Well, let the debate begin. With apologies to Gary Glick and Jason Smith and Joey Porter and Eddie Hanna and Bryan Berryhill and Pam Greene and Loree Smith and Tippy Martinez and Angela Knopf and – well, you get the idea – here are 10 athletes who achieved greatness and brought glory to CSU.
Glenn Morris, 1936 Olympic decathlon champion – Glenn Morris came to CSU from Simla, a tiny southeastern Colorado farm. He was a standout in both track and football before watching his first decathlon and dedicating himself to earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 1936. Morris competed in just three decathlons, with his crowning performance coming in front of Adolf Hitler in the 1936 Berlin Games, where he set a world record of 7,900 points that stood for 16 years. He won the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete in 1936, beating out fellow Olympic hero Jesse Owens. He was inducted into numerous halls of fame, including US Track & Field, Colorado, CSU and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The South College Fieldhouse, where he trained, was renamed in his honor.
Thurman “Fum” McGraw, CSU’s first consensus All-American football player – Thurman “Fum” McGraw came to CSU from Paonia on the Western Slope after serving in the U.S. Marines during World War II. A giant of a man with huge hands, he led CSU to its first-ever bowl game following the 1948 season, and was CSU’s first consensus All-American in 1949. He was also an accomplished wrestler, placing third in the nation in the heavyweight division as a senior, and was a standout in track and field as well. He played five seasons in the NFL, twice earning all-pro honors with the Detroit Lions. He was CSU’s first inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, and is also in the Colorado, CSU and National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics halls of fame. The McGraw Athletic Center on campus bears his, and he is one of five CSU athletes to have his number (48) retired.
Jack Christiansen, CSU’s only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Jack Christiansen was raised in an orphanage in Canon City, Colo., before coming to CSU and establishing himself as one of the school’s greatest athletes, earning eight varsity letters in football, track and baseball. He teamed with Fum McGraw to lead the Rams to the 1949 Raisin Bowl and then starred with McGraw for the NFL’s Detroit Lions, where he became an all-pro and led the Lions to three NFL championships in six years. He earned a reputation as the greatest punt returner in NFL history, averaging a record 21.5 yards per return in 1952 – a mark that still stands. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and remains CSU’s lone member. He was the first CSU athlete inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Michigan and CSU halls of fame. CSU’s outdoor track is named in his honor.
Amy Van Dyken, record-setting Olympic swimmer – Amy Van Dyken was born in Denver and overcame asthma to become one of America’s greatest swimmers and an Olympic legend. She won the 50-yard freestyle for CSU and was named NCAA female swimmer of the year in 1994 before turning her attention to the 1996 Summer Game in Atlanta. The ever-confident Van Dyken burst on the scene at the Olympics, becoming the first American woman to win four gold medals in the same Games. She added two more golds in the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, before retiring as one of the few Olympic athletes to win only gold medals. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Olympic Hall of Fame, Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and the CSU Sports Hall of Fame. Paralyzed in a 2014 ATV accident, she is a tireless advocate for the disabled. The south-bound street leaving CSU’s Oval was renamed Amy Van Dyken Way in her honor.
Bill Green, CSU’s only first-team All-American in men’s basketball – Bill Green was recruited to CSU by legendary coach Jim Williams out of Gadsden, Ala., at a time when most southern colleges did not enroll African-Americans. The 6-foot-6 Green quickly established himself at CSU as an exceptional player, topping the Rams in both scoring and rebounding while leading them three postseason berths (National Invitational Tournament in 1961 and ’62, NCAA Tournament ’63). Despite playing only three seasons (freshmen were not eligible for varsity play at that time) he remains second in career scoring and sixth in rebounding more than 50 years after graduating, and is one five CSU athletes to have his number (24) retired. His 48-point game against Denver in 1963 remains a single-game CSU scoring record. He was a first-round draft pick (eighth overall) of the NBA’s Boston Celtics in 1963 but a fear of flying caused him to retire. He became an award-winning educator in the Bronx, N.Y. He was inducted into the Colorado and CSU halls of fame.
Becky Hammon, CSU’s only consensus All-American in women’s basketball – Becky Hammon arrived at CSU from Rapid City, S.D., and quickly established herself as CSU’s greatest player, leading the Rams to their first three NCAA Tournament appearances and setting 25 school and conference records. She remains the all-time leading scorer in Western Athletic Conference history – male or female – with 2,740 points, was a three-time All-American and the 1999 winner of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the nation’s best player under 5-8. She is one of five CSU athletes to have her number (25) retired. Undrafted by the WNBA, she went on to become one of the league’s greatest players during a 9-year career with the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars. She was a six-time WNBA all-star, and was voted as one of the league’s 15 greatest players in 2011. She also won a bronze medal playing for Russia in the 2008 Olympics, then made history when the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs named her an assistant coach, making her the first female full-time paid assistant in league history. She was inducted into the Colorado and CSU halls of fame, and is a member of the Liberty’s Ring of Honor.
Greg Myers, CSU’s only winner of a major college football award – Greg Myers grew up just outside of Fort Collins in Windsor and quickly became a Rams legend at safety. He is the only four-time, first-team all-Western Athletic Conference player in league history, and he was a two-time, first-team All-American after leading the Rams to back-to-back WAC titles in 1994 and ‘95. He was given the Jim Thorpe Award in 1995 as the nation’s top defensive back. He was also a two-time academic All-American and won the Stan Bates Award as the best overall student-athlete in the WAC before embarking on a five-year NFL career. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012, joining Fum McGraw as the only Rams players to earn college football’s highest honor. He’s also a member of the Colorado and CSU halls of fame.
Sherri Danielson, CSU’s greatest volleyball player – Sherri Danielson came to CSU from Evergreen, where her legendary status was established while winning every match during her four-year high school career. The 6-foot-2 outside hitter was a dominant force and led CSU’s rise to prominence during the 1980s that continues today. Danielson was a two-time All-American, two-time conference player of the year and an alternate on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team. She led the Rams to their first three NCAA Tournament appearances (1983-85), and she was the first woman elected to the CSU Sports Hall of Fame. Her jersey (12) is one of five retired by CSU.
Lonnie Wright, two-sport phenom – Lonnie Wright is the only CSU athlete to play two professional sports simultaneously, and the first athlete to play professional basketball (Denver Rockets of the old ABA) and football (Denver Broncos) simultaneously. A track and basketball star at CSU – he was an honorable-mention All-American in basketball in 1966 after leading the Rams to just their third NCAA Tournament berth – he was drafted by both the Rockets (now the Nuggets) and the Broncos, even though he had not played football since high school. He played defensive back for the Broncos for two seasons before playing six seasons in the old ABA. He was inducted into the CSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and is considered one of the greatest athletes to come from Newark, N.J.
Janay DeLoach, Olympic bronze medalist – Janay DeLoach is the only CSU female to win an Olympic medal in track and field, earning a bronze in the long jump during the 2012 London Games. She earned a second trip to the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro but did not medal. She came to CSU from Alaska, where she excelled in relative obscurity. She blossomed at CSU, earning All-America honors three times as a sprinter, hurdler and long jumper. She focused on the long jump after graduation and became one of the best in the world. She is a member of the Alaska and CSU halls of fame.