Close your eyes and envision a college football dream team on which John Elway could hand off to Earl Campbell or Barry Sanders or rifle a pass to Ozzie Newsome or Randy Moss. A team on which Doug Atkins and Billy Ray Smith would knock offensive tackles into the quarterback while coach Tom Osborne watched intently from the sideline. A team for the ages, yes—but a two-touchdown underdog to the squad you are about to meet.
SI molded its Team of the Century by employing the methods current coaches use. Not only did we adhere to the 85-scholarship limit, but we also selected more offensive players than defensive ones. We took transfers ( Doc Blanchard, from North Carolina to Army; George Connor, Holy Cross to Notre Dame; and O.J. Simpson, City College of San Francisco to USC). We even suspended a player, having caught George Gipp in the poolroom more often than the classroom.
Because passing styles have changed over the course of the century, we threw tight ends, flankers and wide receivers into a single pool and made our selections without regard to exactly what receiver's position they played. We took quarterbacks who had winning records and a flair for the unexpected: Tommie Frazier overcame career-threatening blood clots in his right leg to win two national championships; Doug Flutie threw the Pass and took an ordinary team to the Cotton Bowl. Sammy Baugh? He merely invented the passing game.
We also took athletes who were versatile. Our defensive backfield reserves include two Heisman Trophy winners better known for their offensive skills. In the one-platoon days John Lattner and Ernie Davis intercepted 17 passes between them.
As our coach we tapped the fellow with the houndstooth hat. We gave him nine assistants, the current limit, with Gen. Bob Neyland handling the defense and Knute Rockne taking care of the pregame talks. Woody Hayes gets to oversee the yard markers.
For anyone who squawks that their favorite player or coach should have been included, we simply ask: In place of whom?
ALL-CENTURY TEAM OFFENSE
Jerry Rice, MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE, 1981-84
Mike Ditka, PITTSBURGH, 1958-60
Pat Richter, WISCONSIN, 1960-62
Johnny Rodgers, NEBRASKA, 1970-72
Tim Brown, NOTRE DAME, 1984-87
Raghib Ismail, NOTRE DAME, 1988-90