(WTNH)–Whether outsiders realize it or not, UConn football has a proud history.
The Huskies have won two Big East championships. They’ve been to a BCS bowl, beaten Notre Dame, smashed South Carolina, and scored upsets over a South Florida team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2007 and an unbeaten Houston team that would go on to humiliate Florida State in the Peach Bowl in 2015.
They’ve sent dozens of players to the NFL, and for unassuming opponents, own one of the sneakiest home field advantages in the country. Just ask Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Now, with senior wide receiver Noel Thomas balling (he ranks fourth in the country with 55 receptions through six games), we thought it was a great time to take a look back at the best players to ever take the field at the Rent.
Who makes the cut on our all-time UConn team? Check it out below:
QB: Dan Orlovsky.
There’s not much competition here. The Shelton native is UConn’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions, touchdowns, and total yards, and is the only Huskies quarterback ever to reach the NFL.
Even if NFL fans mostly remember him for this all-time hilarious blooper, Orlovsky has still done more in the league than Heisman Trophy winners like Johnny Manziel and Eric Crouch ever did. He’s already spent 12 years in the NFL, earning millions while holding the clipboard for guys like Matthew Stafford, and teaching young players how to be professional.
Orlovsky eschewed offers from Purdue and Michigan State to play with the Huskies, and it paid off as he guided UConn to its first-ever bowl appearance, a 39-10 thrashing of Toledo in the 2004 Motor City Bowl.
RB: Donald Brown
What if I told you that Donald Brown was one of just 15 players in FBS history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season? What if I told you that he led the nation in rushing that season, and that he was named a first-team All-American? You might think that would be worthy of its own 30 for 30.
Brown scampered for 2,083 yards in 2008, capturing the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award and helping the Huskies to eight wins and an International Bowl beatdown of Buffalo (38-20). He left UConn with another year of eligibility left, and became the highest-drafted Husky in history (27th overall by Indianapolis).
Here’s a feature we did on Brown on our “Inside Huskies Football” show back in 2008:
RB: Jordan Todman.
Todman emerged from Brown’s shadow in 2009, but he cast a pretty significant one of his own. The former Massachusetts track star was a first-team All-American as a junior in 2010, when he rushed for 1,695 yards and 14 touchdowns and helped lead UConn to the Fiesta Bowl.
Todman was also named Big East Offensive Player of the Year that season, after which he entered the NFL Draft. He was taken by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round, and has spent five years with six different teams in his NFL career.
TE: Ryan Griffin
The 6-6, 265-pound tight end has spent four years with the Houston Texans, racking up 722 yards and 4 touchdowns and a career average of 11.1 yards per catch.
OL: Will Beatty
The 6-6, 320-pound offensive tackle has put together perhaps the most impressive NFL career of any Husky in history. He’s played eight years with the New York Giants, starting 63 of 82 games and winning a Super Bowl (XLVI) in 2011.
WR: Noel Thomas.
We can safely put him on the squad, as he’s been balling out this season, ranking fourth in the nation in receptions (55) through six games. He’s easily the best offensive player in the Bob Diaco era, and was a big reason UConn upset previously undefeated Houston in 2015, catching 7 passes for 108 yards and two TD’s.
The Norwalk native is probably the most explosive–and most relied upon–wideout the Huskies have ever had.
WR: Mark Didio.
The 5-11, 170-pound speedster played at UConn in the early ’90’s, and set the school record for receptions (239), receiving yards (3,535), and touchdowns (21). He led all of Division 1-AA in receiving in 1991, and ended up playing one season in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
DE: Trevardo Williams
The Jamaican-born Williams was a star in both football and track at Bridgeport Central High School, where he came in second in the Class LL state championships in the 200-meter dash and third in the 100-meter.
That speed was a weapon on the field at UConn as well, where he started 30 games from 2009-12 and became the school’s all-time leader in sacks (30.5). The 2012 first-team All-Big East selection also recorded 133 career tackles, and was chosen in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Houston Texans. He’s currently balling in the CFL.
DL: Kendall Reyes
The future second-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers starred on the Huskies’ formidable defense in 2010, when they would go on to win the Big East title and play in the Fiesta Bowl. Reyes ws named first-team All-Big East that season, and he anchored a defensive line that was characteristically disruptive.
LB: Alfred Fincher
Fincher was instrumental in ushering in the D-1 era of UConn football, committing to the school when it was in 1-AA and then starring for the Huskies as it made the transition to 1-A. He racked up 357 tackles and 35.5 tackles for loss during his career, both of which rank sixth all-time in the UConn record books, despite the fact that he only played three years.
Fincher made 140 tackles during his senior year in 2004, when the Huskies finished 7-4 and won the Motor City Bowl, their first bowl victory in school history. That spring, he became the first UConn player drafted since 1994, and spent four years with the Saints in the NFL.
Huskies fans could also argue for Sio Moore, who racked up 274 tackles, 16 sacks and 4 interceptions from 2008-12, and John Dorsey, who played for UConn back in its 1-AA days. He went on to become general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.
CB: Byron Jones.
Though he played on a particularly dreadful UConn team, Jones became a first-round pick because of his other-worldly athletic ability, which he displayed during a record-breaking performance at the NFL Draft Combine in 2015.
He’s received plenty of praise for his play with the Cowboys this season as well, as he’s become one of the team’s best defensive players.
UConn has had plenty of other great cornerbacks, including Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Darius Butler, Jasper Howard and Robert McClain, but we chose Jones because of his potential and early NFL success.
S: Tyvon Branch
Branch was a fourth-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2008 after earning All-Big East honors with Connecticut the fall before. He went on to have a lot of success in Oakland, including starting at safety from 2009-12, and racking up 98 tackles, 26 assists, two forced fumbles during a breakout 2009 season.
He signed a two-year, $13 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015, but was placed on injured reserve in October.
K: Dave Teggart
The man who nailed the most important kick in UConn football history (the 2010 victory over South Florida that sent the Huskies to the BCS) is the obvious choice here, but it’s not just because of his penchant for making clutch kicks.
Teggart was a three-time first-team All-Big East selection, and was in the conversation for the Lou Groza award as the nation’s best kicker in 2010. He owns UConn records for field goals made and consecutive extra points, and ranks second in points scored.