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. 11 — our third Oklahoma quarterback:
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Kyler Murray only had one year as a starting quarterback in the Big 12 Conference, and he’s had only one year in the NFL so far, but voters thought so much of Murray they ranked him No. 11 in the countdown.
Murray was arguably the best quarterback in the history of Texas high school football — he’s inarguably the most successful, with a 43-0 career record and three state championships — but his freshman year at Texas A&M was a roller-coaster — the kind with a lot of dark, dank tunnels.
When Murray saw the kind of success former Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield was having in Norman under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, Murray gave Riley a call, and he was on his way to Oklahoma.
Murray planned to sit out the 2016 season as a redshirt transfer, but Mayfield, a former walk-on, was granted his fourth year of eligibility, so Murray was made to wait another year. He was OU’s backup during Mayfield’s Heisman season in 2017, and when he finally got his shot in 2018, he made the most of it.
Murray threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He reset Mayfield’s school and NCAA record for passer efficiency (199.2) and also rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns while winning the Big 12 Conference and leading the Sooners back to the College Football Playoff.
Murray had been the first-round pick of the Oakland A’s in June of 2018, but when the NFL came calling, he had to consider a career in professional football. When the Arizona Cardinals made Murray the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Murray became the first athlete ever to be drafted in the first round by two major American professional sports.
He won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award last season by throwing for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. Under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, Murray completed 64.4 percent of his passes and also ran for 544 yards and four TDs.
- No. 12: Grant Wistrom
- No. 13: Von Miller
- No. 14 (tie): Justin Blackmon, Tommie Harris
- No. 16: Terence Newman
- No. 17: Jeremy Maclin
- No. 18-21 (tie): Sam Bradford, Ryan Broyles, CeeDee Lamb, DeMarco Murray
- No. 22-23 (tie): Rashaun Woods, Earl Thomas
- No. 24: Tavon Austin
- No. 25 (tie): Robert Griffin III, Patrick Mahomes & Jason White
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