Honoring the best of the best from 30 years of American Family Insurance ALL-USA selections.
Best Year: 1994
If we use post-high school football success as the measuring stick, the 1994 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Team is tough to top. Offensive Player of the Year Dan Kendra didn’t amount to much after he left Catholic (Bethlehem, Pa.), but fellow First Team selections Ahman Green, Shaun Alexander and Randy Moss have combined for 14 Pro Bowls, while Kevin Faulk won three Super Bowls with the Patriots. Of the members of the Defensive First Team, RW McQuarters and Daylon McCutcheon enjoyed long NFL careers, while Takeo Spikes and Charles Woodson remain solid contributors for the Chargers and Packers, respectively.
Best Name: Dee Liner
There have been some outstanding names on ALL-USA teams over the years, including Francisco Hiawatha (1982), Basil Shabazz (1990) and Ken-Yon Rambo (1996). Look no further than this year’s team, however, for the best name of them all. Dee Liner, an Auburn commit, gets the nod because he played, yes, defensive line at Muscle Shoals (Ala.).
Best New Name: Dynast Amir
At least two ALL-USA selections have changed their name since high school, and no, one of them isn’t Chad Johnson. Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick Peterson was known as Patrick Johnson during his standout career at Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.), but the award goes to Dynast Amir, who made a name for himself as Albert Hollis II at Christian Brothers (Sacramento, Calif.).
Best Two-Sport Star: Joe Mauer
The Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.) star is the only athlete to be named the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year in two different sports. Mauer was named Football Offensive Player of the Year in 2000 and Baseball Player of the Year in 2001. (He also averaged more than 20 points per game for his high school basketball team.) Mauer was drafted by the Twins out of high school and was named 2009 American League MVP. The five-time All-Star is the only catcher in MLB history to win three batting titles. Other candidates who can’t really hold a candle to Mauer: Josh Booty and Greg Paulus.
Best Heisman Trophy Winner: Charles Woodson
Chris Weinke (1989), Rashaan Salaam (1991) and Ron Dayne (1995) are the other Heisman winners who were American Family Insurance ALL-USA selections, but the nod goes to Woodson, who remains the only primarily defensive player to win the award. Weinke, who pursued a baseball career out of high school before playing college football at Florida State, deserves mention for winning the Heisman 11 years after earning ALL-USA honors.
Best Sports Administrator: Warde Manuel
While several players have pursued careers in sports administration after their playing careers, few are in such prominent positions as Manuel, the athletic director at UConn. A 1985 American Family Insurance ALL-USA selection as a defensive lineman at Brother Martin (New Orleans), Manuel played at Michigan before a neck injury ended his career.
Best Lifesaver: Cory Booker
After starring at Northern Valley (Old Tappan, N.J.) and Stanford, Booker studied at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and earned his law degree from Yale. He entered the political arena shortly thereafter and currently serves as the mayor of Newark. Booker garnered headlines last year when he rescued one of his neighbors from a house fire.
Best Nickname: Craig “Ironhead” Heyward
Heyward, a fullback who played 11 seasons in the NFL, earned his nickname from street football games in Passaic, N.J., where he would lower his 8 ¾-size head into tacklers’ stomachs. Heyward, who died of brain cancer in 2006, was named to the ALL-USA team in 1983.
Best World of Warcraft Player: Chris Kluwe
The outspoken Minnesota Vikings punter, who played at Los Alamitos (Calif.) and later UCLA, was named to the 1999 ALL-USA Second Team. Kluwe’s love of World of Warcraft is well documented. His Twitter handle is @ChrisWarcraft and he told Sports Illustrated that he played in a guild as a troll rogue named Loate.
Best Derek Brown: Derek D. Brown
Derek V. Brown, a 1987 selection out of Merritt Island (Fla.), played 105 games in the NFL and caught one touchdown pass after being drafted in the first round of the 1992 Draft out of Notre Dame. Derek D. Brown, a 1988 selection out of Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), played in 56 games and scored six touchdowns after being drafted in the fourth round of the 1993 NFL Draft out of Nebraska. Derek D. Brown has the edge by virtue of doing more in fewer games.
Best Commentator: Cris Carter
The eight-time NFL All-Pro does work for HBO’s “Inside the NFL” and ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown.” Carter, who starred at Ohio State after earning Second Team ALL-USA honors at Middletown (Ohio) in 1983, gets the nod over Fox play-by-play man Tim Ryan, who played linebacker at USC after being named to the 1985 Second Team while at Oak Grove (San Jose, Calif.).
Best Hollywood Story: Michael Oher
Oher, who was the subject of Michael Lewis’ book-turned-movie, “The Blind Side,” was named to the 2004 First Team after his senior season at Briarwood Christian (Memphis, Tenn.). He’s currently an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.
Best NFL Coach: Pat Shurmur
Though he’s currently out of a job, Shurmur, who was named to the 1982 First Team as a linebacker at Divine Child (Dearborn, Mich.), is the only ALL-USA selection to serve as an NFL head coach. Shurmur was 9-23 in two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.