When people think about Nebraska sports, only one thing comes to mind, and that’s football. The Nebraska Cornhuskers have won multiple national championships in football and have produced some of the biggest star players in the college landscape. From Heisman winners to certified star players that made it into the NFL, there are a lot of great Cornhuskers.
Out of the many that have made their way through Nebraska, though, which ones truly stand out as the best? Here are our picks for the five greatest Nebraska sports stars from the gridiron and what made them so special.
5. Lawrence Phillips
The story of Lawrence Phillips is undoubtedly a tragic one, but there was no doubt that when he was on the field, he was the best player. The athletic running back dazzled in his freshman season with 508 yards on just 92 carries. The following year, Phillips gashed defenses for 1,722 yards and 16 touchdowns while adding another 172 receiving yards.
Phillips was well on his way to being the Heisman favorite in 1995, but he got suspended from the team after the Cornhuskers defeated Michigan State. Phillips returned for the Fiesta Bowl and helped Nebraska to win a national championship. He then declared for the NFL Draft and didn’t last long in the league due to off-the-field issues and sadly took his life while imprisoned in 2016.
4. Mike Rozier
The other running back on the list is Mike Rozier, who made his way to Lincoln in 1981 after spending a year in junior college. As a sophomore, Rozier saw significant playing time and collected 943 rushing yards with five touchdowns. Given the starting role the next year, Rozier was able to gallop for 1,689 yards and 15 touchdowns, finishing in the top 10 of Heisman voting.
Rozier then exploded in his final season with Nebraska in 1983. He rushed for 2,148 yards and a jaw-dropping 29 touchdowns. He’d finish his college career with 4,780 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns while also winning the 1983 Heisman Trophy. Rozier then spent his pro career in the USFL and NFL, making the Pro Bowl twice.
3. Ndamukong Suh
Many feel that Ndamukong Suh not winning the Heisman Trophy while at Nebraska was one of the biggest snubs in college football history. Suh played for five seasons in Nebraska, including a redshirt freshman year where he had one tackle. He became more explosive as the years went on, and by 2009, he was the best defensive player in college football.
Suh, in his final season, had 85 total tackles including more than 20 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. Suh was absolutely disruptive but still finished just fourth in the 2009 Heisman voting. He finished his college career with 24 total sacks and even added four interceptions on his way to being drafted second overall by the Detroit Lions in 2010.
2. Eric Crouch
Now we get to the quarterback section where we find Eric Crouch. Hailing from Omaha, Crouch decided to stay in-state for his college career and had an immediate impact on the Cornhuskers following a redshirt season. Crouch had 459 rushing yards and 601 passing yards as a freshman and only got better with time.
By his final season, Crouch was the biggest impact player in the nation. In 2001, he won a second Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Award while also taking home the Camp, O’Brien, and Heisman Trophies. He finished his Cornhuskers career with 3,434 rushing yards and 59 touchdowns while adding 4,481 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air.
1. Tommie Frazier
Like Eric Crouch, Tommie Frazier was a player that continued to get better after seeing the field slightly as a freshman. Frazier would win two national titles after coming to Nebraska by way of Bradenton, Florida during the 1990s. Though he didn’t win a Heisman, Frazier still stood out as an all-time great as a dual threat.
Frazier had 1,955 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns on the ground while passing for 3,521 yards and 43 touchdowns during his four-year career. He also threw just 11 interceptions, which is astonishing for a four-year span at any level of football. Unlike the rest of the players on the list, though, Frazier went undrafted into the NFL.