Every June and July I go through the same thing: college football withdrawal. It’s really not that surprising given the timeframe. As a college football fanatic, the months before the start of fall camp are the hardest. I mean, we’re well past the oasis of spring football, but still outside the range of gearing up for the opening kickoff. And unless you’re willing to spend your Saturday afternoons watching tennis, golf, or baseball, the sports world is otherwise dead.
What’s a college football fanatic to do? Eh, the choices are tough, but thanks to Youtube, watching highlights from past games is never out of the question. Just search your favorite team or player and blow your workday productivity away. It’s not only great to relive your team’s past glory, but it’s easy to get lost while imagining yourself as that star player coming through in the clutch.
There’s only one problem with that scenario, however, and that would be my status as a 5-foot-nothing white guy who is rumored to run the 40-yard dash just short of 7-flat. Not exactly what you might picture in a star college receiver. But then again, there’s been a lot of guys you might not have “pictured” as a star college receiver, if you catch my drift. What has this gotta do with Youtube and killing time at work, you ask? Well, I was killing an afternoon at the front desk just the other day when I chanced upon an old highlight tape of one of my favorite college players, Jeff Samardzija. Known as “The Shark” while at Notre Dame, Jeff was a tall white dude with a lanky frame, great body control, and legs like a Victoria Secret Model. Dubbed by many as “The Great White Hope,” Samardzija ended up taking his talents to professional baseball instead of the NFL, but his graceful college highlight reel made me think of
all those few white dudes we’ve seen truly dominate the receiver position over the last decade. Almost inevitably compared to a certain someone on a certain Super Bowl champion, these gridiron heroes gave hope to all us awkward, non-athletic teenagers in our own quests for athletic immortality, and still inspire us to dream big while zoning out on the job. Here’s my picks for the ten who inspired us the most of the last ten years.
10. Todd Blythe, Iowa State
Blythe’s numbers may not scream out like others’, but lets not forget that he played for a relatively mediocre Iowa State team and was hobbled by injuries for a good part of his college career. Nevertheless, his 19.6 yards per catch in 2005 led the Big 12 in average, while his 31 career touchdowns will likely stand as a school record for some time. At 6-foot-5 he had elite size, but it was his speed and separating ability which made him a downfield threat. With his matching white forearm covers, dark-shaded visor, and #1 jersey number, he was as close to a superhero (or transformer, for that matter) as could ever be found on an Ames, Iowa football field, which is why he was probably last seen playing for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League.
9. Greg Salas, Hawaii
System receiver my backside. Say what you want about playing at Hawaii, but the gazillion time All-WAC selection caught over 4000 yards worth of balls in his UH career, finishing off as the all-time leading receiver in Warrior history. With 4.5 second speed and precision footwork, Salas danced circles around defensive backs, and literally caught everything thrown his way. Extra points for possibly being half Asian, and providing an example of korean kids everywhere looking to justify not being picked last in recess football.
8. Eric Decker, Minnesota
While I’ll always remember Decker for the touchdown catch in which his entire mouth was basically separated from his body, the Golden Gopher’s college career was ultimately one of the best a Big 10 receiver has ever put together. Playing on a team which virtually forced the ball into his hands as much as possible, Decker finished his career with over 3000 yards and 24 touchdowns. Stats don’t tell the whole story, however. Decker was the number one guy on his team, and double and even triple covered at times. Not only that, the guy took more shots than a watermelon at a machine gun range, and played most of his career injured. The jury is still out on his young NFL career, but he’s got a bright future for the Broncos – should, you know, the NFL actually exist this year.
7. John Standeford, Purdue
Don’t remember Standeford? Not many do outside of West Lafayette, Indiana, where the former Boilermaker rewrote the Big 10 record books for receiving. He set the Big 10 record for catches (266) and receiving yards (3,788). The dude was an icon at Purdue over his four seasons, catching passes in 48 of his 50 career games. A whiz kid off the field, Standeford was a two-time Academic All American. Alas, his NFL chances never really materialized, although we’ll always remember him as helping to make both Drew Brees and Kyle Orton the pro quarterbacks they are today. Honorable mention to his younger brother, Jake, who once killed a dude from Eastern Illinois with a vicious block.
6. Mike Hass. Oregon State
It’s a sad but familiar tale we know all to well. “Undersized” and record setting high school player gets shafted out of a college scholarship, but goes on to dominate in a BCS conference school. Apparently still undersized by the time he graduates (despite winning the award for college football’s top receiver), he is also, according to the media “experts,” too slow. obviously it’s a bunch of BS (Hass ran a 4.59 at the combine and is 6-foot-1), but hey, it’s the NFL were talking about, and perception is reality. It’s a bummer he never got his shot in the league though. He finished his Beaver career in 2005, but still holds the OSU record for receiving with just shy of 4000 career yards. Of course, we love him because his nickname “Hassinator” just screams seventh grade pickup football.
5. Jordan Shipley, Texas
Not gonna lie, Brent Musburger totally had a mancrush while Shipley was at Texas, and I was right there with him. Truth is, how could you not totally mancrush on Colt McCoy’s roommate? With speed akin to Sonic the Hedgehog he’s been proclaimed the next Wes Welker, but as any Longhorn fan will tell you, Shipley is far faster. His touchdown return against Oklahoma in 2008 is remembered as one of the most iconic images of the Longhorns’ season that year, while his 3,191 career receiving yards rank second in Longhorn history. Most impressive? The way he rolled that jersey up under his shoulder pads. Is it just me, or was he always playing football in a sleeveless shirt?
4. Austin Collie, BYU
It wouldn’t be a list of white receivers without the proverbial Mormon, and while their are many former BYU and Utah alums to choose from, Collie’s by far the most memorable. One of the few cases of a white dude who was highly recruited out of high school, Collie was the MWC freshman of the year in 2004, and came back from his mission in 2007 having lost little in the way of speed and ability. Mad respect for wearing a number like 17, and for insisting that God does indeed hate the University of Utah.
3. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
Before he was catching touchdowns for the Super Bowl champs, the former walk-on defensive back was torching cornerbacks while playing for the Wildcats. Nelson came out of nowhere (no, really, I’m pretty sure he came out of a cornfield somewhere in Kansas) his senior year, catching 122 passes (um, yes, that’s 122) for over 1600 yards. He may have all the personality of a pet rock, but then again, I guess you don’t need to be the life of the party when you’ve got
2. Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame
One of the few white wide receivers of all time who might just have been a Top 15 draft pick, Samardzija had everything you’d want in a wide receiver. He was tall (6-foot-5), had great body control, fantastic hands, and a stride that made defensive backs look like they were running in quicksand. Oh yea, and he also had a 90+ mile an hour fastball, which is why he broke all of our hearts and signed on to play pro baseball following his stellar two-year stretch at Notre Dame in 2005 and 2006. Who are we kidding? He made Brady Quinn look like Joe. F. Montana during those two seasons, catching 27 touchdown passing and actually making Charlie Weis look like he knew what he was doing.
1. Wes Welker, Texas Tech
Was it really a surprise he’d be number one? There’s a reason pretty much every receiver of the caucasian persuasion is said to remind one or another of the current New England Patriot, and it’s not because they make a solid appearance on The Mayne Event. Long before he set the standard of designating the slot receiver position as the position of choice for short, “deceptively” fast white guys everywhere, Welker was tearing it up out in Lubbock under Mike Leach. And by tearing it up, we mean literally catching everything thrown his way, all to the tune of an angry Linkin Park song and over 3000 career receiving yards. Two random facts about Welker: His eight punt returns for touchdowns still stands as the NCAA FBS record, and his hometown of Tishomingo, Oklahoma was featured in a popular line from the Movie “O Brother Where Art Thou.” Bust those two facts out on your next date, and you’re guaranteed to impress the girl.
Alright,you’ve seen my list, and if you’re anything like my buddy Bismark, I’m sure you’ve already screamed, “uh, dude, what about?!?!” So let me know what you think!