Auburn University has been competing in football since the 1890s. Since then the program has established itself as one of the most historic programs in the sport. The Tigers have won two national championships, and are almost always competitive in the brutal SEC. Not to mention, their bitter rivalries with Alabama, The Iron Bowl, is one of the fiercest in college football.
Of course, some of the greatest college football players ever have donned the Auburn uniform. In fact, there are so many great Auburn players that it’s difficult to narrow the list down to just five. But that’s exactly what we’re doing today!
Before we get to the list itself, though, it’s important to note that we are only judging these players on their time at Auburn. We’ll still mention their careers after they left the school, but it won’t contribute to the rankings at all.
Additionally, we have a couple of honorable mentions to hand out. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (2001-04) is Auburn’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and second in rushing yards behind the player who will obviously be No. 1 on this list. Cornerback Carlos Rogers (2001-04) locked down opposing receivers throughout his college career, even winning the Jim Thorpe Award in his senior season.
With that said, here are the top five greatest players in Auburn Football history.
5. DT Tracy Rocker, 1985-88
A 2004 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Tracy Rocker has earned his spot as the best defender in Auburn history. Over his four year career, Rocker racked up 354 tackles and 21 sacks, ranking seventh and fourth in school history, respectively. He was a three-time first-team All-SEC selection, a two-time All-American and became the first SEC player to ever win the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in the same season in 1988.
Even after his playing career, Rocker continues to leave his mark on Auburn football. He spent two seasons as the Tigers’ defensive line coach in 2009 and 2010, helping them win the national championship in the latter year. Today, Rocker holds the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.
4. WR Terry Beasley, 1969-71
More than 50 years after his college career ended, Terry Beasley still stands as the greatest receiver in Auburn history. He is the Tigers’ all-time leader in receiving yards with 2,507 and receiving touchdowns with 29. He led the SEC in all major receiving stats in 1970 and 1971, earning All-American selections in both seasons.
Beasley is not just an Auburn legend, but a college football legend too. He is one of only three Tigers to have his number retired, and he earned a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. Beasley formed half of one of college football’s best duos in the early 70s, along with the next player on the list.
3. QB Pat Sullivan, 1969-71
Much like his favorite target Beasley, Pat Sullivan still holds several Auburn records to this day. He is the school’s all-time leader with 53 passing touchdowns, and is fifth in passing yards with 6,284. Sullivan led the NCAA with 2,856 yards of total offense in 1970, and became Auburn’s first Heisman winner in 1971.
Auburn not only retired Sullivan’s number, but placed a statue of him outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium. He returned to his alma mater as a quarterbacks coach from 1986 to 1991, helping the Tigers win three straight SEC titles. Sullivan tragically passed away from cancer in 2019, but he will always be immortal in Auburn.
2. QB Cam Newton, 2010
Rarely does a one-year player crack a list like this, but Newton was just that good. He began his college career at Florida, then transferred to junior college following some legal troubles. Auburn offered Newton a second chance at major college football, and boy did that decision pay off.
Newton’s stats in 2010 are something straight out of a video game: 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns passing, plus 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing. He won nearly every major college football award, including the Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Award and Maxwell Award. Thanks to Newton, the Tigers also enjoyed their best season ever, going 14-0 en route to a national title.
The Carolina Panthers then selected Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He excelled throughout his career in Carolina, with an MVP award and Super Bowl appearance in 2015 being some of the highlights. Newton is the only player on this list not in the College Football Hall of Fame, but it’s only a matter of time until he joins his peers.
1. RB Bo Jackson, 1982-85
Bo Jackson is easily the best and most iconic player in Auburn football history, as well as one of the best in college football history. A three-sport athlete, Jackson dominated throughout his college football career, but his final season made him a true legend. In 1985, Jackson ran for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns to become the second Heisman winner in school history.
Jackson is still Auburn’s all-time rushing leader with 4,303 yards, nearly 500 more than the next-closest player. He is also second in career rushing touchdowns with 43, just two behind the record. Jackson has his number retired, has a statue of himself outside the stadium and is in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Simply put, Jackson is not just the greatest athlete in Auburn history, but greatest athlete, period. He went on to star in both the NFL and Major League Baseball.