HOOVER, Ala. — Southeastern Conference media days are back this week for their 33rd iteration. Old-timers might remember the first-ever SEC get-together in 1985, at the Holiday Inn Medical Center in Birmingham. Four years later, players were invited to join in the fun.
We went back through attendee lists to answer a simple question: Which player separated himself from his counterparts in the years following their media days appearance? Some went on to win NFL MVP awards and Super Bowl rings. Some put together unbeatable college résumés featuring Heisman Trophies and national titles. One also-ran became an international superstar on the wrestling circuit (see 1989).
Here’s the definitive list of media days stars:
1989: Emmitt Smith, Florida RB
Competition wasn’t stiff, but Emmitt Smith could’ve claimed the top spot in plenty of other years, too. The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Honorable mentions: Eric Still (Tennessee OL) and Oliver Barnett (Kentucky OL)
The most honorable of mentions: You remember the WCW wrestler Goldberg, right? That’d be Bill Goldberg, an All-SEC defensive lineman who parlayed a short NFL stint into international fame as a professional wrestler.
1990: David Rocker, Auburn DL
David Rocker was a Lombardi Award finalist and All-American in 1990. He played parts of four seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, recording 1.5 sacks across 34 career games.
Honorable mentions: Randy Baldwin (Ole Miss RB) and Ed King (Auburn OL)
1991: Dale Carter, Tennessee DB
Not only did Dale Carter excel in the defensive backfield at Tennessee, he earned All-America honors by averaging nearly 30 yards per kick return in 1990. At the professional level, he was selected to four Pro Bowls and finished his career with 24 interceptions.
Honorable mentions: Brad Culpepper (Florida OL), Shane Matthews (Florida QB) and Todd Kinchen (LSU WR)
1992: Shane Matthews, Florida QB
There’s little to remember Matthews by as a professional beyond a statistical oddity (he managed to throw exactly 6 interceptions in four consecutive NFL seasons). But he was among the nation’s best at Florida, winning SEC Player of the Year in both 1990 and 1991.
Honorable mentions: George Teague (Alabama DB), Everett Lindsay (Ole Miss OL) and Todd Kelly (Tennessee LB)
1993: Heath Shuler, Tennessee QB
That’s representative Heath Shuler to you. The former Vol finished second in Heisman voting in 1993, then was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. A disappointing pro career dumped him into politics, and Shuler represented North Carolina’s 11th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007-2012.
Honorable mentions: Kevin Mawae (LSU OL), Antonio Langham (Alabama DB) and Eric Zeier (Georgia QB)
1994: Jack Jackson, Florida WR
One of the “Fun ‘N’ Gun” era’s forgotten heroes, Jack Jackson recorded 31 touchdowns in a three-year Gators career. He never latched on in the NFL, but his 15 receiving scores as a college junior led the country (the next closest players on the list had 11).
Honorable mentions: Frank Sanders (Auburn WR), Ellis Johnson (Florida DL), Walt Harris (Mississippi State DB), Jay Barker (Alabama QB), James Stewart (Tennessee RB), Sam Shade (Alabama DB) and Eric Zeier (Georgia QB)
1995: Eric Moulds, Mississippi State WR
Three productive (but decidedly unmemorable) seasons at Mississippi State led to a first-round selection by the Buffalo Bills in the 1996 NFL Draft. Eric Moulds became a star in western New York, finishing his career with 764 receptions for 9,995 yards and 49 touchdowns.
Honorable mentions: Walt Harris (Mississippi State DB), Jason Odom (Florida OL), Shannon Brown (Alabama DL) and Gabe Northern (LSU LB)
1996: Danny Wuerffel, Florida QB
While he never amounted to much in the NFL, Danny Wuerffel is unquestionably one of the greatest college football quarterbacks of all-time. He won both the Heisman and the national title in 1996, and he went 3-0 head-to-head vs. Peyton Manning and Tennessee.
Honorable mentions: Manning, Lawrence Wright (Florida DB), Duce Staley (South Carolina RB) and Kevin Jackson (Alabama DB)
1997: Peyton Manning, Tennessee QB
Were it not for an incomplete comeback vs. Florida and Michigan star Charles Woodson’s iconic performance vs. Ohio State, Manning would’ve taken the 1997 Heisman Trophy in a landslide. As it happened, he couldn’t shake the Gators curse, and Woodson played his best game of the season as voters made their final decisions. Manning won 5 NFL MVP awards and two Super Bowl rings, though, so we’ll call it even.
Honorable mentions: Takeo Spikes (Auburn LB), Hines Ward (Georgia WR), Tim Couch (Kentucky QB), Leonard Little (Tennessee LB), Corey Chavous (Vanderbilt DB) and Jamie Duncan (Vanderbilt LB)
1998: Champ Bailey, Georgia DB
Champ Bailey finished seventh in 1998 Heisman Trophy voting despite only snagging 3 interceptions. He contributed on offense (47 receptions for 744 yards and 5 touchdowns) and special teams, but his shutdown pass defense is what made him so valuable. He continued that dominance in the NFL — he had 52 interceptions and earned 12 career Pro Bowl selections — and is now a strong Hall of Fame candidate.
Honorable mentions: Shaun Alexander (Alabama RB), Jevon Kearse (Florida DL), Al Wilson (Tennessee LB), Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia OL), Todd McClure (LSU OL), Anthony McFarland (LSU DL), Tee Martin (Tennessee QB) and Fernando Bryant (Alabama DB)
1999: Shaun Alexander, Alabama RB
A back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher at Alabama, Alexander pieced together five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the Seattle Seahawks from 2001-05. In 2005, he was the NFL MVP and led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl with a then-NFL-record 27 rushing touchdowns.
Honorable mentions: Tee Martin (Tennessee QB), Todd Wade (Ole Miss OL), Clint Stoerner (Arkansas QB) and Quincy Carter (Georgia QB)
2000: Richard Seymour, Georgia DL
One of the millennium’s most dominant defenders, Seymour graduated from All-America honors to three Super Bowl rings and a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade team with the New England Patriots.
Honorable mentions: Alex Brown (Florida DL), Fred Smoot (Mississippi State DB), Mike Pearson (Florida OL), Jamie Winborn (Vanderbilt LB) and Ben Leard (Auburn QB)
2001: John Henderson, Tennessee DL
John Henderson was a consensus All-American in consecutive seasons on Rocky Top (2000 and 2001). The Jacksonville Jaguars made him the No. 9 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, and he repaid them with a pair of Pro Bowl seasons.
Honorable mentions: Kalimba Edwards (South Carolina LB), Trev Faulk (LSU LB), Kendall Simmons (Auburn OL), Terrence Metcalf (Ole Miss OL), Rohan Davey (LSU QB) and Todd Johnson (Florida DB)
2002: Rex Grossman, Florida QB
Rex Grossman’s 2001 season is criminally under-appreciated. Nebraska’s Eric Crouch got the Heisman, and Miami’s Ken Dorsey won the national title. But Grossman was miles ahead of both of them, destroying five ranked opponents before leading Florida to a blowout of No. 6 Maryland in the Orange Bowl. His final numbers: 65.6 completion percentage, 3,896 passing yards, 39 total touchdowns and 12 interceptions against perhaps the toughest schedule in the country.
Honorable mentions: Eli Manning (Ole Miss QB), Bradie James (LSU LB), Boss Bailey (Georgia LB), Jon Stinchcomb (Georgia OL), Dontarrious Thomas (Auburn LB) and Jarret Johnson (Alabama DL)
2003: Eli Manning, Ole Miss QB
Manning suffered from the same constraint his father did at Ole Miss: his supporting casts just weren’t that great. But his lineage — and, OK, a lot of talent — made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, and he blew past his detractors by winning a pair of Super Bowl MVP awards.
Honorable mentions: David Pollack (Georgia LB), Keiwan Ratliff (Florida DB), Chad Lavalais (LSU DL), Karlos Dansby (Auburn LB), Stephen Peterman (LSU OL), Max Starks (Florida OL), Ben Watson (Georgia TE), Jason Campbell (Auburn QB), Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt QB) and Derek Abney (Kentucky KR)
2004: David Pollack, Georgia LB
A severe neck injury cut David Pollack’s NFL career short, but his list of accomplishments at Georgia — 3-time All-American, 2-time SEC Player of the Year, Chuck Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award, and more — is among the greatest in SEC history.
Honorable mentions: Corey Webster (LSU DB), Ben Wilkerson (LSU OL), David Greene (Georgia QB), Cadillac Williams (Auburn RB), Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt QB), Wesley Britt (Alabama OL), Junior Rosegreen (Auburn DB), Kevin Burnett (Tennessee LB), Michael Muñoz (Tennessee OL) and Matt Jones (Arkansas QB)
2005: Patrick Willis, Ole Miss LB
From 2005-13, Patrick Willis played at an impressively consistent level. That run included a pair of All-America seasons, the NFL Rookie of the Year award, and seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections.
Honorable mentions: Marcus McNeill (Auburn OL), Roman Harper (Alabama DB), Max Jean-Gilles (Georgia OL), Joseph Addai (LSU RB), Kyle Williams (LSU DL) and Jerious Norwood (Mississippi State RB)
2006: LaRon Landry, LSU DB
Just another Nick Saban recruit who landed in the Top 10 of the NFL draft, LaRon Landry started 48 consecutive games for LSU before launching a solid — if unspectacular — 8-year pro career.
Honorable mentions: Willis, Dwayne Bowe (LSU WR), Chris Leak (Florida QB), Wesley Woodyard (Kentucky LB), Justin Harrell (Tennessee DL) and Arron Sears (Tennessee OL)
2007: Darren McFadden, Arkansas RB
Finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting for two consecutive seasons is the equivalent of winning one, right? Darren McFadden was an all-time force at Arkansas, winning just about every accolade except the Heisman. He’s currently gearing up for his 10th NFL season.
Honorable mentions: Glenn Dorsey (LSU DL), Jerod Mayo (Tennessee LB), Quentin Groves (Auburn DL) Early Doucet (LSU WR), Earl Bennett (Vanderbilt WR), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Ole Miss RB), Jasper Brinkley (South Carolina LB), Erik Ainge (Tennessee QB) and Andre Woodson (Kentucky QB)
2008: Tim Tebow, Florida QB
Kids might one day remember him for his towering home runs, but it’s much more likely Tim Tebow’s legacy will be an amalgamation of his trophy haul at the University of Florida, one magical season with the Denver Broncos and a public faith life that’s resonated with millions across the globe.
Honorable mentions: Arian Foster (Tennessee RB), Michael Oher (Ole Miss OL), Rashad Johnson (Alabama DB), Robert Ayers (Tennessee DL), Jonathan Luigs (Arkansas OL), Mohamed Massaquoi (Georgia WR), Jasper Brinkley (South Carolina LB) and Sen’Derrick Marks (Auburn DL)
2009: Eric Berry, Tennessee DB
Eric Berry dominated at Tennessee and then quickly established himself as one of the NFL’s best defenders. His most impressive accomplishment came two years ago, when he returned from chemotherapy to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Honorable mentions: Tebow, Rolando McClain (Alabama LB), Brandon Spikes (Florida LB), Mike Johnson (Alabama OL), D.J. Williams (Arkansas TE), Ciron Black (LSU OL) and Montario Hardesty (Tennessee RB)
2010: Patrick Peterson, LSU DB
Patrick Peterson shut down the SEC (2-time All-American; Jim Thorpe Award winner; Chuck Bednarik Award winner) and then wasted no time becoming an elite NFL talent. He’s made the Pro Bowl in all six of his professional seasons since being selected No. 5 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Honorable mentions: Mark Ingram (Alabama RB), A.J. Green (Georgia WR), Randall Cobb (Kentucky WR), Mike Pouncey (Florida OL), Dont’a Hightower (Alabama LB), Greg McElroy (Alabama QB), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas QB), Ahmad Black (Florida DB), Kelvin Sheppard (LSU LB) and D.J. Williams (Arkansas TE)
2011: Trent Richardson, Alabama RB
Sure, he was an NFL bust. But Trent Richardson must’ve used up all his greatness at the college level; he left Alabama with the Doak Walker Award, a unanimous All-America selection, and two national titles after collecting more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his final season.
Honorable mentions: Aaron Murray (Georgia QB), Danny Trevathan (Kentucky LB), Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina RB), Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina WR), Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State DL), Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt DB), Knile Davis (Arkansas RB), Mark Barron (Alabama DB), Dont’a Hightower (Alabama LB), Jarius Wright (Arkansas WR)
2012: Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU WR
From the time he made “The Catch” against the Dallas Cowboys, Odell Beckham has been one of the NFL’s most recognized talents. Considered by many to be the league’s top receiver, he’s still just 24 years old.
Honorable mentions: Jarvis Jones (Georgia LB), Barrett Jones (Alabama OL), Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M OL), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State DB), Zac Stacy (Vanderbilt RB), Knile Davis (Arkansas RB), Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss WR), Mike Gillislee (Florida RB), Larry Warford (Kentucky OL), D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina DB), Connor Shaw (South Carolina QB) and Jordan Rodgers (Vanderbilt QB)
2013: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina DL
Freaks don’t come much freakier than Jadeveon Clowney, a Pro Bowl defensive end who currently plays at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds and can outrun most of the players on the field. He’s best remembered for an ugly hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, but he scarred enough other players to earn two All-America selections and the 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year award.
Honorable mentions: Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M QB), Jake Matthews (Texas A&M OL), AJ McCarron (Alabama QB), C.J. Mosley (Alabama LB), Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt WR), Aaron Murray (Georgia QB), Jarvis Landry (LSU WR), Chris Davis (Auburn DB), Dee Ford (Auburn DB), Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss WR), Travis Swanson (Arkansas OL) and Connor Shaw (South Carolina QB)
2014: Amari Cooper, Alabama WR
Amari Cooper will always be indebted to Lane Kiffin (and vice versa), who took Alabama’s offensive coordinator job in 2014 and immediately opened up the passing playbook. The second-runner-up for the Heisman posted a very un-Tide-like stat line — 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns — and now runs circles around defenses for the Oakland Raiders.
Honorable mentions: Dak Prescott (Mississippi State QB), Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida DB), Todd Gurley (Georgia RB), Landon Collins (Alabama DB), La’el Collins (LSU OL), Reese Dismukes (Auburn OL), Dante Fowler (Florida DL), Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State LB) and Bud Dupree (Kentucky LB)
2015: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State QB
Dak Prescott has now done the impossible twice. First, he led Mississippi State to a No. 1 ranking. Second, he kept Tony Romo on the bench for an entire season in Dallas. Within the past year, he’s gone from fourth-round draft pick to one of the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks.
Honorable mentions: Leonard Fournette (LSU RB), Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida DB), Josh Dobbs (Tennessee QB), Cam Sutton (Tennessee DB), Reggie Ragland (Alabama LB), Ryan Kelly (Alabama OL), Evan Engram (Ole Miss TE), Kenyan Drake (Alabama RB), Jonathan Bullard (Florida DL), Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt RB) and Pharoh Cooper (South Carolina WR)
2016: Leonard Fournette, LSU RB
We have yet to see what Fournette will do to defenses at the pro level, but if it’s anything like what he did to the SEC, you can mail him a Hall of Fame jacket now. The Tigers star finished his college career with 3,830 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns.
Honorable mentions: Myles Garrett (Texas A&M DL), Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt LB), Chad Kelly (Ole Miss QB), Evan Engram (Ole Miss TE), Josh Dobbs (Tennessee QB), Cam Sutton (Tennessee DB), Jonathan Allen (Alabama DL), O.J. Howard (Alabama TE), Carl Lawson (Auburn DL), Fred Ross (Mississippi State WR), Jarrad Davis (Florida LB), Marcus Maye (Florida DB), Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt RB), Tre’Davious White (LSU DB) and Charles Harris (Missouri DL)
As we kick off the latest iteration of SEC media days, review the list of 2017 players in attendance and let us know: Who will be remembered as the best from this group?
- Bradley Bozeman, Sr., OL
- Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jr., DB
- Calvin Ridley, Jr., WR
- Austin Allen, Sr., QB
- Frank Ragnow, Sr., OL
- Kevin Richardson II, Sr., DB
- Daniel Carlson, Sr., K
- Tray Matthews, Sr., DB
- Braden Smith, Sr., OL
- Duke Dawson, Sr., DB
- Marcell Harris, Sr., DB
- Martez Ivey, Jr., OL
- Nick Chubb, Sr., RB
- Sony Michel, Sr., RB
- Roquan Smith, Jr., LB
- Mike Edwards, Jr., S
- Stephen Johnson, Sr., QB
- Courtney Love, Sr., LB
- D.J. Chark, Sr., WR
- Derrius Guice, Jr., RB
- Christian LaCouture, Sr., DE
- Javon Patterson, Jr., OL
- Shea Patterson, So., QB
- Breeland Speaks, Jr., DT
- Donald Gray, Sr., WR
- Dez Harris, Sr., LB
- Martinas Rankin, Sr., OL
- Eric Beisel, Sr., LB
- Drew Lock, Jr., QB
- J’Mon Moore, Sr., WR
- Jake Bentley, So., QB
- Hayden Hurst, Jr., TE
- Deebo Samuel, Jr., WR
- Emmanuel Moseley, Sr., DB
- Jashon Robertson, Sr., OL
- Kendal Vickers, Sr., DL
- Christian Kirk, Jr., WR
- Koda Martin, Jr., OL
- Armani Watts, Sr., DB
- Oren Burks, Sr., LB
- Kyle Shurmur, Jr., QB
- Ralph Webb, Sr., RB