SEC Football Coaches: Who Was the Best College Athlete?
Chris Wright at Saturday Down South writes an interesting piece on the college playing days of the active SEC football coaches. With Steve Spurrier retired, who was the best player prior to taking the clipboard?
The SEC coaches vs. kids game took an obvious hit when their only Heisman winner took his visor and went home.
But not all is lost without Spurrier.
Among the 14 SEC head coaches, eight played some college football at a Power 5 program. Several played it pretty darn well.
Nick Saban during his playing days at Kent State
Here’s a look at the coaches … as college players.
Nick Saban: He played in the secondary for the only Kent State team to win a MAC title. Want to know where his fire comes from? Read this piece on his playing days.
Saban’s teammates on the 1972 championship team included Jack Lambert and former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
Jim McElwain: With Spurrier retired, that opens up a spot at quarterback. McElwain played quarterback for three seasons at Eastern Washington.
Kirby Smart: He started alongside Champ Bailey in Georgia’s secondary in the late 1990s. Bailey was first-team All-SEC in 1998, when Smart made the second team.
Mark Stoops: He also played in the secondary and was part of four bowl teams at Iowa.
“He’s one of the all-time great people that I’ve ever had the honor to coach,” Hayden Fry, the Hawkeyes’ Hall of Fame former coach, told USA Today in 2013. “Very intelligent, great personality, a leader on the football team. He wasn’t real large — probably 170 pounds then — and yet he played like he weighed 200. All those Stoops boys were that way. It was in their bloodline.
“Frankly, I never thought he’d be anything but a football coach.”
Les Miles: He was an offensive lineman on two Big Ten championship teams at Michigan in 1974 and 1975 and played in the 1976 Orange Bowl, according to his LSU bio.
Dan Mullen: A quarterback in high school, Mullen admits he wasn’t much of a prospect. In 2014, he told Philly.com that he “made up for my slow speed with my weak arm.” Division III Ursinus College turned him into a tight end.
Barry Odom: He arrived at Missouri as a once-promising running back but soon switched to linebacker. His 362 career tackles rank fourth all-time in program history.
“He was the constant leader,” former Tigers linebacker coach Ricky Hunley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I just wish he had the size so he could have made it to the next level. I thought he could have been something special (in the NFL).”
Hugh Freeze: If this team needs a shortstop, Freeze is the best qualified. He played baseball for two years at Northwest Mississippi Community College before transferring to Southern Miss, arriving after Brett Favre left.
He did not play college football, but he certainly learned the value of recruiting the JUCO ranks.
Will Muschamp: Coach Boom started as a walk-on before earning a scholarship and eventually a starting spot in Georgia’s secondary.