UCLA's greatest football players
The top three pillars of the program are in the video above -- now check out who just missed the cut ...
Back before there was a College Football Playoff and national goings-on, there were regions and rivalries. Beating nearby schools with kids who likely grew up together will forever remain the foundation of college football. While it may not remembered as vividly, the west coast was just an iconic foundation to this sport as anywhere else. One of the storied programs: UCLA.
The Bruins have their share of All-Americans, Hall of Famers and award-winners. They've been ranked in the AP top ten at least once each decade dating back to the 1930s and also have one national title and Heisman ranks in their history. They also claim 17 conference titles throughout the variations of the Pac-12 conference. And all those numbers and accolades, they all come from these guys.
Defensive Back | 1977-80
♦ Consensus All-American (1978-80)
♦ School-record 19 interceptions.
Linebacker | 1975-78
♦ Consensus All-American (1976-78)
♦ School-record 468 tackles
Tackle | 1992-95
♦ Consensus All-American (1995)
♦ Outland Trophy (1995)
Quarterback | 1987-88
♦ Davey O'Brien Award (1988)
♦ 5,298 pass yards, 24 pass TDs
Quarterback | 1965-67
♦ Heisman Trophy (1967)
♦ Consensus All-American (1967)
Running Back | 1984-87
♦ All-American (1987)
♦ 3,731 rush yds., 20 100-yd. games
Quarterback | 1995-98
♦ Johnny Unitas Award (1998)
♦ School-record 10,708 pass yards
QB/PR | 1939-40
♦ Led team tot. off. and scores (1940)
♦ Fifth all-time in FBS PR avg. (18.76)
Aikman wasn’t supposed to be on this list. Not because his celebrity comes from quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys, but because he didn’t intend to play for UCLA at first. He initially enrolled at Oklahoma to play under Barry Switzer, but Aikman suffered an ankle injury and Oklahoma turned to a wishbone offense.
Instead the California native returned home to play for the Bruins, holding a 20-4 record his two seasons as starter. He’s UCLA’s leader for career passing percentage at 64.8 percent and finished third in the Heisman vote in 1988. Aikman’s prestige as a Bruin ultimately suffers a bit because he could only play two years due to his transfer, but he’s one of the key guys of putting UCLA on the map in the modern era.
One of the unfortunate characteristics of contemporary football is how it aims to erase greats from the record books. Players from over 35-40 years ago cannot compete with players of today on the issue of numbers.
So while Beban’s career stats of 4,087 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 1,271 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns seem like the numbers Baylor’s Bryce Petty could attain in a season, Beban has one key stat no youngin’ could touch: No.1 college football player in 1967. To win the Heisman that year, Beban beat one of the best college football players of all-time in O.J. Simpson. Do you remain unconvinced?
Same argument, different position. Green was the Bruins’ all-time leading rusher with 3,884 total rushing yards until recently when Jonathan Franklin broke the record rushing for 4,620 yards, albeit with 80 more total carries. Green, however, may be UCLA’s most consistent running back they’ve ever had as he rushed for 100-plus yards in seven consecutive games and had 20 100-yard games for his career.
McNown’s the type of guy whose name pops out at you reading the record books. No, quite really, it’s near impossible not to see this dude’s name looking at any offensive UCLA record sans rushing.
McNown holds the records for career total passing yards (10,708) and total offense (11,285), plus currently holds the record for passing touchdowns (68) although current QB Brett Hundley might break that soon (he has 64). He won 20 consecutive games during his junior and senior seasons and is the only QB to defeat Southern California four times in a row, possibly the most important number of them all.
His fame and importance precedes him, but Jackie Robinson wasn’t just a baseball player. What’s funny is that most writers and coaches thought that baseball was the sport Robinson struggled in the most, and that football might be a better choice for him. He was UCLA’s first four-letter athlete (imagine that happening today) and played on all three sides of the ball.
In 1940, following the departure of another Bruin great Kenny Washington, Robinson single-handedly carried the team leading them passing, rushing, total offense and scoring. Robinson also led the nation in punt-return average in 1939 (16.5) and 1940 (21.0). He remains in the NCAA FBS top 5 all-time for career punt-return average (18.76). Not bad, 42. Not bad.