|Photo by Jason Schott.
The National Football Foundation presented the inductees for the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday morning.
The Class includes (in alphabetical order) Bob Crable (Notre Dame), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), Kirk Gibson (Michigan State), Matt Leinart (Southern California), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Bob McKay (Texas), Dat Nguyen (Texas A&M), Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern), Mike Ruth (Boston College), Brian Urlacher (New Mexico) and coaches Danny Ford (Clemson, Arkansas), Larry Kehres (Mount Union [Ohio]) and Steve Spurrier (Duke, Florida, South Carolina).
Peyton Manning had a distinguished college career, as he became Tennessee's all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards and 89 touchdowns and won 39 of 45 games as a starter, breaking the Southeastern Conference (SEC) record for career wins.
As a senior, Manning led Tennessee to the SEC Championship game. That year, he also won numerous awards; including being named a consensus first-team All-American, the Maxwell Award winner, the Davey O'Brien Award winner, the Johnny Unitas Award winner, and the Best College Player ESPY award winner.
Manning joins his father Archie as the first father and son in history to be inducted as players into the College Football Hall of Fame. He said of that honor, " I was 13 years old. My mom let us -- let me and my two brothers miss school to come up here and witness our dad
going to the Hall of Fame. First time wearing a tuxedo; first time being in New York. So that was a big deal. But I can remember what a big deal it was to my dad, that honor. A lot of Ole Miss people were here. So it's kind of surreal thinking I'm going to experience that same moment tonight. So I am honored to be selected into the College Football Hall of Fame especially with all these great players and coaches. But to join my dad, it's quite a unique honor. I'm
very humbled by it."
Manning was the recipient of the National Football Foundation's Campbell Trophy, honoting him as the best academian and the best college football player. He was only the second Campbell Trophy winner, with the first being Danny Wuerffel. He is one of just 35 players all-time who have been both an NFF national scholar-athlete and a Hall of Fame inductee.
On excelling in the classroom and on the field, Manning said, "It was a great honor to win the Campbell Award 20 years ago -- it's hard to believe -- at this banquet. Obviously all of us went to college to get an education and truly took the role of being a student-athlete, took that very seriously. Had a great experience during my four years in Knoxville. But I remember being amongst the other student-athletes in that banquet 20 years ago, met some great guys. And I've been to this banquet a couple different times. And it's always one of the highlights getting to see these 22-year-olds. These are the leaders of
tomorrow. And I was honored to be a part of that group."
Manning said of what it was like for him in college, "Obviously, my dad playing college football. I really took a real interest in his college football experience. I used to listen to the old radio broadcasts of his games and just had a real passion for college football. So to be able to go play at the University of Tennessee, I was honored just to have the opportunity to play. I think the relationships with your teammates, I've enjoyed talking to all the guys up here. Everybody has expressed their greatest memory has been the relationships with their teammates, coaches, equipment staff, the trainers, the video directors, people that are behind the scenes on a football team but every bit as important as the star running back.So I cherish those relationships. Fortunately still have them today, even though I don't play. That's my greatest take-away of my years of playing football, has been the relationships."
Faulk made his mark San Diego State University, where he set many of the school's offensive records, among them 5,562 all-purpose yards and 62 career touchdowns, which is the 8th most in NCAA history.
It didn't take Faulk long to make people notice how good he was. In his second collegiate game, he had one of the best performances of his career was against the University of the Pacific on September 14, 1991. He amassed 386 yards on 37 carries and scored seven touchdowns, both records for freshmen, with the 386 yards a then-NCAA record. Faulk had scoring runs of 61, 7, 47, 9, 5, 8 and 25 yards That performance sparked one of the greatest freshman seasons in NCAA history, as he gained 1,429 yards rushing, with 23 total touchdowns (21 rushing), and 140 points scored.
Faulk went on to better 1600 yards rushing in his sophomore year in 1992, and he was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy behind Miami's Gino Torretta. In Faulk's junior season in 1993, he was finally able to showcase his all-purpose ability by catching 47 passes for 640 yards and 3 TDs to go with 1530 yards and 21 TDs on the ground. These numbers put Faulk 3rd in the nation in all-purpose yardage that year, and 2nd in scoring.
On gaining national attention while being at a smaller school, Faulk said, "First of all, I think what helped for us was playing on Thursday nights. That was the birth of Thursday Night Football
in a sense. And our games coming on late on Saturday when we did play. Most of the time when you play early on Saturday, you're
competing with big conferences. And our night games really got a lot of attention. And with ESPN really starting to ramp up their coverage with college football. The exposure at night to catch a game that was still going on when they were doing Sportscenter, it was always fun that they were tracking my yards and touchdowns and stuff like that. It got a lot of exposure for the Western Athletic Conference at the time."
San Diego State took a chance on Faulk out of high school, where he was overlooked and he said of that, "First of all, just the
opportunity coming out of high school. This was the time before they had a position called an athlete playing multiple positions, making it hard for the scouts to decide what I was, whether it was a cornerback or a safety or a receiver, running back or quarterback. It was difficult.
"Now you have the position of 'athlete.' You just put him on your team, play him anywhere, both sides of the ball, it didn't matter. They saw in me what I saw and believed in myself, which was that regardless of what position I played, when the ball was in my hand, it was -- I was pretty darn good with it."
Kirk Gibson made his mark in baseball wit he Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers. He is most famous for his big home run in the first game of the 1988 World Series off Dennis Eckersley in a series the Dodgers eventually won.
Gibson, a Pontiac, Michigan native, played for Michigan State University from 1975 to 1978, where he made his mark in football as a first-team All-American and a three-time All-Big Ten wide receiver. He led the Spartans to a tie for the Big Ten title, setting school and conference receiving records, starring in the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl. He had 2,347 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns.
Gibson said of what it means to be linked to a legacy in both football and baseball, "Well, I think the football is my
foundation, Bob was talking about how he played with a chip on his shoulder. One of the hardest things for me to deal with when I was
a baseball player, in football, you do have that chip on your shoulder. If you get frustrated, for whatever reason, I could go out and hit somebody and felt better immediately.In baseball, when you strike out, you get to go work on the weakest part of your game. That was for me to play defense. So, it was very tough."
On what he is proud of from his football career, Gibson said, "Well, actually I think football was my favorite sport because I've had great mentors over the years. One of them was Darryl Rogers who was my head coach at Michigan State. He asked me if I wanted to be
a top five pick in the NFL. I said 'Yeah, it would be great.' And he said, 'Go out for baseball,' which he said while laughing.
"That was in the spring of my junior year. I did. I went out And by the end of that year, I was the Number 1 pick of the Detroit Tigers. And I went and played professional baseball that summer
for 52 games in Lakeland, Florida.
"Then I got to come back and play my senior year of football with my teammates. We won the Big Ten. Unfortunately, we were on probation so we couldn't go to the Rose Bowl. And the rest is kind of history for me. I came to Michigan State University as really
the last guy in. I wasn't a guy who was highly touted. I think my credentials going in was 'honorable mention Oakland County.' But I had a plan. And, again, I've had great teammates and great mentors along the way to encourage me to see how good I could be in my beliefs. Michigan State University and the people I became associated with, they were the right people."