Part Five of "Who Wore It Best? The Virginia Tech Football All-Numbers Team" (#40-49)

Part 1 (#1 – 10)
Part 2 (#11 – 19)
Part 3 (#20 – 29)
Part 4 (#30 – 39)
Part 5 (#40 – 49)
Part 6 (#50 – 59)
Part 7 (#60 – 69)
Part 8 (#70 – 79)
Part 9 (#80 – 89)
Part 10 (#90 - 99 + Bonus)

Welcome to Part 5 of our list of the best Hokie Football Players to wear each jersey number.

Today, we'll take a look at jerseys #40 – 49. This week's list includes several fantastic linebackers along with a couple of record-breaking tailbacks. One of those tailbacks is our school's all-time leading rusher.

So here's the list. (Note: The Honorable Mentions are listed in alphabetical order.)

#40 – Ben Taylor

Ben Taylor remains one of the best linebackers in school history. He was a relentless pursuer at the linebacker position who earned first team All-Big East honors in 2000 and 2001; he led the team in tackles for both of those seasons. Taylor was named a third team All-American in 2000 and a second team All-American in 2001. He was a two-time finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker and finished his career with 318 tackles, including 178 solos. Taylor went on to play five seasons in the NFL. You'd be hard-pressed to find another Tech linebacker better than #40.

(Honorable Mention: Corbin Bailey, Jock Jones, Sidney Snell)

#41 – George Del Ricco

George Del Ricco was a dominant middle linebacker for the Hokies during the mid-1990s. If you watched the Hokies during the 1994 and 1995 seasons, you grew very familiar with hearing his name on the Lane Stadium loudspeakers. Del Ricco tallied 130 tackles in 1994 and 137 tackles in 1995; those were by far the most tackles recorded by a Hokie in a single season since Scott Hill's insane 177 tackles in 1987. Del Ricco helped the Hokies capture their first Big East title in 1995 along with a victory over Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl. He was named first team All-Big East following the 1995 season. So after a 2-9 freshman season, George Del Ricco helped the Hokies to three consecutive bowls for the first time in school history and won the 1995 Sugar Bowl Championship. Talk about leaving a program better than you found it.

(Honorable Mention: Herman "Foots" Dickerson, Damien Russell)

#42 – James Anderson

James Anderson was a whip linebacker for the Hokies from 2002-2005. Anderson was a monster in the weight room, and he became the first Hokie football player to ever win the Excalibur Award (the top honor in Tech's strength and conditioning program) four times. He was part of the #1 defense in the nation in 2005 alongside fellow linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. He helped the Hokies to a victory over #15 Louisville in the Gator Bowl that season. With the Hokies clinging to a 28-24 lead in that game, Anderson picked off a Hunter Cantwell pass and raced 39 yards into the endzone (see photo above). The TD gave the Hokies a 35-24 lead, which they never relinquished. The Hokies really beat up Hunter Cantwell that day; I actually felt sorry for the kid. After leaving Tech, Anderson was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He spent an impressive ten years in the NFL.

(Honorable Mention: JR Collins, Dwayne Thomas, Marshawn Williams)

#43 – Jimmy Richards

Jimmy Richards was a defensive back for the Hokies from 1965 – 1967. He was part of the legendary secondary of the 1960s that included Frank Beamer, Ron Davidson and Frank Loria; but Richards was the only one of them that played in the NFL. Richards became the second Hokie to ever block a punt in a bowl game when he blocked a Miami punt in the 1966 Liberty Bowl. After Tech, Richards was drafted by the New York Jets in 1968, where he spent two seasons. He won a Super Bowl with the Jets in 1968. Jimmy Richards went into the Army after his second season with the Jets to serve his two-year commitment. Based on testimony from those who saw him play, Richards could've had a memorable NFL career if not for his Army obligation; but he never hesitated about that obligation and later earned his masters from Tech in Civil Engineering. Sounds like a pretty awesome Hokie.

(Honorable Mention: Michael Hawkes, Jack Simcsak)

#44 – Terry Smoot

Terry Smoot was a star tailback for the Hokies from 1967 – 1969. He led the Hokies in rushing for three straight seasons, and had eight 100-yard rushing games. In 1969, Smoot rushed for a then school record 940 yards; his 12 touchdowns that season were third best in the nation. He graduated from Tech with virtually every school rushing record, including career rushing yards, career carries and career touchdowns. This is even more impressive when you consider that he split carries with fullback Ken Edwards during his time in Blacksburg.

(Honorable Mention: Ken Brown)

#45 – Cyrus Lawrence

Ok, this was a very tough decision. Sam Rogers has been my favorite Hokie in recent memory. The walk-on fullback/Swiss army knife was the heart and soul of the football team for the past few seasons. But Cyrus Lawrence is Tech's career rushing leader with 3,767 yards, and that's hard to ignore. Lawrence was the starting tailback from 1979-1981 and he was twice named an Honorable Mention All-American (1980 & 1981). He held the Tech single season rushing record with 1,403 rushing yards in 1981 until it was broken by Kevin Jones in 2003. He still holds the school record for most 100-yard rushing games with 16. It's incredible that Cyrus Lawrence's career rushing record is still standing, given all of the outstanding tailbacks that we've had at this school; granted, some of our tailbacks probably would've broken that record if they'd stayed in school all four years. But still, the Tech career rushing leader deserves a spot on this list. Please don't tell Sam about this, it would make him angry...and you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

(Honorable Mention: Gene Bunn, Eddie Hunter, Sam Rogers, Terry Strock)

#46 – Jamel Smith

Jamel Smith was a three-year starter at linebacker for the Hokies from 1997 – 1999. He led the team in tackles in both 1998 and 1999; he was named All-Big East in both of those seasons. In 1999, Smith led the #1 scoring defense in the nation to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the National Championship game. He was honored as a second team All-American that season, becoming only the second All-American linebacker in school history (Mike Widger was a first team All-American in 1968). He was also a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker.

(Honorable Mention: Brandon Pace, Joey Slye)

#47 – Nekos Brown

Nekos Brown was the starting defensive end opposite Jason Worilds for the 2009 season. He never put up monster numbers, but he was always fun to watch. I believe the coach speak would be that he was "physical to the point of attack." He helped the Hokies to a 10-3 record in 2009 and a berth in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Tennessee. He saved his best game for last as he recorded two sacks against the Volunteers in a 37-14 victory. Probably the coolest thing about Nekos is that he is the son of Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go music. Chuck Brown has performed concerts all over the world, and he used to bring Nekos on stage with him. Nekos is apparently a talented musician himself; but he opted to pursue football instead of music due to his stage fright.

(Honorable Mention: Bob Thomas)

#48 – Nick Cullen

Nick Cullen was a sure-handed receiver for the Hokies from 1987 – 1990. He tied a school record with 13 receptions in a Homecoming victory over Southern Miss in 1990; that record still stands today. Nick's final game at Tech was a memorable one; the Hokies beat #17 UVA 38-13 (Bro). The photo above shows Nick celebrating after a 29-yard TD grab against the Wahoos. For those of you who don't know, UVA was ranked #1 in the nation at one point in 1990; they then proceeded to lose four of their last five games, including one against the Hokies. Wahoos still love to talk about that one time when they were ranked #1 in the nation, and I love to remind them that that same team lost to the Hokies. I saw a newspaper article a few years ago that ranked the Top 5 UVA football teams of all time. #1 on the list was the 1990 squad and #2 was the 1995 team. So UVA's two greatest football teams of all time were BOTH beaten by the Hokies! #LOLUVA

(Honorable Mention: Brandon Manning)

#49 – Chris Ellis

Chris Ellis was a top defensive end for the Hokies when they first joined the ACC. Ellis was named a freshman All-American in 2004 after playing opposite Darryl Tapp at DE. In 2005, he and Tapp terrorized QBs on their way to an 11-2 season and a victory in the Gator Bowl. During the 2006 Gator Bowl, Ellis had a sack and forced fumble on QB Hunter Cantwell. The Hokies had been beating up Cantwell all day, eventually causing him to stick gauze up his bloody nose. On Ellis' sack and forced fumble, you could clearly see the gauze flying out of Cantwell's nose...poor guy. Ellis became the Hokies' top pass rusher for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. During the 2007 game against FSU, Ellis had an interception returned for a touchdown to secure the 40-21 win; it was Frank Beamer's first victory over Bobby Bowden. Ellis' sack against UVA's Jameel Sewell effectively sealed the win for the Hokies and earned Tech a trip to the 2007 ACC Championship (which they won). After the 2007 season, Ellis was selected as a first team All-ACC performer.

(Honorable Mention: Tremaine Edmunds, Tony Paige, Steve Tate, Matt Waldron)

Here's our list after four weeks:

#1 – Isaiah Ford
#2 – Jimmy Williams
#3 – Bryan Randall
#4 – David Wilson
#5 – Tyrod Taylor
#6 – Jason Worilds
#7 – Michael Vick*
#8 – Vinnie Fuller
#9 – Vince Hall
#10 – Frank Loria**
#11 – Xavier Adibi
#12 – Maurice Deshazo
#13 – Bruce Arians
#14 – Torrian Gray
#15 – Don Strock
#16 – Jim Druckenmiller
#17 – Kam Chancellor
#18 – Brandon Flowers
#19 – Danny Coale
#20 – Jayron Hosley
#21 – Rashad Carmichael
#22 – Lee Suggs
#23 – Nic Schmitt
#24 – Ron Davidson
#25 – Frank Beamer*
#26 – Cody Grimm
#27 – Jarrett Ferguson
#28 – Ken Oxendine
#29 – Frank Peake
#30 – Dave Smigelsky
#31 – Curtis Taliaferro
#32 – Darren Evans
#33 – Ken Edwards
#34 – Ryan Williams
#35 – Mike Johnson
#36 – Carter Wiley
#37 – Phil Rogers
#38 – Rick Razzano
#39 – Lyndell Gibson
#40 – Ben Taylor
#41 – George Del Ricco
#42 – James Anderson
#43 – Jimmy Richards
#44 – Terry Smoot
#45 – Cyrus Lawrence
#46 – Jamel Smith
#47 – Nekos Brown
#48 – Nick Cullen
#49 – Chris Ellis

*Retired Jersey – the number can still be worn by Tech football players
**Retired Number – the number will never be worn by another Tech football player

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Comments

Hunter Cantwell had a hell of a time with Hokies in the 40s. I remember that game distinctly and I still kind of feel sorry for that poor guy.

Great list. Love reading these.

I stumbled upon this video a while back. I miss those defenses.

I think I just witnessed murder four times in one video.

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.

The funny thing about clips like this that are at least 10-15 years old is that you can usually find one or two tackles/sacks that were considered great hits back then but would be called targeting today.

Using /s is for cowards.

I think we need the Cyrus Lawrence uniform added to the custom uniforms threads.