Earlier this week, I made the easy picks on my hypothetical ballot for the 25th anniversary all-Patriot League team - the defense.
Now, for the challenging part.
Today, I weigh in on my picks for the offense - and there's bound to be some crying and gnashing of teeth.
But one selection on my version of the 25th anniversary team is bound to be completely uncontroversial.
That's the selection of the legendary two-sport star for Holy Cross, RB/CB Gordie Lockbaum. (more)
With the official Patriot League 25th anniversary team including an "all-purpose back", it seems like it was designed for Mr. Lockbaum - the quintessential all-purpose guy.
The best summary of the "only two-play player in Division I since the 1960's" was Sports Illustrated's view in 1987 of "Gordo":
Against Lehigh in the opening game of the season he was the Colonial League's defensive player of the week at cornerback (two fumble recoveries, one for a touchdown, and an interception). Against Harvard two weeks later he was the Colonial League's (not to mention SI's) offensive player of the week at tailback and flanker (147 yards rushing, 83 yards catching, three touchdowns, a quick kick and a quarterback sack). Against Dartmouth he was again the league's offensive player of the week, with six touchdowns, and in a monumental upset at Army he was the planet's player of the week with 22 tackles and 113 total yards. In a 41-7 romp over Massachusetts on Saturday he rushed 12 times for 74 yards and a touchdown, caught five passes for 140 yards and two more touchdowns, returned two kickoffs for a total of 46 yards and forced a fumble as Holy Cross went 8-0 for only the second time in the school's history.
His legend made lots of people take notice on a national level.
In 1986 in his junior season he was named ECAC Player of the Year, New England Offensive Player of the Year, and WTBS National Player of the Year. He finished fifth in the 1986 Heisman Trophy balloting.
In his senior season in 1987 he finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and was named the Football News Division I-AA Player of the Year. He was a two-time First Team All-America selection - receiving recognition on offense, defense, and special teams. In the Heisman vote he was only behind winner WR Tim Brown (Notre Dame) and QB Don McPherson (Syracuse).
As an all-purpose back, you can't do much better than "Gordo".
Here are my other picks for the team as well.
PK Martin Brecht (Lafayette). A four-year letter winner for the Leopards, he peppers the Patriot League record book, like many other kickers over the years. But when it came to answering the question "which kicker would I want kicking for me in a big spot?", Brecht was my answer. His combination of consistency (kicking 6 FGs in a single game) and leg (routinely booting 40 yard FGs) had me deciding to give him the nod.
On the bubble: There were a lot of guys I thought about, including Jaron Taafe (Lehigh), Brian Kelley (Lehigh), Lane Schwarzberg (Colgate), and Micah Culkey (Fordham), but fell a tiny bit short of Brecht in my opinion.
OT Will Rackley (Lehigh)
OT Paul Clasby (Colgate)
OG Dave Pyne (Lafayette)
OG Marc Scalfani (Colgate)
C Jeff Santacroce (Lehigh)
Since it's considered a true "team", I tried to think of the best five linemen at tackle, guard, and center, making it a more difficult job than it appears. Certainly the Jacksonville Jaguar-bound Rackley was an easy pick, but picking monstrous Clasby over other deserving Colgate tackles (like OT Nick Hennessey, for example,) and picking the nastiness of Pyne of Lafayette and sheer power of the 300 lb Scalfani over Lehigh's OG Joe Uliana was not an easy call at all.
In the end, it's awfully hard to rate individual offensive linemen in a team game, but I thought these five would have been great together on the same line as seniors. And to that group I added Santacroce, the center that was a key, somewhat unsung part of the "Air Lehigh" championship teams in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
TE Adam Bergen (Lehigh). One of the easier picks on the 25th anniversary team, Bergen was simply the best pure offensive tight end in Patriot League history. As a junior, he caught 70 passes for 840 yards and six TDs, and as a senior in 2004, he grabbed 54 passes for 634 yards and eight TDs.
On the bubble: No other tight end came as close to Bergen as being an integral part of the offense, but TE Stephen Skelton (Fordham) came the closest.
WR Javarus Dudley (Fordham)
WR Corey Hill (Colgate)
While Dudley had some great teammates in QB Kevin Eakin and RB Kirwin Watson, it was the 5'11 Dudley that made the Rams go in 2001, 2002 and 2003, ending his career as the Patriot League career leader in receptions (295), receiving yards (4,197), receiving touchdowns (34), all-purpose yards (7,121), kickoff returns (111) and kickoff return yardage (2,663).
Another 5'11 receiver - this one from Colgate - had a similar effect on the Raider offense in the late 1990s. By the time he finished his career he was the all-time leading receiver with 212 catches for 3,434 yards and 34 touchdowns - including a stretch of more than 41 straight games with a reception.
On the bubble: There are so many names that could easily be on the list, including WR Josh Snyder (Lehigh), WR Pat Simonds (Colgate), WR Phil Yareborough (Lafayette), WR Brian Klingerman (Lehigh), and WR Dave Cecchini (Lehigh).
RB Kenny Gamble (Colgate)
RB Jamaal Branch (Colgate)
In the end, you have to give the nod to the two Colgate running backs that won the Walter Payton award.
Gamble is, along with Lockbaum, the only Patriot League players also enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. "Few in the history of collegiate football ran the ball with such intensity and passion," Colgate's announcement of his enshrinement said. "At the conclusion of his career, Gamble held or shared 13 NCAA Division I-AA records and 29 school records. His career 7,623 all-purpose yards set the all-time record for all divisions of collegiate football." No 25th anniversary team is complete without him.
As Gamble was smooth, Branch was powerful. In 2003, he would become the second Raider back to win the Walter Payton trophy with a then-NCAA Division I-AA record 2,326 yards. He also broke the Division I-AA record for rushes in a season (450), most touchdowns scored by rushing in a season (29) and most games gaining 100 yards or more in a season (11) and most touchdowns scored in a season (29). With him and QB Ryan Vena in the backfield, the Raiders were awfully difficult to stop.
On the bubble: The problem with taking the Colgate duo is that so many deserving candidates, like RB Jordan Scott (Colgate), RB Erik Marsh (Lafayette), RB Rich Lemon (Bucknell), Rabih Abdullah (Lehigh) and RB Jonathan Hurt (Lafayette) aren't on the team. It was incredibly tempting to put Abdullah on the team specifically - the most dominant back I personally witnessed play at Lehigh.
QB Dominic Randolph (Holy Cross)
I really, really wish I could have taken two QBs for the all-time team, for then I would have also been able to select QB Phil Stambaugh. But while Stambaugh's offense and leadership on the Lehigh championship teams in 1998 were great, no team was carried as much by their quarterback than Holy Cross was the last three years.
In Randolph's remarkable four-year career, he amassed 13,455 passing yards. 1,131 pass completions. 117 passing TDs, including 34 in back-to-back years. And along the way, he broke QB Steve McNair's FCS record for games with a touchdown pass (he'd end his career with 42).
His ability to progress through reads was nothing short of incredible - and he was a terrific decision-maker. And when he thought he needed to up his game, he decided to work on something else - a running game, where he's confound defenses by rushing for twenty yards a pop.
While he didn't win the Walter Payton award in 2009, he definitely topped my ballot. His 37 TDs - 31 through the air, 6 on the ground - was 77 percent of the Crusaders' touchdowns in 2009. More than three quarters of the Holy Cross offense.
He was the best playing in FCS in 2009, and he - just - makes the Top QB position for my 25th anniversary team, too.
On the bubble: Aside from Stambaugh - it's killing me not putting him on there - QB Kevin Eakin (Fordham), QB Frank Baur (Lafayette), QB Ryan Vena (Colgate), Tom Ciaccio (Holy Cross), and Marty Horn (Lehigh) all just seem like they deserve to be on the list, but aren't.
(Can I petition to get a ballot to choose the Top Ten QBs of the Patriot League for the last 25 years?)