A few months ago, my brother and I were driving home from a Tech road game. We decided to pass the time by naming a Tech football player for every jersey number from 1-99 (ie 1 = Victor "Macho" Harris, 2 = Roscoe Coles, etc.). We quickly realized two things: 1. That's a lot more difficult than it sounds and 2. We were not always selecting the best players for each jersey number. There was a lot of "Really? That's the best you can think of?" going on.
So I decided to create the definitive list of the best Hokie Football Players to wear each jersey number. Sports Illustrated recently put together a similar list for athletes across every sport, which naturally led to some controversial picks. The list of Tech football players isn't nearly as controversial, but there were some extremely tough decisions. In many cases, my head said one thing and my heart said another (for example, who should get the nod for #45? Sam Rogers or Cyrus Lawrence?).
I was a student at Tech during the 2000's, so many of my picks tend to be guys that played during the Big East and ACC eras. That is not meant to be a knock against some of the old timers who wore orange and maroon; when in doubt, I usually picked the guys that I'd seen play in person.
So here is the list. Feel free to disagree. (Note: The Honorable Mentions are listed in alphabetical order.)
#1 – Isaiah Ford
Starting off with a bang! Up until the 2015 season, Victor "Macho" Harris had this spot all locked up. After all, he was the heart and soul of the 2008 defense, which led to him being named first team All-American by Sporting News. Whenever we needed a big play on defense that year, Macho came through and led us to an ACC Title and an Orange Bowl Championship. But then Isaiah Ford showed up and starting breaking records. Ford may go down as the greatest wide receiver in school history. He sits atop the career list in receptions, receiving touchdowns and receiving yards. He is also the first and only Tech receiver to have 1,000 receiving yards in a single season...and he did it twice. When you break that many records, you've earned a spot on this list.
(Honorable Mention: Keion Carpenter, Antone Exum, Eric Green, Victor "Macho" Harris)
#2 – Jimmy Williams
We've had some great members of DBU over the years, from DeAngelo Hall to Brandon Flowers; from Kam Chancellor to Kyle Fuller and so on. But one guy that never gets much love is Jimmy Williams. The crazy thing is, he may have the best college pedigree of any of our DBs. The guy was a UNANIMOUS All-American in 2005. To put that in perspective, Tech has only had four Unanimous All-Americans in its history: Jim Pyne, Corey Moore, Jake Grove and Jimmy Williams; the other three guys on that list have their jerseys hanging in the North End Zone. Jimmy may never have his jersey retired, but he's at least earned a spot on this list.
(Honorable Mention: Roscoe Coles, Will Furrer, Josh Morgan, Ronyell Whitaker, Maurice Williams)
#3 – Bryan Randall
Bryan Randall was a strong-willed, tough QB who led Virginia Tech to an ACC Championship in its first year in the league (2004). The Hokies were picked to finish 7th out of 11 teams that year, but Randall silenced all of the critics on his way to being named the 2004 ACC Player of the Year; he also won the 2004 Dudley Award as the top NCAA football player in the state of Virginia. He finished his collegiate career with school records in both passing yards (6,508) and total offense (8,034). He even held a Big East Record for passing yards in a single game (504). The best thing about B-Ran was that he gave you everything he had every time he stepped on the field.
(Honorable Mention: Ike Charlton, Logan Thomas)
#4 – David Wilson
Now this is where things get REALLY difficult. Some of the greatest Hokies of all time have worn the #4 jersey. The #4 jersey is to VT what the #44 jersey is to Syracuse. So who do you pick here? You've got Eddie Royal, Chris Kinzer, DeAngelo Hall and David Wilson. Eddie Royal was a speedy WR that threatened to take it to the house on every kick/punt return. Chris Kinzer was responsible for "The Kick" in the 1986 Peach Bowl, which earned Tech its first ever bowl victory. All-American DeAngelo Hall remains one of the greatest members of DBU who went on to a great career in the NFL; he once famously said "Give it to me Roscoe! Give it to me!" And then there's David Wilson: the rabbit-catching, Cassell Coliseum-climbing tailback who reportedly eats Chick Fil-A on Sundays. This is probably the toughest pick of the day, but I'm going to go with David Wilson who holds the record for most rushing yards in a single season (1,709 yards in 2011). Not only was he an All-American, but he also won the 2011 ACC Player of the Year and that's got to count for something.
(Honorable Mention: Jerod Evans, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Kinzer, Eddie Royal)
#5 – Tyrod Taylor
The one thing you can't deny about Tyrod is that he was a winner. In his four years at Tech, he won three ACC Titles (2007, 2008 & 2010). He also brought home a Chick Fil-A Bowl Championship and an Orange Bowl Championship (VT's first and only BCS Bowl victory). He was twice named MVP of the ACC Championship Game (2008 and 2010) and was honored as the ACC Player of the Year in 2010. For those of you keeping track at home, this makes three straight ACC Players of the Year on this list. Some of Tyrod's records have been broken by his successors, but he remains one of the most beloved Hokies of all time.
(Honorable Mention: Kevin McCadam, Cam Phillips, Marcus Vick)
#6 – Jason Worilds
Jason Worilds (or "The Artist Formerly Known as Jason Adjepong") was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line. He was a two-time All-ACC selection in 2008 & 2009, despite the fact that he always seemed to be playing hurt. He helped lead a scary defense in 2009, which included Cody Grimm and Kam Chancellor. That season, he had an impressive 32 Quarterback Hits. I'm still a little upset that Worilds chose to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft, because the 2010 defense could have certainly used a skilled pass rusher like him. But I completely understand him wanting to pursue his NFL dream. He actually had a pretty solid career with the Pittsburgh Steelers before choosing to retire after five years in the league.
(Honorable Mention: Roger Brown, Vegas Robinson)
#7 – Michael Vick
If Frank Beamer put Virginia Tech on the map, then Michael Vick circled it. He dazzled crowds with the "Michael Vick Experience" and made Virginia Tech really cool. Vick compiled a record of 20-1 as the starting QB at Virginia Tech; his only loss came against FSU in the National Championship, a game that he almost single-handedly won. After leaving Tech, the Atlanta Falcons selected Vick with the #1 pick in the 2001 NFL Draft; he and Bruce Smith are the only Hokies to be selected #1 overall. Here's the bottom line: if I were tasked with building an All-Time Tech Team that had to win one game, you bet your ass I'd have MV7 lining up under center.
(Honorable Mention: Sean Glennon, Bucky Hodges)
#8 – Vinnie Fuller
Ah yes, the Fuller that started it all. In all honestly, I had to put Vinnie Fuller in this spot because his three young brothers were unceremoniously cut from this list (SPOILER ALERT!!!). Vinnie may not have received the accolades that his younger brothers did, but he was still one heckuva football player. His most famous play came against #6 West Virginia in 2004. Following a Jim Davis field goal block, Fuller scooped up the loose ball and raced 74 yards for a touchdown. That TD proved to be the difference in a 19-13 upset of the Mountaineers that turned Tech's season around.
After leaving Tech, Fuller had a very productive career in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. But more importantly, he convinced his three younger brothers that orange and maroon were their natural colors.
(Honorable Mention: Greg Boone)
#9 – Vince Hall
One of my favorite Hokies of all-time; seriously, I love this guy. Vince Hall was the middle linebacker at Tech from 2004 – 2007; he was the field general for four of our greatest defenses of all time. Here are the national rankings for total defense during Hall's time in Blacksburg – 2004: #4, 2005: #1, 2006: #1, 2007: #4. Those defenses were insanely good! Now, Vince had some help on those teams. Most notably, he teamed up with fellow linebacker Xavier Adibi to form the 9-11 defense (as in, "you gotta problem, call 9-11"). Hall was the leading tackler for the Hokies in both 2005 and 2006 while Adibi led the team in tackles in 2007. Vince Hall was one of the best linebackers to ever play for Bud Foster, and he won the 2006 Dudley Award as the top NCAA football player in the state of Virginia.
(Honorable Mention: Antonio Banks, Anthony Midget)
#10 – Frank Loria
When compiling a list of the greatest football players to wear each jersey number, your best bet is to take a look at the university's retired numbers. The nine jerseys/numbers consist of some of the best Hokies to ever play the game, and that holds true for Tech's first Consensus All-American, Frank Loria. Loria started every game at safety for Tech from 1965-1967. He still holds the Tech record for punt return TDs in a season (3) and career (4). After college, he became the offensive coordinator at Marshall University. He died in the 1970 airplane crash that claimed the lives of almost the entire Marshall football team and coaching staff. Loria was the Granddaddy of DBU and remains one of the all-time great Hokies.
(Honorable Mention: Johnny Dean, Jim Lugar, Bob Schweickert, Lenny Smith)
Well that's the list so far! I had a blast reading through every bit of Hokie History that I could get my hands on. Who do you think were the biggest snubs on this list?