For Part IV of CU History Week, we are going to look at the most badass players in Buffaloes history. We have a Top 10 with a few honorable mentions, but because of recency bias and the fact that we don’t have any boomers on staff, these rankings are going to favor those from the 1990, 1994 and 2000 squads. There are a lot of badasses, so please have mercy in the Facebook comments and Twitter replies for forgetting that one defensive lineman from 1976.
There is no formula for “most badass player.” It was kind of a gut feeling of “What would you do if you saw Lawrence Vickers sprinting towards you?” If the answer is crawl into the fetal position, that player has merit. If the answer is let them run through me because the best case scenario is instant death, that player has a shot at number one on the list. Attitude matters as well, not just girth, which is why Phillip Lindsay — who is a crazy person — makes the list and Javier Edwards doesn’t.
20. Chad Brown
19. Sefo Liufau
18. Greg Biekert
17. Matt Russell
16. Joel Steed
15. Daniel Graham
14. Bill Brundige
13. Michael Lewis
12. Kanavis McGhee
11. Rashaan Salaam
The Top Ten
10. Jordon Dizon
Dizon was the megastar of the mid-2000s, a dynamic linebacker who starred from day one. He famously learned to pursue ball carriers on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, where he would chase down wild boars with nothing but a knife. A four-year starter who never missed a game, Dizon was a consensus All-American and runner-up for the Butkus Award in 2007.
9. Joe Romig
Romig was a two-way star back when two-way players were a thing. A dominant offensive lineman and a stout linebacker, he was the most fearsome player on the field every second of the game. Besides being a College Football Hall of Famer, he also became a Rhodes Scholar following his graduation from CU.
8. Andre Gurode
As many great offensive linemen that CU has produced, Gurode stands out for his power and athleticism. He was named consensus All-American after moving heaven and earth for Chris Brown and Bobby Purify. Those six touchdowns Chris Brown scored against Nebraska would not have happened if he wasn’t running behind one of the most fearsome players in Buffs history.
7. Sal Aunese
Sal Aunese is a badass not necessarily because of his playing style, though he was tough as nails as an option QB. Instead, his true toughness was as an emotional and spiritual leader of the 1989 Buffaloes, who he inspired as he fought against terminal cancer. The Buffs lost to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, but they carried on his fight and defeated the Irish the following year to claim the 1990 National Championship.
6. Ted Johnson
Johnson was one of those freak linebackers whose sheer power allowed him to destroy whomever was unlucky to be in his path. He’s one of those linebackers with the neck that’s wider than their skull — you know the type. Sadly, his playing style of blowing up anybody and everybody resulted in numerous concussions that eventually cut his career short. (This article is not meant to glorify that reckless playing style.)
5. Lawrence Vickers
Fullbacks are out of style nowadays, what with the spread offense taking over, and that is a shame. There is a certain level of intimidation to see a monstrous offensive line and a mean as hell fullback in front of a power running back. Vickers was the most badass fullback CU ever had in their days of option offense and i-formations. Besides, he did this just to be mean.
4. John Wooten
John Wooten is not only one of the best ever players in program history, but he was also a pioneer. He was the second ever African American to play football at CU (after Frank Clarke) and he became the first black All-American interior lineman. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012 for his badassery as a player and as a man.
3. Phillip Lindsay
Being a badass isn’t about size so much as it is about attitude. There’s the old saying “don’t fight crazy,” and that applies to Phil. He’s a ball of fury and will pop you in the mouth before you see it. He is pure heart and will fight for every yard. He is the perfect leader and will fight for anyone.
2. Chris Naeole
When talking about nasty linemen who will bury you just to be mean, Naeole is the embodiment of that. He’s massive, fast and has a mean streak, and that means you can only hope for instant death if he’s the pull guard sprinting towards you. Besides, who else could pull off this look?
1. Alfred Williams
There was never any doubt Big Al Williams would top this list. At 6’6, 270 lbs. and fast, the man himself was power and destruction. Seriously, if you could build the perfect outside linebacker to intimidate the offense into submission, it would be Alfred. Even better, bring him to the coin toss, have him stare down the opponent’s offensive captain, you’re guaranteed a victory.