Just like virtually every Husky fan out there, my list of favorite Pac 12 players all wear the purple and the gold. As it should be. But every Pac 12 school has produced some amazing talent. Heisman Trophy, Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy, Hendricks Award, Maxwell Award...The list of winners of these awards are filled with players from the Conference of Champions.
So, if you had to pick a favorite player from another conference school, who would it be? For my list, I tried to stick with guys I'd seen play, and since I'm not as old as sages like Kirk and Chris, I can only go back to the early 80's (and youth and a lack of TV coverage even make going back that far difficult). I'm certainly not suggesting that these were guys I'd cheer for, by any means. But each was great in his own right, and now that they're alums of opponents instead of actually playing on the field, I can say that I respect the way they played. Even if it was in a victory over the Dawgs. It's not a list of the best, but favorites. For whatever reason. Maybe it's just to hate them?
Haloti Ngata (Oregon, 2002-2005): Ngata was an absolutely dominant force for the Oregon Ducks a decade ago. An absolute giant in the defensive interior at 6' 4" and 330 pounds, Ngata was the epitome of a space-eater. He wasn't a playmaker, only accounting for 61 total stops and 3 sacks as a senior, but he commanded double and triple teams on virtually every play. Ngata bench pressed over 500 pounds as a redshirt junior at Oregon, which is more than I can lift. Ngata absolutely dominated some terrible Husky offensive lines, and there was a noticeable difference in the Dawgs' ability to do anything against the Ducks after he injured his ankle in the game in 2005. One of the most impressive statistics he had in college was that he blocked 7 kicks during his career. He even managed to return one of his blocks 30 yards.
Drew Bledsoe (Washington State, 1990-1992): Bledsoe took over the starting QB position for the Cougs midway through his true freshman season and held on to it until leaving after his junior season in 1992. He was named Pac 10 Offensive Player of the Year that year. While the numbers put up in the early 90's pale in comparison to the video game numbers we see today due to changes in rules and the evolution of offenses, Bledsoe left with most major Washington State passing records. Most Husky fans will probably remember him for the infamous Snow Bowl in Pullman in 1992. I prefer to remember the beatings he received from the Dawgs in 1990 and 1991, the latter a 56-21 drubbing that ended with Husky players dancing with Roses in their mouths at the conclusion of a perfect regular season.
I knew Bledsoe had a "pretty good" pro career, but I didn't realize he was as quietly prolific as he was. When he retired, Bledsoe was fifth in attempts and completion, seventh in yards, and thirteenth in TD's in NFL history.
Marcus Allen (USC, 1978-1981): I have to admit that I don't have many real memories of Allen's time at USC other than knowing who he was and the type of season he was having as a senior on the way to the Heisman in 1981. Fortunately for me, ESPN Classic has replayed several of his games that season. And it was pretty great.
Husky fans lament the pounding that Bishop Sankey took in 2013, carrying the ball 327 times in 13 games. In 1981, Allen carried the ball an astounding 433 times in only 12 games. That's 11 extra carries each game. Allen was 6' 2" and around 200 pounds as a senior, so he wasn't some big, bruising back. He wasn't particularly fast, either. He had a great offensive line, and the willingness to simply carry the ball over, and over, and over again. He finished 1981 setting 14 new NCAA records and tied two others, including rushing yards (2,427) yards per game (212.9), most 200-yard games in a season (8) and most 200-yard games in a row (5). Additionally, he was 8th overall in the conference in receptions, with 34.
(Honorable Mention, Mostly Just Off the Top of My Head)
Arizona: Teddi Bruschi, Chris McCallister, Antoine Cason, Ka'Deem Carey, Rob Gronkowski
Arizona State: Jake Plummer, Will Sutton, Juan Roque, Phillippi Sparks
Cal: Tony Gonalez, Aaron Rodgers, JJ Arrington, Mike Muhammed
Colorado: Darrian Hagen, Eric Bienemy, Rashaan Salaam, Chad Brown
Oregon: Dion Jordan, LaMichael James, T.J. Ward
Oregon State: Ken Simonton, the Rodgers brothers, Stephen Paea
Stanford: Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhardt, Willie Howard
UCLA: Dave Ball, Jonathon Ogden, J.J. Stokes, Maurice Jones
USC: Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Clay Mathews
Utah: Star Lotuleili, Dres Anderson
Washington State: Will Derting, Rien Long, Jerome Harrison, D.D. Acholonu
The Verdict: Drew Bledsoe
This is due in no small part to interactions I've had with Bledsoe. He was a counselor at a football camp I attended before my junior and senior seasons in high school, which were prior to his sophomore and junior seasons. He's just a truly genuine guy. You want to stay after practice and get a little extra work in? He'd stick around. Same with film work. At lunch, he'd answer just about anything you'd ask him. The one topic that apparently was off-limits was the Huskies, where his dad Mac was a team captain in the late 60's, and a school he turned down to attend WSU. In a position meeting one day, in front of about 20 high school seniors-to-be, Bledsoe got choked up describing his first TD pass as a Coug. Not necessarily the "big-time" actions you'd expect from a guy that was already on a pretty high trajectory.
These days, he actually makes a pretty good bottle of wine.
So, do any of you all have anybody to add? Post your questions, comments, and clean jokes below.