Thirteen former SEC players made the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022, which was released on Wednesday by the National Football Foundation.
This year’s candidates for the College Football Hall of Fame from the SEC are:
· Alabama running back Shaun Alexander
· Georgia cornerback Champ Bailey
· Tennessee safety Eric Berry
· Arkansas guard Brandon Burlsworth
· Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch
· Alabama center Sylvester Croom
· Florida defensive tackle Brad Culpepper
· LSU running back Kevin Faulk
· Tennessee wide receiver Willie Gault
· Georgia running back Garrison Hearst
· LSU linebacker Bradie James
· Florida running back Errict Rhett
· Tennessee wide receiver Larry Seivers
They are among the 214 former SEC players eligible to appear on the ballot and the 445 from the conference who have met the first eligibility standard for the College Football Hall of Fame but aren’t enshrined.
SEC HAS HUNDREDS OF PLAYERS ON DOORSTEP OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
But even with hundreds of candidates available from the SEC, some of the biggest names from the conference’s history will never appear on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
To be considered for the College Football Hall of Fame, a player must have earned first-team All-American recognition from one of the organizations used by the NCAA to select the annual consensus All-American team.
FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S COVERAGE OF THE SEC, GO TO OUR SEC PAGE
Here are 20 former SEC all-stars who, despite their football success, didn’t check off that requirement during their college careers:
Auburn offensive tackle Willie Anderson
The former Vigor High School standout made All-SEC in two of his three seasons with the Tigers. After joining the Cincinnati Bengals as the 10th choice in the 1996 NFL Draft, Anderson spent the next 13 seasons as starting right offensive tackle, making the Pro Bowl four times and first-team All-Pro three times. The closest that Anderson got to qualifying for the College Football Hall of Fame, though, was a second-team selection on The Associated Press 1995 All-American squad, bypassing Anderson for an offensive line of Colorado’s Heath Irwin, Florida’s Jason Odom, UCLA’s Jonathan Ogden and Ohio State’s Orlando Pace along with Nebraska center Aaron Graham.
AUBURN PLAYERS ELIGIBLE FOR THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
Kentucky quarterback George Blanda
Blanda was the starting quarterback in coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s first two seasons at Kentucky. In 1947, the Wildcats set a school record by winning eight games. The eighth was Kentucky’s first postseason appearance — a 24-14 victory over Villanova in the Great Lakes Bowl. Up against Ole Miss’ Charlie Conerly, LSU’s Y.A. Tittle and Georgia’s John Rauch during his Kentucky career, Blanda didn’t receive All-SEC recognition, let alone the national accolade needed for College Football Hall of Fame membership, which Conerly and Rauch hold. Blanda had virtually three careers on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He made 21 starts at quarterback in the 1950s in the NFL, then turned into the gun-slinging QB of the two-time AFL champion Houston Oilers in the 1960s before becoming a clutch place-kicker and occasional sparkplug signal-caller in his 40s with the Oakland Raiders in the first half of the 1970s. All the way through, he was kicking, and when he retired, Blanda had scored more points than any other player in NFL history.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb
Chubb is the only one of the top five rushers in SEC history who is not eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame. Chubb is No. 2 on the list with 4,769 rushing yards. No. 1 is Georgia’s Herschel Walker with 5,259. Walker is in the College Football Hall of Fame as are No. 3 Darren McFadden of Arkansas and No. 5 Bo Jackson of Auburn – and No. 4 Kevin Faulk of LSU is on the Class of 2022 ballot. Chubb made All-SEC as a freshman in 2014 and a senior in 2017, but he was never an All-American, although two other SEC running backs were during Chubb’s time at Georgia – Alabama’s Derrick Henry and LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
Auburn running back Joe Cribbs
The former Sulligent High School standout was the SEC Player of the Year in 1979. The next three running backs to win the SEC Player of the Year Award after Cribbs — Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Auburn’s Bo Jackson and Florida’s Emmitt Smith — are members of the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1978, Cribbs won the SEC rushing title, but LSU running back Charles Alexander was a consensus All-American that season and is now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1979, Cribbs made third-team All-American for The Associated Press. But even as the SEC Player of Year, he wasn’t the conference’s highest running back in the All-American selections. Teammate James Brooks was a second-team AP pick. A Pro Bowler in three of his first four NFL seasons, Cribbs was a 1,000-yard rusher four times in his first five years as a pro. The miss came in 1982, when the NFL season was cut to nine games by a players strike. Cribbs achieved his fourth 1,000-yard season for the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL.
Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler
Cutler was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2005, but the first-team All-American quarterback selections went to Texas’ Vince Young and Southern Cal’s Matt Leinart that year. Since the conference begin presenting separate Player of the Year awards on offense and defense in 2002, every winner of the defensive award has qualified to be considered for the College Football Hall of Fame, and three already are in – LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Georgia defensive end David Pollack and Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis. In contrast, six of the Offensive Player of the Year Award winners are not eligible. In addition to Cutler, they include Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Kerryon Johnson, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning and Kentucky running back Artose Pinner.
Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green
Green received a Pro Bowl invitation in each of first seven NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. In college, he caught 166 passes for 2,619 yards and 23 touchdowns in three seasons for Georgia. Green was first-team All-SEC in 2008 and 2009 and second-team All-SEC in 2010. Pro Football Weekly made Green a first-team All-American pick in 2009 and 2010, but it was not one of the selectors used to assemble the consensus list in those seasons. The consensus selectors preferred Notre Dame’s Golden Tate, Texas’ Jordan Shipley, Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard and Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes in 2009 and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery in 2010.
Auburn defensive end Kevin Greene
Greene is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has the third-most sacks in the history of the NFL. However, he wasn’t as highly lauded at Auburn, working his way from walk-on to breaking the Tigers’ single-season sack record in 1984. But he never made All-SEC, let alone All-American, while teammate Gregg Carr was a consensus All-American in Greene’s senior season, making the linebacker the player with College Football Hall of Fame eligibility.
Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Jones has been a first-team All-Pro twice and selected to the Pro Bowl in seven of his 10 NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He gives every indication he’s headed to the Hall of Fame — the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the College Football Hall of Fame. In three seasons at Alabama, Jones was first-team All-SEC once and second-team twice, and he left college as the Crimson Tide’s single-game and single-season leader in receptions and receiving yards. During Jones’ three seasons as Alabama, one SEC wide receiver received first-team All-American recognition from a consensus selector — South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery in 2010.
ALABAMA PLAYERS ELIGIBLE FOR THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning
Manning’s father, Ole Miss QB Archie Manning, is in the College Football Hall of Fame. Eli Manning’s brother, Tennessee QB Peyton Manning, is in the College Football Hall of Fame. But Eli Manning won’t be in the College Football Hall of Fame, even though he won the 2003 Maxwell Award, which is presented to college football’s player of the year. In 2003, each of the five organizations used to determine the consensus All-American team picked Oklahoma’s Jason White as its first-team quarterback. White was not drafted and did not play in the NFL. Manning was the first player picked in the 2004 NFL Draft and retired after the 2019 season. He’s one of the SEC’s six No. 1 picks who isn’t eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame, along with Georgia end Harry Babcock, Tulane running back Tommy Mason, LSU QB JaMarcus Russell, Georgia QB Matt Stafford and Vanderbilt QB Bill Wade.
LSU center Kevin Mawae
A first-team All-SEC offensive tackle for LSU as a sophomore in 1991, Mawae made the move to center as a senior, when he was second-team All-SEC behind Alabama’s Tobie Sheils. He went on to start 238 NFL games — 211 of them at center — and received eight Pro Bowl invitations on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ole Miss running back Deuce McAllister
McAllister is the Rebels’ all-time rushing leader with 3,060 yards and has scored 10 more rushing touchdowns than any player in Ole Miss history. Along the way to his record totals, McAllister was a first-team All-SEC selection in 1999 and 2000. In his eight NFL seasons, McAllister became the career rushing leader for the New Orleans Saints. During McAllister’s time at Ole Miss, one SEC running back qualified for College Football Hall of Fame consideration – Alabama’s Shaun Alexander.
Alabama quarterback Joe Namath
After finishing behind Georgia Tech’s Billy Lothridge in 1962 and 1963 for All-SEC honors, Namath was the first-team all-conference QB in 1964 as Alabama compiled an undefeated regular-season record and won the SEC crown. In 1964, the NCAA used six selectors to compile the consensus All-American team, and because some of them still were choosing four-player backfields instead of individual positions, six quarterbacks qualified as first-teamers eligible for College Football Hall of Fame consideration. Namath was not one of them. The quarterbacks were Oregon’s Bob Berry, Notre Dame’s John Huarte, California’s Craig Morton, Tulsa’s Jerry Rhome, Virginia Tech’s Bob Schweickert and Michigan’s Bob Timberlake. Namath went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the face of the AFL with the New York Jets.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott
Prescott can’t be considered for the College Football Hall of Fame because he’s playing in the NFL on a four-year, $160 million contract for the Dallas Cowboys after embarking on his pro career by winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award for the 2016 season. But even when he has retired from the NFL, Prescott won’t be considered for the College Football Hall of Fame. He’s Mississippi State’s leader in most of the passing and total-offense categories and earned the first-team All-SEC quarterback spot in 2014 and 2015. But the quarterbacks who became eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame in those seasons were Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler
Stabler was the No. 2 QB on the SEC’s 50th anniversary team, but he’s not eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame even though he was a first-team All-American. In 1967, the Football News named Stabler as its All-American QB. The Football News was one of the organizations used to compile the consensus All-American teams in 1943 and 1944 and again from 1993 through 2001. But it wasn’t one of the six consensus selectors in 1967. Stabler was the second-team All-American QB for two of the consensus selectors – Central Press Association and Newspaper Enterprise Association – behind UCLA Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban. Beban is in the College Football Hall of Fame. Stabler is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Alabama quarterback Bart Starr
Belying Starr’s future as the quarterback for five NFL championship teams as he and Vince Lombardi turned Green Bay into Titletown, Alabama had an 0-10 record in Starr’s senior season in 1955. He played little that year — the first of the three seasons of the J.B. “Ears” Whitworth disaster in Tuscaloosa that led to the hiring of Paul “Bear” Bryant. Starr had been the sophomore starter for Alabama’s Cotton Bowl team in 1953, but he suffered a back injury in a hazing incident before his junior season that derailed his college career. The 200th player picked in the 1956 NFL Draft, Starr was the NFL MVP in 1966 and the MVP of the first two Super Bowls on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Alabama center Dwight Stephenson
Stephenson was the All-SEC center for the 1977, 1978 and 1979 seasons. Alabama did not lose a conference game in any of those years. Stephenson won the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy as a senior, when he was the second-team center on the AP and UPI All-American selections — behind North Carolina State’s Jim Ritcher in both cases. Ritcher is in the College Football Hall of Fame, but Stephenson can’t be. However, Stephenson is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins.
Florida running back Fred Taylor
An All-SEC running back after rushing for 1,292 yards in 1997, Taylor entered the NFL as the ninth player picked in the 1998 draft. In 13 seasons, he ran for 1,000 yards seven times and totaled 11,695 rushing yards, the 17th-most in NFL history. But the Jacksonville Jaguars’ career rushing leader’s All-American recognition at Florida came as a third-team selection by The Associated Press in 1997, behind first-teamers Ricky Williams of Texas and Curtis Enis of Penn State and second-teamers Skip Hicks of UCLA and Ahman Green of Nebraska.
LSU quarterback Y.A. Tittle
LSU dumped the single-wing for the T-formation to take advantage of Tittle’s passing talents, and he left the Tigers holding virtually every school passing record — and keeping them until Bert Jones came along. Jones is in the College Football Hall of Fame, and so are the three quarterbacks who earned the first-team All-American honors during Tittle’s two All-SEC seasons — Ole Miss’ Charlie Conerly, Texas’ Bobby Layne and Notre Dame’s Johnny Lujack. In his Pro Football Hall of Fame career, Tittle played 17 seasons, was a Pro Bowler seven times and an All-Pro three times. He was the AP’s NFL MVP in 1963 after winning the UPI’s award in 1957 and 1962 and the NEA’s award in 1961.
LSU tailback Steve Van Buren
After three seasons as LSU’s blocking back, Van Buren got his chance at tailback in 1943, and he finished first in points and second in rushing yards in the nation for the Tigers’ Orange Bowl-winning team — and still did not make first-team All-American. The running backs earning that honor were Michigan’s Bill Daley, Notre Dame’s Creighton Miller (the only player with more rushing yards than Van Buren in 1943) and Penn’s Bob Odell, who’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Joining the Philadelphia Eagles as the fifth player picked in the 1944 NFL Draft, Van Buren led the NFL in rushing four times and made All-Pro five times in his first six seasons. He’s been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1965.
Tennessee tight end Jason Witten
Witten played his final season for the Volunteers in 2002, when he was the All-SEC tight end. That year, Iowa’s Dallas Clark was a unanimous selection as the All-American tight end. Clark retired from the NFL after the 2013 season. Witten played in 16 games for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. He’s been a Pro Bowler 11 times and a first-team All-Pro twice.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.