For each conference, we’re picking our all-time favorite set of skill position players (1 QB. 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE). The purpose of this isn’t to pick the best players of all time, but just to pick and write about our favorites or throw together an interesting group of players and imagine what they would’ve been like on the field together.
If the Pac 12 has had nothing else, it’s had a bunch of colorful characters over the past couple decades, and those guys are the focus of my team. These guys (with one exception) would dominate the headlines for their antics, and they’d also be a pretty damn good team on the field. Here goes.
Quarterback: Ryan Leaf (Washington State)
Ryan Leaf has become such a caricature that people forget he was actually a great college quarterback: in 1998, he finished third in Heisman voting and led WSU to a Pac-10 championship. But the real reason I picked Ryan Leaf (other than the fact that he, Marshawn Lynch, Keyshawn Johnson, and Gronks would form the Most Interesting Team in the World) is that he’s the most fun Pac 10/12 quarterback to Google. Here are some results on the first few pages of a simple search: “Are the Ryan Leaf Comparisons Fair for Johnny Manziel?”(Bleacher Report), “Why Jimmy Clausen is the Second Coming of Ryan Leaf” (Bleacher Report… Ryan Leaf is basically the human version of Bleacher Report, or vice versa, I think), a few dozen “turning over a new Leaf” puns, and this picture.
Running Back: Marshawn Lynch (Cal)
Beast Mode. Skittles. Grills. It’s only a matter of time before Marshawn Lynch becomes Cal-Berkeley’s 72nd Nobel laureate.
Wide Receiver: Keyshawn Johnson (USC)
C’MON, MAN! After all the USC hating in this blog over the past couple days, I’m picking a USC player? Yep. I actually don’t mind Keyshawn, though that’s probably because I’m too young to remember him playing for USC (though his numbers were ridiculous). He’s a pretty entertaining guy, and he’d fit in perfectly with Leaf, Lynch, and Gronks (though probably not with Mark Bradford: see below) to help make this Pac 12 ensemble one of the most brash and talented groups you could put together.
Wide Receiver: Mark Bradford (Stanford)
Who is Mark Bradford? Yeah, I didn’t know either, until I Googled “guy who scored the game-winning touchdown in Stanford’s huge upset of USC”. Mark Bradford is that guy. If you don’t remember this specific game, it was in 2007, USC was #1 in the Coaches’ Poll, and Stanford was 1-3 and a 41-point underdog. Long story short, Stanford mounted a fourth-quarter comeback that culminated in a game-winning touchdown reception by none other than Mark Bradford. He’s a bit of a misfit on this team of otherwise notably insane individuals, but he’s earned his spot. Though I forgot his name for a while (if I ever knew it), Mark Bradford will always live on as a legend in my books.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (Arizona)
Actually, it might not be a good idea to put Gronks and Ryan Leaf on the same team. I doubt they’d last a full season without at least one of them ending up seriously injured, incarcerated, or both. But Gronks is both a beast (obviously) and just the right amount of crazy to fit into this team. To be honest, I don’t remember him playing in college at all, but that’s on me because his stats are pretty impressive. The combination of talent and entertainment value is too much to pass up here.