Villanova football has a storied history filled with accolades, including the 2009 FCS national championship and three Walter Payton Award winners. With such success from the Wildcat program, here's a look at the top individual players in Villanova history.
The top-5 players of all time for Villanova football
*Villanova joined the FCS in 1985. This list looks at players since that season, taking into consideration things including, but not limited to, national awards won, championships won and All-American accolades.*
1. RB Brian Westbrook
When you think of Villanova football legends, Brian Westbrook might be the first player to come to mind.
Name a Villanova record and you might find Westbrook's name at the top of the list; the running back finished his career with 41 school records. Westbrook is the school's all-time leading rusher and scorer, accumulating 4,499 rushing yards and 89 total touchdowns in his career. He had three seasons with 22 or more touchdowns, including his 29 touchdown season in 2001.
If his stats weren't enough, Westbrook won the 2001 Walter Payton Award. It's the crown jewel of the many accolades that the Wildcat great earned during his collegiate tenure.
2. QB John Robertson
John Robertson hit the ground running in his Villanova career. Robertson scored 14 touchdowns as a freshman to win the 2012 Jerry Rice Award, a sign of things to come.
Robertson became one of the FCS's premier dual-threat quarterbacks in his career. He racked up 3,643 rushing yards and 48 total touchdowns in his career, second only to Westbrook in Wildcat history. In the air, Robertson finished with 7,290 passing yards, Villanova's fourth-most all-time; in total, Robertson's 10,933 total yards is the most in Villanova's history.
Robertson's on-field success was recognized when he won the 2014 Walter Payton Award. He became one of the rare players to sandwich his career with national accolades.
3. WR Brian Finneran
Brian Finneran is the most decorated wide receiver in Villanova history. He owns the career receiving yards record with 3,872 yards in addition to the single-game and single-season receptions record, catching 16 and 265 passes, respectively. Finneran found the end zone 34 times in his Wildcat career, sitting just behind the two prior entries on this list for third-most all-time.
Finneran became the first Villanova player to win the Walter Payton Award in 1997. He was immortalized in Wildcat lore when his No. 25 jersey was retired in 2003.
4. WR Matt Szczur
Villanova has made one FCS championship game in its storied history. It won the 2009 FCS Championship, with the help of FCS Championship game MVP Matt Szczur.
Szczur's name might sound familiar from his long professional career in the MLB, but he was a dynamic wide receiver before he was on base.
In Villanova's championship year, Szczur earned first-team All-American honors on both offense and special teams. He scored 30 total touchdowns in his college career. Yet, it was his touchdowns scored in the 2009 FCS playoffs that place him in Villanova history.
In the semifinals, the Wildcats trailed 10-0 to William and Mary at halftime. That's when Szczur ended Villanova's drought with a 62-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat formation. Villanova would win 14-13 and advance to the title game.
In the title game, Szczur put on a show against No. 1 Montana. The wide receiver rushed — you read that right — for a career-high 159 yards and two touchdowns while adding 68 receiving yards and 43 kick return yards. Szczur finished with 270 all-purpose yards, also ending the season on an 11-game touchdown streak.
In total, Szczur led the championship team with 13 touchdowns that season; he scored a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, kick return touchdown and passing touchdown, a unique feat as the only DI player to do so.
5. LT Ben Ijalana
Left tackle Ben Ijalana was also a part of Villanova's national title team. In that 14-1 season, the Wildcats set school single-season records for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and yards from scrimmage, with Ijalana leading the way. Ijalana manned the edge for one of the top offenses in the FCS en route to a title as the Wildcats averaged 32 points per game and nearly 380 yards of offense per game.
Ijalana earned All-American honors during that championship season and entered his senior year in high regard. In the preseason, Ijalana was the lone FCS player to be named to the 2010 Outland Trophy watch list.
While he wouldn't win the award, Ijalana would finish his Wildcat career starting every game at left tackle since his true freshman season. He went on to become Villanova's highest draft pick since the program moved to the FCS level, going 49th overall to the Indianapolis Colts.
- QB Chris Whitney
- QB Chris Boden
- RB Kevin Monangai
- C Bryan Russo
- G Paul Beradelli
- DE Tanoh Kpassagnon
- LB Forrest Rhyne
- LB Curtis Eller
Quarterback Chris Whitney led the 2009 championship team to the title earning All-American honors in the process. He scored the game-winning touchdown in the semifinals on fourth-and-goal. In the championship, he ran for 102 yards in a winning effort.
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Linebacker Curtis Eller and center Bryan Russo are a pair of Wildcats that earned All-American honors twice in their careers. Tanoh Kpassagagon also earned All-American recognition in 2016 before becoming a second-round NFL draft pick.
Forrest Rhyne is the most recent Wildcat in the notable omissions, finishing his time at Villanova in 2021. Rhyne collected numerous accolades in his career, highlighted by his senior season where he won the CAA Defensive Player of the Year award, earned first-team All-American honors, and was named a Buck Buchanan Award finalist.