There have been thousands of players who’ve put on the pads and jerseys over the course of 150 years in college football, with each leaving their own imprint on the game.
Some people’s contributions are minor while others are major, with a select few becoming an icon of the game itself.
An even more exclusive group was announced on Monday night at the National Championship game at the Superdome in Louisiana in conjunction with the sesquicentennial of the college sport. While they haven’t been in the title conversation for a long time, Illinois was well represented on this most exclusive list.
At halftime, ESPN announced that Illini legends Dick Butkus and Red Grange were named to the Top 11 list for the last 150 years in college football. That made Illinois the only school with two players on the list, with Grange coming in at No. 6 and Butkus No. 8.
Illinois was the only school to have multiple players on the list.
Jim Brown (RB, Syracuse, 1954-56)
Herschel Walker (RB, Georgia, 1980-82)
Bo Jackson (RB, Auburn, 1982-85)
Archie Griffin (RB, Ohio State, 1972-75)
Jim Thorpe (RB, Carlisle, 1907-12)
Red Grange (RB, Illinois, 1923-25)
Earl Campbell (RB, Texas, 1974-77)
Dick Butkus (LB, Illinois, 1962-64)
Barry Sanders (RB, Oklahoma State, 1986-88)
Gale Sayers (RB, Kansas, 1962-64)
Roger Staubach (QB, Navy, 1962-64)
One of the most iconic players in the history of the game who aided in the birth of the modern college and pro football game with his exploits on the field, Grange was a three-time All-American at Illinois. The Wheaton native famously scored accounted for six touchdowns against Michigan in the Memorial Stadium dedication on October 18,1924, which is regarded as one of the greatest athletic moments in the history of the university.
After winning the first-ever Silver Football Award as Big Ten MVP, the “Galloping Ghost” went onto have a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears.
A native of Chicago, Butkus was an elite player for the Illini at two different positions from 1962-1964 as he played center as well as his iconic linebacker position. He was the Big Ten MVP in 1963 and in 1964 finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, the highest in Illinois history, while also being an All-Big Ten selection in both seasons.
Butkus helped the Illini to the Big Ten championship in 1963 and their last victory in the Rose Bowl over Washington on January 1, 1964, with Butkus coming up with an interception and fumble recovery.