Counting down Nebraska’s top 25 football players: Nos. 5-1

Counting down Nebraska’s top 25 football players: Nos. 5-1

Editor’s note: In June 1917, the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives invited Michigan back into the league, increasing membership to 10 and eventually spawning the iconic “Big Ten” nickname. One hundred years later, Land of 10 will spend the summer looking at the history of America’s legendary conference and its teams.

Nebraska became an official member of the Big Ten on July 1, 2011. At the time, the Huskers were the 12th member of the conference and a part of the Legends Division. Six years later, Nebraska is a full-fledged member of the conference, part of the Big Ten’s West Division, and one of 14 conference members.

As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Big Ten, Land of 10 is unveiling its top 25 players in Nebraska history. Players were evaluated solely on their on-field performance at Nebraska.

In this installment, we release the fifth set of the countdown: Nos. 5-1. Coming Wednesday — the honorable mentions.

Commentary provided by Land of 10 Nebraska writers Erin Sorensen and Chris Heady.

Prior reports in our countdown: 25-21 | 20-16 | 15-11 | 10-6

5. Grant Wistrom

Erin: Defensive end Grant Wistrom is arguably one of the best defensive players in Nebraska history. By the end of his Huskers career, he compiled a 49-2 record and won three national titles (1994, ’95 and ’97) during that time.

Wistrom was a captain his senior year and finished the season with 51 tackles. That included 8 1/2 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

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Wistrom was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the first round (No. 6 overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft. His No. 98 jersey was also retired that year.

Chris: Wistrom lands at No. 5 for one simple reason: He was a winner. If there was an award, or a game, for Wistrom to win in a Nebraska uniform, he pretty much won it.

Wistrom also won the Lombardi Award (given to the nation’s best defensive lineman or linebacker), was a two-time All-American, two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year.

He remains known as one of the best pass rushers in history.

4. Johnny Rodgers

Chris: Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers set pretty much every record in the book for the Huskers in the 1970s.

To this day, Rodgers holds the record for most receiving yards in a season, most touchdown receptions in a career and consecutive games with a reception. The 1972 Heisman Trophy winner was a dynamic return man, and was nearly impossible to take down in the open field. He finished his career with a 5.7 yards-per-carry average, a 17.3 yards-per-catch average and 15.5 yards-per-punt-return average.

Erin: One of the most memorable moments in Nebraska history is Rodgers’ 72-yard punt return in 1971. It was the first score in Nebraska’s 35-31 victory over Oklahoma in the “Game of the Century.”

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He was a two-time first-team All-American, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and was one of six Cornhuskers named to Sports Illustrated’s All-Century Team. Two more of those players are still to come in this countdown.

3. Ndamukong Suh

Erin: A quick glance at Ndamukong Suh’s player profile on highlights why he is one of the best Nebraska players of all-time. The list of his awards and accomplishments is extensive, not only at Nebraska but nationally too. It includes the Guy Chamberlin TrophyBig 12 Defensive Player of the Year, National Defensive Player of the Year and countless others.

As both a junior and senior, Suh led the Huskers in tackles (76 as a junior, 85 as a senior). Also as a senior, he led the team in tackles for loss (24), sacks (12), quarterback hurries (26) and blocked kicks (3).

Chris: One of the most dominating figures in college football history, Suh had a 2009 season to remember. He was named Associated Press College Player of the Year, finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting, won the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy.

Suh might best be known for his performance against Texas in the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game, when he tossed around Texas QB Colt McCoy. Suh racked up 12 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 sacks in that game.

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2. Mike Rozier

Chris: If we could, we’d put Mike Rozier as No. 1A, rather than No. 2. The most dynamic back in Nebraska history and the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, Rozier ran for 4,780 yards at Nebraska, including 49 rushing touchdowns.

His 1983 season was one for the ages. Rozier ran for 2,148 yards that season, which remains a school record. That season, he averaged an astounding 7.8 yards per carry, and ran for 29 touchdowns.

Rozier ran for 100 or more yards on 26 occasions (a school record) including seven 200-plus-yard games. Rozier once ran for 230 yards in a half (vs. Kansas, 1983). He ran for 100 or more yards in 11 straight games, including four straight 200-yard games.

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Erin: Rozier truly rewrote the scoring and rushing record books for Nebraska. His senior season also made quite the dent in the Big Eight and NCAA record books. At the end of his collegiate career, he was drafted by both the USFL (first pick overall) and the NFL (second pick overall in the supplemental draft).

Rozier was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

1.  Tommie Frazier

Erin: “Look at Tommie Frazier. How many tackles can one man break?”

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The answer to that question for quarterback Tommie Frazier might as well be all of them. Frazier solidified himself in Nebraska history in the mid-1990s, earning all kinds of awards and honors for his on-field performances. While he did not win the Heisman Trophy, many believe he was snubbed. Even without that hardware, he’ll forever be one of the best players in not only Nebraska history but also college football history.

Chris: The leader of arguably the best team in college football history in 1995, Frazier helped Nebraska become truly dominant in the 1990s.

The option quarterback was 31-1 in regular-season games as the starter and 33-3 overall. He was nearly impossible to game-plan for because of the threat he provided in the ground game and with his arm.

Frazier won the starting job midseason as a true freshman, the first to do so in school history. That season, Nebraska won the Big Eight under Frazier’s lead.

In 1993, Frazier started all 11 games and scored a total of 21 touchdowns. He led the Huskers to their first undefeated regular season since 1983.

In 1994, Frazier missed most of the season because of a blood clot, appearing in just four games. He did, however, return for the 1995 Orange Bowl and led Nebraska to two come-from-behind touchdowns in the fourth quarter, helping the Cornhuskers win 24-17.

In 1995, Frazier capped off his career with a 12-0 record. He rushed for 604 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, plus added 1,362 passing yards and 17 touchdowns.

He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1995, losing to Eddie George. He was named first-team All-American, Sporting News Player of the Year and first-team All-Big Eight.


Disagree? Who would you rank as the top 25 players in history?

Provide your poll below, and we’ll publish the results soon.

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