- David Ubben, College Football
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We've spent two weeks counting it down, and we're finally at the top. It's been quite a ride, but it's time to bring our list to a close. We'll tackle the list of guys who just missed the list sometime next week, but without further ado, here's my pick for the greatest player in the Big 12 history.
Here's more on my criteria.
No. 1: Vince Young, QB, Texas
Why he's No. 1: No player in Big 12 history was more singularly responsible for a national title. Texas had a strong team in 2005, but Vince Young's run through that season made history. Before Young, no quarterback had ever thrown for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards. On the way to a national title, Young threw for 3,036 and 26 touchdowns, adding 1,050 rushing yards and 12 scores. A few others have achieved the feat since, but it was unheard of before Young, who finished his career with an absurd 30-2 record as a starting quarterback. That record included six fourth-quarter comebacks and the greatest BCS title game performance ever by an individual.
Against USC's so-called "Greatest Team Ever," Young racked up 267 passing yards and 200 rushing yards, capped by a game-winning scramble on fourth down to put the Longhorns ahead, 41-38, and end the Trojans' 34-game winning streak. It's the last time a non-SEC team won a national title, and Young's development as a passer that season helped Texas reach new heights. He rushed for 1,000 yards in 2004 on the way to a Rose Bowl win against Michigan, but threw for just 1,849 yards and 12 touchdowns. He helped carry Texas to a 24-1 record in 2004 and 2005 combined, the fewest losses in any two-year stretch of Mack Brown's career. Even as far back as 2003, his redshirt freshman year, he rushed for 998 yards and took over the starting job in the middle of the season, going 6-1.
Young never won a Heisman Trophy, but did win the Davey O'Brien Trophy and the Maxwell Award in 2005. The lack of membership in that hallowed college football fraternity is nothing more than a footnote in the career of the greatest Big 12 player of all-time.