Big 12: Keith Jackson

The best Big 12 players in NFL history

May, 29, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

As anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis understands by now, I see numbers and statistics as a way of explaining a lot of things about sports.

A whole generation of analysts has constructed brand new ideas in baseball because of the work of sabermetricians like former Kansas student Bill James.

Football doesn't quiet have that wealth of study, mainly because there aren't as many numbers available.

But there are a growing segment of analysts out there doing more and more work on football analysis.

My wife got me a book over the weekend which I read while I was down at the beach over Memorial Day. Sean Lahman's "The Pro Football Historical Abstract" used some Jamesian methodology to rank the top pro players in history at their positions, among other things.

And bringing some of Lahman's study into closer focus, I was particularly interested in how players from Big 12 schools ranked among his career lists at various positions.

Here's a position-by-position glance at the top Big 12 players in NFL history, according to Lahman's rankings.


12. Bobby Layne (Texas)
27. Troy Aikman (started at Oklahoma, UCLA)
28. John Hadl (Kansas)
62. Steve Grogan (Kansas State)
63. Kordell Stewart (Colorado)
100. Bernie Masterson (Nebraska)

Running backs

2. Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
5. Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State)
21. Earl Campbell (Texas)
30. Roger Craig (Nebraska)
32. John Riggins (Kansas)
38. Priest Holmes (Texas)
45. Ahman Green (Nebraska)
54. Larry Brown (Kansas State)
98. Gale Sayers (Kansas)
99. James Wilder (Missouri)

Wide receivers

17. Cliff Branch (Colorado)
27. Del Shofner (Baylor)
47. Irving Fryar (Nebraska)
48. Mel Gray (Missouri)
49. Dave Parks (Texas Tech)

Tight Ends

6. Kellen Winslow (Missouri)
14. Keith Jackson (Oklahoma)
34. Henry Childs (Kansas State)
49. Paul Coffman (Kansas State)

Offensive linemen

7. Will Shields (Nebraska)
32. Richmond Webb (Texas A&M)
34. Bob Brown (Nebraska)
39. Bob Young (Started at Howard Payne, Texas, Texas State)
46. John Wooten (Colorado)

Defensive linemen

18. Ron McDole (Nebraska)
19. Steve McMichael (Texas)
43. Ray Childress (Texas A&M)


2. Mike Singletary (Baylor)
26. Andy Russell (Missouri)
28. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
29. Zach Thomas (Texas Tech)
30. Leslie O'Neal (Oklahoma State)

Defensive backs

16. Yale Lary (Texas A&M)
21. Pat Fischer (Nebraska)
36. Roger Wehrli (Missouri)


20. Bobby Layne (Texas)

Kickoff returners

2. Glyn Milburn (Started at Oklahoma, Stanford)
4. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
7. Tyrone Hughes (Nebraska)
10. Gale Sayers (Kansas)

Punt returners

5. Eric Metcalf (Texas)
12. Glyn Milburn (Oklahoma, Stanford)

Combined kick returners

11. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
14. Mike Nelms (Started at Baylor, Sam Houston State)
24. Dick Todd (Texas A&M)



5. Verne Lewellen (Nebraska)
7. Glenn Presnell (Nebraska)


10. Guy Chamberlin (Started at Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)


1. Link Lyman (Nebraska)


3. Ox Emerson (Texas)


5. Charley Brock (Nebraska)
6. Frank Bausch (Kansas)


4. Tom Landry (Texas)
53. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
72. Guy Chamberlin (Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)

I had a chance to see many of these players as my frame of reference for the NFL goes back to about 1964, when I was 5 years old. The only one that really shocked me was how low Gale Sayers was ranked among running backs. I grew up watching the Chicago Bears and saw almost every one of Sayers' pro games. I find it hard to believe there were 97 better running backs in NFL history than him.

One fact that was interesting from this list was the number of running backs and linemen that were Big 12 products, in comparison with quarterbacks and receivers. In the old days, the Big Eight and Southwest conferences always had reputations based on stout running games. I think that will change in the future because of the conference's growing aerial status.

Obviously, there will be other Big 12 players who will be able to make the list in the future. It would be a shock if we don't see Adrian Peterson charging into the best backs in NFL history. It wouldn't surprise me if Michael Crabtree was able to be that kind of player. Maybe Jason Smith, too.

But it's always interesting to me to see the kind of work that Lahman has developed on a grand scale for the NFL and compare it to the Big 12 schools.  

I just wish some other researchers would feel as passionate about college football history, too.

Mailbag: How good are OSU's offensive triplets?

May, 1, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the more interesting letters I received during the past week.

Adam: Would you care to make any comparisons between Oklahoma State's ultra-talented trio of Zac Robinson/Dez Bryant/Kendall Hunter to other OSU trio greats of Mike Gundy/Barry Sanders/Hart Lee Dykes and Josh Fields/Rashaun Woods/Tatum Bell?

Tim Griffin: Adam, I think it terms of total firepower, the Gundy/Sanders/Dykes grouping was the best, followed by the current group of Robinson/Bryant/Hunter with Fields/Bell/Woods ranking last.

The reason I give the 80s group the edge is because of Sanders. Earlier this week, a national web site said that Sanders was the second-greatest living Heisman winner behind only two-time winner Archie Griffin. His rushing numbers are still mind-boggling.

And it would be interesting to see how much better Hart Lee Dykes would have done if he played in today's era where passing is such an important part. Dykes was by far the second offensive option on those teams and he still had 60, 61 and 74 catches in his three seasons as a starter.

That being said, I think that Zac Robinson could go down in history as the greatest quarterback in OSU history and Dez Bryant's numbers will end up being as good as anybody. But as good as Hunter is, he's still no Sanders.

Chance from Memphis, Tenn., writes: Thanks for the heads up regarding the possible Minnesota home-and-home addition for Texas. Didn't Texas have Utah and Arkansas on the 2009 schedule at one time, and both opted out?

TG: Chance, yes they did. Texas had a planned series with Utah for 2008 and 2009 called off fby the Utes. And after beating the Razorbacks in 2008, Arkansas officials decided they didn't want to play Texas in 2009. Instead, the Razorbacks have asked that game to be pushed back until 2014 as they start a 10-year contract for games against Texas A&M at the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington, Texas.

All of this doesn't do Mack Brown much good for this season. He might have to answer for his non-conference schedule which is packed with gooey treats like Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, UTEP and Central Florida.

If there's a close race in the BCS standings, something tells me that Brown will be doing a lot of spinning about his schedule during November.

Adam Nettina from Baltimore writes: Tim, Why the heck is Logan Dold moving the safety when he showed such promise as a running back? He was the second all-time leading rusher in Kansas high school history, was K-state's leading rusher in terms of yards per carry among regulars a year and runs the 100 in 10.9 seconds.

Yet, he's being replaced a senior who only ran for 3.8 yards per carry in limited duty a year ago and a redshirt freshmen with basically no on-field experience. So why make the move with Dold and not somebody else?

TG: Adam, I agree that I was a little surprised by the move of Dold, particularly considering his production last season. But I also know that Bill Snyder traditionally has favored small, quick backs like Darren Sproles. I'm wondering if he thinks that Keithen Valentine better suits his philosophy. And I also know that Jarell Childs has been a big surprise during spring practice.

Seth from New Haven, Conn., writes: Hey Tim, I'm a Yale student who just saw that Nebraska's Patrick Witt intends to transfer to New Haven. What should we expect to see from him?

TG: I get the feeling that Witt transferred to Yale more for academic reasons that for a chance to play. He had the opportunity to play at places like Duke and South Carolina and also considered UCLA. But I think his style will suit him at Yale, playing for Coach Jack Siedlecki.

Witt is a big, strong quarterback who has a strong arm for deep throws. Remember, he was the player who Bo Pelini turned to when Joe Ganz was injured for a few plays against Clemson in the Gator Bowl.

I'm not thinking that Witt will be heading to the Bulldogs with any sense of entitlement. And I'm also expecting he will be excited about continuing his career. So I wouldn't be surprised if he really thrived with his opportunity.

Preston Nix from Austin, Texas, writes: Tim, what keeps the Big 12 from trading Iowa State, Colorado, and/or Baylor for Utah, Boise State or other schools that could broaden the Big 12 market and make it a national powerhouse like the SEC seems to be?

TG: Mainly, it's tradition and the relationships that all of the schools have made with the others over the years. Iowa State was in the Big Eight with many of those other schools since 1928. Colorado was a member of the Big Eight from 1948. That's a lot of years for relationships.

And if Baylor hadn't come along with the other three schools from Texas when the Big 12 was formed, it's likely that none of them would because of the Bears' strong political power in the state legislature in Austin. Also, the complete sports programs of those schools - both in men's and women's sports - will be a factor in keeping them together.

I don't look for the Big 12 to break up any time soon. From everything I'm hearing, I think there's greater cohesiveness among the 12 partners who make up the league than ever before.

Joseph Hauss from College Station writes: Tim, I love your blog and read it every day. The 2009 season can't get here quickly enough. I just was wondering what your thoughts were about Mike Leach's comments about Stephen McGee? An A&M student I should be all against Tech. Unlike, many of my colleagues I find Mike Leach to be my kind of guy because he speaks his mind and isn't scared to. That being said, I believe he was actually complimenting McGee on his accomplishment but was inferring that he would have been using McGee's skills in the passing game since he stepped foot on campus in 2005.

TG: I think that Leach's compliment was a backhanded swipe at McGee's previous and current coaching staff. And I've got to think there's a tad of envy for Leach in the fact that McGee, who started two games last season, was drafted in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Graham Harrell, the prototypical quarterback for Leach's offense went undrafted despite setting a FBS career record for most career touchdown passes.

I've got to wonder if there might be a fear for Leach and the Red Raiders that Harrell's failure to be drafted might hurt the school in returning at a later time. But it seems like top quarterbacks always end up playing for the Red Raiders. It's just that the elite ones might have been more willing to make that move if Harrell had been a higher draft selection.

R.W. Dobbins of Oklahoma City writes: Jermaine Gresham as the best tight end in Oklahoma history? Well considering Keith Jackson was the best tight end in the history of any school, you might be a little off.

TG: I appreciate your response, but remember, I said that if Gresham had a huge year he could be remembered as Oklahoma's greatest tight end. I still think that is the case.

Jackson was a great athlete who averaged 23.7 yards per reception. But he also benefited from defenses which were stacked to stop the Sooners' wishbone offense when he was playing. And also remember that Jackson had 62 catches in his career. Gresham had 66 catches and 14 touchdowns last season.

I realize that football is different today than when Jackson was playing. But Gresham can be just as valuable and could earn All-America status with a big season this year. And he probably deserved it last season.

Benson from Washington, D.C., writes: Tim, I loved following the draft and I noticed that Missouri had more players picked than any team from the Big 12. Has that ever happened before? Also, was their total the most ever picked in one draft for a Big 12 team and was it the most ever for Missouri in one draft?

TG: Benson, you're right. Missouri had the most players picked in the Big 12 with six draftees. But it wasn't the most in school history. That came in 1981 and 1943 when the Tigers had seven players selected. And both of those drafts were significantly bigger than today's current seven-round draft. The NFL went 12 rounds deep in 1981 and 32 rounds in 1943.

The Tigers' haul last weekend still didn't match Oklahoma's Big 12 record of 11 players that were picked in 2005.

Thanks again for all of the letters. Enjoy your weekend and I'll be checking back again next week.

The best NFL players for each Big 12 team

April, 22, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I got a lot of good feedback last week after I detailed a post that listed the top NFL player from each Big 12 school in the modern era.

ESPN Stats & Information went back through every draft of the modern era -- since the NFL-AFL merger -- to determine the players who accomplished the most during their NFL careers.

The rankings were based on the following criteria: Hall of Fame induction, MVP awards, All-Pro first-team selections, All-Pro second-team selections, Pro Bowls, offensive and defensive player of the year and rookie of the year awards and membership on a Super Bowl-winning or -losing team. A player scores on the ranking system when he earns at least one of those honors.

Specifically, this was the criteria that was used:


Players received points based on the following criteria, coming up with rankings for the 13,808 NFL players who have played since 1967:

Super Bowl loss (1 point)
Offensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Defensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Pro Bowl (2 points)
Super Bowl win (3 points)
AP All-Pro second team (3 points)
AP All-Pro first team (4 points)
AP Defensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Offensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Most Valuable Player (8 points)
Hall of Famer (15 points)

After popular demand, here's how the formula calculated the five most valuable NFL players produced from each Big 12 school. I'm curious what some of your thoughts about these players and others might be.

Remember, this includes only players who were drafted. So free agents like Wes Welker were not included.


Mike Singletary 81
Mike Nelms 22
Vann McElroy 10
Gary Green 8
Thomas Everett 8


Dick Anderson 30
Cliff Branch 29
Mark Haynes 23
Chad Brown 15
Charles Johnson 14
Alfred Williams 12


Matt Blair 18
Keith Sims 9
Marcus Robertson 5
Otto Stowe 4
Karl Nelson 3


John Riggins 25
Dana Stubblefield 24
Nolan Cromwell 21
Leroy Irvin 15
Larry Brown 14


Larry Brown 34
Martin Gramatica 8
Barrett Brooks 3
Clarence Scott 2
Henry Childs 2
Terence Newman 2


Roger Wehrli 44
Kellen Winslow 40
Eric Wright 23
Russ Washington 16
Mel Gray 12


Will Shields 44
Roger Craig 30
Neil Smith 28
Irving Fryar 17
John Dutton 13


Lee Roy Selmon 46
Keith Jackson 28
Billy Sims 14
Roy Williams 14
Adrian Peterson 13
Greg Pruitt 13


Barry Sanders 93
Thurman Thomas 60
Kevin Williams 24
Leslie O'Neal 16
Dexter Manley 13


Earl Campbell 65
Doug English 21
Steve McMichael 21
Bill Bradley 17
John Elliott 16


Shane Lechler 31
Lester Hayes 29
Richmond Webb 28
Ray Childress 26
Sam Adams 13


Zach Thomas 40
Curtis Jordan 4
Dylan Gandy 3
Maury Buford 3
Ted Watts 3
Timmy Smith 3

Source: ESPN Stats & Analysis Team

Mack Brown's finishing school emphasizing dinner manners

March, 5, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

College is a time for learning -- both inside and outside the classroom.

The Texas Longhorns are discovering much more this spring than how to make form tackles and provide crunching downfield blocks.

As is coach Mack Brown's usual custom each spring, members of the team are attending a workshop on developing proper dining manners and formal etiquette. While there, they learn the difference between a salad fork and a butter knife and all of the other habits that would make Miss Manners proud.

The Longhorns' Fine Dining class has taught players how to conduct themselves in formal dinner situations for the past 12 years. 

Players say that the class gives them confidence to represent the school in formal situations.

"In December, I got to go on the national awards circuit," former Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo told "I attended more banquets and dinners than I can count with people like Keith Jackson, Howie Long, Ted Hendricks, Ronnie Lott, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and on and on.

"There were also other people who are really important in cities like Charlotte, Houston, Newport Beach, New Haven, which isn't that far from New York. The last thing you want to do is something to embarrass yourself in front of people like that, but I didn't even have to think twice. I was ready."

Oklahoma's Mount Rushmore

February, 12, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma's three legendary coaches made for an easy trio of anchors on my personal Sooner Mount Rushmore, leaving room for the greatest football player in school history as my fourth selection.

And you think it's easy to do that?

Here are my selections:

  • Bud Wilkinson -- The father of modern Oklahoma football and a pretty good football analyst during my youth. He set the school record with 145 victories, including an NCAA FBS record 47-game winning streak from 1953 through 1957.
  • Barry Switzer -- The lovable rogue who perfected the wishbone offense with scores of great Texas expatriates. It helped him finish with 157 career triumphs, three national championships and a share of every Big Eight title from 1973 to 1980.
  • Bob Stoops -- The most successful coach in Big 12 history has claimed six Big 12 titles, including an unprecedented current streak of three straight championships. Recent BCS title games haven't been kind to him, but he still claimed the 2000 national championship in only his second season as the Sooners' head coach.
  • Billy Sims -- He still makes Heisman Trophy presentations a lively affair, particularly when an Oklahoma player wins the award. He won the Heisman in 1978 and finished second the following season, leading the nation in rushing and scoring in both seasons.

I had many potential nominees for the Oklahoma football Rushmore. A case could be made for Bennie Owen, Billy Vessels, Tommy McDonald, Jerry Tubbs, Bob Kalsu, the Selmon Brothers, Brian Bosworth, Tony Casillas, Prentice Gautt, Granville Liggins, Keith Jackson, Roy Williams, Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Josh Heupel, Adrian Peterson and Jason White.

I could go on and on.

And if he has another Heisman-winning season, it might be especially hard to argue with that Sam Bradford fellow, too.

Anybody I've forgotten, or grossly underrated or overrated?  

ASA list dotted with broadcasters linked to Big 12

January, 15, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I came across an interesting list of the top 50 broadcasters in history, which was released earlier this week by the American Sportscasters Association. And by my count, at least 12 of the selections had some connection at one point in their careers with Big 12 football or earlier derivations of Big 12 schools in previous conferences.

The most notable inclusions are two announcers who made much of their livelihood broadcasting college football over the years. Keith Jackson of ABC Sports was listed as No. 8 in the poll. He provided a homey, traditionalist feel that really matched the sport. During his career, he often broadcast games from the old Big Eight and Southwest conferences. He punctuated his career with the broadcast of the memorable 2006 Rose Bowl national championship game between Texas and USC.

The late Chris Schenkel was listed at No. 25. He was the voice of NCAA Football when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s. I still remember his broadcast of the legendary game between Nebraska and Oklahoma in 1971. And I feel fortunate that I've got a battered VHS tape of that game somewhere buried in my personal effects.

And current ABC-ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger is listed at No. 44. He broadcasts most key Big 12 games and was at the conference's championship game in Kansas City last month. Although he's worked almost every sport during his career, college football seems to be a special passion for him.

Here's a look at the members of the top 50 with links to the Big 12 schools during their careers.

  • Curt Gowdy (No. 4) -- Broadcast Oklahoma A&M and Oklahoma football and basketball games before leaving for the New York Yankees and other assignments.
  • Keith Jackson (No. 8) -- Longtime voice of ABC's NCAA football.
  • Jack Buck (No. 11) -- Occasionally called Missouri football games while working at KMOX radio in St. Louis.
  • Ted Husing (No. 12) -- Broadcast college football games on CBS radio in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Harry Caray (No. 18) -- Occasionally served as play-by-play announcer for Missouri in the 1960s.
  • Bill Stern (No. 20) -- Prime radio voice for college football on NBC Radio in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Chris Schenkel (No. 25) -- Voice of ABC's college football package in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Ray Scott (No. 28) -- Although more widely known for his work with the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s on CBS, he was a radio play-by-play announcer for Nebraska in the early 1980s.
  • Harry Kalas (No. 41) -- Before becoming the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, worked for the Houston Astros. While there, he called Southwest Conference football games.
  • Brent Musburger (No. 44) -- Still calling Big 12 football games with ABC and ESPN.
  • Pat Summerall (No. 45) -- While more widely known for his NFL broadcasts, he occasionally has called college games, most recently this year's Cotton Bowl.
  • Merle Harmon (No. 46) -- An early play-by-play announcer for Kansas in the early 1950s.

I was a little disappointed that a couple of college football radio voices from back in the day weren't included. Kern Tipps, the legendary Texas broadcaster, deserved inclusion. And while Nebraska broadcaster Lyell Bremser didn't receive much national acclaim, Cornhusker fans still revere his memory and consider him the gold standard in broadcasters. You can still download his voice for telephone ring tones to this day.

Anybody else with a connection to the Big 12 merit entry onto the list? You can rank the top sportscasters yourself here.

Sooners and Cornhuskers hope to rekindle rivalry

October, 30, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It used to be a rivalry that the rest of the college football world noticed.

In the glory days of the Big Eight, Nebraska-Oklahoma was as big as it got. Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne. "Sooner Magic." Keith Jackson's catch. Johnny Rodgers return.

But those days have never seemed further away as the Cornhuskers and Sooners prepare for Saturday's game in Norman.

Now, the Cornhuskers and Sooners appear to be just another cross-divisional rivalry in the Big 12, where much of the mystique of the game has been stripped away because the two teams meet only twice during a four-year period.

Here's a factoid that is rather telling. The Grand Island (Neb.) Independent reported earlier this week that 87 percent of respondents in an unscientific poll conducted by a Nebraska television station voted that the Nebraska-Oklahoma game didn't have as much meaning as before.

The Sporting News came out with a special magazine back in 2001 that commemorated the the rivalry before the matchup between then-No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 3 Nebraska. It's hard to believe something like that would happen today.

And in a sense, that's kind of sad.

Here's an example of how quickly those glory days have been forgotten. Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles said he had never even heard of Rodgers, a transcendent figure who helped the Cornhuskers win the national championship in 1971 with a key punt return against the Sooners in a 35-31 victory that many still call "The Game of the Century."

"No, I'm not familiar," Broyles told the Oklahoman. "That's my bad."

Some of those feelings are understandable, considering the attention span of young players, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

"It's funny how they are," Stoops said. "History is the last two years to them."

The rivalry has had its moments since the Big 12 was formed. Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch wrapped up the 2001 Heisman Trophy by catching a throwback from Mike Stuntz that sealed the Cornhuskers' 20-10 victory that year. Oklahoma claimed the 2006 Big 12 title by beating Nebraska in Kansas City.

Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan touched off a fervor when he referred to Oklahoma fans as "expletive Hillbillies" after Oklahoma's 30-3 victory over the Cornhuskers in Nebraska's last trip to Norman in 2004.

Oklahoma officials are hoping to defuse some of those bad memories by hosting a dinner Friday night where key players from the 1971 game meet again to retell their old war stories. Among those expected to attend are Switzer and Osborne, who still are close today.

In a sense, that relationship matches those of the current head coaches. Stoops and Pelini have been friends since childhood after growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, and attending the same high school, Cardinal Mooney. Pelini served as a member of Stoops' coaching staff in 2004 and the two coaching rivals remain good friends today.

"We've joked that two guys from the south side of Youngstown have ended up coaching in Oklahoma and Nebraska with what the rivalry being what it is," Stoops said. "But this game this week is about a lot more than Bo and I.

"And we're not going to be out there wrestling in the middle of the field. Bo is too young for me."

Oklahoma desperately needs a victory to keep pace with Texas in the South Division. If the Sooners are going to have a chance to defend their conference championship Dec. 6 in Kansas City, they need Texas to lose twice. The Sooners can't afford to drop another game behind the Longhorns with only four games left.

And despite a two-game losing streak to start Big 12 play, the Cornhuskers have played much better in a close loss at Texas Tech and recent victories over Iowa State and Baylor. A ball-control offense has enabled the Cornhuskers average nearly 39 minutes of time of possession during their last three games.

"That's something we've always worked on and will always work on," Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz said. "It doesn't change just because we're facing a big opponent like Oklahoma. We're going to stick to our game plan and what we do best. The time of possession is going to be big, especially to keep that (Oklahoma's) offense off the field."

That strategy has enabled the Cornhuskers to play their way into a tie for the North Division lead, resuscitating bowl hopes and giving some dreamy Nebraska fans hopes of sneaking their way into the title game if Missouri would lose again this season.

"I don't really change who I play or what I do or how I approach it," Pelini said. "I understand we're playing against a heck of a football team. And we need to play our best football, which we still haven't done yet."