You don’t have to come from a high-profile secular university to be recognized by the world (and professional scouts) as a great athlete, as these 25 performers proved over and over again in their extraordinary collegiate careers. Yes, some are household names, but the records and accomplishments made by these others, as described on this list, are no less remarkable. All of the athletes represented here attended Christian schools that belong to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
25. Kevin Koeman, Trinity Christian College
Kevin Koeman established himself as one of the top collegiate basketball players in Illinois history while playing for the TCC from 1998-02. Koeman scored a school record 3,007 points during his career, which ranks second all-time on the Illinois collegiate scoring list. He was a four-time NCCAA All-American, three-time NAIA All-American and was named All-CCAC in each of his four years. In addition, he was named CCAC Freshman of the Year in 1998-99, CCAC Player of the Year in 1999-00 and 2000-01, and was honored with the NCCAA Pete Maravich Player of the Year Award in 2001-02.
Koeman leads the Trinity career record book in field goal percentage (.621), field goals made (1,162), free throws made (564) and scoring average (22.4 ppg.). He is also second in career rebounds (907) and seventh in career assists (316). He scored a school-record 853 points in 2001-02. Off the court he earned NAIA and NCCAA Scholar-Athlete honors, and was the recipient of the Keith Albers Award in 2001-02.
24. Taylor Hall, Bethel
Image Courtesy of Bethel University
Bethel’s Taylor Hall was the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s top all-around player thanks to an outstanding senior campaign. Hall didn’t just lead the league in scoring – which he did as he was the only player to average more than 20 points per game (21.8) – but he also ranked first in the league in rebounds (10.0 per game), blocked shots (1.7 per game), field goals (8.0 per game) and free throws (5.2 per game). He also ranked in the top 10 in assists (3.0 per game) and field goal percentage (56.8).
Hall was just as good in MIAC play, leading the conference in scoring (20.6 points per game), rebounding (9.2 per game), and blocked shots (1.7 per game) in MIAC games only.
23. Derrick Bly, Concordia University Irvine (Ca)
Image Courtesy of Concordia University Irvine
Concordia’s first-ever Major League Baseball draftee, Derrick Bly played only two years in an Eagles jersey, but he made his time count, earning All-GSAC honors both seasons and getting tabbed as GSAC Player of the Year and an NAIA All-American honorable mention as a senior. In his senior year (1996), Bly set a school record that still stands today, hitting a blistering .465 with nine triples and 10 home runs. For his monster year of 1996, Bly still ranks in the school’s top-10 in eight single-season categories-batting average, hits (67), triples, homers, extra-base hits (30), total bases (126), walks (33)-and his 26-game hitting streak remains a school record.
Following his senior year, Bly was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, and he played professional baseball through the 2000 season.
22. Tyler Thigpen, Coastal Carolina University
The CCU football program’s first quarterback from 2003-06 still holds almost every school single-game, single-season and career record for passing and total offense. Thigpen led the Chanticleers to a 34-11 record in their first four years from 2003-06. In his career, Thigpen completed 486-of-879 passes for 6,598 yards with 53 touchdowns and 25 interceptions and rushed 345 times for 1,638 yards with 13 scores. He led Coastal to three Big South Conference championships and the conference’s first NCAA FCS playoff berth in 2006.
Thigpen earned a national player of the week honor three times, was named the 2006 Don Hansen’s Weekly Gazette National Offensive Back of the Year, and finished seventh in voting for the 2006 Walter Payton Award. He was the first player in Big South history to be drafted in the NFL, going in the seventh round (217th overall) to the Minnesota Vikings, has played for Kansas City, Miami and Buffalo, and the Cleveland Browns.
21. LaKendrick Ross, Virginia University of Lynchburg
Undrafted in the 2014 draft, but later signed in the supplemental draft by the Cincinnati Bengals after a tryout.
One of the more intriguing qualities about Ross is the fact that he’s a bit of an unproven talent. He only played one year of football in high school and also spent just one season playing in college at Virginia-Lynchburg.
20. Joe Biggs, Hardin Simmons University
Offensive guard and linebacker. All-Border Conference 1957 and 1958. Honorable Mention All-America 1957, 1958. Outstanding Defensive Player, 1956. Outstanding HSU Player, 1958.
Biggs was drafted by Chicago Bears in 1958. He played for Washington Redskins, 1959 and jumped to the American Football League (before it merged with the National Football League) New York Titans, 1960.
19. Theodore Marvin “Ted” DiBiase, Jr., Mississippi College
A former WWE pro wrestler, DiBiase was a two time WWE World Tag Team Champion with his former tag team partner, Cody Rhodes. He is also an occasional actor in film. He signed a developmental contract with WWE in July 2007, and made his WWE television debut on May 26, 2008, and in his first match as a member of the Raw roster, he won the World Tag Team Championship with Cody Rhodes. They dropped the championship in August, before winning it again a week later.
Rhodes and DiBiase were joined by Manu shortly afterwards, forming a faction of multi-generation wrestlers, although shortly afterwards DiBiase was taken off television to film The Marine 2. Upon his return, he formed The Legacy faction alongside Rhodes and Randy Orton. He left the WWE in 2013. At Mississippi College he earned Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Business Administration degrees.
18. Al Tucker, Oklahoma Baptist University
A 6’8″ forward, Tucker played four seasons (1967–1971) in the NBA and one season (1971–1972) in the ABA (prior to the merger) as a member of the Seattle Supersonics, Cincinnati Royals, Chicago Bulls, and Baltimore Bullets. He averaged 10.1 ppg in his career and earned NBA all rookie honors at the end of the 1967-68 season.
Tucker is notable as the Seattle SuperSonics’ first ever NBA draft pick, selected sixth overall in the 1967 NBA draft. Tucker was also selected in the 1967 ABA Draft by the Oakland Oaks.
17. Elbert Dubenion, Bluffton College, Pro football’s AFL Buffalo Bills
In his four years at Bluffton, Elbert Dubenion, gained 4,734 yards rushing and averages 9.4 yards a carry. In 1960 he joined the Buffalo Bills for the first season of the American Football League.
In his eight year pro career he caught 294 passes for 5,294 yards and 35 touchdowns. In one stretch, from 1961 to 1964, he caught passes in 42 consecutive games. A sportswriter wrote that he was “the most popular man on the team.”
16. Dee Gordon, Southeastern University (Fla)
The Dodgers drafted Gordon in the fourth round in 2008, and he was their No. 1 prospect by 2010. He sprinted out of the big-league blocks, hitting .304 in 56 games in 2011, but he slumped in 2012 (.234) and 2013 (.228).
Now, under the tutelage of hitting coach Mark McGwire, and getting bunting instructions from Wills and stealing lessons from Lopes, Gordon has become a more reliable offensive player.
15. Stipe Miocic, Trevecca Nazarene University
Mioic is an American mixed martial artist. He is currently under contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), competing in the heavyweight division. As of July 22, 2014, he is #5 in official UFC heavyweight rankings.
Miocic played baseball his senior year at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. He helped lead the team to the TranSouth Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championship, hitting .344 with 14 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs and 43 RBI. He earned the TranSouth Player of the Week award.
14. Clair Francis Bee, Waynesburg University
Bee was a basketball coach who led the team at Long Island University to undefeated seasons in 1936 and 1939, as well as two NIT titles in 1939 and 1941. Bee’s teams won 95 percent of their games from 1931 to 1951, including 43 in a row from 1935 to 1937. Bee holds the Division I NCAA record for highest winning percentage, winning 82.6% of the games he was head coach. Bee was an “Innovator.” His contributions to the game of basketball include the 1-3-1 zone defense and the three second rule.
His influence on the game also extended to strategies sports camps (Camp All-America), (Kutsher’s Sports Academy), writing technical coaching books, and conducting coaching clinics around the world.
Bee was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968. The Clair Bee Coach of the Year Award is awarded every year to a coach who makes an outstanding contribution to the game of college basketball.
13. Mike Moore, Oral Roberts University
ORU’s career-leader in complete games (24), was a Sporting News first-team All- American in 1981 and was the first player selected in the 1981 Major League Baseball draft. He played 14 seasons (1982-95) in the majors, including 1989 when he won a career-high 19 games and a World Series with the Oakland A’s.
Moore ranks 71st in major league history with 440 career starts and 101st with 1,667 strikeouts.
12. Harvey Catchings, Hardin Simmons University
One of the all time great athletes to play Cowboy basketball scored 1,281 points and pulled down 837 rebounds as a 6’10″ center. Named Honorable Mention All-America, 1972. Third team All-American, 1973 and again in 1974.
Played 11 years in the NBA with the 76ers, Nets, Bucks and Clippers. His NBA statistics include scoring 2,335 points, 3,839 rebounds and 1,227 blocked shots leading the NBA five times in blocked shots.
11. Brittany Griner, Baylor University
An extraordinary athlete and a great basketball player at Baylor. One of the most decorated athletes in college sports history! At 6 foot 8 and with a wing span of 7 foot 4 inches, Brittney Griner will probably take professional women’s basketball to a whole new level. Griner has earned just about every individual and team basketball award imaginable, including a perfect 40-0 season to capture the NCAA’s “National Championship” in 2012. In her four years at Baylor University she amassed a career 3,383 points, an all-time NCAA record of 748 blocks while averaging over 21points per game and leading her team to an 108-13, winning record.
10. Ben Zobrist, Dallas Baptist University
Ben Zobrist grew up in the small town of Eureka, Ill., and as the son of a pastor, he became a Christian at an early age. Growing up, and especially during high school, Ben’s Christian faith grew. Zobrist played varsity baseball all four years of high school, and after a great senior year, decided he wanted to continue in the sport.
As a 25-year-old rookie for the Tampa Bay Rays (who drafted him), many doubted his staying power in the majors. Indeed, he posted sub-replacement-level numbers in 2006 and 2007. Finally, in 2008, his ability started to carry over to the show and he helped carry the Rays to the World Series.
9. Dustin Johnson, Coastal Carolina University
A highly rated pro golfer and three time All American and NCAA Player of the Year finalist, and Big South golfer of the year (2005-2007). Johnson, while at CCU won seven collegiate tournaments and was the 2005 NCAA east region champion.
Shall we go on? As a pro, was on the USA Ryder Cup team and he is a PGA tour multiple winner. Those wins include a victory at the prestigious Pebble Beach tournament.
8. Michael Johnson, Baylor University
Michael Johnson is perhaps the greatest long sprinter in the history of track and field, specializing in the 200 and 400 meters. Johnson made his Olympic début in 1992, but was ill at the time, and his only medal, a gold, came in the 4×400 meter relay. At Atlanta in 1996, he won both the 200 and 400 meters, the first man to accomplish that feat at the Olympics, with his 200 meter victory achieved in the stunning world record time of 19.32.
Johnson’s Olympic career ended at Sydney, where he defended his 400 meter title, and added what was, at the time, a second gold in the 4×400 relay, giving him five gold medals in all, although the 2000 4×400 gold would be taken away because of doping penalties against Antonio Pettigrew and Jerome Young. At the World Championships, Johnson was even more dominant, winning the 200 meters in 1991 and 1995, and the 400 meters in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999.
7. Robert Griffin III, Baylor University
What an amazing first year Robert Griffin III had with the Washington Redskins. But he was even better playing with the Baylor Bears.
A burgeoning world-class hurdler before focusing full-time on football, “RG3” won the 2011 Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top collegiate player. Selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, he quickly emerged as one of pro football’s most exciting and popular players.
6. Clyde “Bulldog” Turner, Hardin-Simmons University
Associated press little All-America, 1939, New York Sun All-America 1939, Played In East West Shrine Game 1939, First “Small College” Player to play in college All Star Game 1940, Placed twelve seasons for Chicago Bears in NFL (made all-pro eight times) Inducted into pro football Hall-of-Fame, 1966.
For the Bears, acquiring Turner in the 1940 draft proved to be a masterstroke. For both, the 1940 season marked the beginning of a period of dominance of their particular specialties, the Bears in winning championships and Turner in becoming the best all-round center in pro football. As a linebacker who was blessed with halfback speed, Turner, in 1942, led the league in interceptions with eight.
5. Cal Hubbard, Geneva College
A 1927 Geneva grad, is the only athlete to ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame. Hubbard played college football at two relatively small schools, Centenary College and Geneva College. But, when he turned pro, he went to the game’s biggest city, New York. The Giants, however, were well stocked at the tackle position, so the big man from the small schools was moved to the end position on offense and linebacker on defense.
For the next two years, 1927 and 1928, the Giants teamed Cal with another future Hall of Fame lineman, Steve Owen. Hubbard is recognized by many as the first great linebacker. Oh, and he was a pretty good baseball umpire too, for 16 years.
4. Todd Worrel, Biola University
Worrel put together the most successful professional career of any Biola graduate, pitching a total of 11 seasons in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played almost ever position while at Biola–the final two as a pitcher–posting a 12-10 record with a 3.46 ERA. Worrell was a first-round pick in the 1982 draft and made his first major league appearance in 1985.
He would go on to earn the 1986 National League Rookie of the Year award and was also named the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. Worrell finished his career with a 50-52 overall record, earning all-star honors three times and currently ranks 30th on the all-time saves list with 256.
3. Colin Montgomerie, Houston Baptist University
Houston Baptist alum Colin Montgomerie is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. He graduated from HBU in 1987 and helped lead the Huskies to three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances in 1985, 1986 and 1987. While at HBU, he was the Trans America Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 1985 and set the conference tournament record that season with an 11-under 205. Montgomerie was a member of the first HBU Sports Hall of Honor class in 1997. Montgomerie, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, captained the Europeans to victory at the 2010 Ryder Cup and was one of the most accomplished players in the history of the event. In the four major championships, Montgomerie had 10 top-10 finishes with runner-up showings at the 1994, 1997 and 2006 U.S. Opens, the 1995 and 2005 Open Championships, as well as the 1995 PGA Championship. His best finish at The Masters was a tie for eighth in 1998.
2. Carl Erskine, Anderson University (Indiana)
Carl Erskine is best known as a great pitcher with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers and his World Series record 14 strikeouts against the New York Yankees, including Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle four times. However, his fame has rubbed off on numerous Anderson University athletes and alumni. While playing with the Dodgers, Carl came to campus in his hometown to enroll in several classes during the off-season. His interest in Anderson University stems from those days and has continued many years as baseball coach, member of the Board of Trustees and in many of its academic and fund raising programs.
After his professional baseball days, Carl spent 12 years coaching the Anderson Raven baseball program. His efforts brought four Hoosier College Conference championships to campus and one appearance in the NAIA World Series. More importantly, his own life as a dedicated Christian served as a valuable role model for all those who have loved sports with him. Anderson University named Erskine among its first inductees to their Athletic Hall of Fame.
1. Mike Singletary, Baylor University
He was a monster of the Midway, a Super Bowl champion and a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1988, Mike was the cornerstone of the Bears’ innovative 46-defense. In 1985, he led a Bears’ defense that allowed fewer than 11 points per game, as the team posted an impressive 15-1 record. He had 13 tackles and a sack in the playoffs leading up to the Bears’ 46-10 defeat of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Bears’ league-leading defense held the Patriots to a record low seven yards rushing, while the hard-charging Singletary contributed with two fumble recoveries.
But even before all that, he was ferocious superstar collegiate linebacker at Baylor. All he did at Baylor was to be named a three-time All-American with school records of 662 career tackles and 232 in a season. Those records might never be broken.