As Last Word on Sports journeys through the Mount Rushmore of some of college football’s biggest programs, we shift our focus to Boulder and the University of Colorado Buffaloes. A storied institution with a rich football history, CU has produced numerous NFL stars. So many esteemed student athletes have graced the campus in Boulder, that choosing only four to be etched in Folsom lore proved an enjoyable and educational experience. After much deliberation over the dozens of gridiron stars, here are those selected to be on the Colorado Buffaloes Football Mount Rushmore.
Colorado Buffaloes Football Mount Rushmore
Bill McCartney: Head Coach (1982-1994)
Bill McCartney and Colorado Buffaloes football go hand in hand. It is impossible to think of one without immediately conjuring up thoughts of the other. McCartney turned the program from the cellar dwellers of the Big Eight Conference into a national power. While at the helm, he compiled a 93-55-5 record, including three straight conference titles from 1989 to 1991 and a National Championship in 1990. The three-time Big 8 Coach of the Year has garnered such personal accolades as the Eddie Robinson, Walter Camp and Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year awards.
McCartney was such an iconic figure in college football that his presence is still felt today through the many coaches and coordinators who came up through his system. McCartney’s coaching tree includes the likes of Jim Caldwell (head coach, Detroit Lions), Les Miles (head coach, LSU) and Karl Darrell (wide receivers coach, NY Jets), to name just a few. He was elected to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and joined other NCAA legends in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013. He will forever be a Folsom Legend, which is why Bill McCartney is the first bust added to the Colorado Buffaloes football Mount Rushmore.
Eric Bieniemy: Running Back (1987-1990)
Eric Bieniemy is, without a doubt, one of the best to ever suit up in the black and gold. Nicknamed “Scooter”, the diminutive back stole the hearts of Buffs fans with his drive, elusiveness and knack for getting to the end zone. The two-time All Big 8 performer is the leading rusher in Colorado history with 3,940 yards and 42 touchdowns. He was the focal back on a talented squad that won the 1990 National Championship, the first in school history. That season, Bieniemy was voted the Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American after amassing 1,628 yards on the ground and scoring 17 touchdowns. He finished third in the Heisman race behind Ty Detmer and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail and was the nation’s second leading rusher. “Scooter” had such an impact at Folsom Field that in his junior year he was named to the University’s 25 member “All Century Team”, the only active player to have received such an honor.
All his accomplishments and heroics on the field helped bring CU into the national spotlight which makes Eric Bieniemy an easy selection for Colorado’s Mount Rushmore.
Rashaan Salaam: Running Back (1992-1994)
Many great players have attended the University of Colorado and though this man’s name may not be the first to come to mind, his success while in Boulder cannot go unnoticed. Rashaan Salaam had arguably one of the greatest seasons ever for a college running back. The year 1994 was unparalleled for the Buffaloes star, becoming only the fourth back in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He ran for over 200 yards in four consecutive games, including a school record of 362 in a win versus Texas. He had great vision and once in the open field, was hard to bring down, marching his way to 24 touchdowns and a unanimous All-American selection.
The star running back won many awards that year including the Jim Brown and Doak Walker awards. However, nothing was greater than winning the famed Heisman Trophy, the first for any CU football star. It was a season fit for a legend, making Rashaan Salaam bust number three on Colorado’s Mount Rushmore.
Byron “Whizzer” White: (1934-1937)
“The Greatest Buff Ever”
Byron White or “Whizzer” as he was known, was a three sport athlete while at the University of Colorado. His skills and accomplishments on the field continue to echo through the halls in Boulder. He still holds at least 15 school records, including the longest kickoff return (100 yards) and the longest punt (83 yards). Yes, Whizzer White, was a Jack of all trades, playing quarterback, halfback, defensive back and kicker for the Buffaloes. He was the school’s first All-American in 1937, leading the team to an undefeated regular season. Finishing second in the Heisman race, he averaged 246 all-purpose yards per game, a record that stood until the great Barry Sanders laced up his cleats.
Byron White was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1952, but it was his nomination to the Supreme Court in 1962 that he was most proud. His jersey number 24 was the first number to be retired in CU history, and in 1990 he became the first inductee into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. At his enshrinement, he was dubbed “The Greatest Buff Ever”.
These four represent the best to have ever worn the black and gold of Colorado. Their accomplishments on the field and at the University are still talked about years, even decades after they have left campus. Therefore Bill McCartney, Eric Bieniemy, Rashaan Salaam and Byron White are truly worthy of being honored on the Colorado Buffaloes Football Mount Rushmore.