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The Top 10 Big 12 players ever: No. 10

5/5/2013

Last month, in the days following the NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams released a photo of quarterback Sam Bradford and newly drafted receiver Tavon Austin. I noted on Twitter it was a photo of two of the best 10 players to ever step on the field in a Big 12 game.

Your response was overwhelming: "Let's see the full list!"

Your wish is my command. First things first, here are my criteria:

  • Pro career is not factored into the ranking.

  • Players who played at least one season in the Big 12 have their entire careers factored into the list (For example, guys like Geno Smith and Taylor Martinez would be equally eligible for the list, and their entire career is taken into account.)

  • I approach the list like this: Knowing how each player's career would look, I'm drafting them at the beginning of their careers and starting a team with them.

Let's get started:

No. 10: Tavon Austin, WR/RB/KR/PR, West Virginia

Why he's on the list: Austin doesn't have the hardware of guys like Justin Blackmon or Michael Crabtree, but he's got a wider variance of skill sets and for my money, the league has never seen a more elusive player. Look no further than his destruction of Oklahoma's defense last season when he racked up 572 all-purpose yards, including 344 rushing yards in a game after spending almost no time at the position historically. Austin topped 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons, but made a name for himself as a return man, too.

When he got the ball in his hands in the open field, he did things nobody in Big 12 history could do, highlighted by his quickness and change of direction. Add his high-end speed to that package, and you've got a talent Big 12 fans will never forget.

Austin led the nation in all-purpose yards in 2011 and finished second in 2012. He was named the Paul Hornung Award winner as the nation's most versatile talent and won the Johnny Rodgers Award as the nation's best return man this season, capping a career with consecutive seasons as a first-team All-American.