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. 9 — our second Texas A&M player, both on defense:
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When Dat Nguyen signed with Texas A&M out of Rockport, TX, few could have predicted the level of football excellence he would bring to College Station over the next four years.
Nguyen was named Southwest Conference defensive newcomer of the year as a freshman in 1995, then after the SWC folded into the Big 12, he earned All-Big 12 honors three years in a row.
He’s the only player in school history to lead the Aggies in tackles all four seasons, and his senior year was remarkable: Big 12 defensive player of the year, consensus All-America, Bednarik Award winner (best defensive player in the nation), and the Lombardi Award (best lineman). He was runner-up for the Butkus Award (top linebacker) — by one vote.
Nguyen is widely regarded as the best defensive player in A&M history, that was recognized in 2017 when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame — only the third Big 12 player to earn a bust in Atlanta, joining Grant Wistrom (2009) and Mark Simoneau (2012).
He was a third-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1999 — the first Vietnamese-American player elected in the NFL Draft — and had a great pro career when healthy. Nguyen played seven seasons in the NFL, all with Dallas, and each year he wasn’t injured, Nguyen recorded more than 100 tackles. He also had 17 takeaways in his Cowboys career.
- No. 10: Roy Williams
- No. 11: Kyler Murray
- 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