*All-Americans or first-round picks like LaVar, Courtney Brown, Brandon Short, LJ, M-Rob, Tamba Hali, Pos, DWill and his WRclassmates, and Bryant Johnson were avoided-otherwise they would have been most of my list.
*Also, before anyone who knew me in college says anything-Sean Stanley graduated after the 00’s (my ComRadio career would inform you why some might ask about him).
Without further ado, the list...
10. Richard Gardner-One of the players that might be on this list for one play alone. My band director in middle school, who was also my percussion instructor in high school, was a Nebraska fan. After Penn State’s 40-7 win over Nebraska, my freshman year of high school marching band was extra enjoyable every Monday and Wednesday at 6:20 PM, or as we loudly proclaimed it, “40 to 7.” Thanks again, Richard.
9. Cuncho Brown-As a nine-year old, I appreciated Cuncho’s athleticism and ball skills in ‘98. He also had ideal size as a blocker, which is what tight ends were used for more often during this era of Penn State football.
8. Jeremy Kapinos-Kapinos was a lefty punter with a big leg, and one of the brighter spots during the Dark Years, as well as an important part of the 2005 team. In 2004, Kapinos booted a career-long 78-yard punt against OSU. He lasted four years in the NFL with the Packers, Jets, and Steelers.
7. Brett Conway-Can’t explain it, I just liked him growing up. He and Bobby Engram were responsible for their victory in 1995 over Purdue.
6. Tony Hunt-a bruiser who also had the SEC speed that Tennessee lacked in the Outback. Hunt was also a dependable and productive running back for multiple seasons, especially in 2006 when the offense was otherwise floundering under Anthony Morelli. Tony is the only post-2004 player I am including on the main list. He was drafted in 2007 by the Eagles after nearly 1400 yards as a senior, and played two years in the league.
5. Bruce Branch-Branch was an electrifying return man, with four punt return touchdowns, including two in his sophomore year in 1999. He played in just one game in the NFL, but made a significant impact on special teams in Happy Valley.
He left Penn State as their all-time leader in punt return yardage and touchdowns.
4. James Boyd-A big hitter who led the team at the beginning of the downturn in 2000, Boyd was one of the bright spots in an otherwise dour atmosphere. During his senior year, he was awarded first-team All-Big Ten by the media, posting three interceptions and a scoop-and-score. Since he wasn’t an All-American, he’s eligible. Boyd was drafted in the third round by Jacksonville, playing 26 games in two seasons.
3. Chafie Fields-Arizona and Miami ‘99, anyone? Fields was a serious home run threat every time he touched the ball. He posted nearly 700 yards receiving and six total touchdowns his senior year, during a time where the Nittany Lions spread the ball around quite a bit, and were predominantly a running team. Fields went undrafted in 2000, and spent two years with two different teams before leaving to become an agent.
2. Bhawoh Jue-Jue was a defensive back with size and decent ball skills, recording two interceptions in both 1998 and 1999, and three interceptions in 2000. He was drafted by the Packers and spent six seasons and change with Green Bay and San Diego. As you can tell, I like defensive backs who are taller but still have good receiving ability (No offense to Macklin or King, who I also enjoyed watching).
And....the number one player on my list of players from the 90’s to the mid-00’s is...
Eric McCoo-A ball-carrier who has a special place in my heart due to when he played, Choo-Choo McCoo was my first favorite running back at PSU. I really wanted him to get 1K in his freshman year. His numbers declined in his following three years, mostly due to splitting time with Omar Easy and someone called LJ. He did have his most touchdowns in 2001, with six on the ground and three receiving. McCoo was signed as a free agent by the Bears in 2002, but did not play until suiting up for Philadelphia in 2004. I loved watching the All-Americans I previously mentioned, but McCoo would probably still get my top spot even if they were eligible.
Also, he helped secure the wild comeback win against Northwestern...
Who were your non-AA or NFL Draft pick favorites in this era?
Honorable Mention:Jay Alford-Hey, he sacked Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.