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December 14, 2011As we again finish another season of Army football and wait through the holidays, recruiting, and strength training until spring ball pops back onto the radar, a question was brought up on the GoBlackKnights.com message board - who are the top 10 Army Football Players of the last 10 years?
Making a "Top 10" list on this subject is very difficult. Army has fielded arguably four different offenses and three different defenses during that time. While the teams, especially under head coach Todd Berry, struggled on the field, some of the talent that made up those rosters was extremely strong.
That makes this one is very tough in terms of ranking, but here it goes from one person's perspective.
1. Steve Anderson - To me, of any player on any team in the last 10 years, he was the one guy with the heart, emotion, and will that stood above the rest. A ferocious hitter, amazing game instincts, and a heart of fire, he was a menace on the field and a true leader on the team. The impact of losing Anderson to injury and then graduation was probably the largest of any single player in the last 10 years. For his career, the very active Anderson registered an impressive 34 tackles for loss.
2. Caleb Campbell - From his first game as a freshman against Cincinnati, he could single-handedly change the complexion of a game. He was a ferocious hitter, and in tandem with Jordan Murray, made up arguably the fiercest safety duo in the nation their senior year. The knee injury hurt him and slowed his return his senior season, but once he was at 100% again, he was a true force opposing coaches feared him.
3. Josh McNary - Teams had to scheme around him. He pulled double teams. He was a quiet warrior who made his presence known on the field. He was a menace in the backfield, compiling sacks and tackles for loss. Pound for pound, one of the best athletes Army has fielded. McNary finished his career as the Black Knights' all-time leader in sacks (28) and tackles for loss (49).
4. Carlton Jones - He does not get the mentions that some of the great backs at Army do - Blanchard, Davis, Dawkins, Mayweather, but you cannot discount what he did on the field. His ability to read the field in front of him and make cuts, resulting in huge runs in an offense that struggled with success was incredible. His five-touchdown performance against South Florida in 2004 was one of the best single game performances in Army history. Imagine what head coach Rich Ellerson's offense would look like with Jones in the backfield? The elusive Mr. Jones finished his career with 3,536 rushing yards, only second to Mike Mayweather's 4,299 yards as Army's all-time leading ground gainer.
5. Greg Washington - Undersized at best, he was one of the top linebackers in the nation and was a huge overachiever. He led the nation in tackles through most of his senior year, finishing the year in the top 10 in that category. He could hit, and there was always at least one "ooohhhh" from the crowd every game when you heard him make contact and lay someone on their back.
6. Cameron Craig - Prior to McNary arriving at West Point, Craig was the standard bearer at end on defense. His tackle for loss against Texas A&M, putting Army in a position to win the game, was one of the best defensive plays of the last 10 years. He was the career sack leader for Army until last season, and like McNary, had that quiet warrior approach.
7. Jordan Murray - I struggle with this one, I want to rank him higher. Honestly, I think he was one of the most under-rated, or maybe under-appreciated players Army has ever had. At times, I think he was better than Campbell. He was always in Campbell's shadow, and because teams schemed around Caleb, Murray saw a lot more action. And you want to talk about being able to hit? He was unbelievable. Loved his interception, breaking Brady Quinn's streak at Notre Dame. Always thought he should have gotten an NFL shot along with Campbell.
8. Jeremy Trimble - Not the fastest, not the biggest, but man did he have an ability to make a big play. Receiving, punt returns, running reverses, he could somehow make huge plays look easy. One of the most completely productive players at Army in a long time, and a huge frustration for opposing teams. He was just so elusive and calm under pressure. He made it look easy. Trimble, who played from 2004-07, finished his career as Army's All-time leader in receptions with 176 and finished with 2,998 all-purpose yards.
9. Trent Steelman - While he still has a year left to play and has been hit with injuries, he truly epitomizes what I look for in an Army football player. Guts, grit, toughness, and the will to win. He is all heart, and he never gives up. And I feel it's safe to say, we haven't seen his best football yet.
10. Ali Villanueva - Need someone on the D Line? He did it. Need help on the O Line? He did it? Need a receiver? He did it. The guy played three positions in 4 years and played them well. He was freakishly athletic, probably the best overall athlete I have ever seen at his size. Then went and played TE at the Shrine game and got a shot with the Bengals. He was selfless, and did whatever was needed to make the team better.
Zach Dahman - Maybe the most under-appreciated QB we have had at Army, ever. Tough as nails, but derided because he didn't show a huge amount of fire. I would take his arm and grit any day of the week. The Texas native finished with 6,904 passing yards, which is atop the Army career list.
Seth Nieman - When was the last time we had a 320lb lineman with his athletic ability and fire? The guy just liked to fight. By the time he graduated, he was at 290. You put him in Ellerson's offense today and he would stand out as one of the best. Could have walked on at Nebraska, probably could have played OL at a number of upper echelon schools in D1.
Mike Gann - Just a tough SOB and a huge consideration for opposing offenses up the middle. I remember how good it felt to know we would get him for a 5th year. Oh how I wish we could have had him for a 6th.
Curt Daniels - Heart, Heart, Heart, and more Heart. Completely undersized with the heart of a Lion. Played so much bigger than his frame. Never gave up on any play at any time. A true Army football player to its definition.
Owen Tolson - A punter? Really? In the top 10? Tolson was not just a punter. He could kick too, and if a returner broke free down the field, Tolson would take him out. His leg won the field position game a number of times, keeping Army in games and extending the field. His kicking made clear how important special teams are to a football team.
Scott Wesley - A receiver turned running back, his size made for an incredible 1-2 punch (along with Carlton Jones) in Army's backfield. His performance against Air Force in 2005 was a big reason why Army came away from Colorado Springs with a victory that year. His performance and impact opened up the game for Carlton Jones.
Of course, that is just my thoughts on this subject. Who are your Top Ten Army players over the decade?.
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