Readers crunch Maisel's Numbers

7/14/2006 - College Football

From the top: I haven't read all 2,200 or so e-mails that we have received on the jersey number project. That would be the approximately 800 that came directly to me, and the 1,400 that went into the mailbag set up for it. Part of the problem is that I spent last week on vacation.

Lovely wife: "We're going to the pool."

Self: "I'll be right there. I just have another 50 or 60 e-mails to read through this morning."

Self ducks, escaping 32-ounce bottle of sunscreen hurtling at head with Derrick Turnbow speed, propelled by Lovely Wife.

Damn right Self went to the pool and everywhere else (snapshots available on request). Upon my return, about the second day or so of continuing to read and respond to the e-mails, it occurred to me that perhaps my time could be applied more productively for the Worldwide Leader. I will continue to respond as best as I can, but a season is on the way and time's a wastin'. What follows is a representative sample of your sentiments.

Before we begin, however, let's give a special commendation to one Kelly Vanderbrink, who e-mailed me 13 times about 13 different numbers. I suspect he didn't have the patience to put it all together and write one e-mail. Right back at you, Kelly: I didn't have the patience to read all 13 e-mails.

Yes, on a couple of numbers I whiffed. A couple of others, I think you whiffed, but I understand your feelings as fans. That's why we're all here in the first place. Here we go:

The numbers thing is a great idea, and I get that it is a ridiculously large and subjective undertaking; so surely it must have been an unintentional oversight to leave Jamelle Holieway off at least the Honorable Mention list for the No. 4's. I would have made him first, and this is coming from a guy who was raised (brainwashed) a Cornhusker (parents are Nebraska alums) and who graduated from Texas. Maybe he just beat my teams too much.

I realize "16" is crowded but James Street might have deserved honorable mention.

Jason Harvey

Yep, could have included Holieway, but my memory was that he peaked as a freshman. Maybe I shouldn't trust my memory.

Come on Ivan, how could you not choose Archie [Griffin] for [No.] 45??? I can see giving an honorable mention to a guy who started to pass the ball, but come on, Archie won the Heisman Trophy two times for crying out loud! [Sammy] Baugh didn't win the trophy once, and he could have done it, since the trophy was created in 1935, and Baugh played 1934-1936. He could have won it twice! But he didn't. Your beginning states "Day 3 of Ivan Maisel's countdown of the best players ever to wear each jersey number …" I don't know about you, but I think that most people would agree, Archie Griffin is the greatest player to ever wear the No. 45 jersey. Griffin had 31 consecutive 100-yard rushing games. The ultimate run coach + the greatest rusher ever = Only two-time Heisman winner, but apparently he wasn't good enough for the No. 45 jersey. This is just plain bad.

And for No. 32 jersey, I would have to put Jack Tatum above O.J. Simpson for that, even though neither got it. Have you ever seen the 1969 Rose Bowl? John McKay ran Simpson away from Tatum because of Tatum's abilities, and might I add, as a sophomore!

Conner Brintlinger
Grove City, Ohio

My selection of Baugh over Griffin elicited a huge response from the state of Ohio. You would have thought I tried to sell rare coins to the state pension fund. But I'll stick with Slingin' Sammy. He changed the game.

How much research did you really do on these numbers? You see, I got to No. 47 and I saw a major omission. I saw a huge error and I just cannot get past it.

I can see where one could make the argument that Michael Irvin the top No. 47 of all-time, but you leave David Pollack off the honorable mention list … for AJ Hawk? I mean its not like there have been too many great No. 47's. Perhaps you were drunk?

No. No excuses Ivan … Pollack was a three-time All-American. Three-time All-Americans are generally regarded as outstanding players. How many other players on this list were three-time All-Americans? He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year twice and the SEC Player of the Year in 2002. He was the dominant defensive lineman in the nation's best conference for three years.

Pollack was the best player on a team that posted a 42-10 record during his four seasons.

Pardon me if I an unfamiliar with the resume of Matt Blair, A.J. Hawk or the other guy in the honorable mention, but I cannot recall anything about any of their careers except for the fact the Hawk dated his sister or the sister of some QB from Notre Dame or the QB of Notre Dame is dating Hawk's sister.

Sean Fagan
Canton, Ga.

You're right, Sean. I should have included Pollack among the HMs. But you highlight a common thread among the e-mails. There aren't a lot of history buffs out there. Anyone who didn't play in the past 20 years, well, they just didn't play.

Ivan, not even an honorable mention for the [2003] Heisman winner Jason White for the [No.] 18? I mean I may be a blind homer, but c'mon what gives!?

Rich Zamor
Norman, Okla.

There Rich goes, showing off that Classics education he got at OU. Yeah, we know Homer was blind. Which leads me to say this: Rich, I read blind Homer. I knew blind Homer. Blind Homer was a friend of mine. You, Rich, are no blind Homer.

Well, to be perfectly honest. I didn't read Homer. My version of the classics is Chip Hilton, who, according to the cover of my 1952 copy of Freshman Quarterback, wore No. 19 at State U. Speaking of which:

No. 19: Clint Castleberry

You simply must have forgotten about him when you made your list. If you had remembered, I'm sure Salaam wouldn't have stood a chance.

Kris Resfjord

Castleberry, a Georgia Tech halfback, finished third in the 1942 Heisman voting. But that was his only season. It's tough to pick a one-year star.

I realize I am Italian and "football" has a different meaning but at [No.] 7: Wuerffel over Elway???

Francesco Tirelli
Milan, Italy

Elway had great stats at Stanford (1979-82) but never had a winning record. Wuerffel won a Heisman, led Florida to two national championship games, won one, and survived four years of coach Steve Spurrier's sharp-tongued pressure.

Champ Bailey doesn't even get honorable mention at No. 4? As close to a modern-day ironman as it gets.

Aubrey Neeley

Yeah, I should have given Champ more thought. He had a great career. But best-ever at that number? I don't know.

I am fine with Tony Rice not winning No. 9, but to omit him from honorable mention? Yikes.

Todd Leahy
Charlotte, N.C.

A great college quarterback, but I don't think he deserves to be ahead of the guys I picked.

What do you think, at the very least an honorable mention, for Pitt WR Larry Fitzgerald for No. 1. Just wanted to know what you thought about that.


Joseph Pope
Pittsburgh, Pa.

I remember all the hoopla over Fitzgerald. I also remember never quite buying into it. All-American? Sure. But I didn't see what everyone else saw.

No. 16: You forgot Ryan Leaf. Better than Plunkett in the Pac-10 with a lackluster supporting cast. Regardless of the portrayal on ESPN of Leaf, he was a great, great
college QB. You guys will never give him his due because of his NFL-flop status. Too bad.

Graham F. Baird

Leaf, like most quarterbacks, had stiffer competition at his number than he would have had at others. Better than Plunkett? Plunkett won a Heisman and a Rose Bowl at Stanford. Leaf took Washington State to a Rose Bowl and didn't win it. I feel comfortable with that one.

While I agree with most, I do disagree with two, No. 14 and No. 19. As far as No. 14, how could you leave off David Greene, the all-time winningest quarterback and SEC career leader for yards passing?

As far as No. 19, what about Hines Ward, Mr. Do Everything for UGA?

Aryan Kushan
Silver Spring, Md.

Three Heisman winners wore No. 14, as well as the greatest end ever to play the game, Don Hutson. Greene's got to have more than longevity to hang with that crowd. Ward did everything, but didn't accomplish at Georgia what he has in the NFL.

I cannot argue with your decision to have Doak Walker as your all-time greatest No. 37. He is a legend in college football, has an annual award given in is honor, and the Cotton Bowl is the "House that Doak Built." However, I don't understand why Shaun Alexander is not mentioned as an "Honorable Mention" for the same number. He is the all-time rushing leader at one of the most historic programs in college football as well as the holder of many other Alabama career, season and single game records. On top of that, he was the NFL's most valuable player last season (which I know does not factor into the all-time college numbers team, but I have to show some love for my favorite player). Thank you, though, for you efforts in producing this all-time list. It has given all of us college football fans one more thing to debate while we anxiously wait for the season.

Wade Harder
Nashville, Tenn.

I suppose I should have included Alexander as an HM, because I had so much trouble finding players at that number. But he doesn't strike me as an all-time college great. He'll make the NFL Hall of Fame more easily than he makes the College Football Hall of Fame.

Robert "Bobby" Woll, one of the best all-around athletes ever to wear a Monmouth jersey and the only person to have his football number (29) retired at the college, was the star during the 1931-33 seasons.

In 1981 the new football field was dedicated and named Bobby Woll Athletic Field in honor of Woll's years of competition and coaching service at Monmouth. Following his death in August of 1999, the football field was rededicated Bobby Woll Memorial Field.

Jason Park

Duly noted. Another reader suggested Wear Schoonover, the first Arkansas player to make the college HOF. I have to admit, if somebody had said "Wear Schoonover" last week, I would have said, "I don't even own a schoonover."

No. 29: How about UCLA free safety Eric Turner (1987-90). Three-year starter. All-American in 1990. No. 2 selection in the 1991 NFL draft by Cleveland. Ranks fourth (tied) in UCLA history with 14 career interceptions and fifth with 369 career tackles.

Marc Dellins
Sports Information Director
Los Angeles

Marc, being the old pro he is, suggested a no-brainer like Turner without chastising me for missing him. No excuses there.

For No. 69, how about John Wooten of Colorado? I don't know what your parameters are, but it's worth a shot, here's his bio from our Hall of Fame release a couple years ago:

One of the first two African-American football players at CU (with Frank Clarke). … He lettered three years at guards (1956-57-58), earning AFCA All- America honors as a senior in 1958 and was a first-team all-Big Seven performer as a junior the previous year. … He was described as a quick, agile tackle who provided bone-crushing lead blocks in helping to make Colorado one of the top offensive teams of his day. … Helped CU to a win in the 1956 Orange Bowl against Clemson... He also played tackle on defense. … A fifth round draft pick by Cleveland in the 1959 NFL Draft, he had a stellar NFL career as he played nine seasons (136 games) with the Browns and one with Washington. … He went on to have a long career in NFL administration with Dallas and Philadelphia. He resides in Arlington, Texas, and is a currently scout for the NFL Baltimore Ravens.

Troy Andre
Assistant SID/Internet Managing Editor

University of Colorado

Boulder, Colo.

Wooten was an outstanding player, but I really wanted players on this list to be the best of the best. Thanks for the nomination, though.

Have you totally lost it?

Warrick Dunn better than Marshall Faulk!

In whose dream?

Dunn was a good player on a good team. Faulk was an exceptional player on a (generously) mediocre team. Ask nine out of 10 football fans, there should be no question, if the NCAA were to retire every number, just once, No. 28 would belong to the kid from New Orleans, via San Diego, and on to Baltimore and St. Louis.

Sorry Ivan, you blew this call.

Phil Wood

Maybe so. I was swayed by how Dunn and Ward propelled Florida State to its first national championship, and Dunn was merely a freshman.

You are seriously going to say, with a straight face, that Randy Moss, No. 88, was not a better college football player than Keith Jackson or Pat Richter??? In my opinion he was THE BEST college receiver ever. It borders on ridiculous for him not to even be on the list.

William H. Blankenship II
The Villages, Fa.

Opinions are like, um, jersey numbers. Thanks for sharing yours. I don't agree with it.

Mr. Maisel: Did you never see the late Derrick Thomas play when he was at Alabama? I have never seen anything quite like it, and I was stunned that he didn't at least get an honorable mention for No. 55.

John Neiman
Assistant Professor
University of Georgia School of Law
Athens, Ga.

Yep, I blew that one.


I'll keep this short and sweet.

Over the years, I've got to admit that I've muttered some things about you that were not so pleasant based on your comments about ND football.

However, you get a free pass for life based on your pick for greatest college player to wear No. 85. I completely agree with your choice of my father, Jim Seymour. Now, if they would only elect him into the College Football Hall of Fame …


Jim B. Seymour
St. Louis

Getting e-mails like that makes this job very cool.

In your numbers game, you wrote that there were no great No. 69s. Lineman are often overlooked -- and Roger Davis, a guard that played from 1957-1959 for the Syracuse Orangemen was definitely overlooked. He wore the No. 69 and was an important member of Syracuse's only national championship team that featured Ernie Davis. He was an All-American in 1959. He was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears. If there are no other candidates he should win by default but, even with competition, he deserves this recognition!

Thanks for your time!

George Smith

Thanks. I have to admit that I have never heard of Roger Davis, and I married a 'Cuse townie.

How can you put a guy whose only claim to fame in college football is running over a trombone player on a fluke play ahead of Rod Woodson for No. 26?

Now tell me he didn't accomplish more than any of the others listed at that number. Thanks for the effort on the other numbers. I have enjoyed it.

Kevin Fitzgerald
Noblesville, Ind.

Woodson should have been on the list, too. No question. But listing Kevin Moen is what made the list fun.

Just one question -- while you have included all the other BYU greats, how can you exclude Steve Young as an honorable mention for No. 8 over David Carr? Carr no doubt was a good one at Fresno State, but Young was on an entirely different level in college and the pros, and finished third in the 1983 Heisman balloting to prove it.

Just the two cents of a BYU homer.

Ryan Miller
Irvine, Calif.

Ryan, I blew that one. The truth is, between Bosco and Wilson at No. 6, Young at No. 8, and McMahon at No. 9, I got confused as to who should and shouldn't be part of the list. That one's on me.

In closing, I thought I would share with all of you some special e-mails that I received following my column about the late Northwestern coach Randy Walker, who died suddenly and tragically on June 29.

Dear Sir,

Thanks for the great attention to Randy.

I was a trainer at Miami University during Randy's playing days, a year older than him. Tammy was my classmate, Randy was a great friend.

I was in their wedding, I saw him and Tammy last fall when they were in Columbus to play OSU. I visited him at Bengal's Training camp and cheered him on. I took players to Northwestern from Central Ohio that were being recruited.

Class act.

He lived his life this way: "Live life fully, love wastefully, and be all you were created to be."

I will always carry a part of his heart with me, and so many memories of great experiences as champions.

Thank you, again, for the respectful attention to my wonderful friend.

Thomas Agne
Columbus, Ohio

Great piece on Randy Walker. I covered NU last season for The Daily
Northwestern, and I can assure you, as I'm sure you've heard, that those
"regular-guyness" stories aren't isolated.

Tammy brought magic to almost every practice. One time, with reporters
surrounding him, he stopped mid-interview and commented on a weird,
late-fall sky, saying something like, "Isn't that neat?"

That was Randy. I can't believe he's gone. What a guy he was.

Patrick Dorsey
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

I just read your article on Randy Walker and couldn't help but respond.

I grew up in Chicago and hated Northwestern. My sophomore year of high
school, I got a job working in the parking lot at Northwestern football
and basketball games, along with graduations in the spring. Randy
Walker changed my perception of the school, and made me appreciate what
football could be at a great school. When I first started working
there, I didn't even bother to watch the games, but Randy's style of
play and his genuinely sincere attitude changed everything. If I ever
stayed late at work or saw him in his car, he would always nod and say
hi, something other Big Ten coaches would never do.

Lastly, I can truly empathize with the Northwestern football team. My
senior year of high school, my coach died just six days before our first
game. The healthiest man I knew died of a heart attack while watering
flowers early on a Sunday morning. It'll be interesting to see what
happens in the upcoming months and season. My team banded together and
ended up winning the Prep Bowl in Soldier Field the year my coach died.

Losing a coach is one of the hardest things a young man can do, but
expect special things out of these Wildcats.

Mark Reagan
Villanova University
Class of 2008

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.