Stanford's greatest football players
The top three pillars of the program are in the video above -- now check out who just missed the cut ...
Stanford's proud football tradition dates back to the late 1800s, and it was one of the participants in the first Rose Bowl in 1902. The program is tied for the third most appearances in the "Grandaddy of Them All" with 14 and has won it six times.
There is no shortage of great players to don the Cardinal red, headlined by its three great quarterbacks in the video above. Stanford's tradition goes far beyond that position, though, and these are some of the players that have helped it to top-10 finishes in six different decades.
Quarterback | 1968-70
♦ Heisman Trophy winner (1970)
♦ 7,809 pass yds., 63 total TDs
Quarterback | 1979-82
♦ Consensus All-American (1982)
♦ 9,349 pass yds., 82 total TDs
Quarterback | 2009-2011
♦ Maxwell Award winner (2011)
♦ 9,430 pass yds., 89 total TDs
Running back | 2006-09
♦ Consensus All-American (2009)
♦ 3,522 rush yds., 44 TDs
Fullback | 1933-35
♦ Consensus All-American (1934, '35)
♦ 1,547 rush yds., 18 TDs
Fullback | 1923-25
♦ Consensus All-American (1925)
♦ 114 rush yds. in 1925 Rose Bowl
Linebacker | 1969-71
♦ Consensus All-American (1971)
♦ Dick Butkus Award winner (1971)
Wide receiver | 1996-99
♦ Consensus All-American (1999)
♦ 3,986 rec. yds., 26 TDs
Toby Gerhart became not only one of the most prolific runners in Stanford annals, but also a face of the program’s turnaround. In his first season on The Farm, the Cardinal went 0-11. In his final year, which included a unanimous All-American selection for Gerhart and a runner-up finish in the Heisman voting, he led Stanford to an 8-5 mark and its first bowl game in eight years.
That 2009 season saw Gerhart lead the country in rushing yards with 1,871, which also set a school record. He ran into the end zone 28 times, also leading the country in total touchdowns and points scored. His most notable performance of the season came in a school-record breaking 223-yard game against Oregon. He won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in the country and finished just 28 points behind Alabama’s Mark Ingram for the Heisman Trophy, the closest margin in the history of the award. Gerhart’s total of 3,522 rushing yards is third in school history.
When Southern California beat Stanford in 1932 for the fifth consecutive year, the members of Stanford’s freshman squad got together and vowed to never lose to the Trojans in their careers. Bobby Grayson was a fullback member of these “Vow Boys,” and he scored a touchdown the following year in a 13-7 win against USC, the first of four wins in a row for Stanford in that matchup.
That team became the first to appear in three consecutive Rose Bowls, going 25-4-2 in the “Vow Boys’” three seasons. Grayson set a game record that stood for 20 years with 152 rushing yards in the 1934 Rose Bowl, and added 119 in the following year’s game. Grayson, who was also a fantastic defensive player, still holds the program’s single-game record with four interceptions. A two-time consensus All-American, Grayson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955. He is joined there by fellow “Vow Boys” Bill Corbus, Bones Hamilton, Monk Miscrip and Bob Reynolds.
To be called the “greatest college football player of all time,” is not something many can claim, but Nevers heard that phrase from multiple sources. They were the words of legendary coach Glenn “Pop” Warner, who coached both Nevers and Jim Thorpe, in reference to Nevers. Sports Illustrated named Nevers the greatest of all time in 1962.
Nevers played all 60 minutes of the 1925 Rose Bowl five days after a cast was removed from his broken ankle. Although Stanford lost to Notre Dame, Nevers’ 114 yards was just 13 yards fewer than the entire “Four Horsemen” backfield of the Irish combined. Nevers was a consensus All-American in 1925. He is one of only three Stanford players to have his jersey number retired (Jim Plunkett and John Elway are the other two). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
Jeff Siemon anchored the defense of Stanford’s Rose Bowl teams in 1970 and ’71, developing his case as one of the best defensive players in Stanford history. Siemon made a full-time move to middle linebacker for his junior season, a year that ended with a matchup against heavily favored Ohio State. Siemon recorded 15 tackles as Stanford held the Buckeyes to 17 points and pulled off the upset.
The following year, he recorded a total of 112 tackles and was named first-team All-American and the winner of the Dick Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. He repeated his 15-tackle performance in the Rose Bowl, this time against a favored Michigan squad as Stanford pulled off the upset again. Siemon was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
The receiving record books at Stanford were completely re-written by Troy Walters between 1996 and ’99. He holds both Pac-12 and Stanford records for career receiving yards (3,986), receptions (248), single-season receiving yards (1,456) and longest reception (98).
Walters was given the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver and was named consensus All-American in 1999. He also lays claim to program records for receptions in a single season (86), receiving yards in a game (278) and 100-yard receiving games (19).