This year marks the Big Ten's 120th anniversary so, all this week, we're cracking open the history books and looking back at some of the conference's best players. We're ranking the top 5 all-time B1G players at each position and, every day, we'll give you an offensive position and a defensive position.
These lists aren't based on NFL success or failure. They're based on each player's college career and how it was viewed in his respective time period. And, once again, we're considering every player who came from a team currently in the Big Ten. In other words, no need to remind us that Nebraska didn't officially join the Big Ten until 2011.
Up next: Defensive tackles.
1. Bronko Nagurski, Minnesota, 1927-1929: He's widely regarded as one of the greatest college players of all-time, and there should be no debate he's the top guy here. Nagurski is the stuff of legends. On one play, during his NFL career, he knocked down two linebackers and hit two other defenders before crashing into the brick wall ahead of the end zone. "That last guy hit me awfully hard," he supposedly said as he ran back into the huddle. Sure, we're rating him on his college career and his work at tackle, not fullback -- but the point is that Nagurski was incredibly tough, be it in college or the NFL. He's on every imaginable college all-time team (as a defensive tackle), he's in both the Pro and College Football Hall of Fame, and his trophy namesake is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player. That's quite the set of credentials.
2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, 2005-2009: It's hard not to get heavy on numbers when discussing Suh because they're just so mind-boggling: He led Nebraska in tackles for two straight seasons -- 76 stops in 2008 and 85 in 2009 -- and finished his career with 57 tackles-for-loss and six blocked kicks. As a senior, he even added a dozen sacks and more than two dozen QB hurries. "He's a freak," then-defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. "I've never seen anyone do anything like that before." Outside of the Heisman, for which he was a finalist, he won just about every national award along the way: AP College Player of the Year, Lombardi, Nagurski, Outland, Bednarik and Bill Willis. He was unstoppable.
3. Rich Glover, Nebraska, 1970-1972: The Huskers certainly didn't wait long to retire his jersey. Glover played his final college game on Jan. 1, 1973 -- and his number was retired later that year. It's not hard to see why. He helped lead Nebraska to back-to-back national championships in 1970 and 1971, and he was a two-time All-American in 1971 and 1972. He even finished third in the 1972 Heisman voting, after racking up 100 tackles. In what was dubbed the "Game of the Century," the 1971 matchup between Nebraska and Oklahoma, he even had 22 stops despite lining up against an All-American center. (Nebraska won, 35-31). Said then-head coach Bob Devaney: "Rich Glover was the greatest defensive player I ever saw."
4. Mike Reid, Penn State, 1966-1969: "Without question," his bio in the College Football Hall of Fame reads, "[Reid is] the greatest combination football player/songwriter who ever lived." He won a Grammy after his college career for "Stranger in my house." But the reason he's on this list is purely football-related. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1969, and he won the Maxwell and Outland trophies after collecting 89 tackles in just 11 games. As an upperclassman, he was a perfect 22-0 on the gridiron. And he was one of just 12 defensive linemen named to Sports Illustrated's all-century team.
5. Alex Karras, Iowa, 1956-1957: There's a lot to debate in this fifth spot, but it seems only fair to include the defensive tackle who came closest to winning the Heisman. Karras finished as the runner-up in 1957 to Texas A&M running back John David Crow, but he still won the Outland Trophy and earned his second straight bid as an All-American. He never got along with his head coach, who kicked him off the team in 1955 for being overweight. But that still never seemed to impact him once he was on the field, where he was nicknamed "Mad Duck" for his "savage, bustling style of attack." Off the field? Fans might best remember him for his acting. He was cast as George Papadapolis on the hit TV show "Webster" and as Mongo in the movie "Blazing Saddles."
Honorable mentions: Bobby Bell, Minnesota; Jim Stillwagon, Ohio State; Leo Nomellini, Minnesota; Bruce Clark, Penn State; Wayne Meylan, Nebraska; Calvin Jones, Iowa; Mark Messner, Michigan; Moe Gardner, Illinois