We continue ranking the top-5 players at every position in Big 12 history. Next up, we take a look at the defensive backs:
1. Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1998-01): He’ll forever be a Big 12 icon for his “Superman” leap against Texas in 2001, but that’s just where his OU legacy begins. Williams set the standard for Big 12 defensive backs in 2001. He won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player, was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, took home the Thorpe Award and even finished seventh in Heisman voting. And, of course, Williams helped the Sooners win the BCS national title in 2000. He is, without question, one of the top two or three safeties of his era of college football.
2. Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-02): The über-talented Newman wasn’t just the best defensive back in the nation by the time he left K-State. He was also an All-Big 12 kick returner and an All-American sprinter with multiple Big 12 titles in the 100-meter dash. He could do it all. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year added the Thorpe Award to his trophy case after grabbing five INTs and scoring four TDs as a senior.
3. Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03): Strait was a starter as a redshirt freshman on the Sooners’ 2000 BCS title team, and he just kept getting better. He set an OU record for career starts (53), played in two national title games and won the Nagurski and Thorpe awards as a senior as well as AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and unanimous All-America honors. Strait’s production over those 53 starts is still impressive: He grabbed 14 interceptions, averaged 30 yards per INT return and broke up 55 more passes. Williams did it all at OU ... and then Strait did too.
4. Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05): If this all-time list had 10 defensive backs, several more of Texas’ “DBU” greats would’ve made the cut. Huff is a heck of a representative for that star-studded group, though. He won a Thorpe Award and was the defensive MVP of the Longhorns’ BCS title game victory over USC. The safety was a 50-game starter, a freshman All-American who developed into a consensus All-American, and his leadership and playmaking on the back end was a huge reason why Texas was so dominant on D in 2005.
5. Aqib Talib, Kansas (2005-07): So many elite defenders could’ve earned this No. 5 spot. We’re giving it to Talib because he’s one of the best cover guys the conference has ever seen, and he did more for his program anyone could’ve expected. Talib earned unanimous All-America honors as a junior after helping lead the Jayhawks to an insane 12-1 season. The three-year starter made the All-Big 12 team twice and still ranks among the top five in Big 12 history in interceptions (13) and INT return yards (322). Talib was even versatile enough to play some receiver as a junior.