Florida football has become one of the most storied programs in college football history. Their run of dominance throughout the ’90s and 2000s will always be one of the most impressive in the history of the game, and very few teams can compete with it.
Along with that, some of the greatest college football players ever have played their home games in Gainesville. Some of these players have not just dominated in blue and orange, but had very productive NFL careers as well and eventually found themselves in Canton.
Today, we are ranking the five greatest players in Florida football history. We won’t be looking at their NFL careers, but most of them have found success at the next level.
Before we start, let’s give out a few honorable mentions. Star players such as Fred Taylor, Carlos Dunlap, Percy Harvin and the Pouncey brothers have strong claims to make the list, but despite their outstanding careers, they fell just short. With that said, let’s get to ranking.
5. LB Wilber Marshall, 1980-83
Even though Florida wasn’t a national power quite yet in the early ’80s, that didn’t stop Marshall from terrorizing opposing offenses. Marshall finished his illustrious Gator career with 343 tackles and 23 sacks, a school record at the time. Even almost 40 years later, he still has the fifth-most sacks in school history.
Marshall was a three-time All-SEC selection, a two-time consensus All-American and ABC Sports’ National Defensive Player of the year in 1983. The Gators inducted him into their Ring of Honor in 2007, cementing his place in school history. Marshall went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, winning Super Bowls with Chicago in 1985 and Washington in 1991.
4. QB Steve Spurrier, 1963-66
If this list was about each person’s overall impact on the Florida football program, Spurrier would have a real argument for the top spot. He was an outstanding player, coached the team to its first national title in 1996, and even has the team’s field named after him. Even when looking at just his playing career, Spurrier is more than worthy of being on the list.
Spurrier had solid seasons in 1964 and 1965, but his senior season in 1966 was truly special. He threw for 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns, earning All-American honors, the Walter Camp Award and the Heisman Trophy. Spurrier was arguably the man to put Florida football on the map, and his mark on the program still holds strong today.
3. DE Jack Youngblood, 1968-70
Youngblood came to Florida as just a small kid out of high school and left as a legend. He was less than 200 pounds when he came to Gainesville but gradually bulked up to become the best defensive linemen in the country. He started his career with 24 tackles and four sacks in 1968, then became a monster the next two years.
Youngblood recorded 66 tackles and 14 sacks in 1969, then 58 tackles and 10 sacks in 1970. He was a first-team All-American and won SEC Linemen of the Year in 1970. Youngblood then enjoyed an outstanding 14-year career with the Los Angeles Rams, eventually winding up in the Hall of Fame.
2. RB Emmitt Smith, 1987-1989
The NFL’s All-Time leading rusher got his start at Florida, and is easily the school’s greatest rusher. Over 30 years later, Smith’s name is still all over the Gators’ record books. He is second in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and has the two best rushing seasons in school history.
Smith was an instant star in Gainesville, finishing his 1987 freshman season with 1,341 yards and 13 touchdowns. Injuries limited him in 1988, but he rebounded with a monster 1989 season, finishing with 1,599 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was not only a consensus All-American, but the SEC’s Most Valuable Player as well. Smith then went on to become an NFL legend too, breaking many records and helping the Dallas Cowboys become a dynasty in the ’90s.
1. QB Tim Tebow, 2006-09
For all of the great players to wear blue and orange, the top spot was never in question. Tebow is easily the greatest player in Florida football history and led the team to its best-ever stretch in the late 2000s. Even though he started his career as a backup in 2006, he still accounted for 13 touchdowns and it was clear he would be special.
Tebow then had one of the greatest college seasons ever in 2007, accounting for nearly 4,200 yards and 55 touchdowns and winning the Heisman Trophy. He then continued to shine in 2008 and 2009, racking up over 3,500 yards and 35 touchdowns each season. He led the Gators to the national title and 2008, and came close again in 2009.
Tebow finished his career with 57 rushing touchdowns, 21 more than the next-closest Gator, and holds several other records as well. Tebow may not have had the NFL success as others on this list, but his college career easily outshines any other Gator.