All-American attitude

On Independence Day, a look at All-Americans from Texas history.

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Happy 238th birthday, America.

It can be easy to look at this number – 238 years – and think, “Wow! That’s a long time! America’s been around for a while!” And in some respects, it has — 238 years is long enough for roughly five generations to live exclusively in this great nation.

But in another respect, America’s existence is just a speck on the windshield of world history. Take, for example, the Roman Empire, which lasted a staggering 2,214 years. Or, if you’re not into the ancient stuff, consider Turkey, which has been sovereign since June 26, 1243 – a cool 771 years ago.

But whether or not you care to compare, today – the Fourth of July – is an opportunity to say “Yay America!” and celebrate this nation. And there’s little that more American than football.

So on this, the 238th birthday of this simultaneously old and young nation, let’s take a second to look at something with “American” right smack dab in the middle of the name: All-Americans.

It’s become more of a colloquial phrase than an actual honor, but becoming an All-American is still a big deal – an honor bestowed upon college football players for being the best at their position in the nation.

The problem is that the decision-making process is, at best, muddy. No fewer than a dozen outlets put out All-American teams, and they are as wide-ranging and diverse as, well, this Birthday Boy of a nation that we live in.

For its part, the NCAA stepped in and recognized five different All-American teams as legitimate: the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America, the Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. And it laid down ground rules: if a player appears on the first-team of three of the five recognized All-American teams, he’d be known as a consensus All-American.

Is this the best way to determine the best players in the nation? That’s debatable. But it’s the way that we have, and it gives us an opportunity to remember some of the best players in Texas college football history.

In honor of Independence Day, we went through each of the consensus All-Americans in history – which dates back to 1930 – to break down the data for Texas’ All-Americans.

In total, there have been 153 consensus All-Americans in Texas FBS college football history, from Baylor’s Barton Koch in 1930 to Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and others in 2013.

But just knowing the number isn’t good enough for us, because that’s not American. Being American is diving deeper, going farther, working harder. So we broke down the numbers even further, to figure out which teams have produced the most All-Americans.

Here’s what we found:

As you can see, Texas has lapped the field in this regard, accounting for more than a third of the state’s consensus All-Americans. Texas A&M is the closest, then SMU and TCU are behind them, with Baylor and Texas Tech not far behind. North Texas (Joe Greene in 1968) and UTEP (Brian Natkin in 2000) boast just a single consensus All-American, while FBS newcomers UTSA and Texas State have understandably not landed one yet, at least on the FBS level.

But what about by position? What position has Texas starred the most on the consensus All-American scene?

Now, you may look at this and say, “Wow, Texas produces a lot of great offensive and defensive linemen.” And you’d be right – folks like Jake Matthews, Dan Neil, Dan Irons and Bill Bridges were terrific on offense, and the likes of John Lagrone, Joe Greene, Brad Shearer and Jerry Hughes are unmatched on defense. But also remember that there are more offensive and defensive linemen on each All-American team than other positions.

Equally as impressive in our view are the 10 consensus All-American quarterbacks and the staggering 25 consensus All-American running backs. That’s some historical star power.

A small note: it’s worth noting that some players — like Rice’s Dicky Meagle — made the All-American team at more than one position, so that’s why the numbers may not add up.

But what about over time? How has Texas’ propensity for consensus All-Americans changed over the decades? We broke down the A-A’s by decade, and here’s what we found:

Truly, the 1970s — with the likes of Texas’ Earl Campbell, Texas A&M’s Ed Simonini, Rice’s Tommy Kramer and Baylor’s Mike Singletary — was a golden era for individual stars in the Lone Star State, though the 2000s weren’t far behind. And it’s worth mentioning that this decade — the 2010s — is just 40% over, and Texas has already produced half as many consensus All-Americans as the “golden era” of the 1970s.

So today, on this birthday of the United States of America, take a step back, breathe in that rich air of freedom, and remember: football is only a couple months away.

Happy birthday, America.

Greg Tepper is the managing editor of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football and

He can be reached via e-mail, via Twitter (@Tepper) and via the DCTF Facebook page.

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