Happy 4th, SEC fans.
On the anniversary of this nation’s declaration of independence, it’s only fitting to discuss America’s modern pastime, of which the SEC is without question a shining example.
We watch football for the same reason we gather to watch 4th of July fireworks: To be awed, dazzled and entertained. We love it because those special moments of pure adrenaline lift us out of our seats and hold us in suspense for what seems to last a lifetime. A long run littered with broken tackles, a Hail Mary catch with the clock expired — whatever it may be — keep us coming back for more.
In keeping with the 4th of July theme, SEC Country is highlighting some of the league’s most jaw-dropping plays of the new millennium. Follow along to relive some truly sensational feats of athleticism:
Note: For the purposes of this post, “most explosive” is defined as longest plays from scrimmage. However, select plays have received a bump due to memorability.
Broderick Green, Arkansas, 99 yards (2009)
This play is, in fact, the SEC’s longest run since 2000.
It’s strangely fitting that the player to claim the honor is as obscure as Green, who transferred from Southern Cal to Arkansas before the 2009 season. Green’s sophomore campaign with the Razorbacks also happened to be his most productive — he rushed for 443 yards and 11 touchdowns on an 8-5 Bobby Petrino squad.
The Arkansas native never matched that production in his final two college seasons, but he at least left Fayetteville with a nice highlight against Eastern Michigan that was quite explosive.
Dondrial Pinkins, South Carolina, 99 and 98 yards (2003)
Another name that you almost certainly forgot, Pinkins’ 99-yard bomb to Troy Williamson against Virginia ties Cris Collinsworth for the longest pass in SEC history. Even more impressively, Pinkins threw a 98-yard pass in the same season, this one to Matthew Thomas vs. Ole Miss.
Despite his big-play ability, Pinkins finished the season with 10 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 2,127 yards passing on just a 50.3 percent completion rate. The Gamecocks would wind up 5-7 in Pinkins’ only year as the season-long starter (he missed time as a senior due to a shoulder injury).
SEC Country could not obtain footage of either throw, but we can tell you what Pinkins has been up to these days:
Aaron Murray, Georgia, 98 yards (2013)
Finally, a name you (hopefully) know.
Murray was, of course, a record-setting SEC quarterback for the Bulldogs, and he cracked the explosive plays leaderboard with this nifty play-action throw against an overmatched North Texas squad in his senior season. The receiver, now-senior speedster Reggie Davis, has compiled 507 yards receiving in his first three years at Georgia, meaning this one play accounts for more than 1/20 of his total college receiving production.
Murray hasn’t seen the field yet in the NFL, and perhaps he never will, but his incredibly productive college career leaves a legacy that should stand for a long time.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 95 yards (2013)
The dominance of Johnny Football might seem like ancient history in light of all his current troubles, but it bears reminding that the Heisman Trophy winner was pure money on the field only a couple of years ago.
Alabama eventually got the best of Manziel in his second and final meeting with the Tide, winning a 49-42 shootout in College Station, but that was no fault of the former star quarterback. Manziel accounted for 562 total yards and five touchdowns, and his favorite target, Mike Evans, was responsible for nearly half of that production.
Manziel and Evans connected for 279 yards on just seven passes, the highlight undoubtedly being this 95-yard bomb from the end zone.
Cam Newton, Auburn, 94 yards (2010)
This Newton guy was pretty good in college, and there are surely more “explosive” plays on his personal resume than this one. But his 94-yard fake handoff heave to a wide, wide open Emory Blake against cupcake Louisiana Monroe is, technically, the longest.
However, this play also serves to underscore the legendary one-and-done career Newton had at Auburn. Will the Tigers ever be this dynamic at quarterback again? It’s an incredibly tough standard for current signal callers to live up to.
(The play can be found at the 10:54 mark)
None of these plays fit our technical definition of “explosive,” but they’re awesome nonetheless. In this writer’s opinion, they need to be on any list of excellent plays (or at least SEC ones since 2000). So we’ve included them below for bonus viewing pleasure: