clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

VOTE FOR THE BTN IOWA FOOTBALL MOUNT RUSHMORE

New, 98 comments

The Big Ten Network wants to know who's on Iowa's football Mount Rushmore. They've asked us to help.

This guy just might make the final cut.
This guy just might make the final cut.
Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

BHGP and the other SB Nation Big Ten sites have partnered with BTN on an impossible task: Identifying Iowa football's Mount Rushmore players.  Over the next week, we're inviting you to vote on your own selections.  The results will be shared on BTN December 12 (next Friday) at 5 p.m. CT.  Here are the criteria, courtesy of BTN:

1. Football only.

2. Former student-athletes only - coaches and current student-athletes are not being considered.

3. On-the-field accomplishments while in college only - professional career will not be a factor. Accomplishments that were reviewed include, but are not limited to, career statistics; awards won; and team success.

4. Particular student-athletes were intentionally removed from consideration due to off-the-field transgressions and/or criminal activity.

And here are the nominees (with our comments), also provided by BTN:

Jared DeVries (1995-98)

Kinnick Stadium Wall of Honor honoree, 2013
Consensus All-American (1998) & Three-time consensus All-Big Ten selection (1996-98)
Big Ten Lineman of the Year, 1997
Sun Bowl MVP (1995), Alamo Bowl MVP (1996)
Team MVP (1997-98)
School record holder for QB Sacks (43) and Tackles for Loss (79)

When we talk about a defensive lineman's "motor" on the field, what we really mean is "how much does he play like Jared DeVries." DeVries is the gold standard of the last 20 years of Iowa defensive linemen, never the biggest player (6'4", yes, but 265-275 pounds) but absolutely relentless on the field and making tackles all over the place with a dogged refusal to give up on plays. He worked through near-constant cramping issues in his last two seasons in the black and gold, so when he fought through chronic shoulder and foot issues with the Detroit Lions to log a 10-year NFL career it was hardly a surprise.

DeVries is an Iowan to the core, coming from the fabled football factory that is Aplington-Parkersburg High School under Ed Thomas and living, coaching and doing business in the Hawkeye State to this day. You can still find replica #94 jerseys being worn at Kinnick Stadium to this day (much like the ubiquitous #6—more on that guy in a bit, obviously) and the legacy of his style of play will continue long after those shirseys wear out. -- AJ

Randy Duncan (1956-58)

College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1997
Walter Camp Award winner, Finished 2nd in Heisman Trophy voting, 1958
Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award, 1958
Consensus All-American (1958) & Two-time All-Big Ten selection (1957-58)
Led Hawkeyes to 1957 & 1959 Rose Bowl victories

You want the winningest multi-year starting quarterback in Iowa football history?  It's not Chuck Long.  It's not Ricky Stanzi.  It's Randy Duncan, who guided the late period Evashevski teams to a pair of conference titles and Rose Bowl wins.  In the 29 games that Duncan played in, Iowa went 24-3-2.  In his senior season, Duncan led the nation in passing yards, passing touchdowns, completion percentage, and yards per attempt, and was second in pass completions and third in attempts for a team that finished second in the final AP poll.  In 2014, he would have won the Heisman Trophy by Jameis Winston-like margins.  In 1958, he finished second to Army running back Pete Dawkins.

Duncan's legacy is embedded in the Iowa fan base's DNA, as seen in that fan base's greatest annual hobby: Convincing itself that the backup quarterback should be starting.  Duncan was in a full-blown quarterback controversy with senior Ken Ploehn in 1956.  And even though Ploen finished ninth in the Heisman race that year, Duncan got his share of snaps and set the precedent for every second-string Iowa quarterback who came after him. -- PV

Also, Duncan is a graduate of Des Moines Roosevelt, as are all the best Americans, and he still lives in Des Moines, as do all the best Americans. --AJ

Tim Dwight (1994-97)

Two-time consensus All-American (1996-97)
Finished 7th in Heisman Trophy voting, 1997
Finished career as Big Ten Conference record holder in punt return yardage and returns for TD
His school records for career receiving yards (2,271) & TD receptions (21) each stood for over a decade
Big Ten Track & Field 100 Meters Champion, 1998 (10.31)
ALSO FROM BHGP: Tim Dwight on the podcastvote Tim Dwight for the SB Nation HOF

I ran into Hayden Fry two years ago.  Without much prompting, Hayden remembered the name of the only player he ever had from my hometown, a walk-on defensive end.  But the old coach either didn't remember or was too polite to mention the time that the only guy from my hometown to play for him got ahead of Dwight on a would-be punt return touchdown in the 1996 Alamo Bowl, turned back to look for someone to block, and ran into Dwight, knocking them both down.  He definitely didn't mention how it was the 265-lb. defensive end, and not the much smaller Dwight, who was knocked out by the impact and was seen getting revived on the sideline after the obligatory commercial break.

Dwight is the most explosive player in modern Iowa football history.  He returned five punts for touchdowns in two years and averaged a ridiculous 14.6 yards per touch from scrimmage over his four-year career.  Of his 127 career receptions, 21 were for touchdowns.  He was a two-time consensus all-American; Iowa hasn't had one of those since. -- PV

Robert Gallery (2000-03)

Outland Trophy winner (Nation's Best Interior Lineman), 2003
Consensus All-American (2003) & Two-time All-Big Ten selection (2002-03)
Team Captain and MVP, 2003
Ended career with 44 consecutive starts
Caught 3 passes as TE before moving to OT where he started the final six games of 2000 season
ALSO FROM BHGP:
How Iowa Recruits Make the NFL Despite Blue Chip Dominance

It's funny how an NFL career can overshadow exemplary college performance.  Robert Gallery is, almost inarguably, the best football player of the Kirk Ferentz era.  He was a behemoth of a lineman, a type not seen since (not even with Brandon Scherff) and without peer at left tackle by his senior season, an Outland Trophy winner (Iowa's other top linemen of the Ferentz era were not even finalists, save Scherff this year) athletically gifted enough to be a collegiate tight end.  I once saw him walk into a downtown bar wearing the biggest fur coat I've ever seen.

And then he kind of busted in the NFL, carving out a nice career as a guard but never settling in at tackle despite all of the accolades.  The guy was a can't-miss prospect, and then he missed, and it's how you have retrospectives on the Ferentz era highlighting Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders.  Those guys were awesome, but they weren't as important or as awe-inspiring as Gallery. -- PV

Dave Haight (1985-88)

First-Team All-American (1988) & Three-time All-Big Ten selection (1986-88)
Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, 1987
Became first DL to lead Hawkeyes in tackles (113), 1987
Two-time team captain
Holds school record for Tackles for Loss (36) and is 4th in Career Tackles (346
)

Dave Haight is overlooked due to the time period he played in. It's not new enough that most of the under-35 Hawkeye fans remember him, and it's not old enough that the University honors him with grainy black-and-white photos or a name on a dorm. But make no mistake: Haight belongs along the giants in black and gold as one of the most terrifying and prolific defensive linemen in Hawkeye history.

Haight was borderline unblockable, registering an unholy 346 tackles as a DT (Lee Roy Selmon, a CFB Hall of Famer and widely regarded as one of the best of the era, had 325 in his Oklahoma career). Further, Haight had only 10 tackles as a freshman, so his 112 tackles per year puts him right in line with another era great: Wisconsin's Tim Krumrie, a four-year starter who ended with 444 tackles and remains a CFB Hall of Fame nominee. Krumrie belongs in the Hall; Haight belongs on the ballot. -- AJ

Cal Jones (1953-55)

College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1980
One of two Hawkeyes to have number retired
Three-time consensus All-American Guard (1953-55)
First Hawkeye and African-American player to win the Outland Trophy, 1955
First college football player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, 1954

Cal Jones was Nile Kinnick after Nile Kinnick. Jones famously defected from an Ohio State commitment in 1952 and went to Iowa with the famed "Steubenville Trio" (fellow black high school standouts Frank Gilliam and Eddie Vincent), allegedly saying Iowans "treated me like a white man, and I'm going to stay." He stayed, and he became one of the single greatest linemen in college football history, full stop. Jones was a three-time All American, an Outland Trophy winner and one of the bedrocks of the resurgence of Iowa football under Forest Evashevski. Also, his SI cover is as badass as it is iconic and groundbreaking, and it hangs on my wall today.

Jones' career continued in the CFL (then the WIFU) as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber, as he refused to play in an NFL that paid black players less. Sure enough, Jones was an all-pro in the WIFU as a rookie and was en route to Pasadena to watch his fellow Hawkeyes compete in the 1957 Rose Bowl when he was killed in an air crash in Canada along with four Saskatchewan players and an official. He was only 23. Until the end, he was Kinnick after Kinnick.

Jones doesn't have a statue or stadium named after him, but he remains one of only two players with his number retired by the Hawkeyes. Somehow even that seems insufficient at times for a man who stood for dominant play on the field and a steadfast insistence on dignity and equality off it, even at a time when society refused to grant it. -- AJ

Alex Karras (1956-57)

College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1991
Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame Inductee, 1989
Finished 2nd in Heisman Trophy voting, 1957
Outland Trophy (nation's top lineman), 1957
Hawkeyes were 16-2-1 including 1957 Rose Bowl victory in his two seasons
ALSO FROM BHGP:
Our obituary of Karras

As a celebrity, there is no greater Hawkeye.  He had a successful career with the Detroit Lions, then went on to star in film and television.  The dude was Mongo.  He punched a horse.  He raised Webster.

All of that is not supposed to matter here, though, and Karras's play at Iowa is enough to earn him consideration.  Karras won the Outland Trophy -- one of three Iowa linemen to ever do so -- and finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting -- one of four Hawkeyes to be a Heisman bridesmaid -- in 1957.  His play on Iowa's 1956 Big Ten title team was exemplary.  He also threw a shoe at Forest Evashevski once, which makes him a badass among a multitude of badasses. -- PV

Nile Kinnick (1937-39)

College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1951
One of two Hawkeyes to have number retired (#24)
Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp, Maxwell and Chicago Tribune Silver Football Awards, 1939
Played 402 of possible 420 minutes during 1939 season
Died during service to US Navy during World War II
ALSO FROM BHGP: Watch Nile Kinnick Throttle Notre DameSix Thoughts from Nile Kinnick: Big Ten Icons

If there's an automatic selection, it's the man whose name adorns the stadium, whose Heisman Trophy acceptance speech is played before games at that stadium and whose likeness stands outside. Nile Kinnick remains Iowa's only Heisman Trophy winner, its first and last legendary player, a titan watching over the program for the last 75 years.

Kinnick won the Heisman by running for five touchdowns and throwing for eleven more on an Iowa team that went 6-1-1 and finish ninth nationally.  It looks pedestrian until you realize that (1) two touchdowns a game was fairly ridiculous at the time and (2) he played all but 18 minutes of the season on both sides of the ball.  And as much as the Heisman puts him in the pantheon, it is his death in a plane crash while serving his country that gets his name on the stadium today.  Nile Kinnick was the quintessential All-American. -- PV

Chuck Long (1982-86)

College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 1999
Finished 2nd in Heisman Trophy voting, 1985 (closest vote in history of award); Finished 7th, 1984
Maxwell, Davey O'Brien and Chicago Tribune Silver Football Awards, 1985
Holds school records for career pass yds, pass TD's and total offense
First Big Ten player and second all-time to surpass 10,000 career pass yards
ALSO FROM BHGP:
Why Chuck Long should have won the 1985 Heisman Trophy; Going Long

Long's legacy at Iowa is...well, it's long.  He was quarterback for Hayden Fry's best Iowa team and arguably the best post-war Iowa team (the only real comparables to the 1985 Hawkeyes are 1958 and 2002).  That it came at a place that had gone 20 years in the doldrums only made it more memorable.  Long completed 66 percent of his pass attempts that season (fourth nationally) for just short of 3,000 yards (seventh nationally) and 26 touchdowns (second nationally).  More importantly, he made plays that mattered: The naked bootleg to beat Michigan State is the stuff of legend.  He won everything but the Heisman that year, and made himself a trivia answer by losing to Bo Jackson by the smallest margin ever.

But here's the thing: 1985 might not even have been Long's best season.  He threw for the nation's highest percentage and highest quarterback rating in 1984, when he completed 67 percent for 2,871 yards and 22 scores.  He threw for his highest quarterback rating and a higher average in 1983, breaking the 10-yard-per-pass barrier, a mark no Iowa quarterback has touched in the 31 years since.  He led the Big Ten in completion percentage three times, and yards per attempt, total touchdowns and quarterback rating twice.  It wasn't one season of brilliance.  It was a great career. -- PV

Larry Station (1982-85)

College Football Hall of Fame Inductee, 2009
Member of Iowa's 100th Anniversary Team (1989) & Iowa Sports Hall of Fame Inductee, 2000
Two-time All-American (1984-85) and three-time All-Big Ten selection (1983-85)
Iowa's all-time leading tackler (492); led Hawkeyes in tackles all four seasons
Hawkeyes led Big Ten in total defense in three of his four seasons

Of all the defenders in Iowa's history, Station may have the gaudiest list of accomplishments: he was a four-time team leader in tackles, a three-time All-Big Ten linebacker, a two-time first team All-American and the single most prolific tackler in Iowa history. Moreover, we're talking about the guy who made arguably the single most memorable defensive play in Iowa football history: dropping No. 2 Michigan RB Jamie Morris for a loss on 3rd down and giving No. 1 Iowa the ball back for the drive that culminated in... well, this.

Four hundred and ninety-two tackles is ridiculous. It's a number that hasn't been touched for nearly 30 years and it might be 30 more before someone tops it. Only five Iowa players are even within a cool hundred of 492. James Morris played for four years and turned into a darn good linebacker; he finished with only ("only") 400 tackles. Station is every bit as instrumental to Iowa's resurgence under Hayden Fry as Chuck Long was.