September 30, 2011 by David Gillaspie
(originally posted on oregonsportsnews.com)
AN INFORMAL COLLECTION
What question do new Oregon football fans ask?
“Who is the best football player on your favorite college team?”
It happens with good teams from every era.
Choices are easier for teams with long traditions like Ohio State and LSU. The difficult picks come with programs in the middle of a Golden-Era like the Ducks.
With new names moving up the career stats, it’s easy to forget Oregon’s own long tradition started in 1894.
Recent success means you hear the question more often. Many answer with, “Current players, or all-time?”
Since every answer is disputable, be flexible. To avoid a screamer who cannot BELIEVE your choices, call it “My favorite player,” instead of best player.
Better still, turn it into a position question. Who is the best quarterback, running back, receiver, and offensive lineman?
Is it fair to combine a player’s NFL career and their college career? Probably not, but do it anyway.
Remember, thinking outside the record book is allowed.
- Best quarterback in UO history
Look somewhere between Norm Van Brocklin and Darron Thomas. The former launched the ball from the dark ages, but his numbers still shine in today’s light; the latter guides the Ducks on their rocket ride without flaming out.
The respectful pick is Bill Musgrave, though not for his size or arm strength. He was the Oregon quarterback at the beginning of the Ducks’ flight to the stratosphere of college football who didn’t flinch.
Instead of an Icarus with waxy wings in the hot sun, Musgrave took the heat and kept going. He believed in the Ducks and made the rest of the state believe just as much.
Dan Fouts, Joey Harrington, and Dennis Dixon could lead any Duck team, but there’s something special about Mr. Musgrave’s place in history.
- Best running back
The question would be ‘who’s the second best running back’ if Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson had been Ducks. If USC got the question, O.J. would be in the mix with Reggie Bush.
Be glad we’re talking Ducks.
LaMichael James rewrites the record book every year, but he’s not done. Bobby Moore (Ahmad Rashad) did great things back in the day while Jonathan Stewart ran Autzen like it was his backyard. In the end, James is the gang of one who stretches the field and the record books, the back every team wants.
- Best receiver
The way the game evolves, no position changes shape like the receiving corps. It’s a wide out, a slot, or tight end. It’s a receiver as tackle-eligible lineman, a quarterback going out on a halfback option, or a halfback on a bubble screen.
Or a basketball player?
Although late to the game, Jordan Kent brought more to football than his helmet. The first three sport letterman since WWII with basketball and track,Kent showed enough Duck-ti-tude to get a look from the NFL.
How many people do anything for two years in their life and draw attention from the best talent scouts in the world? Kent, a track speedster without the usually frailties, played two years total in high school and college. As a four-year player, he could have caught everyone while living the Duck football dream in Eugene.
Jordan Kent as best receiver? Intriguing potential, but Bobby Moore delivered for teams full of need.
- Best Offensive Lineman
These are the smart guys, the math majors, engineers, and market analysts. They are the foundation blocks of every successful team, the unsung heroes of every victory, and the guys who take the blame in defeat.
They carry the load on broad shoulders. When the load’s name is Nick Fairley, unsung is the best way to go.
In keeping with the anonymous nature of the offensive line, Max Unger flies under the radar beside Gary Zimmerman, who doesn’t want to talk about it.
Mr. Zimmerman may be the most celebrated offensive lineman in Oregon history, judging by his Hall of Fame memberships. He may be the most determined player at shunning the press, too.
After induction into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, NFL All-Decade Teams of both the 1980’s and 1990’s, and All-Pro eight times, what else does he need to say?
(Next week, Oregon Defense)