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The College Football Hall of Fame covers the entire field every year -- every conference, every position, an all-time coach or two. They're all a given. Even with those parameters as givens, the 2010 class is notable. The generations mix. There are names we recognize, names we used to recognize and names that our parents may have recognized. Read about these 12 players and two coaches, and you'll have snapshots of college football dating back a half-century. That's exactly what the mission of a Hall of Fame should be.
Here a quick look at the College Football Hall of Fame's class of 2010:
In 118 seasons of football, North Carolina State has retired one number on defense. Tackle Dennis Byrd wore No. 77 on the "White Shoes" defense that led the Wolfpack to one ACC title (1965) and two second-place finishes (1966-67). The 1967 team throttled No. 2 Houston 16-6, and climbed to No. 3 in the polls before losing its last two regular-season games. Byrd, the first three-time All-ACC player, made the 50th anniversary all-conference team in 2003.
Ronnie Caveness, a high school star in Houston, did the unthinkable in 1961: He went to play for Frank Broyles in Arkansas. Broyles knew how to judge talent. As a junior, Caveness started as a center/linebacker in the one-platoon season of 1963. As a senior, when the NCAA went two-platoon for good, Caveness stuck to defense, leading the Razorbacks to an undefeated season. Not only did he lead Arkansas in tackles for 21 consecutive games, Caveness had career highs of 29 tackles in one game, 87 unassisted stops in one season and 309 tackles over consecutive seasons. Nearly half a century after he graduated, those remain Razorback records.
By the time Texas A&M won three consecutive Southwest Conference championships from 1985-87, defensive lineman Ray Childress had taken his talent for sacks (25 in his career) to the NFL. But Aggies agree Childress lit the fire that fueled Texas A&M's rise. In his senior season of 1984, after the Aggies had lost 28-0 to Arkansas, Childress challenged his teammates and coaches to change. Texas A&M responded by defeating No. 17 TCU 35-21 and No. 13 Texas 37-12 to finish 6-5, its first winning record in three seasons under coach Jackie Sherrill. The rest made Aggie history.
You don't win championships without players like UCLA offensive lineman Randy Cross. In 1975, Cross anchored a team that rebounded from a three-touchdown loss to Ohio State in October to trounce the No. 1 Buckeyes 23-10 in a Rose Bowl rematch. That team had offensive stars such as quarterback John Sciarra and running back Wendell Tyler, both of whom leaned heavily on Cross. He started every game in that 9-2-1 season and finished it as an All-American with a Rose Bowl ring.
The legend has grown that USC fullback Sam Cunningham personally integrated the state of Alabama when he rushed for three touchdowns in a 42-21 Trojans victory over Alabama in 1970. Whether true or not, the legend has directed attention away from just how good a football player "Sam Bam" was. Cunningham had the skills for tailback, but he blocked so well coach John McKay made him a fullback. He rushed for four touchdowns in the 1973 Rose Bowl, which clinched the national championship for one of the best teams of all time.
What Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann might have achieved in today's passing offenses could make a grown Boilermaker weep. At a time when the power ground game reigned supreme, no one threw the ball like Herrmann. By the time he finished his four-year career as a starter in 1980, Herrmann set then-NCAA career records for passing yards (9,946) and completions (772) and took Purdue to four bowls. Alas, none of them were played in Pasadena. That might have been why he had two top-10 Heisman finishes but neither was higher than fourth place.
Before Steve Spurrier revolutionized the SEC with the passing game in the 1990s, he took Duke to the ACC title in 1989. Look no farther than wide receiver Clarkston Hines for an example of what Spurrier could do. If Hines had been bigger than 6-foot-1 and 170, he might not have ended up playing for Duke. Once a Blue Devil, Hines learned how to find open space in the secondary. Of Hines' 189 career receptions, 38 went for touchdowns. In other words, one of every five catches he made ended with him handing the ball to an official. The two-time All-American is Duke's first Hall of Fame honoree in 20 years.
Desmond Howard of Michigan is remembered for one pose at the end of his career: He made like the Heisman in the end zone against Ohio State, shortly before he won the trophy in 1991. The Hall of Fame membership serves as a spotlight on everything that came before the pose. Howard became a dominating offensive player at wide receiver, which isn't easy to do. 1n 1991, his junior (and last) season with the Wolverines, Howard led the nation in scoring (19 touchdown catches) and kickoff returns. He holds the Big Ten career record for receiving touchdowns (32) to this day.
Navy's Chet Moeller not only proved himself to be one of the best defensive backs in the nation during his career (1973-75); he did so while becoming a second-team Academic All-American and getting an Annapolis education. In three seasons, Moeller averaged 92 tackles per season from the secondary. He also co-captained the 1975 team that went 7-4 under third-year (and future Hall of Fame) coach George Welsh. That Navy team won more games than any Midshipmen squad since the 1963 team that played for the national championship -- and was also the first Navy team to beat Army three years running since the '63 team.
When a recruit backed out of a scholarship offer from national champion LSU before the 1959 season, coach Paul Dietzel gave it to undersized Jerry Stovall. Smart coach, Dietzel. Stovall would become a two-time All-SEC player and an All-American in 1962, his senior season. Leading a team playing for first-year head coach Charlie McClendon, Stovall did, well, just about everything in '62. He played halfback, defensive back, kick returner and punter, won the Walter Camp Award, finished second in Heisman voting and led No. 7 LSU to a 9-1-1 record.
In 2006, the National Football Foundation honored the late Pat Tillman with its Distinguished American Award after he lost his life as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. This year, the Foundation's Hall of Fame reminds everyone that Tillman played exceptional football as linebacker on the best Arizona State teams of the past 25 years (11-1 in 1996, 9-3 in 1997). Tillman substituted speed and brains for size to terrific effect. In 1997, he won the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Award, and also made All-American and Academic All-American teams.
Colorado would not have revived its football program and won the 1990 national championship without linebacker Alfred Williams. It's as simple as that. Williams served as a defensive stalwart, with 59 career tackles for loss and two Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year awards. He became a two-time All-American and the winner of the 1990 Butkus Award. Williams made earned an honorable mention on the school's 100-year team 1½ years before he finished his eligibility. He also served as a prime example of the talent exodus from Texas after scandal rocked the Southwest Conference in the 1980s.
Barry Alvarez didn't just revive University of Wisconsin football; he brought the sport back to life throughout the state. When the coach arrived in Madison in 1990, the Badgers had won nine games in four years. Alvarez's first team went 1-10. His second one went 5-6, breaking a 19-game Big Ten losing streak. His fourth team won the Rose Bowl, going 10-1-1. Alvarez's Badgers won three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowls. His 8-3 record in bowl games indicated he knew how to win the tough ones. In 16 seasons, Alvarez coached a Heisman winner (Ron Dayne, 1999), a Jim Thorpe winner (Jamar Fletcher, 2000) and 20 first-team All-Americans.
When Alabama hired Gene Stallings for the 1990 season, seven seasons and two head coaches had come and gone since the death of the legendary Paul Bryant. Stallings had been away from the college game for nearly 20 years. But having played and coached for Bryant, Stallings became the first post-Bear coach at Alabama who could live with the legend and even thrive in its shadow. After seven years of famine at Texas A&M (1965-71), Stallings feasted for seven years with the Crimson Tide. His teams won four SEC West titles and, in one of the biggest upsets of recent times, embarrassed Miami 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl to clinch the 1992 national championship.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.