I love college football. Hell, we all do. And chances are, if you love the sport at this level, you have a team that you are attached to beyond any separation. They can do no wrong in your eyes. You were dyed in the wool at an early age and the resolve has only steeled over time. They are "your" team; you use "we" when you discuss them. Their highlights give you goosebumps and their lowlights break your heart. You are, simply, a fan. But that little word belies how much emotion goes into that actual state of being. Of belonging to something as ethereal, yet as powerful, as a Dawg-nation or Tiger Nation. For your ears to prick up and your heart to race at a "Go Dawgs", "War Eagle", or "Roll Tide." When it comes to this team, everyone on the roster is special to you. They are all your favorites and you root for them every down, no matter what.
We all know what that's like. But this post isn't about that. This post is about something else, something beyond your team. Who do you really enjoy watching play football? Who do you pull for when your team is completely removed from the equation? Do you base it on their talent, the excitement when they take the field? Or are they an underdog, a walk-on, a sentimental story that tugs at your heart strings? Is it the swagger? The humbleness? What makes a player one you enjoy watching and want to see do well?
Well, I've thought about that and decided to compile my list for 2011. Sure, I could have filled it with Georgia Bulldogs, but that would defeat the purpose. I wanted to get down on paper (well, in pixels) the guys I pull for. The ones I enjoy watching for the sake of the game and would love to see succeed for no reason other than they appeal to me. And now, with no further ado, joaj34's favorite players in cfb:
1. "Shoelace" is the man, a human highlight reel as amazing as any I remember. He hasn't had the stability of some of the other greats, yet still he thrives. He's not a great traditional QB, especially mechanically, but he as instinctive of a playmaker as I can remember watching. He's over 80% of the team's overall offense and is a constant threat to score from anywhere on the field. And the dreads, man, the dreads.
2. I obviously love the dual threat QB. I also have always liked Wilson ans truly hoped he'd return from baseball and give his senior year a shot. When Tom O'Brien handed the star QB the "football or nothing" ultimatum, I immediately began rooting for him in earnest. I thought it was bullshit and that he should use the open door to transfer to a better program. He did, and. boy, did he pick a great place. I've always liked the Wisky style of football, and now he gives him the play-caller/maker behind center to reach the next level. E'ry day I'm Russell'n!
3. I mean, c'mon, he's a head-hunting, spleen-splitting, rib-rocking linebacker who eats Skittles on the sideline. That kind of swag is so unreal you can't help but love it. He's been criticized as a dirty player, but that kind of talk didn't keep Fairley from the NFL. I only wish he was a D-end; I have a soft spot for crazy-ass, freak show DE's. But linebacker is a close second.
4. His nickname says it all: Honey Badger just don't give a fuck. They say hidden yardage is a forgotten key to championship seasons. If that's true, then LSU is on a cakewalk to the crystal football and Mathieu is leading the way. Sure, he plays great covereage, ball hawks like Ed Reed, hits like Thomas Davis, and can shatter a sternum on a blitz, but he also is more responsible for Tiger field position than anyone else. He returns opponents' punts, but also has a knack for downing LSU punts inside the 20. In short, he's only 5'8", but does whatever the fuck he wants and I love it!
5. LaMichael James is on fire. He's topped 200 yards the last three games and he always seems to do it with such aplomb and grace. Not only that, but he's a leader who seems to genuinely be the heart of his Duck offense; especially more so than Darron Thomas. I also like how humble he is. He handles the press like a pro, even cracking jokes about his separated elbow like it was no thing. Probably because to him, it is no thing. If he can go, he'll go, If he can't, he'll help the next guy get ready. That's an underrated characteristic for a football player to have these days.
6. Fuck it, I cheated. Just one Bulldog, I promise. This kid's had my heart since signing day, but he's earned my respect on the field. He seems to want every carry, even though that demand has left him dinged and dented. And, even with the scrapes, pulls, and sprains, he goes right back at it, as hard as he can. It's a lot of pressure for a true freshman, but he seems OK with it. In fact, the only time I've seen him frustrated on the sideline has been in the wake of his own mistakes, a missed block or bad route. And each time he knows he could do better and all he wants is another chance to get on the field and show it. How can you not love this kid?
7. Luck showed up on everybody's radar last season, leading Harbaugh's boys to a one-loss, BCS-bowl winning season. He plays the role of the classic quarterback; a leader in the huddle, easy under center, and tough in the pocket. Luck has a Cardinal crew with a new head coach primed to make noise in the BCS and we all know they wouldn't be anywhere near here without him. He has the humble, quiet charisma of a natural leader, and you can't help but respect him. Oh yeah, the motherfucker catches passes, too. Baller.
8. Blackmon has always been fun to watch. And like LaMichael James, you just know that if a bigger school had taken him, he'd seem like a superstar. But they thought he was too slow. Blackmon has proven them wrong by torching almost every defense he's been matched-up against. He's a big, physical guy, not afraid to bang around with corners and safeties, and that's my favorite kind of wideout. His hands are also just sick. It seems he has a nasty, high-light reel worthy catch every game. When State's on, do yourself a favor and watch. I don't even hold the DUI against him; everybody likes to have a little too much fun every know and then. And, don't even get me started on the College Gameday spot about leukemia patient Olivia Hamilton and her relationship with Blackmon. /choppingonions
9. I love fundamental football. It's why I enjoy watching teams like Wisconsin and Alabama - they'll gladly kill you with the run, but they do it my way. They don't need to rely on a cutesy system or retro run game, they do it out of a pro-set, one-back, or I-form. They do it up front with disciplined O-lines. They allow a responsible field general to head it up, and it all relies on powerful backs who can carry the workload. When one of these field-churners can also be a D-burner, then you've got lightning in a bottle, and that's exactly what Richardson is. He doesn't lead the nation in rushing, but he's got a 6.3 ypc, has topped 100 yards in five games despite sitting out big chunks of time in blowouts, and has gone for 200 all purpose three times. He's the best weapon in the Tide's offensive arsenal and may be the first offensive player from 'Bama to strike my fancy in the Saban era.
10. I'm gonna cheat again and make the tenth spot my honorable mention spot. Here are some other players from across the country that I've got a soft spot for. Tank Carder, LB, TCU - a wild man, a defensive MVP, an ALL-American, and when he was paralyzed from the waist down in a 7th grade car accident, he said, "well, I’ll just join the wheelchair Olympics." That's how you won that shit, son. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - until last week, he had more touchdowns than he did incomplete passes. That's some that's a stat that make's no normal sense, man. Also, he already sounds like the junior Senator from Texas; that's the kind of front-man we should all get behind. Alabama's/Wisconsin's O-lines - the defintion of Hawg-Maulies, baby! Nick Foles, QB, Arizona - this kid is a lot better than his team's record shows, and he's got more heart than Rudy, judging by the fact he keeps popping up after the beatings he's taking week-in and week-out. But he doesn't let it stop him, he just gets up, throws a TD pass, and keeps fighting, even into the waiting arms of defeat.