Before they began careers in coaching, the SEC’s 14 head coaches were once young, aspiring college football players themselves. For many those playing days are long forgotten, but we’re looking back to the days the SEC’s head men strapped on the pads and took the field as players.

Which current coaches had the best careers as players? We’ve ranked their playing careers to answer that very question:

14. Hugh Freeze: Freeze did not play college football, but instead earned a math degree from Southern Miss while minoring in coaching and sports administration.

13. Butch Jones: Jones played three years of college football at Division II Ferris State, where he was a two-year letterman. He interned for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while playing college ball, which led to the start of his coaching career.

12. Gus Malzahn: The current Auburn coach was once a walk-on wide receiver at Arkansas from 1984-85. He then transferred to Henderson State, where he played for three more years from 1987-89.

11. Nick Saban: Saban was a defensive back at Kent State for two seasons from 1970-71 and was teammates with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel during that time. He began his coaching career at Kent State as a grad assistant in 1972.

10. Jim McElwain: The Gators’ new head coach spent four years playing quarterback for Eastern Washington from 1980-83 before launching his coaching career at EWU when his playing days came to an end.

9. Mark Richt: The Dawgs’ longtime head coach spent four years as a backup quarterback at Miami (Fla.), and while he did not accomplish a tremendous amount on the field during his playing days, he did have the opportunity to backup Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

8. Derek Mason: Mason spent four years playing cornerback at Northern Arizona from 1989-92, serving as a starter his final two years in school.

7. Gary Pinkel: Missouri’s longtime head coach was a tight end at Kent State from 1970-73, where he was teammates with Saban and roommates with Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert. Pinkel’s playing career was nothing special, but his association with those two men before all three became household names is rather remarkable.

6. Les Miles: At this point we all know Miles is a “Michigan man” from his association with previous coaching vacancies at UM, and his Michigan ties date back to his playing career for legendary coach Bo Schembechler. Miles was a star offensive lineman for two years in 1974-75, lettering both years. He didn’t begin his coaching career for another five years, but would return to Michigan to begin that path as well in 1980.

5. Dan Mullen: Mullen played tight end at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania from 1992-93, lettering both years. As a senior, he was named first-team All-Centennial Conference.

4. Mark Stoops: After growing up the son of a coach in the football hotbed of Youngstown, Ohio, Stoops went on to play defensive back at Iowa under legendary head coach Hayden Fry from 1986-89. He appeared in four bowl games as a Hawkeye and  upon graduating began his coaching career at Iowa as a graduate assistant.

3. Bret Bielema: The passionate Arkansas head coach also played his college ball at Iowa under Fry, and in four seasons as the team’s nose guard from 1989-92, Bielema logged 83 tackles (12 for loss) to go along with two sacks. When his college playing career came to an end, he spent one year playing arena football before beginning his coaching career.

2. Kevin Sumlin: The current Aggies coach was once a four-year starting linebacker for the Purdue Boilermakers from 1983-86. He recorded 375 career tackles including 91 as a junior in 1983, and was college teammates of future Pro Football Hall of Famers Rod Woodson and Jim Everett.

1. Steve Spurrier: Was there ever a question as to who would finish atop these rankings? Spurrier served as quarterback of the Florida Gators from 1963-66, was a two-time first-team All-American in 1965-66 and the winner of the 1966 Heisman Trophy. He was the third overall selection in the 1967 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, for which he spent 10 years as a backup quarterback and punter. He quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers his final year in the league before beginning his career in coaching. In 1986 Spurrier was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in honor of his illustrious playing career at UF.