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Auburn’s 15 Greatest Players Over the Past 45 Years

By on May 13th, 2013 in Football 15 Comments »
cam newton

Who are the greatest to ever wear the orange-and-blue? Today, we are going to take a shot at picking the 15 greatest Auburn football players since 1968. That’s 45 years of Auburn football. While the top picks are easy, things get much harder toward the bottom.

As with anything, this is a subjective selection. I’d love to hear your thoughts and tell me where you disagree. I’ll list them in order, from top to bottom. Here goes…

1. Bo Jackson – Perhaps the greatest running back of all times, this is a relatively easy choice. I’m sure some of our younger readers will push for Cam Newton, but if you watched Bo play with your own eyes, you know he’s clearly the top of the class.

2. Cam Newton – While we only had him for a year, it was the greatest season in Auburn history. We can only dream about how things might have been if Auburn had him at least three seasons. While Bo may take the top prize, Cam undoubtedly had the greatest single season of any Auburn player ever.

3. Pat Sullivan – In becoming Auburn’s first Heisman winner, Sullivan was a two-time All-American in 1970 and 1971. Former Alabama coach Bear Bryant said of Sullivan, “He does more things to beat you than any quarterback I’ve ever seen.”

4. Terry Beasley – Unquestionably, the greatest wide receiver in Auburn history, many still view him as the greatest receiver in SEC history. A two-time All-American, Beasley led the SEC in scoring in 1970 with 72 points.

5. Tracy Rocker – He became the first SEC player in history to win both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy. Behind Rocker, Auburn’s defense was ranked first nationally in 1988.

6. Carnell Williams – Despite sharing time in the backfield with fellow back Ronnie Brown, Williams ranks second in yards among Auburn running backs. He helped lead Auburn to a perfect record and an SEC Championship in 2004.

7. James Brooks – With little talent around him in the late 1970’s, Brooks was one of the most exciting backs in the country. He remains Auburn’s third all-time leading rusher with 3,523 yards. He seemed to always save his best performances for Georgia.

8. Nick Fairley – Many will call him a one-hit wonder, but Fairley’s defensive performance in 2010 may be the most dominant in SEC history. Playing on a somewhat average defensive squad, Fairley was a difference maker every week. Like Cam, without him, Auburn doesn’t have its second national championship.

9. Lionel James – You won’t find his name on any All-American teams, but it’s hard to put into words what he meant to the Auburn program during the early years of the Pat Dye era. He was the team leader during Auburn’s march to the 1983 SEC Championship.

10. Brent Fullwood – He was arguably the second best running back in the country in 1985, and that’s while he was backing up Bo Jackson during his Heisman campaign. Fullwood’s breakout season came a year later when he led the nation with 8.3 yards a carry. He was a consensus All-American and finished sixth in the Heisman balloting in 1986.

11. Carlos Rogers – A consensus All-American in 2004, Rogers became the first Auburn player to win the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. He helped Auburn lead the country in scoring defense on the way to a perfect season.

12. Marcus McNeil – He’s arguably the greatest offensive lineman in Auburn history. He was a two-time consensus All-American and one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy. As a senior he won the Jacobs Trophy as the top blocker in the SEC.

13. Greg Carr – The defensive leader on the 1983 SEC Championship team, Carr was the SEC’s most honored athlete during his senior year in 1984. He led Auburn in tackles for three consecutive seasons and was a consensus All-American during his senior campaign.

14. Ronnie Brown – Despite playing mostly second fiddle to Carnell Williams, Brown played a huge role in Auburn’s run to an undefeated season in 2004. He finished his Auburn career with 2,707 yards, ranking him seventh on the Tigers All-time rushing list.

15. Jason Campbell – He led Auburn to one of its most magical seasons ever in 2004, quarterbacking the Tigers to an SEC title and Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Takeo Spikes; Tommie Agee, Aundray Bruce; Joe Cribbs; Ed King; Ben Tamburello; Dameyune Craig; Bob Harris; Donnie Humphrey; Kurt Crain; Stacy Searels; David Rocker; Frank Sanders; Wayne Gandy; Karlos Dansby; Ben Grubbs; James Joseph.

15 Comments

  1. DBAU81 says:

    This is a great topic. I’d put Joe Cribbs in the top 15. And Lawyer Tillman deserves at least an honorable mention, if for no other reason than he always came up with a big play in the Iron Bowl. And from the late 60’s, Mike Kolen (“Captain Crunch”) and Buddy McClinton (still AU’s all-time leader in interceptions) were two of the greatest defensive players ever at Auburn.

    • sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

      Me too. Joe Cribbs and James Brooks both had 1000-yard seasons in 1979. The year prior, they were joined by William Andrews. Three future NFL greats in the same backfield!

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      I agree! Joe Cribbs was awesome! Most younger fans don’t know that Cribbs took over for OJ Simpson and the Bills rushing game didn’t miss a beat. I was very young when Kolen and McClinton played so I don’t remember them in AU unis. Kolen was a perennial NFL Pro Bowler and All Pro. Buddy Mac intercepted I think 19 passes in an era of SEC football when the ball rarely thrown.

  2. Jay Coulter Jay Coulter says:

    Agreed. Should have included Tillman as an honorable mention. Who can forget the 1986 Iron Bowl?

  3. DothanTiger DothanTiger says:

    Stan White – He had 40 career touchdown’s and is Auburn’s leader in career passing with 8,016 yards and also was the captain of Auburn’s 1993 undefeated football team and was voted to team of decade.

    • Jay Coulter Jay Coulter says:

      Thanks Dothan. I agree on White. That was a big miss on my part. See how difficult this can be. If I had a do over I’d put him top 10.

  4. Ricky Bobby says:

    A few I feel that need to be included somewhere: Stephen Davis, Ben Tate, Tyrone Goodson, Chris Shelling, Karsten Bailey, Quentin Groves, Antonio Coleman, and I personally always liked Reggie Slack. My two cents.

  5. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    If you could go back a few more years, you would have to put Jimmy Sidle, Mailon IKent, and Tucker Fredrickson on the list.

    Sidle had a nervous tic. I remember when he went under center his head would start twitching and the defenses would always go, WTF

  6. bornatiger says:

    I started watching auburn fb when I was a kid during the bo Jackson days but I would like to note jarod powers still one of my favotits under rated but was always around the ball I loved wathing that kid play

  7. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    Don’t forget some of the 50’s greats: Zeke Smith, Lloyd Nix, Jim Pyburn, Jimmy (Red) Phillips, Bobby Hoppe. Also, Jimmy Burson and George Rose to go with Sidle and Frederickson in the early 60’s.

  8. buddy Ro buddy Ro says:

    No issues with the top 10, but I would put Cam Newton #1 based on comprehensive game domination and ability to come thru with one big play after another… and in the fourth he would electrify his sideline and the entire stadium. I thought Cadillac, Bo, Fairley, and Sullivan had that kind of relentless effort and pursuit personality flow out,… like they were enjoying moments of a kind of transcendent confidence that was way beyond the game they just happen to be playing. I won’t ever forget really special efforts by some of my favorite pure Auburn leaders on the field Quentin Groves, Josh Bynes, Ben Tate, Reggie Slack, Walt McFadden,Kodi Burns, Darvin Adams, Karsten Bailey,… Dansby, Carl Stewart, O -Mac,…

    This is fun.

  9. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    These kind of articles always make interesting topics. I especially like seeing Lionel James on the list. He’s certainly deserving yet many may not have thought about Little Train.

  10. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    Little Train James is certainly deserving but I have a hard time putting him above Joe Cribbs. Great post and certainly food for thought.

    • Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

      Agree – Joe Cribbs then Lionel James but I still like your list – good stuff Jay.