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All-Time Top 10: Quarterbacks

Playing quarterback is a scrutinized role. Playing quarterback for a school like the University of Texas is a whole other beast entirely.

No. 10 Donnie Little

The Longhorns have had some phenomenal signal callers since the 1960s capped off with a guy who won more games at the position than any other player in the history of college football.

With national champions, conference champions and national award winners to choose from, counting down the best Texas Longhorn quarterbacks was not an easy task.

10. DONNIE LITTLE (1978-81)

Why he’s in this spot?
The first African-American quarterback to start for the Longhorns played in 29 games and led the team in total offense in both 1979 and 1980. He threw for 2,067 yards and rushed for another 1,306 in his career. He threw just eight touchdown passes, but that says more about the era he played in than Little’s ability. He played receiver his senior year as Texas went to a pro-style attack and caught 18 balls for 338 yards and three touchdown passes.

How he ended up at Texas?
The Longhorns really wanted him, according to former head coach Fred Akers. As Akers said, “It was between us and Oklahoma.” Former Texas recruiting coordinator Ken Dabbs felt like it was a recruitment that went back and forth. Dabbs said, “I had a very good in with his high school coach, and that really helped. His mother wanted him to come to Texas, too. That never hurts.”

What they're saying
Ted Koy: “He was the Evil Knevil of the group. He would sacrifice his body to make the pitch. The play wasn’t over until it was over. You didn’t know when he was going to pitch or how he was going to pitch it, and that made it difficult on defenses. It also made it difficult on Donnie, who got hit hard a lot.”

9. CHRIS SIMMS (1999-2002)

Why he’s in this spot?
The quarterback who might have caused the most controversy in Texas history still has the second-highest passer rating in school history (138.4), finished 26-6 as a starter and threw for 7,094 yards. He threw for 58 career touchdowns, but many remember his 31 interceptions instead. He helped lead the team to a 22-4 record as a starter over his final two years. No matter what, Simms will be most remembered for getting selected as the starter over Major Applewhite, who was the fan favorite.

Donnie Little is remembered for not being afraid to sacrifice his body on the field during his run in the late '70s.

How he ended up at Texas?
No recruit set the stage for the impact of the Mack Brown era more than Simms, the consensus No. 1 player in the country his senior year of high school in Franklin, N.J. Simms, after visiting Texas and Tennessee, committed to the Volunteers in December on a New York regional television show. He would be the heir apparent to Peyton Manning in Knoxville. However, by the time January rolled around, Volunteer offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe had moved on to become head coach at Ole Miss. And the outstanding visit to Texas and assistant Tim Brewster lingered. In late January, Simms announced that he had changed his mind and would go to Texas. Perhaps only Cory Redding deserves as much credit for starting the decade-long recruiting dominance that Brown enjoyed.

What they're saying
Kirk Bohls: “Chris may have been the most booed and vilified player in school history but still won 26 games as a starter. He handled himself with grace and class. While never the most clutch performer, he put up big numbers and won a lot of games and never really got his due. Against lesser opponents, Simms was at his best.”

8. ALAN LOWRY (1970-72)

Why he’s in this spot?
Perhaps he should be on the defensive back list as he led the Longhorns in interceptions for two straight seasons, including for the 1970 championship team. Lowry was an athlete who played quarterback in 1972 as he rushed for 661 yards and passed for 766. He led the team with 12 total touchdowns (11 rushing) that season and led the team to a 10-1 record and a final ranking of No. 3 in the country.

How he ended up at Texas?
He was an option quarterback, and Texas was running a version of the Houston veer. This really helped the recruiting process. Lowry fell in love with Texas and it’s where he wanted to go. It was a pretty simple recruiting process, though he did consider TCU, SMU, Oklahoma and Houston.

What they're saying
Ted Koy: “He’s a little bit in the same category as (Eddie) Phillips. Alan’s ability was he was deceptive in what he was doing. It was hard to tell what he was doing from a defensive standpoint. He had that last-second move.”

7. EDDIE PHILLIPS (1969-71)

Why he’s in this spot?
A key component of both the 1969 and 1970 championship teams, Phillips was difficult to defend as both a runner and a passer. He backed up James Street in 1969 before taking over as the full-time starter in 1970, his best season on campus. That year the Longhorns went 10-1 as Phillips threw for 695 yards and rushed for 666 while combining for 16 touchdowns.

No. 9 Chris Simms

How he ended up at Texas?
According to Ken Dabbs: “He came because James Street was here winning all those games. He just always wanted to go to Texas. He just waited his time, and when it was his time he took advantage.”

What they're saying
Ted Koy: “Great quarterback running the option. He was the prototype in that he had the quick step and the quick read. When he kept the ball he was another running back who was difficult to bring down. Yet still had the passing ability. That’s what differentiated him from the rest of the guys.”

6. MAJOR APPLEWHITE (1998-2001)

Why he’s in this spot?
No. 2 in all-time passing yards in school history (8,353), he was one of those quarterbacks who epitomized a leader. And he captured the hearts of Longhorn fans. He was 22-8 as a starter and has the lowest percentage of intercepted passes per attempt (just 28 of 1,065) of all starters in Longhorn history. He holds the two longest pass plays in school history, a 97-yard touchdown completion to Wane McGarity against Oklahoma in 1998 and a 96-yarder to Roy Williams vs. Oklahoma State in 2000. He’s most remembered for almost bringing the Longhorns back against Colorado in the Big 12 championship game after Chris Simms threw three first-half interceptions and the Longhorns fell behind 29-10. The Longhorns ended up losing 39-37, but Applewhite threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns and almost pulled off an amazing victory.

How he ended up at Texas?
The Baton Rouge native originally committed to Texas A&M. But a coaching change at offensive coordinator — Steve Ensminger was fired at Texas A&M — put Applewhite back at square one during the middle of recruiting. His dad was a long-time fan of Alabama, and Major is named after former Crimson Tide running back Major Ogilve. Applewhite also camped at Bama, as well as a half dozen other schools during his high school career. But in the end, John Mackovic and Texas was the only major school to offer a scholarship. Ironically, Applewhite never played for Mackovic, but helped Mack Brown breathe new life into the Longhorn program and became one of the most loved players in the history of the program.

What they're saying
Kirk Bohls: "Applewhite was the freckle-faced wonder who could do no wrong. Those same fans may never forgive Mack Brown for starting Chris Simms over Applewhite for Major's senior season after Major was coming off knee surgery following the bowl game. Major had a fire and a presence that willed him to succeed. He was the stereotyped coach on the field."

5. JAMES BROWN (1994-97)

Why he’s in this spot?
He’s No. 3 on the school’s all-time passing list, throwing for 7,638 yards in four years while leading the team to 25-13-1 record as a starter. He threw 53 touchdowns and had a career passer rating of 128.4. His biggest game came against Baylor in 1994 when he threw five touchdown passes, which is tied for the second-most thrown in a game in school history. His biggest game was the 1996 Big 12 Championship when the Longhorns upset No. 3 Nebraska 37-27 after Brown’s strong words had made the papers all week long. Brown threw for 353 yards that day, including a 66-yard touchdown pass to Wane McGarity with 8:53 left in the fourth quarter to give the Longhorns a 30-27 lead. But the play everyone will always talk about is “Roll Left”. Brown hit Derek Lewis on a bootleg pass on 4th and 1 from the Horns’ own 29-yard line late in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory.

Simms wasn't universally loved, but he does sit second on Texas' all-time highest passer rating list.

How he ended up at Texas?
Undaunted by the signature of All-American Shea Morenz the year prior, Brown chose Texas because of John Mackovic’s NFL pedigree. Brown, from regional powerhouse Beaumont West Brook, was known as an accurate passer and electric playmaker. Oklahoma and Texas A&M talked to him, but Texas won the day.

What they're saying
Kirk Bohls: "People will remember him mostly for Roll Left on fourth down against Nebraska to win the first Big 12 championship, and that was as clutch a single play as has ever been. James Brown defined cool under the pressure. He was one of the first passing quarterbacks to usher Texas into the modern era. I remember him as one of the worst practice players, but when the lights turned on, James brought it nearly every time."

4. MARTY AKINS (1972-75)

Why he’s in this spot?
A tough quarterback who was extremely difficult to stop running the football. He rushed for 1,963 yards and 26 touchdowns during his four-year career. He was one of those players who epitomized determination. You were going to have to carry him off the field. One thing few people really know is his command of the huddle. He was one of those guys who stepped into the huddle and everybody immediately got quiet and waited to hear what Marty had to say. Those guys don’t come around too often.

How he ended up at Texas?
Ken Dabbs helped recruit Akins, whose dad was a high school coach. Akins wanted to go where there was a winning program and he wanted to run the wishbone. “His dad was something else. The Colorado game where he had that bad knee is what I remember about him. He was a guy who never ever wanted to come off the field, and that game epitomized his attitude.”

What they're saying
Kirk Bohls: "Marty was as feisty and as gritty as they came. He played on one knee against Texas A&M. There were few tougher quarterbacks than he.”

3. JAMES STREET (1968-69)

Why he’s in this spot?
He is not only the first of three quarterbacks who could legitimately stake claim to the top spot on this list, but he’s also the only undefeated quarterback in school history (20-0). He could run the option. He could pass. If asked, he probably could have played lineman. Street ran for 441 yards and passed for 699 for the 1969 national championship team. He was most known for his personality, which demanded everybody’s attention the minute he walked in the room. That’s part of what made him a great quarterback. He was hyper, loaded and ready to go at all time, and he was like that both on and off the field.

No. 6 Major Applewhite

How he ended up at Texas?
He wasn’t very highly recruited out of high school because he was just 5-foot-9, 152 pounds. Oklahoma State was one of the schools who was after Street, a Longview product. The thing that nobody could measure was his leadership. The Longhorns had “Super Bill Bradley” on their roster when Street was being recruited, so they didn’t pay attention when he decided to come to Texas.

What they're saying
Ted Koy: “He was going to beat you if he was an option QB, a passing QB a running back, a tight end or if he was shooting marbles or playing tennis. Name the sport, the game, he was going to beat you. I had my head in the huddle with James. Whatever was called, you just felt it was going to work because of the attitude James brought. He’s still got that. When you talk to him, he’s ready to play. He had that infectious optimism. James could throw. James could run. Didn’t have lightning speed.”

2. COLT MCCOY (2006-09)

Why he’s in this spot?
He’s here because he’s college football’s all-time winningest quarterback and Texas’ only two-time All-America quarterback. He went 45-8 as a starter and holds 47 school records, including almost every major school record a quarterback could hold. He threw for an amazing 13,253 career yards as he became the only quarterback in the history of college football to win 10-plus games in four consecutive seasons. It’s possible that the only thing keeping him out of the No. 1 spot was a national championship. An injury against Alabama prevented him from getting the opportunity to complete that feat.

How he ended up at Texas?
Chalk this recruitment up to one person — Greg Davis. Davis, the former Longhorn offensive coordinator, loved the small 2A West Texas product from the get-go, even though McCoy was just 6-0, 165 pounds soaking wet. Despite the love for McCoy, the Horns continued their pursuit of more highly touted Ryan Perriloux, who would eventually sign with LSU and Stephen McGee, who, despite being right down the road from Texas at Burnet, would sign with A&M. McCoy committed to Texas early yet coaches at LSU and Kansas State kept in contact throughout the process. The rest, as they say, is history.

What they're saying
Kirk Bohls: "He totally deserved the Heisman Trophy his junior season when he was the dominant player in the nation and pulled up his team into a whisper of the national title game without the benefit of a tight end or a running game. He had tremendous leadership skills. It was a shame he wasn't able to play more than five snaps in the final game of his career because otherwise he would probably have gone out like Vince Young. He's the winningest quarterback in college football. That speaks for itself."

1. VINCE YOUNG (2003-05)

Why he’s in this spot?
Is there anybody else you’d rather have with the ball in his hands with the national championship on the line? Fourth-and-5 from the Southern Cal 9-yard line answers that question. He was the reason Texas broke its 35-year title drought in 2005 as he led the team to a 14-0 record and the national championship. Young finished 30-2 as a starter and was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He threw for 6,040 yards and rushed for another 3,127 while making defenders look silly. He combined to score 81 touchdowns.

Major Applewhite battled Simms for playing time and still finished second all-time in passing yards.

How he ended up at Texas?
Vince Young to Texas almost never happened because the Longhorns didn't initially recruit Young as a quarterback, they liked him as an athlete, and instead offered Billy Don Malone of Paris North Lamar the scholarship. But assistant coach Tim Brewster stayed after Young, and as Young developed as a quarterback as a senior, the remainder of the Texas coaching staff became big believers as well. Malone eventually de-committed which gave Young the only QB spot in the class. During an early January visit, and a basketball game during which Texas fans chanted his name, Young committed to Texas Sunday, January 13. That decision altered the college football landscape. He also considered Miami, Kansas State and LSU. But only Texas and K-State wanted him as a QB.

What they're saying
Kirk Bohls: "If I had one game to win and one player to do it, that'd be Vince Young. He was uniquely dynamic and singularly sensational. He's the one person who transcended the game. His performance in the Rose Bowl will go down as one of the most overpowering and memorable in all of college football. Doug Flutie had his pass. Vince Young had an entire game."

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All-Time Top 10 Series
Monday: Quarterbacks
Friday(7/22): Wide Receivers
Thursday (7/21): Tight Ends
Wednesday (7/20): Defensive Backs
Tuesday (7/19): Linebackers
Monday (7/18): Running Backs

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The panel who voted on these lists include former University of Texas two-sport star Keith Moreland, who is now the color announcer for the Chicago Cubs, Ted Koy, who played running back for the Longhorns in the 60s and is an avid follower of the Longhorns, Ken Dabbs, the former recruiting coordinator at Texas during the 60s and 70s, Kirk Bohls, long-time columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, and Bobby Burton, who is a Texas graduate, editor of Hookem.com and former editor-in-chief of Rivals.com. Special thanks also goes to former Texas coaches David McWilliams and Fred Akers who helped fill in a lot of the gaps in the recruiting sections for this series.

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