This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99. For background on the project, click here
. We started at #99 and we're working our way down to #1. For each number, I'll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.
Next up are numbers 89 through 80. There is a pretty even split between offense (split ends, wide receivers, tight ends, and a couple of wing backs) and defense (defense ends, rush ends, and linebackers).
Best Player: Broderick Thomas
, Outside Linebacker, 1985 - 1988
Frosty Anderson, Mitch Krenk, Junior Miller
The Sandman was a player ahead of his time. Big, fast, and brash he was a three time All Big 8 pick and two time All American. Thomas was one of the first in Nebraska's stretch of game changing pass rushers (including Mike Croel, Trev Alberts, Grant Wistrom, and others). But yet, Thomas seems to be remembered more for what he said than what he did. When you think about all of the trash talking players of today, making bold proclamations before games, its hard to believe that the Sandman was doing those things almost 30 years ago. I liked the passion and swagger that Thomas brought to NU, and I can think of a number of teams since he left that could have used somebody with his personality (and talents).
Best Player: Mike Croel
, Outside Linebacker, 1987 - 1990
Eric Alford, Guy Ingles, Sheldon Jackson, Trevor Johnson
Rod Smith, Split End, 1985 - 1988
Like Broderick Thomas, Croel was a pioneer in Nebraska's run of disruptive pass rushers. A stellar pass rusher, Croel helped anchor the defensive line. I gave Croel the nod over Ingles mainly for the legacy he helped to create on the defensive line, but I'd gladly listen to a case for Guy the Fly as the best.
Rod Smith is a part of one of my favorite Husker memories: Growing up, my dad would find tickets to one Husker game each year, which was a huge thrill for me. I loved seeing the team, the stadium, the band, the people, the Sea of Red - the whole experience was amazing and electric for a small town Nebraska kid.
In 1987, we had tickets for the UCLA game - a big step from the games we usually saw (New Mexico, Iowa State, etc.) Before one play, I was watching the huddle with Dad's binoculars. I saw Steve Taylor call the play, and as the huddle broke, he gave Smith a pat on the rear. I announced "I think they're going to Smith". Taylor took the snap, faked the option, dropped back, and hit Smith with a 48 yard bomb (one of Taylor's five passing TDs that day). A very cool memory for me, and one that helped to cement my love of Nebraska Football.