By Jeremy St. Louis (@jrstlouis)
Brett Favre - QB - Southern Miss
The man who went on to have a Hall of Fame NFL career had an inauspicious start at Southern Miss on Sept 19, 1987. According to teammate Chris Ryals, both he and Favre were intensely hungover the day of his debut versus Tulane. But with his team losing, Favre was put into the game and led the team to a 31-24 comeback win - and the rest as they say, is history. Favre played four years with the Golden Eagles, throwing for 7,695 yds and 52 TDs. His four year passer rating was 117.2. The team retired his #4 last November. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
LaDainian Tomlinson - RB – TCU
The future NFL Hall of Famer finished 4th in Heisman voting in his senior season - and in hindsight, that seems ludicrous. In 1998, he helped TCU to their first bowl win in four decades (v. USC). As a junior in 1999, he set the FBS record for rush yards in a game when he ran for 406 yds against UTEP. That record was broken in 2014 - twice. In 2000, he won the Doak Walker award as the nation's top RB and his 5,623yds is 6th in NCAA history. TCU retired his #5 jersey in 2005 and he was inducted into the college football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Randy Moss - WR - Marshall
Randy Moss was part of a prolific Marshall offense that lit up both Division I-AA and Division I-A in the late 1990s. In his first season with the Herd, Moss set records for most games with a TD catch in a season (14), consecutive games with a TD (13), most TD catches in a season (28) and receiving yards by a freshman (1,709). He followed that up with four-200 yrd receiving games in 1997 and set a single game record for TD catches in a game (5) versus Ball State. He won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top WR and finished 4th in voting for the Heisman.
Chris Johnson - RB - East Carolina
The man many know as 'CJ2K' was a kick return specialist while at East Carolina and had almost as many kick return yards (2,715) as rushing yards (2,982). In his freshman season in 2004, he set eight school game or season records. As a sophomore, he set a school record for receptions by a RB (67) and in his final game, the Hawaii Bowl, he rushed for 223yds, had three receptions for 32yds and scored 2TDs. He also had six kick returns for 153yds, giving him 408 all-purpose yards, which was both a career-high and FBS record. Johnson was projected as a 2nd to 3rd round pick in the 2008 NFL draft but after running a record-tying 4.24s in the 40yd dash at the Combine, the Tennessee Titans selected him in the 1st round, 24th overall.
Chad Pennington - QB - Marshall
After a successful freshman season at Marshall, Pennington was red-shirted in his sophomore year but was named the starter in 1997. He led the Herd to their first bowl game, a 48-29 rout of Louisville, and was named the game MVP. In 1999, Marshall went 13-0 and Pennington finished 5th in Heisman voting. He won the Sammy Baugh award as the nation's top QB in 1999 and the William V. Campbell award, given to the college football player who has the best combination of academics, community service & on-field performance. He was the 18th overall selection in the 2000 NFL draft by the New York Jets and to this day remains statistically the best QB the Miami Dolphins have had since Dan Marino. He won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award twice.