Behind The Numbers: From 1-9, The Best College Football Player To Wear Each Number (Revamped)

This time of year college football fans would be watching their favorite teams prepare for spring ball. Unfortunately things are different due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Because of COVID-19, the world is on pause until we flatten the curve. We at TSFJ decided to give the people something to chat about during this trying time that relates to college football. We understand that COVID-19 is a serious matter and we would like to send our prayers and well wishes to anyone that has been affected by this. 

Jersey numbers mean everything to athletes. While it may seem simple, it coincides with one’s success. 

I’m certain that Charles Woodson wouldn’t have won the Heisman Trophy if he rocked No.47. Not to slight anyone that has worn that jersey, but for a defensive back, it doesn’t get much worse than that. The powers of No. 2 helped propel Woodson into one of the best college football players of all-time. Sure, his talent, skill and hard work played a (large) part, but that number helped put him over the top.

I’m one of many that believes the NFL should allow players to wear any jersey number at any position. But as all we know, that will never happen. One day I hope I can chat with commissioner Roger Goodell about the importance of it. I’m certain that Charles Rogers, Reggie Bush, and Peter Warrick would’ve had decorated careers if they were allowed to play in their college numbers.

Since we originally published this article in 2016, college football has changed quite a bit. That said, let’s take a look at our updated list with the best players to wear numbers 1-9.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh

Deciding the best player to wear No.1 was a tough decision, until I realized how dominant Larry Fitzgerald was at Pitt. As soon as Fitz stepped foot on campus, he was arguably the best wide receiver in college football. In only two seasons, the beast of a wideout caught 161 passes for 2,677 yards. In his sophomore campaign, he hauled in 22 touchdowns, which is best in team history.

Honorable mention: Kyler Murray, Anthony Carter, Tavon Austin, Charles Rogers, Percy Harvin

2. Charles Woodson, Michigan

In our previous post, there was a tie between Charles Woodson and Deion Sanders. Unfortunately I had to make a final decision and I decided to go with Woodson.

On the college level, Woodson did everything Sanders could do, but at a higher level. Woodson beat out Randy Moss, Moss’ blue blockers, Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning in the Heisman race. Being the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy places Woodson in a class by himself.

Honorable mention: Deion Sanders (previous winner), Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Derrick Henry, Chase Young

3. Carson Palmer, USC

Carson Palmer put USC football back on the map. After not having a double-digit win seasons from 1989-2001, During Palmer’s Heisman campaign, he led the Trojans to an 11-win season and an Orange Bowl victory in 2002.

Honorable mention: Keyshawn Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr., Calvin Ridley, Todd Gurley, Kevin Faulk

4. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

No words are needed, just listen to Dabo:

Honorable mention: Plaxico Burress (previous winner), Jerry Jeudy, Brett Favre, Devin Hester, Champ Bailey

5. Reggie Bush, USC

Reggie Bush is the most electrifying college football player that I’ve ever seen, and it’s not even close. He was a highlight waiting to happen whenever he touched the ball. Ranking 10th in NCAA Division I-A history with 6,551 all-purpose yards is a testament to his versatile skill set. Although Bush and the Trojans came up short to win back-to-back titles, his 2005 season will go down in history as one of the best ever. He won the Heisman Trophy that season, even if the history books have been rewritten.

Honorable mention: Edgerrin James, Donovan McNabb, Jameis Winston, LaDainian Tomlinson, Christian McCaffrey

6. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma 

Unlike everyone on this list, Baker Mayfield began his college football career as a walk-on at Texas Tech. Mayfield left Lubbock and took his talents to Oklahoma where he won the Heisman Trophy award in 2017. Mayfield began a pipeline of Heisman-caliber quarterbacks that played at Oklahoma. Once upon a time the Sooners were viewed as RB U, and now they are QB U thanks to Mayfield and Lincoln Riley taking the position to a new level.

Honorable mention: Jerome Bettis (previous winner) Tyrone Wheatley, Robbie Bosco, Santana Moss, DeAndre Hopkins

7. Michael Vick, Virginia Tech


There were several players more successful than Vick who wore No. 7, but this choice is for the culture. It’s crazy to think that it’s been 20 years since Vick flipped into our hearts. At Virginia Tech, he led the Hokies to the National Championship Game in 2000, losing to a star-laden Florida State team. Vick’s legend in college will forever be celebrated even though his time in Blacksburg was short-lived.

Honorable mention: Eric Crouch, Tyrann Mathieu, John Elway, Danny Wuerffel, Jadeveon Clowney,

8. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

Before he became an NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson put Louisville football on the map. To some, Jackson is the most electrifying quarterback to play the game. Jackson took the college football world by storm during his Heisman campaign as he amassed over 5,000 total yards and 51 touchdowns. While he didn’t win back-to-back Heisman trophies, he surpassed 5,000 total yards for the second season in the row and he scored 45 touchdowns.

Honorable mention: Troy Aikman (previous winner), Steve Young, Marvin Harrison, Julio Jones, Marcus Mariota

9. Peter Warrick, Florida State

Peter Warrick is arguably the most electrifying player to lace them up in college football. Warrick was lightning in a bottle, and like Reggie Bush, he was a highlight waiting to happen. While at FSU, Warrick led his team to a national championship, and he was a consensus two-time All-American. In addition to that, he was one hell of a bargain shopper. Unfortunately, Warrick’s success didn’t translate at the next level, but what he did at Florida State was legendary. 

Honorable mention: Joe Burrow, David Boston, Bobby Boucher, Steve McNair, Jim McMahon

5 Replies to “Behind The Numbers: From 1-9, The Best College Football Player To Wear Each Number (Revamped)”

  1. this list is good but I would have gone with…..
    #1 – Anthony Carter
    #2 – Deion and Charles
    #3 – Joe Simmons (NCCU) kid was a beast or Joe Montana… Joe is a stars name
    #4 – Lorenzo Favre
    #5 – Reggie Bush
    #6 – Tyrone Wheatley
    #7 – Michael Vick
    #8 – Davey O’Brien (they named a trophy after the man)
    #9 – Steve McNair

    1. I like your #7 better than mine, I’ll even take your #6. You obviously didn’t see Simmons run the rock or your #3 would have been different. lol..

    2. Malcolm Kelly’s freestyle is the reason why i should have had him in the #4 spot. Also shout out to Edge for running for 299 yards ending Cade McKnown and UCLA’s possible bid to the National Championship.

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