Top 10 Rutgers football players of all time

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

With Rutgers officially becoming a member of the Big Ten, it’s time to become familiar with some of the program’s football history. Here’s a look at my top 10 all-time best Rutgers players.

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1. Ray Rice (2005-07). Rice was the face of Greg Schiano era, a true workhorse and big-play back who helped bring the program to a national stage. He established a Big East and Rutgers single-season record with 1,794 yards rushing in 2006 in addition to ranking fifth nationally in scoring. Rice garnered numerous awards for his standout season. He followed that with a 2,000-yard season before leaving a year early for the NFL.

2. Paul Robeson (1915-19). A true Renascence man, Robeson was an accomplished actor, singer and civil rights activist in addition to his football exploits. He was just the third African-American ever enrolled at Rutgers, earning All-American honors and serving as class valedictorian. In many ways, he transcended the sport.

3. Alex Kroll (1961). He took a rather circuitous path on his way to Rutgers stardom. The 6-2, 228-pound center excelled for two seasons at Yale before serving two years in the Army. After forming a friendship with 1957 Scarlet co-captain Art Robinson at Fort Campbell, Ky., Kroll transferred to Rutgers. An AP first-team All-American in 1961, Kroll was regarded as the finest center in the nation.

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4. Marco Battaglia (1992-95). In 1993, he caught 27 passes. In 1994, that number increased to 58. By his final season, in 1995, Battaglia was hailed as the nation’s top tight end. He notched a 69-catch, 894-yard, 10-touchdown season in 1995. For his career, Battaglia finished with a school record 171 receptions for 2,221 yards, second on the school’s all-time list. His seven 100-yard plus receiving games is a Rutgers’ record.

5. Bill Austin (1956-58). Not blessed with great size at 5-11, 170, Austin notched 2,073 yards rushing and scored 204 points. He was a prototype single-wing tailback for his era. His 32 career touchdowns rank second in Rutgers annals. And he had 13 interceptions, which is one short of the all-time record.

6. Homer Hazel (1916; 1923-24). Rutgers’ first Hall of Famer, was ultra versatile. During the 1924 season, Hazel established school records for PATs and longest compleltion. Homer lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track.

7. Brian Leonard (2003-06). Among other standards, Leonard finished his career ranked fourth all-time in rushing yards (2,775) and rushing touchdowns (32), and sixth all-time in receiving yards (1,864). He was a bright spot in the building years of the Greg Schiano era, a tough and versatile fullback-halfback who do it all.

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8. Howard Talman (1913-15). He was one of the school’s first stars, earning Walter Camp All-American honors at three different positions—guard, halfback, fullback. Talman also was a standout in track and field.

9. Kenny Britt. (2006-08). Ranked a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, Britt spurned numerous schools to stay home and star for Rutgers. He started the moment he got to campus and went on to an All-American career as perhaps the top wideout in school history.

10. Mike Teel (2004-08). He was part a 2006 team that launched Rutgers to a 9-0 start and national prominence. Teel struggled at the outset of the 2008 campaign by throwing seven interceptions over his first six games as the Scarlet Knights stumbled to a 1–5 record. But the fifth-year senior rallied and led Rutgers to six straight wins to close out the season along with a fourth straight berth in a college bowl game.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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3 Comments

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Ed Scott on 7/1/2014 @ 4:25pm EDT Said:

I think Tom should have noted that Austin was first team AP All-American in 1958 and came in sixth in the Heisman voting.

Michael Ritschel on 7/2/2014 @ 6:14pm EDT Said:

I can come up with a bunch of players I would put ahead of Mike Teel for the 10 spot, but I’ll start with Khaseem Greene. 2 time Big East Defensive POTY.

Reuben Washington on 7/13/2014 @ 9:36am EDT Said:

A number of RU players have gone on to solid NFL careers. My list would start with Deron Cherry and Sean O’Hara. And Anthony Davis seems to be on way to stellar career