SEC Announces 2018 Football Legends Class; Rich Brooks is UK's Legend
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Southeastern Conference has announced its 2018 AT&T SEC Football Legends class, an assemblage of former football standouts who will be honored at events surrounding the SEC Football Championship Game in Atlanta in December.
The class will be honored at the 2018 SEC Football “Weekend of Champions” Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Atlanta, Ga, highlighted by the annual SEC Legends Dinner presented by AT&T on Fri., Nov. 30 at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. The group will also be recognized prior to the SEC Football Championship Game, which will be held at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sat., Dec. 1.
The 2018 Football Legends Class includes 14 former stars who excelled on the gridiron and helped write the rich history of the sport at their respective institutions. This year’s class includes All-Americans, All-SEC selections and Academic All-Americans. The group represents teams that won National and SEC Championships and are represented in state, school and college football halls of fame.
Representing Kentucky is former UK coach Rich Brooks (pictured in 2017).
Below is a listing and biographies of the 2018 SEC Football Legends:
ALABAMA: Shaun Alexander, Running Back (1996-99)
Shaun Alexander was regarded as one of the most productive backs in the country during his playing days at Alabama. He burst onto the scene with a 291-yard performance as a freshman against LSU, then rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his junior and senior seasons. He earned First Team All-America honors as a senior, leading the Crimson Tide to the 1999 SEC Championship. He left Tuscaloosa with 15 rushing records, including the career total yardage mark at 3,565. Alexander was selected in the first round (19th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He was the NFL Most Valuable Player in 2005 and was named to the NFL's 2000 All-Decade Team. In 2011, Alexander was voted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
ARKANSAS: Darren McFadden, Running Back (2005-07)
One of the most decorated players in Arkansas history and a two-time runner up for the Heisman Trophy, Darren McFadden was the 2007 Player of the Year by the Walter Camp Foundation and The Sporting News. A two-time first-team All-American, he twice won the Doak Walker Award and was twice named SEC Offensive Player of the Year. McFadden ranks second on the SEC career rushing list with 4,590 yards and averaged 120.8 yards per game during his three-year career, third best in league history. He rushed for 100 yards or more 22 times and is one of only three players in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. His 321 yards vs. South Carolina in 2007 remains tied for the SEC record for rushing yards in a game. The fourth pick overall in the 2008 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders, he played 10 years in the NFL for the Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.
AUBURN: Ronnie Brown, Running Back (2001-04)
A four-year letterwinner at Auburn from 2001-04, Ronnie Brown was a first-team All-SEC pick as a senior while helping Auburn to a SEC Championship and a perfect 13-0 season. After earning All-SEC freshman honors in 2001, Brown rushed for 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2002. He finished his career ranked in Auburn's top 10 in career rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, receptions by a running back and receiving yards by a running back. A team captain as a senior in 2004, Brown graduated from Auburn that same year. He was the No. 2 overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, becoming the highest drafted Auburn back since Bo Jackson went No. 1 in 1986. Brown played 11 years with five teams, including six with the Miami Dolphins and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2008. The Cartersville, Ga., native currently serves as a sideline reporter for the Auburn Sports Network.
FLORIDA: Lawrence Wright, Safety (1993-96)
Lawrence Wright was four-year letterwinner for the Florida Gators and the 1996 Jim Thorpe Award recipient, awarded to the nation's top defensive back. He was captain of 1996 National Championship team, the first national title team in school history. He was also the emotional leader for four consecutive SEC Championship teams (1993-96) under head coach Steve Spurrier. A first-team All-American in 1995, he was also a two-time First-team All-SEC selection in 1995 and 96. He finished his career with 331 tackles and five interceptions. A three-time selection to the SEC Academic Honor Roll and a College Football Association Scholar-Athlete his senior year, Wright went on to play two years in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. Gator fans also remember Wright for coining the phrase "If you are not a Gator, you must be Gator Bait!"
GEORGIA: Hines Ward, Wide Receiver/Quarterback/Running Back, (1994-97)
One of the most versatile threats in SEC football history, Hines Ward showed extraordinary talent as a receiver, running back and quarterback. Ward ranked highly in three individual career UGA statistics, placing second in receptions (144), fourth in receiving yards (1,965), and second in all-purpose yards (3,870) trailing only the legendary Herschel Walker. In 43 games at UGA, Ward recorded 4,762 total yards, averaging 9.3 yards per touch and 110.7 yards per game, and scored a total of 20 touchdowns. He was named to the SEC Coaches All-SEC first team in 1997. Ward was selected in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and went on to be selected to four Pro Bowls, was a member of two Super Bowl champion teams, and MVP of Super Bowl 40 in 2006. Ward received more national attention in 2011 by winning the “Dancing With The Stars” national television competition.
KENTUCKY: Rich Brooks, Head Coach (2003-09)
Rich Brooks guided the Kentucky football fortunes for seven years from 2003-09 and is the only head coach in UK history to guide the Wildcats to postseason bowl games in four consecutive years and win three straight bowls. The streak began in 2006 with a stunning upset of Clemson in the Music City Bowl. The 2007 season was highlighted by a Top-10 ranking, a victory over No. 1 (and eventual national champion) LSU and was capped by a bowl victory over Florida State. Following the 2008 season, UK defeated East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. In his final season in 2009, Brooks was named SEC Coach of the Year by CollegeFootballNews.com. With the Wildcats reflecting the toughness shown by their head coach, in his last four seasons he led UK to 12 fourth-quarter comeback wins. Prior to joining Kentucky, Brooks served as head coach for the St. Louis Rams of the NFL and the University of Oregon.
LSU: Ronnie Estay, Defensive Tackle (1968-71)
One of the top defensive tackles in LSU history, Ronnie Estay earned first team All-America honors in his senior year of 1971 from Kodak/American Football Coaches Association. He was also named first team All-SEC in 1971 after earning second team all-conference honors in 1970. Accomplished in the classroom as well, Estay was named Academic All-SEC as a junior in 1970. Estay anchored a staunch LSU defensive line that led the nation in rushing defense in both 1969 (38.9 ypg) and 1970 (52.2 ypg), helping lead the Tigers to the 1970 SEC Championship. A three-year letterwinner from 1969-71, Estay was a member of teams went a combined 27-7 overall and 12-3 in SEC play in those three seasons. Estay played 11 years in the CFL, winning six Grey Cup titles. He is a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
OLE MISS: Jim Miller, Punter (1976-79)
A consensus All-America selection in 1979, Jim Miller was a three-time All-SEC first-team pick and member of both the Ole Miss Team of the Century (1893-1992) and Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame. A barefooted punter, he averaged 43.4 yards on 266 career punts and in 1977 led the nation in punting, averaging 45.9 yards, which also set an SEC record. Although 40 years have passed since his final collegiate season, he still holds school records for most career punts (266) and career punting yards (11,549) and ranks second for most punting yards in a season (3,283). Miller played six years in the NFL and while playing for the San Francisco 49ers was selected to the NFL All-Rookie Team in 1980 and was also a member of San Francisco’s Super Bowl XVI championship team. He played three seasons with the 49ers, two with Dallas and one with the New York Giants.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mardye McDole, Wide Receiver (1977-80)
Mardye McDole, a Mobile, Ala., native is arguably the greatest wide receiver in Mississippi State history. Still the only three-time All-SEC wide receiver in school history, McDole led the conference in receptions (48) and yards per reception as a sophomore. That year, McDole became the first player in MSU history with over 1,000 receiving yards in a single-season (1,035), a mark that remains the school record. He was tabbed an All-American by The Sporting News following his senior year in 1980. He finished as the school's all-time leader in receiving yards (2,214) and catches (116). He was selected in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He spent three seasons there and also played for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL and the Memphis Showboats of the USFL. He was inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
MISSOURI: Devin West, Running Back (1995-98)
Devin West was a first-team All-American as a senior in 1998 and a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the top running back in college football. He rushed for an MU-record 1,578 yards (ranking 5th in the nation), and 17 touchdowns his senior season. West was a lightly-known recruit from small-town Moberly, Mo., who developed into a key leader and contributor in Mizzou's turnaround that saw the Tigers reach consecutive bowl games in 1997 and 1998, after going without a bowl appearance from 1984-96. The 1998 team defeated West Virginia in the Insight.com Bowl, marking MU's first bowl victory since 1981. West was only the second Mizzou running back to earn All-America honors and was the first since Bob Steuber in 1942. For his career, he rushed for 2,954 yards and 28 touchdowns, including a Mizzou single-game record of 319 yards against rival Kansas in 1998.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Eric Norwood, Linebacker (2006-09)
Eric Norwood was named first-team All-America in 2009 by both the Associated Press and the Walter Camp Foundation as an outside linebacker. He was a three-time All-SEC first-team selection by the coaches, a two-time AP All-SEC choice and was named a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News in 2006. A team captain in both 2008 and 2009, Norwood is the school record holder in career tackles for loss (54.5) and career sacks (29). He earned numerous national and conference Defensive Player of the Week awards, as well as tying a national record by returning two fumbles for touchdowns against Kentucky in 2007. Norwood was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by Carolina and played two years for the Panthers before a five-year career in the Canadian Football League. He was elected to the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.
TENNESSEE: Phillip Fulmer, Head Coach (1992-2008)
Phillip Fulmer served as head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers from 1992 to 2008, compiling a 152-52 record while leading the Vols to the 1998 BCS National Championship. Tennessee’s 20th head coach, Fulmer is the second winningest football coach in Tennessee history and the third UT coach to capture a national title. His 1997 and 1998 teams won consecutive SEC Championships, and Tennessee racked up a four-year record of 45-5 from 1995-98. During Fulmer’s collegiate playing career, he was an offensive guard for the Vols from 1969-71. He helped coach Bill Battle’s teams post a 30-5 record during those three seasons and was a member of Tennessee’s 1969 SEC Championship team. Fulmer served as a student coach at UT upon his graduation and later served as a full-time assistant coach for the Vols from 1980-92 before rising to head coach. Fulmer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and now serves as Tennessee’s Director of Athletics.
TEXAS A&M: Pat Thomas, Defensive Back (1974-75)
Pat Thomas was a two-time All-American defensive back in 1974 and 1975 and earned All-SWC honors for the Aggies as well. Named team captain as a junior in 1974, he helped the 1975 team earn a share of the Southwest Conference Championship. That 1975 team reached as high as No. 2 in the country after defeating Texas, 20-10, at Kyle Field. He was signed by Emory Bellard in 1972 and earned four letters at Texas A&M (1972-75) after playing at Plano High School where he helped the team win the 1971 Texas state high school championship. Thomas was selected in the second round of the 1976 NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams and went on to earn first-team All-Pro honors in 1980 and was a 1978 and 1980 NFL Pro Bowl selection. He played in the 1980 Super Bowl. Following his playing career, Thomas, coached in the NFL and USFL. He was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986.
VANDERBILT: Zac Stacy, Running Back (2009-12)
Zac Stacy, a two-time All-SEC running back for Vanderbilt, ended his collegiate career as the Commodores’ all-time leader with 3,143 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns. As a junior in 2011, he set new team single-season records with 1,193 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, helping Vanderbilt to an appearance in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. As a senior captain, he rushed for 1,141 yards and was named MVP of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl as the Commodores defeated NC State and finished with nine victories. Stacy became the first back in Commodore history to produce back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Stacy was a fifth-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in the 2013 Draft and enjoyed a four-year NFL career. Following his playing career, Stacy has worked in sports radio and has been an advocate and event sponsor for the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught