May is a good time of the year to look forward to football.
Or you can look back. Way back. Because this year marks the Big Ten's 120th anniversary, we cracked open the history books and took a look back at some of the conference's best players. So, as part of this week's series, we're ranking the top 5 all-time B1G players at each position. Every day, we'll give you an offensive position and a defensive position.
This is not to serve as a judgment on NFL careers. It’s based on each player’s college career and how it was viewed in his respective time period.
And we’re considering all players who came from teams currently in the Big Ten.
Up next are the wide receivers.
1. Bennie Oosterbaan, Michigan, 1925-1927: The ultimate Michigan Man, Oosterbaan earned All-America honors in each of his three years as a varsity player -- the first and one of just two three-time honorees in Wolverines’ history. He played offense and defense and also starred in basketball and baseball. In Oosterbaan’s senior season, he captained the Wolverines as they christened the Big House. His 60-yard fumble recovery proved decisive in Michigan’s 7-6 win over Minnesota in 1926. At the completion of his career, Oosterbaan’s jersey was retired, another first in program history.
2. Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska, 1970-1972: Rodgers is still known as “The Jet,” more than four decades after his career concluded. He won the Heisman Trophy and the Walter Camp Award in 1972, but his greatest contribution came in 1971 as the Cornhuskers rolled to 13 wins and a national title, beating No. 2 Oklahoma 35-31 in the Game of the Century -- highlighted by his 72-yard punt return less than four minutes into the opening quarter. Rodgers’ No. 20 was retired by the school. He played two years for Bob Devaney and, as a senior, he helped usher in the head-coaching career of Tom Osborne, who retired 25 years later as the greatest coach at Nebraska.
3. Anthony Carter, Michigan, 1979-1982: The second Michigan player to earn All-America honors in three seasons, Carter finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 1980, seventh in 1981 and fourth in 1982. He set Michigan records for touchdown catches, points, receptions and receiving yards. He left school with 161 catches for 3,076 yards and 37 scores, Carter never finished lower than second in the Big Ten in receiving TDs in his four seasons, taking seven of his 17 catches to the house as a freshman -- including a 45-yard snag from John Wangler to beat Indiana on homecoming for one of the most memorable plays in school history.
4. Desmond Howard, Michigan, 1989-1991: A generation of fans know him from “College GameDay,” but the Wolverines’ second of three Heisman winners was celebrated for his uncanny athleticism and acrobatic grabs. Named to Sports Illustrated’s 85-member All-Century team, Howard left Michigan with 134 catches for 2,134 yards. He started for two seasons, leading the Big Ten in receiving yardage both years. And he starred on kickoff and punt returns before landing fourth overall in the 1992 NFL draft with the Redskins.
5. Pat Richter, Wisconsin, 1960-1962: A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, like the others on this list, Richter earned All-America honors in 1962 and set a Rose Bowl record with 11 catches for 163 yards against USC in his final collegiate game. He finished sixth in the Heisman voting and led the Big Ten twice in touchdown receptions, receiving yards, receptions and yards per catch. A superior athlete, he also lettered three times in basketball and baseball and returned to Wisconsin as athletic director, hiring Barry Alvarez in football and Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan in basketball.
Honorable mention: Cris Carter, Ohio State; Braylon Edwards, Michigan; David Williams, Illinois; Gary Collins, Maryland; Bobby Engram, Penn State; Bob Carey, Michigan State; Irving Fryar, Nebraska; David Boston, Ohio State; Charles Rogers, Michigan State; Andre Rison, Michigan State, Al Toon, Wisconsin.