If you were to take a scientific poll and ask Kansas fans, “Who is your favorite KU football player ever?” I’m guessing at least 3/4 of them would say “Todd Reesing” - as they should. After all, Reesing is by far the most prolific passer KU has ever seen, and its not even close.
As a Kansas football fan since the early 1990s, here are some of my favorite players that I’ve seen play in Memorial Stadium - guys that might but probably won’t ever show up on any all-time lists.
OK, so Levine is arguably one of the top 10 rushers in KU history. So sue me. June Henley probably could’ve had this spot if not for his legal troubles after college; after all, Henley, alongside QB Asheiki Preston, nearly led the Jayhawks to victory over Nebraska in my first-ever visit to Memorial Stadium for a game in 1993.
But back to Levine. One of the more dependable rushers in Glen Mason’s offense in the mid-90s, he averaged 5.3 YPC over his Kansas career, finishing in the top 10 in school history in career rushing yards and rushing TDs. His best season was probably 1994, his junior campaign, when he led KU in rushing and averaged 6.3 YPC while helping the Jayhawks to a 6-5 record. He also led the Jayhawks in rushing in the 1995 Aloha Bowl season.
If you have 3.5 hours to kill, here’s the 1995 Aloha Bowl in its entirety (complete with commercials). Unfortunately, Levine only had 22 yards on 11 carries in that game, but still, a 51-30 butt whooping of UCLA is always fun.
Gordon originally came to KU as a wide receiver, but finished his redshirt freshman season as a starting corner. He also returned punts and kickoffs, making him one of the most versatile players in recent memory. In his KU career, Gordon picked off 7 passes and caught nine touchdown passes. Dude was lots of fun to watch.
And yes, I’m still mad about it.
Toomey committed to Oklahoma out of high school before ending up at Iowa Central CC and making his way to Kansas and Mark Mangino, whom he would later be critical of. Regardless of the relationship with his head coach, Toomey was one of my favorite defenders on those early Mangino days. He brought fire to the defense, and both the team and the crowd fed off of it.
The highlight I most remember about Toomey was in 2003 vs UNLV, he had a pick-six that gave KU a 39-17 lead late in the third quarter that put the game away for the Jayhawks. That was the second game in Mark Mangino’s second year, and you could just tell that better things were in store for the football at that point. (It’s truly amazing what the right coaching hire can do for a program. I digress.)
I mean, just look at this guy. He was born to play linebacker, and it’s unfortunate that injuries derailed any chance of him having a pro career.
Yet another Mark Mangino player (notice a pattern here?), Floodman was another fiery linebacker who had a tendency for big hits and big plays. He was a big key in knocking off Brad Smith and Missouri in 2005 and on top of that, if there were to ever be an “All-Name Team” for KU football, he would have to be on it.
Along with Toomey, Floodman was at KU alongside several other big hitting linebackers that could have gone on this list, including Kevin Kane and Nick Reid.
What I remember about Carl Nesmith is that he was basically Mike Lee but 20 years ago. All you really need to know about Nesmith is that his nickname was “The Butcher.” Nesmith was a Juco transfer into Glen Mason’s program back in 1999, playing his junior and senior years at Kansas. He came to KU after playing QB and WR at Butler CC in El Dorado, but coaches moved him to defense in fall practice, where he quickly developed his reputation. By mid-October, Nesmith was in the starting lineup, where he made an immediate impact.
In addition to playing a fierce free safety, Nesmith also returned kickoffs. I can’t find any highlight videos, but if you have two hours to kill, you can catch Carl terrorizing Nebraska to the tune of 14 tackles in 1999 (Nesmith wore #5).
(I watched the first few minutes of that Nebraska game and damn - remember when Memorial Stadium was loud? I am sad now.)
Personally, Whittemore is my favorite KU football player of all-time. In fact, the only jersey I own is a dark blue #4. Similar to Carl Nesmith, Whittemore was a juco transfer (from Fort Scott CC) who foreshadowed a future player for Kansas football - Whittemore was Todd Reesing four years before Reesing got on campus. I mean, just check out Example A and Example B. He brought a spark to Mangino’s offense in 2002 and led the Jayhawks to the Tangerine Bowl in 2003.
It seemed like Whittemore was always banged up, but when healthy he was an exciting player to watch. Despite playing in just 19 games in his Kansas career, Whittemore ranks in the top 7 in both passing yards and passing TDs.
Whittemore led Kansas in one of my favorite games of all time, the 2003 Missouri at Kansas game. The Jayhawks were a 10-point underdog, but came alive in the fourth quarter to smash the Tigers by a 35-14 final. (Note some highlights from the previously mentioned Gabriel Toomey in that clip as well.)