Who were some of the greatest players of all-time that switched teams? Here are 10 of the top transfers in college football history.
We now live in a world of college football free agency.
So, you don’t like the football team you’re playing on? Then leave and go somewhere else through the magical Transfer Portal.
With grad transfers the new norm, and those who haven’t graduated expecting some sort of hardship situation beyond not being as good as the guy higher up on the depth chart, players aren’t locked into their respective schools like they used to be.
And, considering coaches are able to come and go as they please, that’s a good thing.
But transferring used to be a much bigger deal. It used to be all but iron-clad that a player had to sit out a season, lose a year of eligibility, and then play for his new team.
Which transfers made the all-time biggest impact? Who were the best players to ever switch schools?
There aren’t any concrete measurables here, and the top ten list is certainly open to interpretation – if you’ve got a guy or two, tweet it over and he might be added to the list of Also Receiving Votes – but here were some of the loose guidelines.
1. JUCO transfers don’t count unless they played at another major school first. OJ Simpson and Aaron Rodgers are just a few who would easily make any list of top transfers, but the player had to go from one big school to another big school.
2. The entire world of world wars gets thrown out – with a few exceptions. Army all but commandeered the best talent in the 1940s – a whole slew of College Football Hall of Famers started at one major program and ended up playing for Red Blaik – and several all-timers started at one school, left to fight in a war, and came back to another school.
Even so, two guys made the list who transferred partially because of their military service, but the all-timers who ended up at Army or Navy don’t count.
3. Current FBS school transfers only – with one key exception. Jim Ballard going from Wilmington to Mount Union and Guy Chamberlain leaving for Nebraska-Wesleyan to Nebraska aren’t a part of this.
4. Finally, there has to be something amazing about the career after they transferred. Something had to define the move, like a Heisman, a national title, an all-time great statistical season, or a rise up in stature to the No. 1 overall draft pick, like …
10. Jeff George, Quarterback
Okay, okay, so he wasn’t that great a college player, and this is a massive stretch to put him on this list. But in terms of being a really big deal at the time, a player with his skill level transferring made a splash.
The superstar high school prospect out of Indianapolis could’ve gone anywhere in 1985, but he chose to stay close to home and turn around the struggling Purdue program. Thrown to the wolves right away in 1986, he threw for 1,217 yards and four touchdowns with 15 interceptions for a Boilermaker team that finished 3-8.
It’s not like Illinois was doing anything better. The Illini went 4-7 under head coach Mike White, but he took the program to the Rose Bowl in the 1983 season and grew a reputation as a quarterback whisperer. Illinois seemed like the right place for a quarterback of George’s talent to take his game to the next level.
After tiring quickly of Purdue, he left for Illinois and sat out the 1987 season, only to see White get canned after going 3-7-1. In came John Mackovic, and he and George turned the program around.
George threw for 2,257 yards and nine touchdown in 1988, but he helped lead the way to a 6-5-1 season and a bowl appearance. The next year, it all came together as Illinois won ten games as is star quarterback threw for over 2,700 yards with 22 touchdowns, pushing the ball downfield more and showing off his cannon arm.
In his college career, George finished with 6,212 yards and 35 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. However, the move worked – he became the No. 1 overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts in the 1990 NFL Draft.