Friday, March 6, 2009


It's funny how time affects perception.

This year's list of nominees for the College Football Hall of Fame is long (82 names) and impressive, and while I'm sure that all of those players were dominant during their time in college, a lot of them elicit different memories.

Kirk Gibson, to me, was the guy limping around the bases in Game 1 of the '88 World Series. Lawrence Taylor was a terrifying blitzer for the New York Giants. And I didn't even realize that Dick Jauron and Ron Rivera were successful college players; to me, they're NFL coaches.

I'm still relatively young, so my age has a lot to do with that. But a couple of other names jumped out at me, guys who I'll always think of as college players and who were recent enough to be relevant to my generation.

I've been trying to think of a way to describe what Desmond Howard meant to me as a young fan who was just starting to become interested in college football (and Michigan in particular), but I'll let Keith Jackson tell the story -- he only needed two words:

Desmond was the football equivalent of the Fab Five -- he was flashy and fun and he made it cool to be a Michigan fan, and that's something that will always have an impact on me.

The second guy will, too, but in a much different way.

He never won a Heisman -- being named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 was as close as he got -- and if I didn't have connections to Arizona State, I might not even remember him. But when I picture Pat Tillman, with his long hair flowing out the back of his helmet as he, Derrick Rodgers and Mitchell Freedman wreaked havoc in a stunning 19-0 upset of two-time defending national champion Nebraska ... well, I can't help but get chills up my spine.

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