Sep 9, 2013
By CSU Athletic Historian, John Hirn
Ram Alumni Athletes Association
Everybody loves to rank the best of the best in sports. Fans will debate who was the best at CSU whether as a student-athlete or as a professional/amateur athlete until the end of time. Not all fans have seen every athlete in action and many don’t follow all sports, but this list attempts to name the top-25 male athletes in CSU history. (The top-25 Women’s Athletes will be published in October)
The guidelines of this survey are not limited to the athlete’s performance as a CSU student-athlete. There have been three factors used to judge the success of each athlete and those are: 1.) Accomplishments while at CSU, 2.) Accomplishments as a professional/Olympian or Amateur athlete and 3.) Each athlete’s impact on athletics at the time they competed. The last factor involves looking at the importance of what these athletes did in their time. Meaning, if Glenn Morris ran the decathlon in the 2012 Olympics his point total of 7,900 was more than 1,000 less than the winner, but in 1936 he was the greatest in the world.
It is always difficult to compare athletes that competed in 1948 versus 1995. Even defensive football greats like Joey Porter and Mike Bell, who played 20 years apart, are difficult to compare. This is why each athlete has to be judged by what they did in their time and how impactful it was as a whole.
It is expected that there will be disagreements to the top-25, but that is why sports fans love to make these lists after all.
Honorable Mention: Ivan Dyekman and Gene Grenard – Both won national championships in the pre-WWII era. Less Browne also cannot be forgotten, he is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
25. Pat Durham – Durham’s NBA career may not have been outstanding, but his career at CSU as the school’s all-time leading scorer among many other records makes him a Rams basketball legend.
24. Clark Haggans – Haggans holds the CSU all-time sack record along with All-Conference honors. During his 12 years in the NFL he sacked the quarterback 46.5 times, recorded 502 tackles and won a Super Bowl with the Steelers.
23. Felix “Tippy” Martinez – The greatest baseball player in CSU history was not only one of the nations’ best collegiate pitchers as a Ram, but he helped guide the 1983 Baltimore Orioles to a World Series Championship.
22. Bradlee Van Pelt – BVP is arguably one of the greatest CSU quarterbacks to ever play the game and still holds numerous records for offensive yards while in a Rams uniform.
21. Steve Bartalo – You cannot forget the greatest running back in school history who entered CSU as a walk-on quarterback. His 4,813 rushing yards will stand for a long time as the career mark, but his 1,211 career attempts being the All-Time NCAA record for more than 25 years is a feat in and of its own.
20. Alex Burl – Burl cracks the top-20 not just because he was a fine football player and drafted by the Chicago Cardinals, but for his track accomplishments that won him three All-American Awards as well.
19. Willie Miller – The original greatest receiver in school history and Vietnam War hero also had a stellar career with the Browns and Rams in the NFL. Miller racked up 1,786 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in a 7-year career.
T18. Martin Laird – The greatest men’s golfer in CSU history won conference championships, All-American Awards while a Ram. He is currently on the PGA tour competing in tournaments like The Masters, the US Open and the PGA Championship. His most notable PGA Tour win was the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
T18. Joel Dreessen – The Denver Broncos tight end has already racked up 1,720 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in seven seasons in the NFL and stands to be a key player in the 2013 season as well.
17. Lonnie Wright – Wright not only was an honorable mention as an All-American in basketball at CSU in 1965, but he made professional sports history becoming the first ever black athlete to play two professional sports in one year with the Broncos and Denver Rockets. Not bad for someone who never played football at CSU.
16. Oscar Reed – Reed was the first player in school history to flirt with rushing for 1,000 yards in a season and just missed the mark his junior and senior years. However, as a viable member of the Minnesota Vikings, Reed helped lead his team to three Super Bowls during his eight years in the NFL.
15. Mike Bell – A 1978 first team All-American for the Rams and the second overall pick in the 1979 NFL draft, Bell spent 13 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs tallying 40 sacks after the NFL started tracking them in 1982.
14. Ralph Hutton – No male swimmer in school history achieved as much as Hutton, who had already claimed a Silver Medal for Canada in the 1968 Olympics before he dove into the Moby Pool. Hutton broke numerous school, WAC and NCAA records while he competed at CSU from 1969-1971.
13. Bill Green – Although Green’s NBA career was halted in his rookie season, his accomplishment as the only first team All-American basketball player in school history makes him one of the greatest athletes.
12. Gary Glick – Glick is the only CSU football player chosen as the #1 pick in an NFL draft. That it happened in the 1956 draft is a big deal since the Rams were not a nationally known school at the time. Glick was also a second team All-American in 1955 and spent seven years in the NFL and AFL.
11. Al “Bubba” Baker – Baker was one of the most ruthless defensive linemen in Rams history and when he entered the NFL in 1978 he was named as a rookie of the year. He was named to two All-Pro teams, tallied 65.5 sacks after 1982 and spent 13 seasons in the NFL.
10. Chester Cruikshank – Cruikshank may not be a household CSU name, but in the mid-1930s he earned five All-American Awards for discus and hammer. No track athlete won more than five until the early 2000s. Cruikshank also won the AAU National Championship for hammer three times between 1935 and 1942 and he was a war hero to go along with being a great athlete.
9. Casey Malone – Malone won four All-American awards in discus during all four years he competed. He competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, placing as high as 5th in the Athens Games for discuss.
8. Lawrence McCutcheon – McCutcheon broke the mold for running backs at CSU when he became the school’s first 1,000 yard rusher; he even did it twice. The Clutch rushed for 6,578 yards in the NFL and had 1,799 receiving yards with 39 touchdowns over a 10 year career.
7. Jon Sinclair – Not only did Sinclair win two All-American awards and a national championship while at CSU, but in his professional road racing career he won 25 major races and was named as one of America’s finest long-distance runners.
6. Joey Porter – Porter’s CSU career started off slow, but just like a fine wine, he became better with age and he became one of the finest quarterback sackers ever. As one of the NFL’s most fearsome linebackers, Porter racked up 672 tackles, 98 sacks and was named to four All-Pro teams. He led the Steelers to a World Championship in 2005 and led the NFL in sacks in 2008.
5. Jack Christiansen – The only Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in school history, Christiansen’s professional football career is still remembered nearly 60 years after he last played. Christiansen also ran track at CSU taking several All-Conference honors along with All-Conference football honors. He may still be one of the greatest punt returners in school history.
4. Greg Myers – No football player in school history has won a national award as big as the Thorpe Award that Greg Myers won in 1995. It is the Heisman Trophy of defensive backs and the fact Myers also won two All-American Awards and was an All-WAC performer each season he played makes him one of the greatest ever. Oh yes, he also played in the NFL and went to medical school before his 2012 enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame.
3. Bryan Berryhill – Berryhill racked up an amazing 10 All-American awards, something no athlete has ever done at CSU. He also won two national championships while competing in the 1,500 meter and the mile as a Ram. In his post-CSU career he finished second in the US two times for the 1,500 meter outdoors and second one time in the 1,500 meter indoors.
2. Thurman “Fum” McGraw – The great Fum McGraw was more than an athletic director and coach at CSU. He pulled off a feat no other CSU athlete has ever done and likely will not be done again by winning three All-American awards in three different sports. (Track, Wrestling and Football). McGraw also helped lead the Detroit Lions to two NFL Championships before an injury sidelined his pro career. He was the first Rams player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
1. Glenn Morris – No other CSU athlete can claim the title “World’s Greatest Athlete” and Glenn Morris did after winning the Decathlon in the 1936 Olympics. Not only did he break the World Record for the decathlon at the Olympic trials, Morris broke it again in the ’36 Olympics and held the record until 1950. His career at CSU as an all-conference track and football star was great, but beating athletes on the world’s largest stage of competition makes him the greatest male athlete in school history.