SDS Roundtable: Who is your favorite SEC football player of all-time?
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 turn back to college football, and ask the question: Who is your favorite SEC player of all-time?
Previous roundtable discussions:
- If you could change 1 thing about college football, what would it be?
- What are you watching right now?
Jon Cooper, SDS co-founder
Man, this is a tough one. Favorite and best would be 2 critical words here. Three of my top 4 players are Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton, all for different reasons. Tebow transcended the game with his ability, leadership, determination and will. Manziel was the most electrifying player to watch, and Newton had more sheer talent than anyone I can remember at the position.
And then there’s Percy Harvin. The Virginia boy is my favorite SEC player of all-time.
Yes, Harvin had some off-the-field issues; however, his on-the-field ability was absolutely ridiculous. He could play any receiver position, running back or special teams.
I’m completely convinced that Harvin could have been an All-American at corner or safety, too. The former Gators star literally got to top speed in 1 quick step and left everyone in the dust. There hasn’t been a playmaker like him in the SEC since, and there likely won’t be.
Connor O’Gara: Senior national columnist
Call me basic, but Tim Tebow has always been at the top of the list. I found myself rooting for him as a 17-year old kid despite the fact that I didn’t have any sort of connection to Florida. The style that he played and the passion that he brought was and still is, second to none. He redefined how we talk about the quarterback position. There’s just something about the way he could take over a game that was intoxicating. There’s a reason he ignited so many opinions. Anybody who can deliver a postgame speech after a loss with that kind of a guarantee and then deliver, well, that’s legend stuff.
Is the legend of Tebow a bit overblown? Maybe. I thought the attention he got in his post-collegiate life was certainly overblown, but at the root of that was how he made someone like me — a 17-year old kid in the Midwest — want to root for him. That’s rare.
Dustin Schutte, Saturday Tradition editor
This is probably going to be a little recency bias on my part, but I’ll go with Kentucky running back Benny Snell. It was probably the spinner in his mouthpiece that put him over the edge.
It’s always fun to watch players thrive with a program that hasn’t spent much time on the college football radar and lead the team to unprecedented heights. I felt like Snell accomplished that in 2018 at Kentucky.
Snell ended the year as the SEC’s 2nd-leading rusher and the Wildcats spent a good chunk of the season ranked in the Top 25. Kentucky had an incredibly fun season and Snell brought a ton of personality to the field. Lexington made a slight shift from a basketball town to a football city, even if it was just temporarily, while Snell was toting the rock.
Adam Spencer, Football Saturday newsletter
The answer to this question is Drew Lock. He had a cannon for a right arm, had fun playing the game and led Mizzou to a couple of solid years in 2017 and 2018. He’s been my favorite player to come through Mizzou since I went to school at the end of the Chase Daniel era, but since Daniel didn’t play in the SEC, Lock is the answer.
Lock’s 44 touchdown passes in 2017 set the SEC single-season record (until Joe Burrow shattered it by tossing 60 in 2019). He also finished with 99 career touchdown passes, good for 3rd in SEC history. It was a ton of fun watching him play, and I hope the Tigers can recapture some of that excitement during Eliah Drinkwitz’s tenure as head coach.
Michael Bratton, News editor
Johnny Manziel, the human highlight reel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player at this level consistently manufacture as many successful plays while seemingly making it up as he was going. He was the SEC’s Michael Vick and his emergence led to Texas A&M becoming an instant success in the league. When you consider all he did for the Aggies, Manziel deserves a statue outside of Kyle Field.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
I’m the oldest guy on staff and the only one alive when Herschel Walker was doing his thing at Georgia.
I’ve often said watching Herschel must have been like my dad watching Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder World Series catch in 1954. You didn’t see plays like that, quite literally, because games weren’t on TV. By the time I was in high school, SportsCenter was on every night, which meant highlights, which meant highlights of catches like the one Mays made famous. It didn’t necessarily diminish what Mays did, but I was seeing catches like that a couple of times a week.
That’s what Herschel was to me. I didn’t see Jim Brown or O.J. in college. I was in junior high in Raleigh, N.C., when Herschel arrived at Georgia. Not that we really cared, but the Triangle had 3 ACC football teams. Lawrence Taylor was still at UNC in 1980, but so were Dean Smith, James Worthy and Sam Perkins. A kid named Jordan was on the way. Still, somehow, in the middle of basketball country, we still managed to see Herschel Walker play football almost every Saturday afternoon.
I’d never seen anybody that big run that fast. Earl Campbell was a bulldozer and absolutely unstoppable, but I don’t remember him being able to get out of second gear. As a freshman, Herschel already looked every bit like the best running back in the NFL.
Now? Plenty of guys seem to remind us of Herschel. Leonard Fournette probably came the closest, in terms of a sheer physical match. Derrick Henry was bigger than Herschel and probably faster than I thought. Adrian Peterson offered a healthy dose of both attributes. In other words, the youngbloods hear the stories of Herschel, but they also have video proof of Fournette and Henry throwing defenders off him and continuing on for 30 yards.
So, yeah, maybe some of it is nostalgic. But there’s still plenty of statistics, too.
In the early 1980s, there was Herschel. And nobody else.