(WTNH)–Welcome in to the Greatest College Football Players Tournament, where we’re looking to determine the Grandaddy of the Gridiron in the past 25 years. (Ahem. Keith Jackson voice).
Stop pinching yourself. It’s real.
Our first round is just getting underway, so check our index for the bracket and matchups as they are posted.
BARRY SANDERS REGION
3. James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State (2005-08)
It’s easy to forget now that the near-unbeatable Urban Meyer has taken over the headset, but the Buckeyes had things rolling in the mid-2000’s, under head coach Jim Tressel. Ohio State reached two straight national championship games in 2007-08, but lost both (to Florida, then LSU). They also won 43 games from 2005-08, thanks in large part to a nasty defense headlined by hard-hitting linebacker James Laurinaitis.
The son of a famous WWE wrestler, Laurinaitis became one of the most feared linebackers in Big Ten history. He was the only player in college football to be earn three-time consensus All-American honors during the 2000’s, won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year twice (2007 and ’08), and racked up the Bronko Nagurski, Dick Butkus, and Ronnie Lott trophies.
He finished his collegiate career with 375 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 9 interceptions.
Named the 10th best college football player of the BCS era by Athlon Sports, McKinnie was the definition of an immovable object on the line at Miami during the program’s rise to dominance. A consensus All-American in 2001, McKinnie was so dominant that season that he finished 8th in Heisman Trophy voting. 8th. Again, he’s an offensive lineman. He did win the Outland Trophy as the best lineman (defensive or offensive) in the game that season, though.
He only spent two years in Miami thanks to a two-year stint at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania, but in that time, the Hurricanes went 23-1. The ’01 squad is still considered one of the best teams of all-time, and it thrashed Nebraska to win the BCS national title that season.