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Friday, February 20, 2009
The Mt. Rushmore of Wake Forest football

By staff

Posted by's Heather Dinich

After a wee bit of prompting, the Wake Forest fans responded. (I knew you were out there, Deacs.) There were two names most seemed to agree on -- coach Jim Grobe and Brian Piccolo.

What's interesting about Wake Forest is that it's today's players who have transformed the program from an afterthought into a contender. Players like Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry deserved as much consideration as Norm Snead and Chris Barclay. Don't forget it's about what they did while they were on campus, not in the NFL. In 2005, when Barclay was the ACC's Player of the Year, the Deacs were 4-7. Smith and Curry led Wake Forest to a school-record three straight bowl games.

Here's what Wake fans had to say:

Michael in Hickory, NC wrote: Wake Forest Football - Mt. Rushmore Jim Grobe: He has made Wake Forest football a very competitive program during arguably the most heightened competition the ACC has ever seen within the conference. Brian Piccolo: Just watch the movie. Ricky Proehl: Embodies the toughness, work ethic, and longevity that it requires to be successful at Wake Forest. Norm Snead: 2nd pick overall in the NFL draft in 1961. He had a long NFL career.

Chris wrote: For Wake Forest, I'd go with Jim Grobe, Bill George, Riley Skinner and Alphonso Smith.

Will in Winston-Salem wrote: Wake Forest Mt. Rushmore : Brian Piccolo- Lead the NATION in rushing in his senior season, 1964, and was player of the year in the ACC. Jon Abbate - Led team in tackles, and lead team to its first ever BCS game in 2006. All american and first team All-ACC. Coach Jim Grobe- named 2006 national coach of the year. Unanimous ACC coach of the year in 2006. Led team to 3 strait bowl games from 2006-present. The rest is a toss up, with Barclay (06)in there, Aaron Curry (08), Alphonso Smith (08), Mike McCrary (92), AJ Green (88)

Here is the final verdict:

Brian Piccolo -- Piccolo has been immortalized in Wake Forest football history because of his success on the field and his courage off of it. He led the nation in rushing with 1,044 yards and 15 touchdowns on 252 carries as a senior in 1964. His rushing total and 111 points scored ranked first in the NCAA. Piccolo set six ACC and nine school records. He left Wake Forest as the school's all-time leading rusher and scorer. Piccolo died at age 26 from cancer, but his memory lives on in the ACC's Piccolo Award, given to the ACC's most courageous player.

Jim Grobe -- Over the past eight seasons, Grobe has ushered Wake Forest football through its most successful period ever. He has compiled a record of 54-44, including the 2006 ACC title. It was the program's second conference championship and first since 1970. The 11 wins posted by the 2006 team set a school record as Wake was the most improved team in the nation, following a 4-7 record in 2005. The Deacs were ranked in the AP Top 25 for nine straight weeks in 2006, the longest streak in school history and beat Florida State in Tallahassee for the first time since 1959 while posting their first win over NC State in Raleigh since 1984. No other Wake Forest coach has taken the program to three straight bowl games, let alone two.

Aaron Curry -- Curry could arguably be the best defensive player to come through the program. The 2008 Butkus Award winner finished the regular season with a team-leading 101 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. He is only the second player in school history to win a national award, along with Ryan Plackemeier. Curry finished his career with 332 career tackles and a school-record 278 career interception return yards.

Alphonso Smith -- Smith might have been the most dynamic player to step on the field as a Deacon. He finished his college career with an ACC-record 21 interceptions, including a team-high seven last year. Smith holds several school records, including 61 career passes defended and four career interception returns for touchdowns. He earned first team All-ACC honors his junior and senior years, and is second in Wake Forest history with 249 career interception return yards.