Top 10 Best Auburn College Football Players of All Time

Top 10 Best Auburn College Football Players of All Time

The Auburn Tigers football team had their first season over a century ago in 1892. Since then, they’ve found enormous success on the gridiron, including 16 conference titles and a legendary National Title win as recent as 2010. Auburn is also famed for its ability to develop incredibly talented players on the field, including three Heisman Trophy winners. These ten players, however, are the best to ever play for the Auburn Tigers.

Who Are the Best Auburn University Football Players of All Time?

  1. Bo Jackson
  2. Cam Newton
  3. Pat Sullivan
  4. Terry Beasley
  5. Tracy Rocker
  6. Carlos Rogers
  7. Cadillac Williams
  8. Tucker Frederickson
  9. ​​​​Zeke Smith
  10. Nick Fairley

1. Bo Jackson

  • 1985 Heisman Trophy winner
  • 1985 SEC Player of the Year
  • Two-time Consensus All-American

In the world of American sports, few characters loom as large in history as Bo Jackson. Most people remember him as one of the best dual-sport athletes in history thanks to his success on both the football field and baseball diamond. With such a legacy, it’s easy to forget Jackson’s time with Auburn, which was nothing short of dominant. By the end of his college football career, Jackson had totaled 4,303 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns on 650 attempts.

Jackson currently holds the school record for most career rushing yards with the team. Jackson’s 1985 season also deserves to be remembered. In that season, he led the SEC in rushing attempts, rushing yards, touchdowns from scrimmage, and total yards from scrimmage on his way to a well-deserved Heisman Trophy win. That season ranks second in terms of Auburn single-season rushing yards, only behind Tre Mason’s outstanding 2013 season.

2. Cam Newton

  • 2010 Heisman Trophy winner
  • 2010 AP Player of the Year
  • 30 passing touchdowns in 2010

Cam Newton is the best quarterback to ever play for Auburn, and in doing so, had one of the best single-season performances by a college quarterback in history. Cam Newton didn’t begin his college football career with Auburn. Rather, he made his debut with the University of Florida in 2007, but ultimately transferred to Auburn in 2010. That season would become the best single season of quarterback play in Auburn history, and one of the best in the history of college football.

2010 saw Newton average 10.2 yards per passing attempt, rush for 1,473 yards, throw for 2,854 yards, and throw for 30 touchdowns. Newton’s season was so well-rounded in terms of passing and rushing that he won nearly every major award in college football this season. Some of that hardware included a Heisman Trophy, an AP Player of the Year award, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, along with becoming a Consensus All-American. Of course, after such a well-known season, Newton went on to enter the NFL as the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2015. He played for Carolina until 2019, and then spent a year with the New England Patriots in 2020 before returning to the Panthers in 2021. Newton is currently a free agent.

3. Pat Sullivan

  • 1971 Heisman Trophy winner
  • 1970 SEC Player of the Year
  • 1971 Consensus All-American

Where Cam Newton displayed true greatness over the course of a single season with Auburn, Pat Sullivan played strong football for the Tigers over the course of three seasons. His final two seasons with the team, 1970 and 1971, were especially strong. In 1970, Sullivan won SEC Player of the Year thanks to his 2,586 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 9.2 yards per attempt. He also finished the season with a 148.2 passer rating. 

Sullivan would maintain the same pace the following season, in 1971, and in some ways, would actually improve upon his prior efforts. 1971 saw Sullivan post similar stat lines as the season before, with the exception of throwing for 21 touchdowns instead of 17. This meant he led the SEC in passing touchdowns along with passing yards, yards per attempt, and completion percentage. He had his efforts rewarded with the Heisman Trophy for that season.

Sullivan went on to play briefly in the NFL as quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, also serving on the practice squads for the Redskins and 49ers. Sullivan notably returned to Auburn in 1986 as a quarterbacks coach, remaining until 1991, when he moved on to other coaching positions, including jobs as the head coach for TCU and Samford. Sullivan passed away from cancer in 2019, and in January of 2020, Auburn honored him by having their players wear his jersey number, #7, on their helmets.

4. Terry Beasley

  • 1971 Consensus All-American
  • Led SEC twice in receiving touchdowns
  • Led SEC twice in receiving yards

There’s little doubt among the Auburn faithful that Terry Beasley was the best wide receiver to ever put on a Tigers uniform. Beasley played at Auburn between 1969 and 1971, and in that time, made a significant impact on the field. With the legendary Pat Sullivan throwing passes to him, Beasley used his speed and route-running ability to blow past defenses.

His three seasons at Auburn left Beasley with 2,624 career receiving yards, the most of any Auburn player in history. His best season with the Tigers was probably 1970, when he finished with 1,051 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. He also had six rushing attempts, good for 95 yards and another touchdown. He led the SEC that year in receiving touchdowns and receiving yards. Beasley’s following season was almost identical. He led the SEC in those same two categories along with receptions, of which he had 61.

5. Tracy Rocker

  • 1988 SEC Player of the Year
  • Three-time All-SEC
  • Two-time Consensus All-American

Tracy Rocker played defensive tackle for the Auburn Tigers for four years, with his final season coming in 1988. Rocker is easily one of the best defensive players to ever grace the roster of the Auburn Tigers. Rocker was utterly dominant on the defensive side of the ball. Rocker actually ranks seventh in career tackles as an Auburn player, which is quite remarkable for a defensive tackle. And just as impressive as his career tackles are his career sacks, of which he had 21. This puts him fourth on the all-time sack leader list for Auburn.

Considering Rocker didn’t play linebacker or edge rusher, for him to have so many tackles combined with so many sacks speaks to his once-in-a-generation talent. This is why he was named to the All-SEC list in three separate seasons. In his final season with Auburn, Rocker was named SEC Player of the Year, which is all the more impressive considering the award hardly ever went to defensive players.

6. Carlos Rogers

  • 2004 Consensus All-American
  • 2004 Jim Thorpe Award
  • 2004 First-Team All-SEC

Carlos Rogers was one of the premier defensive players in the history of Auburn Tigers football. Rogers played defensive back for the Tigers, with his senior season being 2004. In his time with the team, Rogers was an incredibly durable and consistent player. Over the course of his career with the team, he only missed a mere five games. As a defensive back, Rogers was an incredible talent with the ability to make plays all across the field.

His 2002 season was particularly successful, with four total interceptions with an average of 12 yards per return. His 2004 season was equally excellent, with two interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown), and cementing one of the best defenses in college football that season. That season he was named a Consensus All-American, First-Team All-SEC, and won the Jim Thorpe award. Rogers’ talents weren’t lost on NFL scouts as he was drafted in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

7. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams

  • Auburn rushing touchdowns leader
  • Second all-time in rushing yards at Auburn
  • 17 rushing touchdowns in 2003

During the era of college football in which Carnell Williams (more commonly known as “Cadillac Williams”) played, he may have been the most exciting player in the country. Williams played running back for the Tigers for four seasons between 2001 and 2004. In that span, Williams totaled 3,831 yards on the ground, which is second in Auburn history only to the legendary Bo Jackson. He does, however, hold the lead for career rushing touchdowns in Auburn history with a whopping 45.

Williams had a few seasons with the Tigers that were especially legendary. In 2003, Williams ran for 1,307 yards, scored 17 touchdowns, and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt. The following season was almost just as good, with 1,327 yards from scrimmage with 13 total touchdowns. Williams’s talent was incredibly obvious, which is why he was the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. There’s no doubt that Cadillac Williams was one of the best running backs in Auburn history.

8. Tucker Frederickson

  • 1964 SEC Player of the Year
  • 1964 Consensus All-American
  • First overall pick in NFL Draft

Tucker Frederickson was another legendary running back who played for the Auburn Tigers. Frederickson played for Auburn for three seasons between 1962 and 1963. While Frederickson found mild success in 1963, with 311 rushing yards on only 77 attempts, it was his 1964 season that truly cemented his legacy as an Auburn legend. 1964 saw Frederickson tote the football 129 times for 576 yards and five touchdowns. He also garnered over 100 yards receiving that season.

Seeing as the sport of football was drastically different in the 1960s when Frederickson was playing, his performance on the field is more than notable. For his 1964 season with the team, Frederickson was awarded SEC Player of the Year and was named a Consensus All-American. Thanks to his unwavering talent and consistency playing with Auburn, Frederickson was drafted first overall in the 1965 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.

9. Zeke Smith

  • 1958 Consensus All-American
  • 1958 Outland Trophy winner
  • 1957 National Championship winner

Zeke Smith is one of the early greats in the history of Auburn football. Smith was an interior lineman for the Auburn defense between 1957 and 1958. In that time, Smith was completely dominant and made plays all over the field. Smith’s best season with the Auburn Tigers was likely his last in 1958. For his efforts that season, Smith won the Outland Trophy, which awards the best interior defensive lineman in all of college football. Similarly, he was also named a Consensus All-American that same season.

Part of Smith’s greatness is that he was an anchor to one of the great Auburn defenses in all of history. 1957 saw the Tigers win the National Championship thanks to their strength on that side of the ball, and much of that strength is owed to Zeke Smith. In the Auburn Tigers stadium, a banner with Smith’s name hangs from the rafters alongside other greats such as Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan. 

10. Nick Fairley

  • 2010 Consensus All-American
  • Led SEC in tackles for loss in 2010
  • Led SEC in sacks in 2010

Nick Fairley was another star player in the long tradition of extremely talented Auburn defensive linemen. Fairley played defensive tackle for the Tigers for two seasons: 2009 and 2010. Fairley had a strong season during his first year with the team, in which he recorded 14 solo tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. It was a strong performance, but Fairley would up his game exponentially in the following year.

In the 2010 season, Fairley recorded an amazing 36 solo tackles (60 total tackles), 24 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks. Fairley led the SEC in both tackles for a loss and sacks, and those 24 tackles for a loss put him in third in the category for the entire NCAA. For his incredible effort that season, Fairley was named a Consensus All-American, which contributed to his being drafted as the 13th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Honorable Mentions

  • James Brooks
  • Ronnie Brown
  • Aundray Bruce
  • Karlos Dansby
  • Kevin Greene
  • Kerryon Johnson
  • Ed King
  • Tre Mason
  • Jimmy Phillips
  • Takeo Spikes


Who is the best Auburn quarterback of all time?

The best Auburn quarterback of all time is Cam Newton. Although Newton didn’t spend much time with the team, his performance in 2010 will go down in the college football history books as one of the best of all time. With fifty total touchdowns that season, Newton was the obvious choice for the Heisman Trophy, AP Player of the Year, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and to be named a Consensus All-American. It was one of the best single seasons by any player in college football history, and for that reason, Newton is the best Auburn quarterback of all time.

Who is the best Auburn wide receiver of all time?

Terry Beasley is far and away the best wide receiver in the history of Auburn Tigers football. Beasley led the SEC in numerous major receiving categories, such as total yards and touchdowns in two seasons in a row. By the time Beasley moved on from Auburn, he had racked up an impressive 2,624 career receiving yards. With two seasons with some of the best receiving statistics in the entire NCAA, Terry Beasley was the best Auburn receiver ever.

Who is the best Auburn running back of all time?

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the best running back to ever play for Auburn was Bo Jackson. Jackson was utterly legendary during his time with the team. He managed to amass 4,303 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns on only 650 attempts. His total rushing yardage still stands at number one all-time in school history. Jackson won countless awards during his time in college football, most notably the Heisman Trophy in 1985.