What Ever Happened to These Forgotten NCAA Football Stars?
College football players come and go, but these stars were larger than life and had long-lasting legacies at their universities and in the game of football itself. Despite being some of the biggest names in the game, these players slowly disappeared into irrelevancy after college.
Here are 30 of the biggest football stars that peaked in college.
After two ACL tears to two separate knees, Jason White’s career looked all but over. Miraculously, it wasn’t, as White managed to rehab the knees while the offense developed specifically around him. In the 2003 season, virtually every play OU ran was operated out of the shotgun to accommodate White’s lack of mobility.
In the end, it all worked, as White won the Heisman Trophy, was the AP Player of the Year, and was a unanimous All-American, among other awards. Due to his weak knees, White did not have an NFL career, and went into business after football, opening a shoe store and memorabilia shop.
Leading one of the nation’s most explosive offenses in the early 2000s was quarterback Ken Dorsey, a Miami Hurricane who led his team to a 2001 national championship. In addition to furthering the Hurricanes dynasty, Dorsey rewrote numerous important records at Miami, including total offense, passing yards, and passing touchdowns.
Despite the stellar résumé, Dorsey fell to the seventh round in the 2003 NFL Draft. After a brief NFL career, Dorsey became a quarterback coach for the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills. In 2013, years after Miami’s powerful reign over college football ended, Dorsey was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.
The most exciting thing in Oregon football before the 1,000 different uniform combinations was quarterback Joey Harrington. Harrington, a colossal NFL bust, was the third overall pick in 2002. In his four years in Eugene, Harrington led the Ducks to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Colorado and some of the best seasons in program history.
In 2001, Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman voting, and, due to his national appeal, he was featured on the cover of EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2003 game. Outside of football, Harrington is an accomplished jazz pianist and television broadcaster. He and his wife have two children.
Man, the Detroit Lions had a massive swing and miss when they drafted Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers with the second overall pick in 2003. In two years at MSU, Rogers became one of the nation’s most electrifying players; he was a first-team All-Big Ten in ’01 and ’02 and was a unanimous All-American and Fred Biletnikoff Award winner in 2002.
Rogers’ NFL career, however, would be much different. Marred by injuries and personal controversies, Rogers lasted just 15 games in the NFL before vanishing from the public eye. As of 2017, Rogers was living in Florida and working for his friend’s auto-body shop.
Two-time national champion Lawrence Phillips was a one-man wrecking crew in his three seasons at Nebraska. Considered the most powerful back in college, Phillips ran his way out of Nebraska and into the NFL after the St. Louis Rams selected him sixth overall in 1996. Phillips, who had a checkered past at Nebraska, was not able to stay out of trouble.
After his NFL career, Phillips found himself in hot water due to multiple assault cases, which ultimately landed him in jail with a 31-year sentence. While in prison, Phillips murdered his cellmate. In 2016, while awaiting murder charges, Phillips was found dead in his cell. Medical examiners ruled the death a suicide.
It’s not often that the University of Hawaii gains national recognition for their football team, but when they were led by Colt Brennan, aka Hawaiian Air, the mighty Hawaii Warriors were just that, mighty. In 2006, Brennan put up gaudy numbers, throwing for an NCAA Division-I record 58 touchdowns. That season, he finished sixth in the Heisman race.
The next season, Brennan’s numbers waned slightly but the team improved, finishing the 2007 season with a 12-0 record and a spot in the Sugar Bowl vs. Georgia. In that game, they were blown out 41-10. Brennan finished third in the Heisman race. The Redskins drafted Brennan but cut him prior to the regular season. He never appeared in an NFL game.
Matt Jones may not have been the most hyped player in college football during his tenure at Arkansas, but he certainly was one of the most unique. In four years at Arkansas, Jones became one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, and after his senior year, he was the SEC’s all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback (since eclipsed).
He was the Tim Tebow before Tim Tebow. In the 2005 NFL Draft, the Jaguars surprised just about everyone by taking the athletic quarterback with the 21st overall pick … at receiver. The questionable move was highlighted by the fact that Jones was never a receiver in college. Guess that’s why the Jags are the Jags. Anyhow, after a series of drug-related arrests, Jones’ NFL career was cut short.
You know the expectations were high when the media was referring to Tony Mandarich as “the best offensive line prospect ever.” Well, the Canadian fell somewhere between short of those expectations and so incredibly far away from them that he’s now synonymous with “draft bust.”
After going second overall in the ’89 draft, Mandarich and his steroid habit flamed out of football and into oblivion, only to resurface four years later with the Colts. Since retiring from football — a shoulder injury can be thanked for that — Mandarich has taken up photography. Today, he owns his own studio and is a published author.
When you’re labeled the biggest draft bust in Cleveland Browns’ history, you know something catastrophic happened. Brown led a stellar four-year career at Penn State under legendary coach Joe Paterno. As a senior, Brown racked up awards, including first-team All-American, first-team All-Big Ten, and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
More importantly, he finished his career as the NCAA sack leader with 33. In the 2000 NFL Draft, the Browns selected Brown with the first overall pick with the hopes of him being the cornerstone of their defense for years. That wasn’t the case, and after six seasons, Brown was out of football. As of a few years ago, Brown was doing missionary work in the Dominican Republic.
Brady Quinn was college football’s golden boy, a household name everyone knew. As the Notre Dame quarterback, Quinn set numerous Fighting Irish passing records. In 2005, he was the nation’s top passer, and in 2006, he was an All-American and received the Maxwell Award, given to the best QB in college. However, what Quinn wasn’t able to do was lead his team to any BCS bowl game victories, losing in both the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls.
After college, the Cleveland Browns selected Quinn with the 22nd overall pick, a far slide from the top-five projection he initially had. Quinn’s NFL career was short, and he finished with 12 touchdowns against 17 picks. After football, he married Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone.
There wasn’t a more feared defender in the land than LSU’s havoc-wreaking Glenn Dorsey. The stout defensive tackle finished the 2007 season with an impressive collection of hardware, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Outland Trophy, the Lott Trophy, and the Lombardi Award. In addition, he also finished ninth in Heisman Trophy voting.
From a team standpoint, Dorsey was a key part of LSU’s 2007 BCS Championship team. In the 2008 draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Dorsey with the fifth overall pick, hoping he would anchor their defensive line for years. Well, Dorsey did, in fact, anchor them for years, but not with the production the Chiefs needed. In the NFL, Dorsey never recorded more than two sacks in a season.
Starring for USC during their dynastic days, wide receiver Mike Williams was a freshman phenom and sophomore superstar. As a freshman, Williams snatched up balls and records with his 14 touchdown catches, good for best in Pac-10 Conference history. As a sophomore, the production continued, with Williams grabbing 16 touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named a first-team All-American, finished eighth in Heisman voting, and was a finalist for the 2003 Biletnikoff Award.
Then controversy sucked the life out of him. Williams declared for the NFL draft after his sophomore season but was ruled ineligible, and because he hired an agent, he made himself ineligible to return to USC. Due to this, he had to sit out of football for a year. After one year of inactivity, the Detroit Lions selected Williams with the 10th pick in the 2005 draft. Five touchdown catches later, Williams was out of the league. Today, he’s coaching high school ball in Florida.
One of the biggest personalities in college football, Brian Bosworth made a name for himself at Oklahoma for his wild antics, exotic looks, and big plays. Bosworth is the only player to ever win the Butkus Award twice. In addition, he was a two-time All-American. In 1987, Bosworth and the Oklahoma football team were forced to sit out the Orange Bowl because of steroid use.
With his college football career over, Bosworth entered the NFL supplemental draft and was chosen by Seattle first overall. He then signed the largest rookie contract in NFL history, a 10-year, $11 million deal. Unfortunately, Bosworth’s career is defined by getting run over by Bo Jackson on Monday Night Football. After two years, Bosworth retired from football and became a sports commentator.
Aptly nicknamed “Big Kat,” Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer was a force on the field. As a freshman, he recorded 12 sacks, including three in the 1997 Rose Bowl game versus Arizona State. He also became the first true freshman to start at linebacker for Ohio State. As a sophomore, Katzenmoyer was a first-team All-American and won the Butkus Award and Jack Lambert Trophy.
Simply put, he was one of the nation’s most dominant defenders. While at OSU, the media accused Katzenmoyer of receiving preferential treatment from teachers in order to keep him on the football field. Drafted by New England with the 28th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Katzenmoyer played only two seasons before injury forced him to retire. Today, he owns a gym in Ohio.
Going into college, Jimmy Clausen was dubbed “the next Joe Namath” and was the No. 1 high school recruit in the nation. With massive expectations, the hype-machine that was Jimmy Clausen never really panned out. After three average years, Clausen departed to the NFL where he was the second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. In the NFL, Notre Dame’s almost-golden-boy never found his stride.
He played in just 22 games, 14 of them starts. After his career concluded, Jimmy stayed out of the spotlight, something he failed to do at Notre Dame. For those of you who don’t get the reference, Clausen arrived on campus in a stretch limo while publicly stating he planned on winning multiple national titles at Notre Dame.
The Statue of Liberty play that shocked the college football world was perfectly executed by Boise State and their running back Ian Johnson. A 2006 first-team All-American, Johnson is best known for being a part of the Broncos team that stunned Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Massive underdogs, Boise State and their NCAA D-I touchdown leader, Ian Johnson, pulled off the rare trick play in overtime to complete one of the greatest upsets in college football history.
After the game, Johnson wowed America yet again by proposing to his girlfriend, a cheerleader on the team. In a moment, Johnson became America’s favorite football player. Today, Johnson lives in Boise, works as an insurance agent, and does broadcasting.
One of the best defenders in LSU history, LaRon Landry brought the lumber each and every game. The 2003 national champion and 2006 All-American was a ferocious hitter that made opposing receivers quiver in their cleats. When the 2007 NFL Draft approached, NFL teams salivated over the chance to get the defensive stalwart.
In the end, it was Washington who wound up drafting Landry, taking him sixth overall. Overall, Landry led a successful NFL career, especially compared to others on this list. However, Landry had a little habit for juicing, a problem that eventually led to his downfall and departure from the NFL.
One of the most intriguing running back situations in college football history occurred when the Auburn Tigers had two top-1o running backs on their team, sharing carries while gashing their way through the SEC. One back was Cadillac Williams, the fifth overall pick in the ’05 draft; the other back was his teammate Ronnie Brown, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft.
Yep, Auburn had two running backs, in the same draft class, that were top-5-caliber talent. Crazy. At Auburn, Brown split carries while leading Auburn to a perfect 13-0 season capped off with a Sugar Bowl victory. Sadly, injuries destroyed Brown’s NFL career before it ever fully materialized. According to Brown’s Twitter, he is a financial adviser.
Denard Robinson owned — at least — two things: the coolest nickname in college sports (“Shoelace”) and the University of Connecticut football team. Robinson, a natural track star, burst onto the scene as one of America’s lethal dual-threat quarterbacks. What made his rise to the top even more shocking is the fact that he was a virtual unknown prior to his breakout sophomore season, in which Shoelace ran for over 1,700 yards and passed for over 2,500.
Following a record-breaking four-year career, Robinson appeared on the cover of NCAA Football 14 and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Injuries and an inability to fully adapt to receiver and running back limited Robinson’s playmaking ability. After his brief NFL career, Robinson began coaching with Jacksonville University.
A DB’s worst nightmare, Braylon Edwards was Michigan football for three out of four seasons in Ann Arbor. After a stellar senior campaign, Edwards was awarded the Biletnikoff Award and was named the Big Ten’s MVP, in addition to being a first-team All-American. He’s also the Big Ten’s first receiver to amass 1,000 or more receiving yards in three consecutive seasons. In a relatively down era for Michigan football, Edwards was a shining star.
In 2005, the Browns drafted Edwards with the third overall pick, hoping he could pump some life into their stagnant offense. He did for one year and was a Pro Bowler in 2007, but that production did not sustain itself. After finding himself immersed in controversy after controversy, Edwards retired after the 2012 season.
It’s sad when AstroTurf debilitates a career, and that is exactly what happened with Steve Emtman. The former Washington Husky helped Washington to a Rose Bowl victory in 1991 and a national championship one season later. During that championship run, Emtman was a consensus All-American, won the Outland and Lombardi awards, and was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
Indianapolis drafted Emtman first overall in 1992, and that’s where the injuries began piling up. In three seasons with Indy, Emtman only played 18 total games. After that, he had a few bounce-back years with Miami before retiring in 1997. Today, Emtman is a real estate developer.
Iowa State isn’t a school known for its football program. That being said, running back Troy Davis lit up opposing defenses en route to consecutive 2,000-yard seasons, becoming the first D-1 football player to do so. He was also a two-time All-American and the 1996 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. However, Iowa State wasn’t a winning program, and Davis didn’t get the Heisman recognition he deserved.
In 1996, he finished second in Heisman voting to Danny Wuerffel. Davis, a third-round pick by the Saints, lasted three years in the NFL before moving on to the CFL. In 2016, Davis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Yes, Cornell University had a good football team and a Heisman candidate at one point. Prolific running back Ed Marinaro starred at Cornell and became the first running back in NCAA history to amass 4,000 yards rushing. In 1971, Marinaro narrowly finished second in Heisman voting, falling just short to Pat Sullivan.
It was the highest finish for an Ivy Leaguer since the league turned its attention away from football in the ’50s. After the NFL, Marinaro became an actor and appeared in the football comedy television series Blue Mountain State. Marinaro is a 1991 College Football Hall of Fame inductee.
Some people would regard Tim Tebow as the greatest college football player, ever. A born leader with a unique skill set (one that only seemed to work at the college level), Tim Tebow brought the Florida Gators to the top of college football with bruising runs, clutch passes, and huge victories. He was the face of the sport for three seasons, racking up virtually every award available.
Regarded as a quarterback with an unorthodox throwing motion, NFL teams were hesitant to draft Tebow until the Broncos scooped him up late in the first round. Tebow’s NFL career is largely defined by his overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. After slowly fading out of the league, Tebow took up baseball and is currently a minor leaguer.
Dual-threat and dual-sport quarterback Charlie Ward was college football’s most exciting player in 1993. He won the Heisman Trophy by the third-largest margin of victory, was awarded the Davey O’Brien Award, and led the Seminoles to their first national championship. When football season ended, Ward transitioned to the hard court, where he was one of the nation’s top point guards.
After college, Ward declared that he would only play football if he was a first-round pick. (He wasn’t.) So what did he do? Play in the NBA, where he was taken in the first round by the New York Knicks. After basketball, Ward took up coaching football in Florida.
It’s not often that the College of the Holy Cross produces football players that vie for the Heisman Trophy. It’s not often that their players receive national recognition for their achievements on both sides of the ball. But Gordie Lockbaum, one of the nation’s most exciting two-way players, did just that in 1986 and ’87. Lockbaum was a wide receiver, running back, kick returner, and defensive back.
He was practically embedded in the field like the grass he was playing on. After college, Gordie failed to crack the 53-man roster with multiple NFL teams. Today, one of the greatest Holy Cross players in history is the vice president of an insurance group.
The No. 1 high school recruit headed into college, Peter Warrick opted to attend FSU, where he lit up opposing defenses every Saturday. The standout receiver was a two-time consensus All-American and helped FSU appear in three straight national championship games, winning one — the 2000 Sugar Bowl. In the 2000 NFL Draft, the Bengals drafted Warrick with the fourth pick.
Unfortunately for Warrick, the explosive playmaker was largely limited in the NFL; he never accounted for more than 820 yards receiving in a season. After the NFL, Warrick departed on a strange journey with stops in the CFL and the IFL. To date, no FSU receiver has been drafted higher than Warrick.
The best player in college football in 2001 was Nebraska’s Eric Crouch. A dual-threat quarterback who was ahead of his time, Crouch is on the smaller side of things, standing at 6 feet. But that lack of height did not limit him whatsoever when he was torching defenses on the air and ground en route to a Heisman, Davey O’Brien, and Walter Camp Award in 2001.
The cover athlete of NCAA College Football 2k3, Crouch was not able to secure a national championship, losing to the Miami Hurricanes in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Drafted as a wide receiver, Crouch never fully committed to the position change, wanting to remain a quarterback. That unwillingness to adapt ultimately led to Crouch never making it in the NFL. Since retiring, Crouch has taken up broadcasting and coaching.
Iowa football is not known as a quarterback-rich school. That being said, Iowa stumbled upon a JUCO transfer in 2001 who evolved into the nation’s top quarterback, Brad Banks. As a senior in 2002, Banks led the Hawkeyes to one of their greatest seasons in program history. Banks was the AP Player of the Year, Big Ten MVP, and Heisman Trophy runner-up.
That year, Banks put up gaudy numbers and narrowly fell short of playing for a national championship. Upon graduation, Banks, strangely, went undrafted. That opened the door for a modest career up in Canada. Today, Banks runs youth football camps.
“The Great Dayne.” Ron Dayne’s 1999 season was one for the ages. There wasn’t an award he didn’t win, a defender he didn’t bulldoze, or a person who didn’t know his name. The NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, Ron Dayne may not have helped Wisconsin to a national championship, but he did make them one of the most exciting teams to watch.
Thanks to his bruising style of play and his deceptive speed, Dayne ran his way into the 11th overall pick in the 2000 draft. At the professional level, Dayne’s physical style of play didn’t translate into 1,000-yard seasons, the benchmark for successful NFL backs.