Despite falling on hard times recently, Nebraska football remains one of the most storied programs in college football history. The Cornhuskers simply dominated the sport in the latter half of the 20th Century, finishing with at least nine wins in every season from 1969 to 2001. With Matt Rhule now at the helm, the Huskers are hoping to return to the glory days starting in 2023.
With such a successful program, some of the greatest college football players ever have donned the scarlet and cream. Many of these players played during the Huskers' glory days, although a few have come after. Some of these players have also gone on to become NFL legends too, but others have enjoyed more success at the college level.
While plenty of players have a case to make the list, only five can make it. However, there are two players who came very close and deserve honorable mentions. Defensive end Grant Wistrom (1994-97) terrorized opposing offenses, and he still holds the school record with 58.5 tackles for loss and is second with 26.5 sacks. Tampa Bay Buccaneers star linebacker Lavonte David (2010-11) also deserves a mention, as he is fourth in school history with 285 tackles despite only playing two seasons.
With those honorable mentions out of the way, now we can get to the list proper. Here are the top five greatest players in Nebraska football history.
5. RB Ahman Green, 1995-97
Fair warning, there's going to be a lot of running backs on this list. Legendary head coach Tom Osborne, who coached the Cornhuskers from 1973 to 1997, used the triple option offense to great success, which doesn't come without elite rushers. The first of said elite rushers was none other than Nebraska native Ahman Green.
Green first broke out as a freshman in 1995, when he rushed for 1,086 yards and 13 touchdowns to help Nebraska win the national championship. Despite suffering a turf toe injury in 1996, he still led the team with 917 yards and seven touchdowns. Green then had a monster 1997 season, rushing for 1,877 yards and 14 touchdowns to lead Nebraska to another national title.
Green finished his illustrious career with 3,880 rushing yards and 42 rushing touchdowns, placing third in school history in both categories. He then enjoyed a strong, 12-year NFL career, earning five Pro-Bowl selections along the way. Green finished his NFL career with 9,205 yards and 60 touchdowns rushing, primarily playing with the Green Bay Packers.
4. RB Mike Rozier, 1981-83
Another running back, Rozier is responsible for some of the most insane stats in college football history. After transferring from junior college, Rozier accumulated 943 yards and five touchdowns in his first season in Lincoln. He then had a monster 1982 season with 1,689 yards and 15 touchdowns, but even that pales in comparison to what he did in 1983.
Rozier's 1983 season is one of the craziest college seasons of all time, as he ran for an absurd 2,148 yards and 29 touchdowns. Needless to say, he won the Heisman Trophy handily. Although, his magical season ended in disappointment, as Nebraska lost 31-30 to Miami in the Orange Bowl, and Rozier left the game with an ankle injury.
Almost 40 years later, Rozier is still Nebraska's all-time rushing leader with 4,780 yards. He is also second in rushing touchdowns with 49, and he holds the single season record in both yards and touchdowns. Keep in mind, he did all of this before the NCAA even counted bowl game stats.
3. DT Ndamukong Suh, 2005-09
Suh is the only player on this list not from Nebraska's heyday, but he was as dominant as they come. Suh's senior season in 2009 is the stuff of legends in college football. The longtime NFL star put together arguably the best season by a defender in college football history.
Suh finished the 2009 season with 85 tackles, 20.5 for loss, 12 sacks and 28 QB hits. He was also solid in coverage, defending 10 passes and getting an interception. He was so good, that he was even a Heisman finalist, something only three defenders have done since. Suh was great before his senior season, but that alone is enough to make him one of the sport's greatest.
2. WR/RB Johnny Rodgers, 1970-72
Rodgers was the first in a long line of great running backs for Nebraska football, although it wasn't his primary position. Instead, he primarily played wide receiver and handled kick return duties. Rodgers wasn't just a jack of all trades, but a master of all trades.
The Huskers star finished his career with 5,586 all-purpose yards, which was an NCAA record at the time. He still holds the records for career punt return touchdowns (seven) and kick return touchdowns (nine). He is also still Nebraska's all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 25. Add in two national championships in 1970 and 1971 and a Heisman in 1972, and you have a truly legendary career.
1. QB Tommie Frazier, 1992-95
It was a close call, but Frazier wins out in the end as the best Nebraska football player ever. At first glance, his stats might seem low compared to others on this list, and he does not currently hold any school records. However, he is the most iconic player in school history and led the Huskers to their best stretch ever.
Frazier never put up huge passing numbers, but that's because he was primarily a runner. He finished his career with 2,263 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns, despite not playing full seasons in 1992 and 1994. He capped off his career with one of the most memorable plays in college football history, shaking off seven tackles for a 75-yard touchdown in the 1996 Orange Bowl win over Florida.
However, what truly puts Frazier over the top is Nebraska's success with him at the helm. Frazier posted a 33-3 record as a starter, and led the Huskers to two undefeated, national title seasons in 1994 and 1995. When one thinks of Nebraska football, they think of Tommie Frazier.