It’s national sewing machine day and no one needs bigger threads than the boys on the offensive line as we jump from the fastest guys on the field to some of the slowest. The adage is, “It all starts up front” so this week you get to vote on which collection of offensive line talent is the best in Rutgers Football program history.
Before you read ahead know that there have been some great individual offensive linemen that were not part of one of the units to make this list. Nothing to take away from Shaun O’Hara or Harry Swayne, but their collective offensive line at the time were not as successful as others. Additional All-Americans include: Steve Tardy (1988 T, honorable mention ), John Owens (1983 G, honorable mention), and Kevin Kurdyla (1980 T, Honorable mention). Jack Lord (RU 1926) and Bernie Crowl (RU 1928-29) both played in the NFL but did not letter in the same season even if they both overlapped in the classroom possibly.
2014: Expectations were low heading into the first Big Ten campaign as opponents were expected to be too big and too strong. This group held their own in a surprising year that culminated in a manhandling of North Carolina in a bowl trip. 6’8” Keith Lumpkin had emerged as the left tackle the year prior, shifting Kaleb Johnson inside to guard for his final two seasons alongside other multi year starters Betim Bujari and Taj Alexander plus redshirt sophomore Chris Muller.
2012:The only team in school history that actually won a conference title (albeit shared in a disappointing ending). With the addition of graduate transfer R.J. Dill, the full transformation from leading the nation in sacks allowed (61) just two years prior to conference champs was rather remarkable. It was so deep that Andre Civil, the left tackle on the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl champions was a reserve. Kaleb Johnson moved from right tackle to left tackle as the freshman Lumpkin was not yet needed alongside the road grading Antwan Lowery, Bujari, and Alexander.
2006: Though the 2006 group didn’t yet feature Anthony Davis, four of the five starters went on to play in the NFL. The Steelers drafted Cam Stephenson then added Darnell Stapleton as an undrafted free agent. Stapleton was an immediate starter when he arrived, helping them to a Super Bowl victory as rookie. Jeremy Zuttah has had arguably the second best pro career of any former Rutgers offensive lineman. And by the way, they were pretty good in college, too.
1976: Undefeated? Surprisingly none of this group was named All-America or go on to play in the NFL. The team only failed to score at least 17 points in one contest, the opener, when they defeated Navy 13-3. Opponents on the other hand only cracked double digits three times.
1961: Alex Kroll is the only member of this group to play in the NFL. Of course it’s not surprising that other members of the offensive line were likely in the shadows of all the hardware Kroll received. Kroll was known for his weight training that was ahead of its time. Only the opening victory against Princeton (16-13) was even a one-score margin of victory.
1958: They outscored their opponents 301 to 77 in the 8-1 campaign where the only loss came in a game that wasn’t even against amateurs (the Quantico Marines). They still only lost by one point (13-12) even without the future Heisman runner-up in the injured Bill Austin.
1953: Amazingly, three of these guys would go on to be All-Americans; Joe Daddario (1953), Brian O’Hearn (1954), and Bob Howard (1955). They all lettered on this ‘53 team that was otherwise pretty deficient. Perhaps their participation helped establish the foundation of the successful teams later? They say it starts on the offensive line, but it is difficult to fathom that a team with three All-Americans on the offensive line would only win two games.
1919: The fall after Paul Robeson graduated as valedictorian, the team didn’t slip, as they matched their previous season’s win total with five. John Alexander only lettered one season at RU but would become a two-year NFL starter. The stocky Budge Garrett returned to the gridiron for his final season of eligibility after a two year hiatus playing end, guard, and halfback on his way to a three-year NFL career. Jim Dufft was an absolute monster at 6’6, 250, huge for that era and I believe was a member of this club before heading to Fordham and then the NFL. Comments to clarify this are welcomed.
1913: Did anyone here get to see the 1913 team? Bob ‘Nasty Nash’ (1914 All-American) and Howard Talman (1913 All- American) powered this group during future Hall of Fame Coach George “Sandy” Sanford’s first season on the banks. Nash would play in the NFL much later from 1920-1925 since the league didn’t exist until after the Great War ended. Talman was named All-American in 1913 as a guard before moving to halfback in 1914 when he was named a third-team All-American. Howard also set numerous records including the one that still stands for most points in a single game with 48, set in 1915 against RPI when he had six touchdowns and kicked 12 extra points!
So how do you choose?
Who did we miss?
Go vote and leave us thoughts in the comments section!
Best offensive line in RU Football history?
This poll is closed
1913: Hall of Fame coach’s first season success.
1919: No Paul Robeson, no problem!
1953: Most All-Americans. End of story.
1958: Paved the way for skill position guys.
1961: Road graded enough to be undefeated.
1976: Undefeated again without a Hall of Famer.
2006: Combo of team success and individual talent.
2012: Big East co-champions, for real.
2014: These guys did it in the Big Ten!