Red Grange was pretty damn good at football. I know this. You (Illinois fans) know this. But, sadly, Grange isn't referenced much in the media because he played back way back in the 1920s. So that's why it's always great to see national outlets give him some more recognition.
This was the case on Wednesday morning, as ESPN's Big Ten football writers ranked the Illinois legend as the No. 1 running back in conference history.
Take a look at what Josh Moyer had to say about the Galloping Ghost:
Did you really think we'd choose anyone else but the Galloping Ghost in the top spot? Grange was named the greatest college football player ever by ESPN back in 2008. One writer, Damon Runyon who watched him play, wrote: "He is Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Al Jolson, Paavo Nurmi and Man o' War. Put together, they spell Grange."
He was a three-time consensus All-American, a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a staple on every conceivable all-time team. In just 20 career college games, he rushed for 3,362 yards and 31 touchdowns. Against Michigan, in 1924, he rushed 21 times for 402 yards and scored four TDs in the game's first 12 minutes. Said then-Illinois coach Bob Zuppke: "I will never have another Grange -- but neither will anyone else."
What else is there to say? Even adjusting for the time period, Grange is still probably the best player in college football history. To this day, Illinois still honors Grange in a variety of ways (i.e. the statue outside of Memorial Stadium). The program has also recently adopted 'Gray Ghost' uniforms for the annual Homecoming game to commemorate Grange's incredible 1924 performance against the Wolverines.
Archie Griffin (Ohio State), Ron Dayne (Wisconsin), Willie Heston (Michigan), and Mike Rozier (Nebraska) also made the cut. Griffin, the only back-to-back winner of the Heisman Trophy, is probably the only other player on that short list who could've received consideration ahead of Grange, but the right choice was obviously made.
A streak of fire, a breath of flame
Eluding all who reach and clutch;
A gray ghost thrown into the game
That rival hands may never touch;
A rubber bounding, blasting soul
Whose destination is the goal.
Red Grange of Illinois!
~ Grantland Rice, 1924