Who would have been college football's Twitter stars of yesteryear?
As we saw in Week 0, all college football fans need is two games to be happy. Give them a full Saturday slate, like we're getting this weekend, and it doesn't matter if it's Oregon vs. Auburn or Florida State vs. Cupcake University (love Cupcake U catching 55 points in that one). We will watch, we will gamble on it and most importantly, we will tweet about it.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Twitter didn't exist, a time when you couldn't rip a highlight from FOX Sports of Jim Harbaugh throwing his headset on the ground in disgust, pair it with your wittiest caption and pass it off as your own, and it wasn't all that long ago. Would you believe me if I said that you couldn't tweet about the epic Texas vs. USC National Championship game in 2005, even if you wanted to? It's true.
That got us thinking: who would have been college football's Twitter stars before Twitter even existed? Who would have been the 2005 version of Baker Mayfield, or the 1999 version of Tua Tagovailoa? Players who were popular and well-known on a national stage, but would have exploded with the help of social media. We name our favorite candidates below.
I know, I know, Twitter launched in 2006 and Forcier's freshman year was 2009. But Tate took off before Twitter really took off. Had his electric performance against Notre Dame happened in 2019 instead of 2009, people on social media would not be able to contain themselves. Forcier was Johnny Manziel before Johnny Manziel—a cocky, dual-threat freshman QB that got the nod under center and put the team on his back, starting the season 4-0, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated and thrusting himself into the Heisman conversation. But just as quickly as he burst onto the scene, he fell off the face of the earth at the same speed. No. 5 and the Wolverines finished the year 1-7 in their final eight games, and by the following spring, he was demoted in favor of a guy named Denard Robinson. He wound up transferring (which he announced on Twitter!) to San Jose State, where he never took a snap, leaving the program for academic reasons. He's now a distant memory, but for four weeks in the fall of 2009, he was the center of the college football universe. -- Christopher Powers
God bless, Jared Lorenzen. Fitting tributes have poured in after his tragic death last month at the way-too-early age of 38. The former Kentucky Wildcat quarterback, who became a backup for the Super Bowl-winning Giants, was so young, but just old enough to have missed the social-media age. He was a cult hero in Kentucky. If fans could’ve watched and reacted to his highlights in real-time, he would’ve been one of the most Meme-able, GIFable athletes of our generation. At nearly 300 pounds during his peak years, the "Round Mound of Touchdown," "the Pillsbury Throwboy," and "the Hefty Lefty" were a few of his epithets among UK fans. He was probably the heaviest college football quarterback at the Division I level. He lit up message boards during his career for his agility and cannon of an arm. Imagine Twitter lighting up on a college-football Saturday to highlights like these? Rest in peace, J-Load. -- Stephen Hennessey
How exciting was Warrick to watch? An eight-yard catch he made was once chosen by SportsCenter as the lone highlight to show from a Florida State victory. An eight-yard gain, that is. Warrick must have ran more than 200 yards scampering from sideline to sideline, making defenders look like dopes. Sadly, a bad decision at a Dillard’s department store during his senior season cost him the Heisman Trophy. But Warrick returned in spectacular fashion, accounting for 20 points in a BCS National Championship Game victory against Michael Vick’s Virginia Tech, including an incredible fourth-quarter TD grab while drawing a pass interference call—an image that appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Unfortunately, despite being the No. 4 pick by the Bengals in the 2000 NFL Draft, Warrick never delivered like that again. Even sadder, his spectacular pre-millennium highlights are hard to find—and see—on YouTube. -- Alex Myers
(^^not a real tweet)
Twitter Woody Hayes is a more terrifying prospect than some mutant hybrid of Bobby Knight and the president himself, but there’s no denying that he would have been a master of one of the platform’s (and Ohio State football’s) most time-honored art forms: The non-apology apology. It might not have saved him his job in the end, but as long as he kept those follower numbers up, a cushy FS1 studio job would have been all but guaranteed. -- Coleman Bentley
Scholars debate when #MACtion started, but Byron Leftwich is undeniably a pioneer of the movement. From a penchant for burning down the scoreboard to a talented, if somewhat unorthodox, dynamism, the man encapsulates everything that’s special about those Tuesday/Wednesday night tilts. That he provided one of decades more indelible moments when playing on a broken left tibia, reliant on his line to carry him down the field, would have broken Twitter in 2019. Related note: got to feel for Leftwich’s backup. That’s got to be a shot to the ego that your coach would rather have a mobile quarterback that’s now on one leg than you out there. -- Joel Beall
One of the great subsets of college football Twitter is college football gambling Twitter, and there's an even smaller subset of that: late-night college football gambling Twitter. Colt Brennan, Hawaii's all-time leader in touchdown passes, would have owned late-night CFB gambling Twitter. His five-TD, 500-yard passing performances would have had over bettors high-fiveing through their computers, and he would have saved countless degenerates from going 0-fer on the day. It's still a travesty that not only did he not win the 2006 Heisman Trophy, he wasn't even invited to the ceremony. Nobody remembers Troy Smith's snoozefest of a year, but I promise you they remember No. 15 in his dark Oakley visor and all-black uniform slinging the pill all over the joint at 1 a.m. eastern time. And who could forget about his blonde hair complete with the shape of Hawaii in black? CFB Twitter would have been crazy for Colt. -- Powers
If you followed college football in the late ’90s, early 2000s, you know how special Lavar Arrington was. He wrecked games on a Lawrence Taylor level. The LaVar Leap is a top highlight on every college-football highlight reel ever (the play perfectly sums up his rare talent). But LaVar provided highlights to fans on a weekly basis. His speed and athleticism were truly transcendent. He might’ve been a bust relative to his potential in the NFL, but college LaVar had a 40-inch vertical jump -- and would’ve electrified social media in a similar way to how he electrified the Penn State fanbase. -- Hennessey
There are power backs and then there’s this former Seminole, who was originally recruited by Florida State to play linebacker. Instead, he trucked defenders during four seasons in Tallahassee, posterizing future NFL DBs like Sean Taylor and Dexter Reid and that one time he went through the entire Clemson team. A torn ACL and MCL in 2002 ended a junior season filled with Heisman Trophy hopes and took away some of the explosiveness that made him a potential top-five pick. Jones returned, wound up being picked in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft, and had a solid nine-year career as a fullback that included a Pro Bowl selection in 2007. But he never carried the ball more than five times over his final six seasons. A tragedy for those who never saw him in his prime—but a stroke of good fortune for those who never had to (try to) tackle him. -- Myers
Classic “Football is being ruined by [blank] guy.” In Red’s case, those culprits would have been facemasks, prohibition, and world war, but I guess we're lucky we never had to know how he felt about Colin Kaepernick. -- Bentley
It’s easy to forget now. Too much has happened—the marijuana advocacy, the bizarre Mike Dikta photo-op, his public battles with mental health, and an underwhelming professional career—to keep his college run crystallized. But God, what a run it was for Ricky Williams. He had the artistry of Barry Sanders, the dexterity of Ricky Watters, the blunt-force trauma of Jerome Bettis. He added “video-game stats” to the sporting vernacular, doing it with bad-ass dreads and a visor. I distinctly remember him making an Oklahoma linebacker cry. Was covering the NFL when he retired in 2012, and my editor asked me to get reaction from current players. “If this is truly it,” Steelers safety Troy Polamula said, “then it’s sad. He had a good career. And that’s going to hide that he used to be the best.” -- Beall
I don't think I have to explain to you the type of player Reggie Bush was or how LIT it would have been to share all of his ridiculous USC highlights on Twitter with captions like "when she says she'll give you her number if you juke out all 11 guys on Fresno State's defense." You know how when you watch a highly-touted recruit's high school highlights and say "well, he's doing this against a couple sorry-ass catholic school kids, wait until he gets to the college level." That's what Reggie Bush's highlights were like ... in college. His former love interest Kim Kardashian once "broke the internet." Reggie breaking that Oregon cornerback's ankles would have burned the internet to the f-ing ground. -- Powers