SDS Roundtable: Which SEC program has the best pro sports duo?
Each SDS roundtable discussion involves the SDS staff providing individual answers and comments to questions covering a wide range of sports and non-sports topics. In this discussion, we ask the question: Pick any pro sport from any era. Pick one player per sport. Which SEC program has the best duo?
Previous roundtable discussions:
- If you could change 1 thing about college football, what would it be?
- What are you watching right now?
- Who is your favorite SEC football player of all-time?
- What are your 3 favorite postseason moments involving SEC teams?
- Which 4 SEC athletes are on your Mount Rushmore?
- What is your most painful sports memory?
- The greatest team I ever saw …
- Which school’s all-time position group is the best in SEC history?
- Who are your way-too-early picks to make the College Football Playoff?
- If and when the SEC expands, which 2 teams should it add?
- Who is your pick to win the SEC East, SEC West in 2020?
- Who is your favorite player from every SEC program?
- Who is your favorite SEC personality to follow on Twitter?
A bit of background …
Saints coach Sean Payton recently posed this question on Twitter.
— Sean Payton (@SeanPayton) April 9, 2020
Any sport? I'll roll with McEnroe and Tiger.
— Chris Wright (@CWrightSDS) April 9, 2020
It’s a great topic, so we borrowed it and adapted it to SEC programs …
Neil Blackmon, Florida columnist
Let’s not overcomplicate this.
Emmitt Smith is the all-time leading rusher in the history of the National Football League, the most popular professional sports league in the United States. At worst — and I mean in the light most favorable to the other guys — Emmitt is the 3rd-best running back in the history of the NFL, behind Sweetness and Barry Sanders.
Longevity matters. Toughness matters. Championships matter. Smith had longevity, as his carrer, which spanned a staggering 15 seasons, proved. He had toughness, playing most his final season at Florida with a sprained knee and, as his separated shoulder performance against the Giants — in a game on artificial turf no less — demonstrated, never afraid to play hurt. He also won championships. Plenty of them. Say what you will about his supporting cast — the Cowboys weren’t the Cowboys without Emmitt.
Putting the NFL’s all-tme leading rusher on the board basically means Florida can take on any comer in a pro sports duo.
And that’s before you get to Abby Wambach. A national champion and a 4-time All-American at Florida (yes, 4-time All-American), Wambach went on to play nearly two decades of professional soccer, most notably with the U.S. Women’s National Team, which is without argument the best team in the world. Wambach scored 184 goals– 184!!! — in her 255 appearances for the USWNT.
She was national team captain in over 50 matches, among the highest of all time. She won US Soccer Athlete of the Year 6 times (still the U.S. record) and was the first soccer player ever, man or woman, to win AP Sportsperson of the Year, which she did in 2011. She was also the second American to win FIFA World Player of the Year (Mia Hamm) when she did that in 2012. Finally, she was co-captain of a World Cup champion in 2015.
Her dominance at the forward position in women’s soccer is unparalleled — a freakish blend of technique and power — and she’s without question one of the 5 best American players to ever walk the Earth.
Coupled with Emmitt, Florida wins this challenge handily.
Michael Bratton, News editor
Reggie White retired from the NFL long ago, but I’ve still never seen a move as dominant on the football field than his “hump move” that he would dish out to opponents every Sunday. White finished his NFL career with more sacks (198) than any player in NFL history at the time and he was just as dominant a force against the run.
The Minister of Defense also came up big when it mattered most. After waiting his entire career for a chance to play in the Super Bowl, White sacked New England QB Drew Bledsoe 3 times during Green Bay’s win over the Patriots.
The greatest pass-rush move of all time?
Reggie White's hump move was pretty much unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/1mFaGMAwUO
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) February 18, 2019
Chamique Holdsclaw was the No. 1 overall selection in the 1999 WNBA Draft. She was named Rookie of the Year and went on to be a 6-time WNBA All-Star and won a gold medal during the 2000 Olympic Games. Holdsclaw was so well-regarded coming out of Tennessee that she was even featured on the cover of SLAM magazine in an NBA jersey. To this day, she is the only woman to grace the cover of the magazine.
Adam Spencer, Newsletter editor
The answer is clearly Mizzou. With Chase Daniel making a ton of money as a backup and getting a Super Bowl ring with the Saints to Max Scherzer getting his World Series ring this past year with the Nationals …
OK, I’m kidding.
I’ll go a bit off the board here and make a case for Tennessee. Peyton Manning was one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL, winning 2 Super Bowls (one with the Colts, one with the Broncos). What he accomplished (539 touchdown passes, 71,940 passing yards) is more than any other SEC quarterback has ever accomplished in the pro ranks. Then, I’d add Candace Parker to complete the duo. She was a WNBA champion in 2016, won 2 WNBA MVP awards and has 2 Olympic gold medals to bolster her trophy case. She’s one of the most successful athletes of this generation.
I think Manning/Parker holds up pretty well, even against a Bo Jackson/Frank Thomas duo from Auburn or any other combinations mentioned.
Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist
Adam stole mine. My original thought was Peyton Manning and Candace Parker. I was tempted to go with Shaq and Joe Burrow, but since we’re basing this on pro careers as well, what about Hershel Walker and Dominique Wilkins? Both were must-see TV in both college and in the NFL. Sure, Herschel didn’t have as good of a pro career as Emmitt Smith, but I’d argue it was more productive than people realize. Plus, the college stuff has to count for something, and for my money, nobody on planet earth was better in college.
Poor Dominique wasn’t ever able to win a title because he had to face Michael Jordan in the first round of the playoffs every year, but he’s got to be one of the best 30-40 players ever. His ability to play above the rim at such a high level was something that was still ahead of its time. He was an obvious Hall of Famer when he was inducted in 2006 and like Herschel, he’ll still be talked about 20 years from now. He didn’t just fill up a stat sheet.
But yeah, you can’t go wrong with the Manning-Parker combo or the Emmitt Smith-Abby Wambach combo.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
I responded to Payton’s tweet and then responded to a couple of others as well with suggestions for other schools across the country.
I’ll take it a step further and list my best combo for every SEC program, and then select a winner.
- Alabama: Derrick Thomas, Joe Sewell. (If only Alabama natives Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Willie McCovey or Ozzie Smith had stayed in state and played baseball at Bama.)
- Arkansas: Darren McFadden, Sidney Moncrief
- Auburn: Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas. I joked that Bo would qualify for both sports, but the Big Hurt is the SEC’s first baseball Hall of Famer.
- Florida: Emmitt Smith, Abby Wambach
- Georgia: Fran Tarkenton, Dominique Wilkins
- Kentucky: George Blanda, Anthony Davis
- LSU: Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Peterson
- Mississippi State: Rafael Palmeiro, Dak Prescott
- Missouri: Kellen Winslow, Max Scherzer
- Ole Miss: Eli Manning, Don Kessinger
- South Carolina: Alex English, Sterling Sharpe
- Tennessee: Peyton Manning, Todd Helton (barely, over Holdsclaw or Tamika Catchings)
- Texas A&M: Von Miller, Chuck Knoblauch
- Vanderbilt: David Price, Brandt Snedeker
The best pair? It’s nearly impossible to top Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas. Bo was an All-Star in 2 pro sports and headed toward the Hall of Fame in football, and Thomas made it to Cooperstown. Neil made a very strong case for Emmitt and Abby. Manning and Helton are close, too. Both will end up in their respective HOF. Manning is eligible in 2021. Helton saw a boost this past year and will benefit now that Larry Walker finally broke down the Coors Field barrier. Shaq and Peterson both will be in their respective Hall of Fame, too. You could argue both are the best at their position in the modern era, too.
It’s a crowded field at the very top. Still, Bo and Big Hurt were trendsetters in every way.