The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame released the ballot for the 2017 class of inductees last week. There were 75 players and six coaches from the FBS included on the ballot, and there were 95 players and 29 coaches named from the divisional ranks. The announcement of the class will take place live on January 6, 2017. This will coincide with the College Football Playoff National Championship Weekend.
Before we go any further, let me say this. If you have not yet visited the College Football Hall of Fame, located right here in Atlanta, do so at your earliest convenience. It is excellent, incredible, and amazing. You will smile broadly and you just might shed a tear or two during your experience, and I emphasize the word “experience.” Also, if you need an escort or friend to accompany you, I will be more than happy to do that. I am always looking for any excuse to go down there. It is great fun, and there are plenty of first class lodgings and restaurants within the distance of a tossed or kicked pigskin.
For the purposes of this blog, I am only going to list, and speak to, a small handful of the candidates that somehow impacted or struck me personally.
The bios provided come directly off the press release. I’ll provide my brief take in the second paragraph following each player or coach.
If you would like to see a complete list then click here.
2017 FBS PLAYER CANDIDATE CAPSULE BIOS
Tim Couch, Quarterback, Kentucky – 1998 consensus First Team All-American who finished fourth in Heisman voting in 1998 and ninth in 1997… 1998 SEC Player of the Year who led Cats to first win over Alabama in 75 years… Set seven NCAA, 14 SEC and 26 school records.
Auburn never played against Couch and I should probably be thankful for that. I also remember that Bill Curry, the coach at Kentucky when Couch arrived, did not start him right away. He shared quarterback duties with Billy Jack Haskins. That probably was one of many factors that contributed to Curry only lasting in Lexington through seven games of Couch’s freshman year. The Wildcats were 1-6 during that stretch. Hal Mumme replaced Curry and immediately started Couch. The Cats went 3-1 in those last four games.
Eric Dickerson, Running Back, SMU – Named unanimous First Team All-American and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1982… Twice named SWC Player of the Year, he holds 14 SMU records including career rushing yards (4,450).
Dickerson and Craig James were backfield mates at SMU and were touted the “Pony Express.” They actually alternated for much of their four years together in Dallas. My wife, baby son and I made our residence in Ft. Worth for two of those years and we saw a lot of this duo. How did SMU, not a football power in those days, pull of that recruiting coup? Most of us know the answer to that question. The Mustangs received the “Death Penalty” before the 1987 season and they have yet to return to form in the aftermath of that debacle.
Bobby Humphrey, Running Back, Alabama – Named First Team All-American in 1987… Led Tide to victories in Aloha Bowl and two Sun Bowls… Named UPI Offensive Player of the Year in 1987… Ended career with 4,958 all-purpose yards and 40 TDs.
Mercy! Number 26 was a great one and, obviously, a thorn in the flesh of my Auburn Tigers for three years. He only played in two games his senior year, 1988. ’86 and ’87 were his big years as he rushed for just over 2,700 yards in those two seasons. I saw the ’86 game on TV, we were living in California at the time, and I was able to attend the ’87 Auburn-Alabama game as our residence was in Auburn, Alabama. The Tigers were fortunate to win both of those games, 21-17 and 10-0, respectively.
Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Tennessee – 1997 consensus First Team All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up who won the NFF Campbell Trophy and the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards… Three-time All-SEC selection and 1997 SEC Player of the Year while guiding Vols to SEC title… Tennessee’s all-time leader in wins (39), passing yards (11,201) and TD passes (89), among others.
I so enjoyed following Peyton’s career while he quarterbacked the Vols. Auburn had no regular season games against Tennessee during his four years in Knoxville, but the two teams did square off in the SEC Championship Game in 1997. Auburn jumped out to a 20-10 lead at the half and led 29-23 after three stanzas, but Manning hit Marcus Nash, early in the fourth quarter, and Tennessee hung on for a 30-29 victory. That was a tough pill to swallow but I was very proud of my Tigers’ effort.
Buddy McClinton, Defensive Back, Auburn – Three-time All-American who earned consensus First Team honors in 1969… Auburn’s all-time leader in interceptions (18) and holds record for interceptions in a season (9 in 1969)… Set SEC career interception record (18).
McClinton is, most assuredly, my favorite on the list of this class of Hall of Fame nominees. He has been overlooked and is long overdue to make it in to the Hall. Buddy, #27, played safety beautifully. He was quite the ball hawk. His biggest game was, probably, the 1968 Sun Bowl. He intercepted four passes in that contest and was named the game’s MVP. Also, he started every game in his Auburn career.
2017 FBS COACH CANDIDATE CAPSULE BIOS
Danny Ford – Clemson (1978-89), Arkansas (1993-97) – Led Tigers to perfect 12-0 season and national title in 1981… Won five ACC championships and twice named conference coach of the year… Boasts four of the top five winningest seasons in school history and set Clemson record with 41 consecutive weeks in AP Top 20… Led Arkansas to first SEC West title in 1995.
Ford played offensive tackle at Alabama from 1967-1969 under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. That was how I came to know of him initially. But he is best known, by far, for his time at Clemson. During that 1981 national title run, Clemson was the only team to defeat the University of Georgia and Herschel Walker in the regular season. That was quite an accomplishment as it was the only regular season loss the Bulldogs suffered in Walker’s entire there years in Athens.
Notably, Ford’s first game as head coach at Clemson was the 1978 Gator Bowl against Ohio State. He replaced Charley Pell who left for the Florida Gators. That was also Woody Hayes’ last game as coach of the Buckeyes. If you’re a serious fan of college football, you might remember that Hayes punched Clemson nose guard, Charlie Bauman, and that was the undoing of the legendary coach.
Steve Spurrier – Duke (1987-89), Florida (1990-01), South Carolina (2005-15) – Winningest head coach in both University of Florida and University of South Carolina history, ranking second all-time in wins in SEC annals… Led Gators to 1996 National Championship and six SEC titles… Posted seven conference championships, nine conference coach of the year honors and 21 bowl appearances in 26-year career.
This one makes me smile. I have always enjoyed Spurrier, first as a player and then as a coach. I miss him. You know the story. Here is my take on the “Head Ball Coach.”
I eagerly look forward to the selection of the Hall of Famers. And, once again, come on down to Hotlanta and join me for an up close and personal look at this next class, and all of the greats who have gone before them.