This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
It's so hard to look back and pick out just a few of my all-time favorite Boston College players. There are of course the legends like Doug Flutie, Mike Ruth and Charlie O'Rourke who I never got to see play, and the more recent generation of BC stars like Matt Ryan, Jamie Silva and Mark Herzlich. For this post, though, I'm going to focus on my favorite BC football players from my four years on the Heights (2000-2004). In some cases, they may not have been the star of the team that year. They might not have even made it at the next level. But these two players helped shape my BC football experience while I was in school.
As always, I invite you to share your own list of favorite all-time Boston College football players in the comments section below.
Derrick Knight, Running Back
You could easily argue that William Green was the better BC running back during my four years on the Heights. But Derrick Knight didn't get suspended for the biggest game of his life with a chance to knock off one of, if not the, greatest college football team of all time - the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.
After Green left school early to go play for the Cleveland Browns, we all wondered whether Derrick Knight could step up and fill Green's shoes as the Eagles' feature running back. Not only did Knight fill Green's shoes, but he exceeded all expectations. In his junior year, Knight rushed for 1,432 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would go on to best his own single-season rushing record in his senior year, rushing for 1,721 yards and adding 11 more touchdowns to his resume. The BC offense wasn't very flashy, but Knight was a big reason why the Eagles compiled a record of 17-9 in my junior and senior years.
Knight finished his career as the all-time leading Eagles rusher with 3,725 yards, topping Mike Cloud's mark of 3,597. While all indications are that Knight's record will eventually fall to Montel Harris, I will always appreciate the job Knight did carrying the Eagles offense after Green left the program after the 2001 season.
Mathias Kiwanuka, Defensive End
During our senior year, Kiwi emerged as one of the best pass rushing defensive ends in BC history. In 2003, in only his sophomore year, he led the Big East in sacks with 11.5. When we went down to Happy Valley to watch BC play Penn State in our senior year, Kiwi was a big reason why BC jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead, pressuring Penn State QB Zach Mills all day, before he was pulled in favor of backup Michael Robinson. Kiwi did a bit of everything in that game, finishing with three solo tackles, one TFL, two QB hurries, two QB sacks, one fumble recovery and two knock downs.
His sophomore season was just the beginning for Kiwi. A year after we graduated, he added another 11.5 sacks to his career total, eventually surpassing Mike Ruth's career record. In 2005, he was named a first-team All-American and helped lead the Eagles' defense in the transition from the Big East to the ACC. I'll never forget how I jumped up and screamed at the television when Virginia offensive tackle Brad Butler took a cheap shot on Kiwi's bad leg in the third quarter of our home game against Virginia.
It made it that much sweeter for me when my New York Giants drafted Kiwanuka with the last pick of the first round in the 2006 NFL Draft. It was a fitting end to the college career of one of the most dominant BC pass rushers in recent history.
Honorable mention, and with apologies to Will Blackmon, Josh Ott, Brian St. Pierre, Sean Ryan, Lenny Walls and Cedric Washington.
Who are some of your all-time favorite Boston College football players? While I limited my list of two players to my four years on the Heights, you certainly don't have to. Feel free to go back as far as you'd like.