These lists are not mere compilations of all-time bests in their respective sports but all-time bests at quickening the pulse and evoking a visceral response from those fortunate enough to have witnessed their artistry.
10. Lawrence Taylor, North CarolinaBefore he lit it up on Broadway, LT was the scourge of the ACC. Arguably the most ferocious pass rusher in college football history, he led North Carolina to an 11-1 record in 1980, amassing 16 sacks despite almost never being single-blocked.
9. Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, ArmyWhile leading Army to three straight undefeated seasons and two national titles (1945 and '46), Mssrs. Inside and Outside formed the most storied backfield pairing in the history of the college game. They combined for 97 touchdowns and took turns winning the Heisman: Blanchard in 1945, Davis in 1946.
8. Reggie Bush, USCDON'T swarm to the ball, one Pac-10 defensive coordinator told his players. Stay in your lanes, the better to neutralize Bush's radical cutbacks. The quicksilver escape artist started just 14 of his 39 games at 'SC, but amassed, in three seasons, 6,541 total yards -- 10th best in NCAA history. He also threw the most infamous illegal block in college football history. Remember the Bush Push? Notre Dame does.
7. Red Grange, IllinoisAfter watching the Galloping Ghost single-handedly take apart Michigan in 1924 -- Grange took the opening kickoff back 95 yards, then scored on runs of 67, 56 and 44 yards, all in the first 12 minutes -- Grantland Rice was inspired to verse. A sampler:
"A rubber bounding, blasting soul/Whose destination is the goal."
Grange's play? Immortal. Rice's poem? Not so much.
6. Doug Flutie, Boston CollegeThe day after Thanksgiving in 1984, Flutie seared himself into the national consciousness by outdueling Miami's Bernie Kosar, snatching victory from the 'Canes in the last-minute with a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Gerard Phelan -- a play which did not, contrary to popular belief -- clinch the Heisman for him. Yes, the Little General won that year's Heisman. But the votes were in before that day's game.
5. Tim Tebow, FloridaWhether he's uncorking a beautiful deep ball or lowering his shoulder in short yardage or sealing a national championship with a fourth-quarter jump pass, The Chosen One has been a veritable thrill merchant. And he's still got one more season in Gainesville.
4. Herschel Walker, GeorgiaCombining Earl Campbell's brute strength with O.J.'s top-end speed, No. 34 electrified the SEC from the first game of his freshman season. Playing with a dislocated left shoulder in the 1981 Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame, he rushed for 150 yards and both of the Bulldogs' TDs in a 17-10 win that clinched Georgia's sole national title since 1946.
3. Dick Butkus, IllinoisMore than the numbers (he once recorded 23 tackles in a game against Ohio State); more than the honors (consensus All-America in 1963 and '64, after which he placed third in the Heisman balloting), it was Butkus' passion and cruel intensity -- the pleasure he took from the mayhem he meted out -- that set the standard for every middle linebacker to come after him.
2. Earl Campbell, TexasThe Tyler Rose rushed for 4,443 yards -- the bulk of them at the expense of defenders he head-butted or stiff-armed or trampled underfoot. The two-time All America and 1977 Heisman winner was, according to Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, "the greatest player who ever suited up."
1. Vince Young, TexasEven before his near-miraculous, national-title-clinching performance in the '06 Rose Bowl (VY passed for 267 yards and rushed for an even 200, including a game-winning, nine-yard scramble with 19 seconds remaining), the rangy dual-threat QB specialized in leading outrageous, you-cannot-be-serious comebacks: from 28 points down against Oklahoma State in 2004; from 10 down against Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl, after which he had the prescience to promise, "We'll be back!"
Agree or disagree with Murphy's selections? Weigh in here.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.