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 join the Big Ten until 2011.
Up next: Offensive linemen.
1. Orlando Pace, Ohio State, 1994-96: Forget the Big Ten. Pace was the greatest offensive lineman in the history of college football. He became the first sophomore to ever win the Lombardi, and he followed that up the next season by winning the Lombardi, Outland and finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Said former Ohio State coach John Cooper: "Orlando Pace is not only the best offensive lineman I have ever coached, but he is the best I have ever seen." Pace helped popularize the "pancake" stat and did not allow a sack in his last two seasons. He was selected No. 1 overall in the 1997 NFL draft.
2. Dave Rimington, Nebraska, 1979-82: In the Outland Trophy's 70 years of existence, only one player has ever won the award in back-to-back years: Rimington. The Nebraska native, who played his entire career with a torn ACL, also won the Lombardi in 1982 and finished fifth in the Heisman voting. "For a big guy, Dave was the quickest guy I've ever seen," then-coach Tom Osborne said. Rimington was the greatest college center of all-time, so it's only natural the annual award for college's top center is named the "Rimington Trophy." The Big Ten's annual award for the top offensive lineman also is named after Rimington, along with Pace.
3. Jim Parker, Ohio State, 1954-56: We already mentioned college football's best-ever tackle and center -- so why not arguably the top guard? In 1956, Parker finished eighth in the Heisman voting and became the first Buckeye to win the Outland. He was huge for his time period but, as his College Football Hall of Fame bio noted, he was still "cat-quick." Ohio State's Woody Hayes even called him the best lineman he ever coached. "Physically, Jim was in a class by himself," Hayes once said. "Attitude-wise, he was even greater. You only had to tell him once."
4. Dean Steinkuhler, Nebraska, 1980-83: He won both the Outland and Lombardi as a senior, making him just one of just five offensive linemen to ever win both awards. And, although he played with Rimington, one 1983 newspaper account said Steinkuhler consistently graded higher. Said Osborne: "He is strong and very intelligent, and you just don't find guys that size who could move like that." He was named to both the Walter Camp and Sports Illustrated all-century teams, and he's believed to come from the smallest town to ever produce an All-American (Burr, Nebraska; population of about 100). Still, he might be best known for the 1984 Orange Bowl's "Fumblerooski," where he picked up a TD.
5. Aaron Taylor, Nebraska, 1994-97: He was a two-time consensus All-American as a junior and senior and, as a sophomore, he was even named a third-team All-American by the Football News. It was unusual for Taylor not to knock a defender on the ground, whether he was playing guard or center. He had at least 100 pancakes every season as a starter and, in those three years, compiled 378 pancakes. (Although not an official stat, Ohio State recorded Pace's junior pancake total at 80.) Taylor won the Outland in 1997, the teams he played on finished with a 49-2 career record, and Nebraska retired his jersey less than a year after his final college game. Like Steinkuhler, Taylor was also a unanimous all-century pick.
Honorable mentions: John Hicks, Ohio State; Tony Mandarich, Michigan State; Dick Wildung, Minnesota; Will Shields, Nebraska; Tom Brown, Minnesota