Our series continues on the best players ever to wear the uniforms of the 14 Big Ten programs.
Remember, this is not to serve as a judgment on NFL careers. It’s based entirely on each player’s college career and how it was viewed in his respective time period.
Up next are the tight ends.
1. Ron Kramer, Michigan, 1954-56: “Nothing was impossible for him,” said Kramer’s coach, Bennie Oosterbaan, No. 1 on our all-time list of wide receivers. “The impossible was only a challenge.” Kramer, a two-time All-American, was among five Michigan players to see his number retired. He finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1955 and sixth in 1956 and was later elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Kramer also played quarterback, running back and defensive end, but he distinguished himself as a tight end with physical play that served him well in an 11-year NFL career with the Packers and Lions.
2. Wes Fesler, Ohio State, 1928-30: The Buckeyes’ second three-time consensus All-American after Chic Harley, Fesler was voted MVP of the Big Ten as a senior. Grantland Rice listed him as part of his 1939 all-time team, a precursor to the Big Ten blog. Fesler was a “one-man team,” according to Pitt coach Jack Sutherland. Fesler, a Youngstown, Ohio native, also played baseball and basketball at Ohio State and earned All-America honors on the hardwood. A 1954 inductee to the College Football Hall of Fame, he turned down interest from the NFL to pursue coaching. He coached Harvard and Princeton in basketball before and during World War II and led Ohio State and Minnesota on the gridiron after the war.
3. Ted Kwalick, Penn State, 1966-68: An All-American as a senior, he finished fourth in the Heisman voting to runaway winner O.J. Simpson. Kwalick in his final year caught 31 passes, nearly twice the number of any other PSU target, for 403 yards. At the close of his career, Kwalick, who grew up outside Pittsburgh, held the school record for a tight end with 1,343 yards and 10 touchdown catches. Later, he scored the first touchdown at Candlestick Park as a member of the San Francisco 49ers and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
4. Dave Young, Purdue, 1977-80: The first tight end in NCAA history to lead the nation in receptions, with 70 in 1980, Young presented a major matchup problem for linebackers because of his speed. His 27 touchdown catches rank second to Brian Alford in Purdue history. A favorite target of illustrious QB Mark Herrmann, Young twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, leading the league in receiving TDs as a junior. Indy Sports Legends ranked him as the No. 2 Purdue receiver of all time behind Taylor Stubblefield.
5. Marco Battaglia, Rutgers, 1992-1995: The Big East offensive player of the year as a senior, he earned All-America honors and led the league in receptions for two years. Battaglia finished his career with 171 yards for 2,221 yards 16 touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Jim Mandich, Michigan; Vernon Davis, Maryland; Junior Miller, Nebraska; Bob Higgins, Penn State, Dallas Clark, Iowa; Marv Cook, Iowa; Max Morris, Northwestern; Lester Belding, Iowa; Doug Kingsriter, Minnesota; Kyle Brady, Penn State; Matt Spaeth, Minnesota; Bob Shaw, Ohio State; Billy Joe Dupree, Michigan State; Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin.