As the Big 12 Conference ramps up its 25th football season, it’s a good time to look back through the league’s illustrious history and identify the best football players ever to suit up.
It was a daunting task to rank players from 14 schools over 24 seasons. Some schools, of course, didn’t participate in all 24 years.
Rather than select an all-time All-Big 12 team — we’ll endeavor to pull that off after the 25th season has concluded — publishers from SI affiliates who currently cover the Big 12 were asked to vote on their top 25 players.
Players were judged on both their college careers and their professional football exploits. National awards, championships and individual achievement were all considered.
In all, nearly 50 players received votes. Only 10 players were unanimous selections.
With that, the countdown continues with No. 12 — our first Nebraska Cornhusker:
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Grant Wistrom’s Nebraska teams went 49-2 and won three national championships — including 1997 in the Big 12 Conference — and epitomized the classic Blackshirts defense.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Wistrom grew up in Joplin, MO, and played high school football in Webb City, then became a star in Lincoln.
Wistrom was two-time consensus All-America, was the Big 12’s inaugural defensive player of the year in 1996, and in 1997 won the Vince Lombardi Award as the nation’s best college lineman. He was also a two-time first-team Academic All-American.
In 2009, Wistrom became the first Big 12 player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (there are currently only five).
After being taken sixth overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 1998 NFL Draft, Wistrom played nine seasons in the NFL (six in St. Louis, three in Seattle) and compiled 53 quarterback sacks to go with 409 total tackles.
According to Spotrac, Wistrom earned almost $38 million in the NFL, including $20 million in signing bonuses.
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