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. But players from the original Big 12 (including Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M) had the same opportunity to earn a spot as players from the new Big 12 members (TCU and West Virginia).
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.
Today, the countdown continues with No. 22 — another tie:
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Earl Thomas is still hitting people. And Rashaun Woods is still open.
Those two Big 12 legends come up tied in the vote for No. 22 in the SI Sooners Big 12’s Top 25 players.
Woods was a two-time All-American at Oklahoma State, where he caught 293 passes for 4,414 yards and 42 touchdowns — all Big 12 records at the time he graduated. He also holds the NCAA record with seven touchdown catches in one game, set against SMU in Dallas.
Woods, from Oklahoma City, became famous after catching a game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds to lift 4-7 OSU over No. 4-ranked Oklahoma and knocking the Sooners out of the national championship chase in 2001.
But while seven TDs at SMU was nice, Woods’ crowing achievement was a 10-catch, 226-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Sooners in Stillwater in 2002 — a performance so sublime, a generation of Cowboy fans still utter the phrase that darkens Sooner moods: Rashaun Woods is still open.
Woods was a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, but his pro career was cut short by multiple injuries. His only official year in the NFL was 2004 (he caught seven passes for 160 yards and a TD), and he had brief stays with the Chargers, Broncos and Vikings before giving NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League a shot. He’s now a high school football coach in Oklahoma.
Thomas, from Orange, TX, earned freshman All-American accolades in 2008 and All-Big 12 honors as a cornerback in 2009 in helping Texas to the BCS National Championship Game (a loss to Alabama that started both the Tide’s climb and the Longhorns’ descent).
But then he went to the NFL and became an elite free safety — a seven-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro with the Seattle Seahawks.
Thomas earned a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s, and in 2013, was a key players in. Seattle’s 43-8 victory over Denver in Super Bowl 48.
According to Spotrac, Thomas has made $78 million during his 10-year career, and is on schedule to earn more than $110 million under his current contract with the Baltimore Ravens through 2022.
- No. 24: Tavon Austin
- No. 25 (tie): Robert Griffin III, Patrick Mahomes & Jason White
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