By Dave Glenn and staff ACC Sports Journal
September 2, 2002
GREENSBORO - As expected, the ACC's list of its top 50 football players generated a lot of debate. The list itself inspired some talk, but most focused on the league's method: not releasing it in the order of total votes.
To those who criticized this, we say: What did you expect? Haven't you been around the ACC (or any league office) long enough to know better? If you wanted a list that hadn't been air-brushed, you should have done a survey of your own.
We don't fault the ACC for what it did. It's not the league's place to try to create controversy, and its charter doesn't say it has to stand up as the beacon of truth and historical record. No, the ACC office's main job is to keep its nine members smiling. That means a list that's presented in a politically correct fashion and one that probably was manipulated a bit behind the scenes.
No matter how fairly the league tried to do things, of course, we still can pick apart the selections. That's one of the many things that make sports great: No two people remember history exactly the same way.
Whom we'd kick off:
- Tiki Barber, UVa (1993-96) - Had great senior season but never received any significant All-America notice; ranks 14th on ACC career rushing list.
- Jerry Butler, Clem. (1975-78) - Not in league's top 25 for career receptions or receiving yardage.
- Dick Christy, NCSU (1955-57) - Probably gets penalized because of his era; versatile player always will be remembered for scoring 29 points in one game, but numbers just don't come anywhere near charts.
- Bennie Cunningham, Clem. (1973-75) - Solid career at tight end, but he doesn't even rank in Clemson's top 10 for career receptions, and the Tigers haven't been a passing machine over the years.
- Jeff Davis, Clem. (1978-81) - Linebacker had one great season, captaining the Tigers to a national title as a senior, but overall career doesn't stand up as well as some others. We'll take Keith Adams.
- Boomer Esiason, Md. (1981-83) - Quarterback probably got boost from pro career and visibility, but he was never first-team All-ACC; ranks 21st in career total offense and 14th in passing yards.
- Alex Hawkins, USC (1956-58) - One great season made him token USC player on list. If we can have only one, we'll go with Dick Harris.
- Stan Jones, Md. (1951-53) - Great tackle in Maryland's powerhouse offense, but he actually played only one ACC season.
- Bob Matheson, Duke (1964-66) - Hard to argue with linebacker's solid play (one A-A season), but others have had more spectacular careers.
- Brian Piccolo, WF (1962-64) - Certainly a sentimental pick and had strong senior season, but overall he averaged only 4.2 yards a carry and doesn't show up anywhere on the career rushing or touchdown lists.
- Norm Snead, WF (1958-60) - Easily the most dubious selection. We can't figure out any reason for this one. We can think of a handful of Wake quarterbacks we'd take ahead of him, and that's saying something.
Whom we'd put on:
- Ray Roberts, UVa (1988-91) - Tackle was force behind one of league's great offenses; three-time All-ACC pick; two-time winner of Jacobs Trophy as league's top blocker; All-America in 1991.
- Keith Adams, Clem. (1998-2000) - Linebacker holds 14 records at Clemson, which has had some great defenders; led nation in tackles in 1999; two-time All-America pick.
- Woodrow Dantzler, Clem. (1998-2001) - Quarterback is one of most physically gifted players in league history; helped resurrect a quickly declining program; became first player in NCAA history to throw for more than 2,000 yards and run for more than 1,000 in the same season; ran for more than 2,500 yards and passed for more than 5,500 in his career.
- Dick Harris, USC (1969-71) - Defensive back was an All-America pick; first ever to return punt, kickoff and interception for touchdowns.
- Clay Shiver, FSU (1992-95) - Center drove two best offensive teams in league history; two-time All-America; twice won Jacobs Trophy as league's top blocker.
- Art Gregory, Duke (1960-62) - Duke was league's top team and one of nation's best during this tackle's career; twice he was named an All-America and twice he won Jacobs Trophy as league's top blocker.
- Shawn Moore, UVa (1987-90) - Quarterback led one of league's top offenses; tied for league lead in career TD responsibility (83); holds ACC records for yards per completion and points responsible for.
- Jamie Barnette, NCSU (1996-99) - OK, that woke you up, didn't it? Bear with us: He's second in career total offense, second in passing yards, fourth in touchdown responsibility, third in touchdown passes; he threw 19 more touchdowns than interceptions, a ratio approached by only Chris Weinke and Joe Hamilton among the ACC's top 11 passers. Besides, wouldn't you rather have him than Norm Snead?
- Shawn Jones, GT (1989-92) - We have no idea how he got left off. Quarterbacked his team to a national title; ranks fourth all-time in career total offense, sixth in passing yards, fifth in TD responsibility.
- Leon Johnson, UNC (1993-96) - We're surprised this versatile back was overlooked as well; second all-time in career TDs and all-purpose yards, 11th in rushing yards, 21st in receptions.
- Johnny Evans, NCSU (1974-77) - This might be a great team, but someone still might have to punt. While UNC's Brian Schmitz is the league's leader in career average, Evans is second. We give him the nod because he also played quarterback. He's ninth on N.C. State's career total offense list.