Nebraska Cornhuskers helmet on the field before a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the 2010 Big 12 championship game at Cowboys Stadium. Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It might sound strange to young college football fans but there was a time not too long ago when the Nebraska Cornhuskers were the premiere program in the nation.

Nebraska has produced some of the best players in the history of the sport, even before legendary coach Tom Osborne came along. Osborne elevated the program to the top tier of the sport and kept it there for decades. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen off the last few decades, but the program has still produced great players, All-Americans, and Hall of Famers.

It was difficult to narrow down this list because the Huskers have had so many Heisman winners and All-Americans, but here are the top 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers football players of all time.

10. Sam Francis, running back

A star of the 1930s, Sam Francis was one of the first football stars to come out of Nebraska. In his three years with the Cornhuskers, Francis was part of two Big Six Conference championship teams. In addition, he was runner-up to Larry Kelley for the 1936 Heisman Trophy and a first-team All-American in 1936. Francis went on to have a short but successful NFL career, playing for several teams, but that ended with World War II. He would later go on to coach at Kansas State and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts greets a referee before a game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium.
Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

9. Trev Alberts, linebacker

Trev Alberts might be known as Nebraska’s athletic director these days, but he was a pretty good linebacker back in the early 1990s. Alberts was an All-American, Butkus Award, and Jack Lambert Award winner. In 1993, he had 15 quarterback sacks, 21 tackles for loss, and 38 quarterback hurries. His most impressive feat was sacking Florida State quarterback and Heisman winner Charlie Ward three times in their national championship loss to the Seminoles. Like most Cornhuskers on this list, he is part of the College Football Hall of Fame.

8. Larry Jacobson, offensive lineman

Larry Jacobson was one of the best offensive linemen to ever play for Nebraska. If it wasn’t for Dave Remington, he’d probably be the top lineman on this list. Jacobson is a two-time national champion, Outland Trophy winner, and an All-American. He was the first player from Nebraska to win the Outland Trophy. He would go on to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the New York Giants but his career was cut short due to injury.

7. Grant Winstrom, linebacker

Grant Winstrom was a force on that Nebraska defensive line in the mid-1990s. Winstrom is a three-time national champion, two-time All-American, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a Lombardi Award winner, and Bill Willis Award winner. He finished his senior year with 51 tackles, including 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Wistrom also holds the school record for tackles for loss with 58.5 for 260 yards and ranks second with 26.5 sacks. Winstrom is now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback (15) Tommie Fraizer in action against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Meadowlands.
Credit: Photo by USA TODAY Sports

6. Tommy Frazier, quarterback

Tommy Frazier has to be one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Nebraska history and NCAA history as well.  Frazier led the Cornhuskers to two national championships, won Big 8 Offensive Player of the Year, was named an All-American, and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Frazier was not only deadly with his legs but his arm too. People underestimated how good of a quarterback he was in that Tom Oborne system. He ended his Nebraska Cornhuskers career with a 45–4 record, 5,476 total yards of offense, and 79 touchdowns. Frazier is naturally a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

5. Johnny Rodgers. running back

Johnny Rodgers was one of the greatest running backs to ever put on a Cornhuskers uniform. Coming out of high school, Rodgers was already a star. He was named his high school’s athlete of the year and he chose to stay in-state and attend Nebraska. Rodgers broke several Cornhusker records, was twice named to the College Football All-America Team, won the Walter Camp Award, and won the Heisman Trophy in 1972. A two-time national champion, he is now part of the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) tackles Texas Longhorns running back Tre' Newton (23) during the Big 12 championship game at Cowboys Stadium.
Credit: Photo By Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

4. Ndamukong Suh, linebacker

Ndamukong Suh may have a reputation for being a bad dude, but he earned it. Suh is one of the toughest and best linebackers to come out of Lincoln. He was a unanimous All-American, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year,  AP College Athlete of the Year, and is an Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, Bednarik, and Willis award winner. In 2009, Suh registered 85 tackles, 12 quarterback sacks, 28 quarterback hurries, 20.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, three blocked kicks, and one interception. Suh went from terrorizing college football players to being a terror in the NFL, playing for four different teams.

3. Dave Rimington, center

You have to be one heck of a player to have an award named in your honor. Dave Remington is arguably the best offensive lineman to ever play the sport. He was a Lombardi Award winner, two-time Outland Trophy winner, and two-time All-American. Rimington is also the only offensive lineman to be named Big 8 Offensive Player of the Year, which he did in 1982. To honor his legacy, the Rimington Award is given to the best offensive lineman in the country. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Mike Rozier (30) in action during the 1983 season at Memorial Stadium.
Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

2. Mike Rozier, running back

Mike Rozier proved early on in this Cornhusker career that was going to be a force to be reckoned with. During his junior year, Rozier broke Bobby Reynolds’s long-standing school record for rushing yards in a single season (1,689) and led Nebraska to a second consecutive outright Big 8 title and a 12–1 record. The following year, he rushed for over 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns. In his senior season, Rozier blew the doors off the record books, rushing for 2,295 yards and scoring 29 touchdowns en route to the Heisman Trophy. He finished his college career with 4,400 rushing yards and 51 total scores. In the 1984 Orange Bowl, he had 138 yards at halftime against Miami but had to leave the game with an injury. The Huskers lost heartbreakingly, costing Rozier a chance to add a national title to his legacy.

Nebraska Cornhuskers former Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Rodgers (left) Mike Rozier (center) and Eric Crouch (right)
Nebraska Cornhuskers Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Rodgers (left) Mike Rozier (center) and Eric Crouch (right). Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Eric Crouch, quarterback

If you look at Eric Crouch you’d never think he’d play quarterback because he’s built like a running back. But like Tommy Frazier, he was the wheel that kept the Nebraska offense going under then-head coach Frank Solich. Crouch is a Heisman winner, All-American, two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award winner, and Walter Camp Award winner. Crouch goes under the radar when it comes to the best quarterbacks to ever play but he broke numerous records. Crouch is one of only three players in NCAA history to rush for 3,000 and pass for 4,000 yards. He is Nebraska’s leader in total offense with 7,915 yards, owns the NCAA record in rushing touchdowns by a QB with 59, and tied an NCAA record by scoring a touchdown via run, pass, and reception in the same game.

Eric Crouch is arguably the best player to ever put on a Cornhuskers uniform and that says a lot considering the men on this list. But based on his numbers alone, it’s hard to argue with Crouch being the best Nebraska Cornhuskers player ever.

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.