in his first season at a school. The 1991 Miami squad would be named national champion after becoming the second team in school history to finish 12-0. Erickson claimed conference coach of the year honors and guided the Canes to conference titles in three-of-four seasons after Miami joined the BIG EAST in 1991. Boasting a 35-1 home record at Miami, he led the team to bowl games in all six seasons and the Canes never finished lower than No. 3 in the final polls from 1989-92.
After a four-year stint as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Erickson took over the program at Oregon State in 1999 and sparked a massive turnaround. In his first season, he led the Beavers to their first winning season in 29 years and their first bowl appearance in 35 years. Erickson’s best season at Oregon State came in 2000, when helped the program snap its 33-year losing streak to USC and earn a share of the Pac-10 Conference title for the first time since 1964. The Pac-10 Coach of the Year that season, he guided Oregon State to an 11-1 record, a win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl (the school’s first major bowl appearance since 1965) and the No. 4 final ranking (the highest finish in school history). Erickson’s 64.6 win percentage is the highest among Oregon State coaches with more than three seasons at the helm.
After two seasons as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and one return season at Idaho, Erickson took his final head-coaching job at Arizona State in 2007. In his first season, he once again claimed Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors after leading the Sun Devils to a 10-win season and a share of the Pac-10 title.
Over his entire career, Erickson’s teams boasted 10 top 25 finishes, including five in the top five. The two-time Sporting News College Coach of the Year coached 67 first team all-conference selections, three NFF National Scholar-Athletes and 21 First Team All-Americans, including College Football Hall of Famers Russell Maryland and Gino Torretta at Miami and Mike Utley at Washington State.
A native of Everett, Washington, Erickson was a two-time All-Big Sky quarterback while leading Montana State to three conference titles. Before his first head-coaching job at Idaho, he served as an assistant coach at Montana State, Idaho, Fresno State and San Jose State as well as one season as a high school head coach when he was just 23 years old. From 2013-16, Erickson came out of retirement to serve as an assistant coach at Utah. He is a member of the University of Miami Sports, State of Washington Sports, University of Idaho Athletics and State of Montana Football halls of fame. Erickson has once again come out of retirement to be the head coach of the Salt Lake Stallions in the Alliance of American Football, a new professional league that will kick off in February 2019.
Howard University (1983), Virginia Union University (1984-91),
Hampton University (1992-07), Florida A&M University (2008-12)
Head Coach, 233-96-4 (70.6%)
The all-time winningest coach in Hampton history, Joe Taylor compiled an impressive 233 wins overall during his standout 30-year career. His remarkable 70.6 winning percentage ranks in the top 10 in FCS coaching history.
After one season as the head coach at Howard, Taylor took over the program at Virginia Union, where he won 60 games in eight seasons. His best season with the Panthers was in 1986 when he guided the team to the CIAA title, an 11-1 record and a trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. Taylor also guided Virginia Union to the playoffs during a 10-2 season in 1990 and an 8-3 season in 1991.
Taylor shined during his tenure as Hampton’s head coach from 1992-2007, posting a school record 136 wins while leading the Pirates to four SBN Black College National Championships. Hampton played at the NCAA Division II level his first three seasons, earning two Division II playoff appearances, including the school’s first-ever NCAA playoff win. Taylor guided the Pirates to CIAA titles in all three of those seasons and the first of his four Black College National Championships in 1994. After moving to the FCS in 1995, his Hampton teams would win three more Black College National Championships and five MEAC titles while making five FCS Playoff appearances. The four-time MEAC Coach of the Year owns eight of the top 10 winningest seasons in Pirate history, including the top six. Taylor also guided Hampton to a win in the 1999 Heritage Bowl over Southern, and he coached three NFF National Scholar-Athletes during his time at the school: Timothy Benson (1993), Malcolm Benson (1995) and Michael Bland (2000).
Taylor concluded his stellar coaching career at Florida A&M from 2008-12, where he became the first coach in school history to win 25 games in his first three seasons. Arguably, his best season with the Rattlers came in 2010 when the team went 8-3 and claimed a share of the MEAC title.
At the time of his retirement, Taylor’s 233 career wins were tied for the third most among coaches at historically black colleges and universities. Over his entire 30-year career, he coached 68 First Team All-Americans, 142 first team all-conference players and one First Team Academic All-American.
A former president of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Taylor also served on the FCS All-American Selection Committee and the advisory board of the Black Coaches Association. He has received lifetime achievement awards from the AFCA/FCA and the All-American Football Foundation, and he is enshrined in the Virginia Union Athletics, Western Illinois Athletics, CIAA and MEAC halls of fame.
A graduate of Western Illinois University, Taylor played offensive line for the Leathernecks under College Football Hall of Fame Coach Darrell Mudra. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Howard D. Woodson High School in his hometown of Washington, D.C., from 1972-77. Before his first head-coaching job, Taylor also served as an assistant coach at Eastern Illinois (where he helped earn the 1978 NCAA Division II national title), Virginia Union and Howard. Since December 2013, he has served as the athletics director at Virginia Union.
About The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include Football Matters®, the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, The William V. Campbell Trophy®, annual scholarships of more than $1.3 million and a series of initiatives to honor the legends of the past and inspire the leaders of the future. NFF corporate partners include Delta Air Lines, Fidelity Investments – a proud partner of the Campbell Trophy®, Herff Jones, New York Athletic Club, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, the Sports Business Journal, SportsManias, Under Armour and VICIS. Learn more at footballfoundation.org.