In 2017, Gilbert Brown, Aqib Talib, and Anthony Collins were added to Memorial Stadium’s Ring of Honor, and with the recent announcement that Todd Reesing, Chris Harris, and Larry Brown are to be enshrined during the 2018 season, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the current members of the Ring of Honor.
(Why KU’s official website doesn’t have something like this on it I don’t know, or at least, I couldn’t find it).
Players are listed in order of their time at KU.
DB/QB, 1941-42, 1946-47
One of the greatest overall athletes in the history of Kansas athletics, Evans started on both sides of the ball at QB and CB. Evans joined Otto Schnellbacher as KU’s first-ever first team All-Americans in 1947. He is the only player in NCAA history to lead the country in passing yards (as a QB) and INTs (as a CB) in the same year and is the only Jayhawk to be first team All-American in both football (1947) and basketball (1943). He was a three-time first team All-Conference (Big Six) selection (1942, ‘46-’47) in football. Evans’ #42 is one of three jerseys retired by Kansas football.
CB/WR, 1942, 1946-47
Like Evans, Schnellbacher started on both sides of the ball for KU, at WR and CB. He was first team All-Conference four times in basketball for the Jayhawks while doing the same three times in football. In the “three yards and a cloud of dust” era, Otto was credited with 58 receptions and 1069 yards in his KU career, school records that stood for 22 years.
One of the “founding fathers” of the Carolina Panthers, McCormack has been referred to as “the finest offensive tackle who ever played pro football.” After his first-team All-Conference senior season at KU in 1950, he spent 17 years in the NFL, eventually becoming the second Jayhawk to be enshrined in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, an honor he achieved in 1984.
Another two-way player, Mrkonic played on both the offensive and defensive lines as well as handling punting duties for the Jayhawks. He was first team All-Conference in 1951 and 1952 and first team All-American in 1951.
Spencer took over the afore mentioned Mike McCormack’s LT position in 1951 and was named first team All-Conference his junior and senior years, as well as first team All-American in 1952. An eight-year NFL career would ensue followed by 17 years as a coach in the NFL.
Yet another two-way star for the Jayhawks, Hadl was first team All-Big 8 halfback in 1959, first team All-Big 8 quarterback in 1960 and ‘61, and led the nation in punting in 1959. He was KU’s first back-to-back first team All-American in 1960-61, leading KU to consecutive top-20 rankings during his junior an senior years. A 16-year NFL career followed where he amassed 33,513 passing yards, good for third in the record books at the time of his retirement; it’s still 28th all-time. His #21 is one of three jerseys retired by Kansas football.
A three-time All-Conference selection and an all-around athlete, McClinton also won three Big-8 titles in hurdles during his time at KU. Primarily a blocking back in college, McClinton was an AFL Rookie of the Year in 1962 and is still in the top-10 in Chiefs rushing leaders. He is also a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame.
One of the most well-known Jayhawks of all-time, Sayers was All-Conference in each of his three seasons at KU and All-American in his final two seasons. After being taken #4 overall in the NFL Draft, an injury-shortened seven-year NFL career was still brilliant enough for Sayers to become the youngest inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame. He is one of three Jayhawks who has had his jersey retired, #48, and is the only Jayhawk inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Best known as the quarterback on KU’s 1968 Orange Bowl team, Douglass was named first team All-Big 8 in 1967 and 1968, and was also first team All-American in 1968. He played in the NFL from 1969-1977, and if it weren’t for the NFL extending its season to 16 games in 1978, Douglass would still probably hold the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He was passed up by Michael Vick in 2006 by 71 yards (and two extra games).
A two-time All-Conference DE and 1968 first team All-American, Zook left KU as the fourth-leading tackler in school history. He spent 10 years in the NFL.
(To be inducted on 10/27/18)
Primarily a blocker in college, Brown was a member of the 1968 Orange Bowl team and a first round NFL Draft pick. He spent 14 years in the League with the Steelers, the first seven as a starting Pro-Bowl caliber TE, and the final seven as a starting offensive lineman. Brown won four Super Bowls during his time in Pittsburgh, retiring after the 1984 season.
Riggins was a two time first team All-Conference player, averaging 5.1 yards per carry on his way to breaking Gale Sayers’ rushing record. Drafted #6 overall in the 1971 NFL Draft, Riggins finished his professional career with 20 NFL records, was the MVP of Super Bowl XVII, and voted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
A Bonner Springs native, Jaynes turned down scholarship offers from Stanford, Miami, and Alabama, among others, to stay close to home at Kansas. He led KU in passing for three consecutive seasons, culminating in his senior year of 1973 that saw Jaynes earn first team All-Big 8, first team All-American, and finish fourth in the Heisman balloting. He is still the only Jayhawk to be a Heisman finalist. Jaynes left KU as the school’s all-time passing leader and is still fourth in that category.
One of the best pure athletes to grace the field at Kansas, Cromwell was shades of Ray Evans 30 years later. Also a two-time All-American in track and field, Cromwell led Kansas to the Sun Bowl in 1975, earning him a first team All-Big 8 nod and an honorable mention All-American. 10 years in the NFL as a DB saw Cromwell named to four consecutive Pro Bowls during the middle of his professional career.
The unofficial record holder for tackles in a college career with 633, Pless averaged over 19 tackles per game, garnering first team All-Conference three years in row from 1983-85. He followed that with a 14-year CFL career, where he was an 11-time All-Star, 5-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the left the league as the all-time career tackling leader.
The Detroit native chose Kansas over Michigan and started all but two games of his four-year college career. However, he never put up gaudy stats, mostly because he was on some pretty salty and talented KU defenses. He made second team All-Conference as a sophomore and left Kansas in the top 10 in school history in tackles and TFLs.
Collins helped lead the way for 1,000-yard rushers Jon Cornish and Brandon McAnderson during his junior and senior seasons, culminating in the 2007 season that saw Collins named first team All-Big 12 and first team All-American.
One of the more recent two-way players at KU, Talib primarily played at CB in college, moonlighting at WR in his sophomore and junior seasons under Mark Mangino before foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Talib led the country in passes defended as a sophomore in 2006 and was named first team All-Big 12 in both 2006 and 2007, as well as first team All-American in 2007 and the 2008 Orange Bowl MVP. He is second in KU history in career INTs with 13 (behind Ray Evans). A 10-year NFL career (that is still in progress) saw Talib named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
(To be inducted on 9/15/18)
Despite never getting any first team All-Conference or All-American nominations, Reesing owns 14 school records and practically every passing record at KU both in a career and in most cases in a single season: attempts, completions, yards, TDs, and completion percentage. Only one player has played in more games at QB at KU (Frank Seurer).
Chris Harris, Jr
To be inducted on 9/1/18)
Starting at CB as a freshman in the 2007 Orange Bowl season, Harris totaled 50 games in a Jayhawk uniform, registering 290 tackles and three interceptions. He is most known for his NFL success; one of the best NFL undrafted free agent stories, Harris is a three-time Pro Bowl selection, first-team All-Pro in 2016, and helped lead the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl title.