Whether it be due to injury, career change, or even death, some of the greatest players to ever put on the pads in college football, never played a single down in the NFL.
While the list is quite long, possibly longer than many people think, here are five of the most notable players who had legendary performances on the collegiate gridiron, but never displayed their talents at the next level.
Felix “Doc” Blanchard – Running Back – Army
The first junior to ever capture the Heisman Trophy in 1945, Doc Blanchard amassed 1,908 yards and 38 touchdowns during his three seasons at Army. Regarded, even to this day, as one of the most talented players to ever take the field, Blanchard decided to pursue a service career, rather than a football career. The man known as “Mr. Inside” in college, for running between the tackles, eventually became Colonel Blanchard in the United States Air Force.
Ernie Davis – Running Back – Syracuse
Becoming the first African American to ever win the Heisman Trophy, Ernie Davis was the talk of college football in 1961. During his time at Syracuse, Davis broke a plethora of offensive records that were originally set by the legendary Jim Brown. Selected as the No. 1 pick in the 1962 NFL Draft, Davis’ promising professional career came to an end before it ever began. Diagnosed with leukemia just months after the draft, Davis lost his life in the spring of 1963.
Tommie Frazier – Quarterback – Nebraska
Regarded as one of the most illusive quarterbacks in the history of college football, Tommie Frazier was a nightmare for every team that Nebraska faced in the mid 1990s. Leading the Cornhuskers to back-to-back national championships in 1994 and ’95, Frazier was an undeniable winner. Unfortunately, his style of play as an option quarterback was almost destined not to translate to the next level. Marred by health issues, and his aforementioned style at the quarterback position, Frazier went undrafted in 1996.
Joe Roth – Quarterback – California
One of the more notable pocket passers in the collegiate ranks during the mid 1970s, Joe Roth had a skill set worthy of the NFL. The starting quarterback for California during the 1976 campaign, it was discovered that Roth had played his final season with a melanoma. Sadly, at the age of 21, Roth died in February of 1977.
Charlie Ward – Quarterback – Florida State
Arguably the most prolific two-sport star of the 1990s, Charlie Ward was not only the first Heisman winning quarterback for Florida State, but also a quality point guard for the FSU basketball team. While Ward led the Seminoles to the 1993 national championship on the gridiron, like the aforementioned Tommie Frazier, Ward’s style of play simply didn’t flow with the NFL systems of the mid ’90s. Going undrafted in the 1994 NFL Draft, Ward was selected by the New York Knicks in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft. Ward would play professional basketball for over a decade with three different NBA organizations.
Doc Blanchard, Army’s Mr. Inside, Is Dead at 84
Syracuse University Athletics – Ernie Davis, Football, 1959-61
Retired Jersey: #15 – Tommie Frazier
FLASHBACK: Top QB in 1977 NFL Draft died two months before draft
COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Ward Wins Heisman By About 100 Yards