10 best college football players from Mississippi
We recently took a look at the state’s 10 greatest NFL players.
Today, we step back a little in time. These are 10 of the greatest college players from the Magnolia State. Most of them stayed home, but not all.
10. Bruiser Kinard, Ole Miss
Frank Kinard could have as easily been labeled “Ironman.” Ole Miss’s first All-American tackle played 708 of 720 possible minutes for the Rebels in 1936. Kinard was named first-team All-SEC and first-team All-American in 1936 and 1937. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and is a charter member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (1961). Brooklyn drafted Kinard in the third round of the 1938 NFL Draft. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 as part of a class that included Jim Brown, Vince Lombardi and Y.A. Tittle.
9. Johnie Cooks, Mississippi State
Leland’s own Johnie Cooks wore No. 98 but he was the No. 1 guy every offense had to scheme. In four seasons at Mississippi State, the 6-4, 243-pound linebacker amassed 373 tackles, 241 of them solo. He had 24 tackles against Auburn as a junior and was named All-SEC four times. Cooks was the Defensive MVP of the 1981 Hall of Fame Bowl, a 10-0 win against Kansas in Birmingham and was named All-American. Baltimore took Cooks No. 2 overall in the 1982 NFL Draft.
8. Brett Favre, Southern Miss
The Kiln native was slinging it around the yard before he got to Green Bay. His sophomore and junior seasons at Southern Miss produced 4,859 yards and 30 touchdowns. Southern Miss was the lone college football offer Favre received and the Eagles wanted him on defense. His game-winning drive to beat No. 6 Florida State as a junior put him on the map after a pressured throw to Anthony Harris to beat the Seminoles with 23 seconds to play. Atlanta took Favre in the second round of the 1991 NFL draft.
7. Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss
It didn’t take long for Deuce to get lose and become Ole Miss legend. From Morton High, McAllister ran for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore in 1998. In 1999, he finished with 930 yards and 13 touchdowns on 44 fewer carries than his previous season, as well as 715 kick return yards and a touchdown. As a senior, McAllister rushed for 767 yards and 18 touchdowns, capping three consecutive seasons with 1,000 all-purpose yards for the Rebels and was the No. 23 pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.
6. Jerry Rice, Miss. Valley State
From the tiny town of Crawford, Jerry Rice rose to fame at Mississippi Valley State. He had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at Valley from 1982-84 – 1,113 as a sophomore. His junior year produced 102 catches for 1,450 yards and 14 touchdowns, then 103 catches for 1,683 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. He finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting that season (with three first-place votes) and was the No. 16 pick in the 1985 NFL Draft.
5. Walter Payton, Jackson State
From Columbia High School, “Sweetness” got the nickname at Jackson State where he ran for 1,139 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior and 1,029 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior. He drew recognition as a sophomore after rushing for seven touchdowns and 279 yards against Lane College. He was the fourth overall pick in the 1975 draft and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
4. Steve McNair, Alcorn State
The greatest football player to suit up for Alcorn State is hardly debatable. Mt. Olive High’s “Air McNair” threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns as a freshman, giving national attention to the Braves. He threw for 3,541 and 29 touchdowns as a sophomore and rushed for another 516 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead the Braves to their first SWAC title. McNair finished third in the 1994 Heisman voting (with 111 first-place votes), but won his fourth straight SWAC Offensive Player of the Year honor after passing for 5,377 yards and 49 touchdowns.
He remains the all-time FCS leader in total yards (16,823). In four years, he totaled 14,496 passing yards, 2,327 rushing yards and 152 total touchdowns.
3. Doc Blanchard, Army
Blanchard led South Mississippi’s St. Stanislaus to an undefeated season in 1941. In his first season at Army in 1944, Blanchard wasted no time getting recognition. He rushed for 335 yards and five touchdowns, averaged 6.7 yards from scrimmage and scored eight total touchdowns, finishing third in Heisman voting.
Tabbed “Mr. Inside” along with “Mr. Outside” backfield mate Glenn Davis (1944 Heisman winner), the duo led Army to a 27-0-1 mark in three seasons, the lone tie to Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in November 1946.
In 1945, Blanchard became the first junior to win the Heisman after rushing for 718 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry according to the New York Times. Blanchard also punted, kicked off and played linebacker. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959.
2. Archie Manning, Ole Miss
Before he was known as Peyton and Eli’s dad, Archie Manning became Ole Miss folklore. From Drew High School, Manning completed 58.1 percent of his 265 passes in 1969 and finished fourth in Heisman voting.
He finished third in 1970 after throwing for 1,481 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Rebels. His best passing season was in 1969 when he threw for 1,762 yards and nine touchdowns and had a QBR of 118.4. That season, he also rushed for 502 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Manning, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
1. Hugh Green, Pittsburgh
Green’s name gets lost among the offensive giants but the former Natchez High star was a terror at Pittsburgh. In four seasons, he amassed 460 total tackles, 52 for loss and 53 sacks. He accounted for nearly 400 lost yards and forced 24 fumbles. Green was unblockable.
He finished second in the Heisman voting in 1980, behind South Carolina’s George Rogers and ahead of Georgia’s freshman sensation, Herschel Walker.
His 1980 team finished 11-1 and No. 2 in the country and featured a sophomore quarterback named Dan Marino.
Green was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and voted the fifth best college football player of all time by collegefootballnews.com.
The No. 7 overall NFL draft pick in 1981, Green won the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Lombardi Awards at Pitt and was named Sporting News and UPI Player of the Year.
Cover photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics.