Despite UCLA’s less than successful results on the gridiron this century, that doesn’t take away their illustrious history of All-Americans, future All-Pros, and Hall of Famers performing for the blue and gold.
In choosing these all-time Bruins, I took into consideration not only their achievements in Westwood, but also what they did at the next level (read: the NFL)
I won’t waste any more time; here are the greatest Bruins that UCLA’s football program has produced – according to me – in their 92 years of existence (starters in bold):
Troy Aikman – Other signal callers have had better numbers, but no other Bruin has had a better NFL career than this Oklahoma transfer: three Super Bowl rings in a four year span.
Cade McNown – The all-time Bruin leader in passing yards and touchdown passes.
Gary Beban – UCLA’s only Heisman Award winner, in 1967. How could I possibly leave him off this team?
Gaston Green – The career rushing leader, an All-American in 1987, and he had a pretty good pro career to boot.
Freeman McNeil – The second leading rusher in Bruin history, and had a stellar career with the New York Jets.
Deshaun Foster – The first Bruin to rush for 300 yards in a game.
Karim Abdul-Jabbar – Formerly known as Sharmon Shah, he holds the career single season rushing record, 1,571 in 1995.
Kenny Washington – UCLA’s very first All-American in 1939. His #13 jersey is one of eight that are retired by the Bruins.
J.J.Stokes – Electrifying Bruin fans in the early 1990s, he holds the single season record for receptions – 82 in 1993. He’s also UCLA’s career leader in touchdowns by a wide receiver with 28.
Mel Farr – Was undoubtedly Westwood’s best receiver in the 1960s. He had a long Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Lions (who can sure use him now!), and even sang backup on Marvin Gaye’s classic album, “What’s Going On”.
Danny Farmer – The all-time receiving yards leader in Bruin history, he was a big factor in their 20 straight wins during 1997 and 1998.
Freddie Mitchell – He was a total crowd pleaser on the field. I loved his trick plays.
Marcedes Lewis – The obvious choice, as he is UCLA’s only Mackey Award winner, given to the nation’s best tight end. He’s also the Bruins’ all-time leader at that position in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Backup: Tim Wrightman – An All-American standout from the late 1970s.
Frank Cornish (center) – A 1989 All-American, one of only two Bruin centers with that honor.
Jonathan Ogden – The greatest offensive lineman in UCLA history, he was the first Bruin to win the Outland Trophy – given to the country’s best lineman – played over ten years with the Baltimore Ravens, and won a Super Bowl with them in 2001.
And to top everything off, his #79 jersey was retired soon after he graduated.
Kris Farris – The Bruins’ other Outland Trophy winner in 1998.
Vaugh Parker – An All-American in 1993, and played nine years with the San Diego Chargers.
Randy Cross – A 1975 All-American, he played 12 years with the San Francisco 49ers and was a key part of their glory years in the 1980s.
Backups: Dave Dalby (center), Luis Sharpe, Max Montoya, Craig Novitsky, Duval Love
All right, now that the greatest Bruins on offense have been named, let’s go to the defense…
Dave Ball – The school’s career and single season sack leader, and a consensus All-American in 2003.
Mike Lodish – A standout during the late 80s, he played in six Super Bowls, more than any other Bruin.
Terry Tumey – Was a three-time all-conference selection during UCLA’s Rose Bowl years in the early 1980s.
Brian Price – The latest all-everything monster up front, he dominated offensive lines in 2008 and 2009.
Backups: Mark Walen, Cliff Frazier, Jack Ellena, Karl Morgan
Ken Norton, Jr. – Despite serving time as a USC assistant coach, this standout must be included. Part of a glory era during the 80s, his three Super Bowl rings clinch his spot here.
Carnell Lake – UCLA’s all-time leader in tackles for loss with 45.5, and had a long career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jerry Robinson – No Bruin has made more tackles than this man, with 468 from 1975-1978. He is one of only two UCLA players to be a three-time consensus All-American. And he played six solid seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Backups: Donn Moomaw, Donnie Edwards, Jamir Miller
Kenny Easley – If I had to pick one man as UCLA’s greatest defensive player, Easley would be it. The career interceptions leader with 19, he’s the other three-time consensus All-American along with Jerry Robinson.
Plus his #5 jersey has been retired, and rightfully so.
Carlton Gray – Picked off 11 passes for the Bruins in 1991, still a single season record. A consensus All-American and an Academic All-American in 1992, he’s only the second Bruin to achieve that honor (Tim Wrightman’s the other).
Eric Turner – An All-American in 1990, he intercepted 14 passes while in Westwood. The second overall selection in the 1991 draft, he had a stellar career with the Cleveland Browns and the then-Los Angeles Raiders.
James Washington – Third on the all-time Bruin interception list with 15, he parlayed that into a standout career with the Dallas Cowboys, winning two Super Bowls with them.
And he’s a pretty good analyst with Fox Sports now, covering UCLA games.
Backups: Don Rogers, Darryl Henley, Matt Darby, Shaun Williams
John Lee – The ultimate Mr. Automatic. Arguably the greatest kicker in college football history, booting 85 field goals in 100 attempts and converting 135 of 136 PAT attempts. A two-time All-American, he’s the number one scorer in UCLA history with 390 points.
Backup: Kai Forbath – The only current Bruin on this list as of this writing, he’s on line to break the NCAA record for field goals.
Chris Sailer – A most versatile player, he made All-American as both a punter and a kicker in 1997. Averaging 41.99 yards a punt in his four years in Westwood, he also set school records for number of punts and yardage.
Maurice Jones-Drew – While it’s true that others have had more returns and yardage, one word describes Drew: ELECTRIFYING. His average of 22.34 yards a return is the all-time best at UCLA, as are his two touchdowns.
Jackie Robinson – How on earth could I possibly keep the greatest Bruin of all time from this team? Especially since football was his best sport in Westwood.
Along with Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, he helped lead UCLA to their first undefeated season in 1939, and was pretty much the whole team in 1940, leading the Bruins in almost everything.
Essentially speaking, he and Washington were UCLA’s first football stars.
Not bad for the breaker of baseball’s color line.
Honorable mention for this team:
Bob Waterfield – A star quarterback for the Bruins during the 1940s, he was the golden boy of that era, starred for the then-Los Angeles Rams afterward, and even married Hollywood legend Jane Russell.
Henry R. “Red” Sanders – The coach of UCLA’s only national championship team in 1954, who made the Bruins into a national power and changed the jersey color from navy to powder blue, thus establishing UCLA’s identity, and…
Terry Donahue – Winning more games in Westwood and the Pacific-10 Conference than any other coach during his 20 seasons there, he was also the first man to win seven straight bowl games, including three Rose Bowls in a four-year stretch from 1982-1985.
Though there will probably be some disagreements with my selections, I certainly hope that this all-time UCLA football squad meets the overall approval of everyone in Bruin Nation.
At the very least, I hope it brings back good memories of past glories in Westwood, something to cheer the Bruin faithful up as the current edition of this program continues to try and get back to being among the top teams in college football.