Picking the top 100
My big assignment for our annual football preview was picking the top 100 players historically at both OU and OSU. Picking No. 1 at OU was easy and not really debated by much of anybody: Lee Roy Selmon. Picking No. 1 at OSU has caused a ruckus with an expert.
I picked Thurman Thomas No. 1, over Barry Sanders. Pat Jones, who coached the Cowboys during the Thomas/Sanders years, prefers Sanders, which by all means is legitimate, particularly since Jones is an avowed Thurman fan.
We let Jones look at our list before publication, so he could advise, and we followed almost every suggestion. We didn’t raise Hart Lee Dykes and Mike Gundy quite high enough to please Jones. Dykes ranked eighth and Gundy 21st. Jones wanted Dykes in the top five and Gundy in the top 15. But I think we got it right. Who should be dropped below Dykes? Terry Miller was 2-4 in the Heisman voting his final two years. Jon Kolb was a great, great player in an overlooked era (late ’60s). Mark Moore was a fabulous, head-hunting safety. Bob Fenimore? Just who should drop below Dykes? As for Gundy, he was an excellent quarterback but not a star. Only revisionist historians would claim that he was. Gundy was the solid engineer of an offense led by dynamic, epic athletes, notably Thomas and Sanders.
As for No. 1, I just couldn’t see picking Sanders over Thomas. It’s not a one-season derby. It’s a career achievement award. Thomas clearly had the better career. Thomas was a mainstay on four OSU teams that combined to win 34 games; Sanders contributed really to just two Cowboy teams. Thomas gained 1,000 more yards than did In 1987, when Thomas was a senior and Sanders was a sophomore, Jones’ coaching staff gave Thomas 167 MORE carries than Sanders. Isn’t that all you need to know? OSU coaches at the time thought Thomas was the better player; the next year, Sanders had the greatest season in college history, and over the next 10 years Sanders had one of the finest careers in NFL history. But Thomas’ clearly had the better career.
Jones was a big help, though. OSU’s top 100 list was much tougher than OU’s. The Sooners have had 141 All-Americans, so you didn’t have to scrounge to find names to go on the list. OSU hasn’t had 100 all-conference players. Jones was a big help in sorting out the players from his OSU days (1979-94), but he’s also an historian on some level, having talked to State people for almost 30 years now and hearing their stories.
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