Do NFL Considerations Rule College Football Hall of Fame Selection?
Word came back this week that former Nebraska players Trev Alberts and Eric Crouch did not make the cut for the College Football Hall of Fame. Some of that might be attributable to the backlog of worthy players. No player who took the college field as recently as Crouch was admitted. But you still see quite a lean toward players with standout pro careers.
Here are a few players who seemed to make it based on their NFL credentials versus college credentials:
Dave Butz - 1st round draft pick, Pro-Bowler, Super Bowl Champion, Member of NFL 1980's All-Decade Team - one-time All-American and finalist for the Lombardi award
Willie Roaf - Pro Football Hall of Famer - one-time All-American and finalist for Outland award.
Sterling Sharpe - 1st round draft pick and Pro-Bowler, one-time All-American.
Leonard Smith - 1st round draft pick and Pro-Bowler, All-Southland conference.
Wesley Walls - Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl Champion, All-American.
While all of these players far surpassed Crouch and Alberts as professionals, none of them matched what the two former Huskers collegiately. Alberts was the star player for a team that was within a hair of a national championship. He won the Butkus award as the nation's best linebacker. He delivered three sacks and three hurries in the national championship game in Florida State's back yard. But he was famous for being drafted so high that Mel Kiper Jr. complained loudly. Injuries kept his NFL career short, making him look like a bust.
Similarly, Crouch won the Heisman as the nation's best player as a senior. Two years prior he was named the Big 12's offensive player of the year. He led the Huskers to a conference title, Fiesta Bowl victory and #2 ranking after the 1999 season and a national championship game appearance in 2001. Of course, Crouch's pro football career could be defined as a disaster. Like Tim Tebow, he wanted to be a quarterback when his skills just weren't suited to play the position professionally.
Crouch outproduced Joe Hamilton, also a member of the most recent class in terms of victories and touchdowns. But Hamilton's passing numbers looked better, another case where a college player might be judged by professional criteria.
It's a shame that an institution that exists to recognize outstanding college players seems defined by the pro league. Both players should eventually get in, but they shouldn't have to watch better pros with weaker college resumes pass them by.