The SEC is widely known is the most competitive football conference in America. From Heisman Trophy winners to unforgettable All-Americans, the conference has produced an endless amount of familiar faces. Many of these players transcend the game itself for one reason or another whether they became famous later in life or for positive or negative purposes.
10. Steve Spurrier (Florida 1963-1966)
Winner of the 1966 Heisman Trophy, Spurrier is one of few SEC players that attained that level of success on the field, yet is likely more famous as “The Ol Ball Coach,” feverishly roaming the sidelines at Florida and South Carolina.
9. Reggie White (Tennessee (1980-1983)
The “Minister of Defense” was an All-American defensive end at the University of Tennessee but became one of the NFL’s all time great players in the years that followed. White ended his career as a 13-time Pro Bowler and is second in NFL history in sacks. After his playing career, White pursued a career in the ministry before passing away at the untimely age of 43.
8. Aaron Hernandez (Florida 2007-2009)
File this one under the category of “infamous.” Hernandez was a standout tight end at Florida and was becoming a star with the New England Patriots before Hernandez found himself in jail as a result of a double homicide accusation. Hernandez would take his own life in 2017 after being acquitted of the double murder. A Netflix documentary entitled Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez was released for streaming on January 15, 2020
7. Emmitt Smith (Florida 1987-1989)
A unanimous All-American at Florida in 1989, Smith forwent his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Smith went on to be a superstar for America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys and was pivotal in the franchise winning three Super Bowl’s during the 90’s. Smith ended his career as the all-time leading rusher in NFL history and is revered by football fans around the country.
6. Herschel Walker (Georgia 1980-1982)
One of the greatest running backs in college football history, Walker steamrolled over opponents both at the collegiate and professional level. Walker won a national championship at Georgia in 1980 and then a Heisman in 1982. After three years in the ill-fated USFL, Walker would go on to play 12 years in the NFL and even took up MMA in his 40’s. Walker is an outspoken conservative and even spoke at the RNC in 2020 where he voiced his support of President Donald Trump and the police.
5. Paul W. “Bear” Bryant (Alabama 1931-1935)
Before “The Bear” roamed the sidelines in Tuscaloosa with his signature houndstooth fedora, he starred as a member of the Crimson Tide football team, even winning a national title in 1934. Bryant would go on to coach The Tide to six national championships during his legendary 24 year run. They used to say an atheist in Alabama was an individual who didn’t believe in Bear Bryant. To this day, he is seen as a nearly mythical figure both in the SEC and the nation alike.
4. Bo Jackson (Auburn 1892-1986)
A two-sport athlete both at Auburn and professionally, Bo Jackson’s legend has only continued to grow over the years. One of the greatest athletes of all time, Jackson won a Heisman trophy in 1985 before playing for the Raiders and Royals simultaneously. Jackson has been immortalized in the popular NES game “TECMO Bowl” as well as the ESPN 30-For-30 “You Don’t Know Bo.” His famous “Bo Knows” commercials helped elevate him to epic proportions before a hip injury derailed his playing career.
3. Tim Tebow (Florida 2006-2009)
Tebow’s career at Florida is widely thought of as one of the greatest in college football history. Two SEC titles, 2 BCS titles and a Heisman Trophy helped turn the left-handed Tebow into a household name just from his college days alone. In the NFL, he was a part of a few memorable moments in Denver before bouncing around from team to team. Now, Tebow is seen on the SEC Network’s “SEC Nation” show in addition to playing minor league baseball.
2. The Manning Family (Ole Miss, Tennessee)
The first family of the SEC, you can call it a cop-out, but each of these three have achieved incredible accolades on the field in various arenas. While Peyton and Eli have combined for four Super Bowl titles, Archie became a national figure during his time in Ole Miss in the late 60’s and wound up on the Saints ring of honor as a two-time Pro Bowler.
1. Joe Namath (Alabama 1962-1964)
Namath is the OG transcendent football mega-star. From Super Bowl guarantees to pantyhose commercials, Namath was able to become famous both on the gridiron and beyond. Namath was featured in many films and television programs and his “Broadway Joe” personna precedes him to this day.