The Top 20 SEC Football Icons

Published on 24-Feb-2013 by Stacey Mickles
Football - NCAA / NCAA Football Daily Review

If this isn't proof that the spirit of Bear Bryant isn't smiling somewhere, what is?

When I think of SEC icons, I think of gentlemen who changed either their school or the conference for the better. Some may be coaches, players, administrators and even announcers. What these legends represent are game-changers whose effects on the conference -- and in some cases, the nation -- is still felt today. Agree or disagree, here are some of the top SEC icons:

Bear Bryant ... No one has come close to what Coach Bryant has accomplished. No one. He has the most national championships (six), the most SEC titles (14) and he even has the National Coach of the Year Award named after him. He was an innovator, a motivator, and a winner.

Paul Finebaum ... Who else has brought SEC football to the forefront of a national audience like Paul Finebaum? The always controversial talk show host is never lost for words, and callers to his national syndicated radio show are never boring. Love him or hate him, Finebaum has changed the way the country looks at SEC football. Sometimes it’s not for the better, but it is always fun.

The Mannings ... As the first family of SEC football, it was hard to pick just one because each of them (Archie, Peyton, and Eli) had such a huge impact on the conference. Archie was probably the best athlete of the three. Peyton broke a brace of SEC passing records, and Eli, like his father, made Ole Miss relevant again during his time there. The Mannings' success in this league will always stand the test of time.

Steve Spurrier (Florida and South Carolina) ... The Ol’ Ball Coach changed the way the SEC played football with his brash style and tactics. Before Spurrier came along, the SEC was about running the football and playing defense, but Spurrier proved that you can still play good defense and throw a little, too. Spurrier forced other coaches to change their style of play, and it changed the conference for the better.

Tim Tebow ... Before there was Cam or Johnny Football, there was Tim Tebow, whose unique talents opened the door for those two and created a phenomenon that continues to this day.

Mark Ingram ... Some say Ingram doesn’t deserve to be on this list, but how can Alabama’s first -- and to this point, only -- Heisman winner not make this list? Anyone who achieves a first in anything at a school like Alabama deserves to be here. Ingram literally carried the Tide in 2009 to its first national championship in almost 20 years.

Nick Saban ... Like Spurrier when he came into the SEC, Nick Saban’s dominance at both LSU and, especially, at Alabama has overhauled the way the SEC plays football. Saban has taken it back to old school SEC smash-mouth where defense reins. Saban could have put in a gimmicky offense to win games, but his pro-style offense attracts several top name recruits across the country and put the phrase 'the process' on the map.

Keith Jackson ... Ask any SEC fan and they’ll tell you there is nothing like listening to Keith Jackson calling an SEC game. Yes, I know he has done other games for other conferences, but Jackson -- born and raised in Georgia -- was our icon first.

Frank Broyles ... The best coach in Arkansas history, Broyles was instrumental in leading his school from the dark ages in the Southwest Conference to the SEC, where the Razorbacks felt right at home. Since joining the SEC, the Razorbacks have won national championships in basketball and track, gone to the SEC title game in football, and gone to a BCS game.

Sylvester Croom ... Croom is an icon for the simple fact he was the first black football coach in the SEC. If it wasn’t for him, Kevin Sumlin, Joker Phillips, and James Franklin might never have coached in the SEC.

Johnny Maziel ... An icon, you ask? How can he not be? He broke all of Cam’s records, he won the Heisman as a freshman, and he beat the No 1 team in the country in his team’s first SEC season. Um, yeah, he is an icon.

Bo Jackson ... Hard to believe this man is the second best running back in the SEC. Bo might be the best athlete, period, in the SEC; forget just football. Before there was Cam, there was Bo: the best athlete in Auburn history.

Hershel Walker ... Walker has been called the greatest running back in SEC history, and who can argue with that? Walker broke all kinds of SEC running records as a freshman, and some say he should have been the first freshman to win the Heisman. Although he and Bo Jackson both won the award, Walker brought the Bulldogs a national championship, something that Jackson didn’t do.

General Bob Neyland ... Before Paul Bryant showed up in Tuscaloosa, General Neyland owned the SEC. Between the 1920s through early 1950s, Neyland led the Vols to four national championships, five SEC titles, and two Southern Conference titles. Not to mention that he is a West Point grad. Vol fans can only dream of finding another Neyland.

Mike Slive ... The commissioner of the best football conference in the country has taken the SEC to new heights. Billion-dollar contracts and seven straight appearances in the BCS National Championship Game (seventh straight win as well). Can it get any better for Slive?

Johnny Vaught ... The only coach in Ole Miss history to win a national championship. Since he has been gone, the Rebels have been a non-factor in the SEC, but Mississippi's fortunes may be changing for the better under new head coach Hugh Freeze.

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