College football has exploded with high-end quarterback talent over the past two decades as the game has become more passing-oriented and dual-threats have become a valued asset. Attempting to rank them all is a fool’s errand. I am that fool. Here are the top 20 of the last 20 years.
1. Tim Tebow
College football is about pageantry and stories and to this day it’s hard to believe that Tim Tebow was real. A walking winner and inspirational poster, he transcended sports and became a cultural icon. He was a study of sheer will and determination on the field, overcoming talent deficiencies to get the job done. The lefthander threw 88 touchdowns compared to only 16 picks and added another 57 scores on the ground during his illustrious Florida Gators career. Though he did enough to earn the top spot on this list, it’s the least we can do in exchange for providing the content creators with so many clicks through the years.
2. Michael Vick
There was nothing like seeing a young Michael Vick run from one side of the field to the other, never slowing down, then turning upfield and dusting defenders. He was a video game come to life for the enjoyment of a generation just learning the joy of a scrambling quarterback. And then there was the arm, the hidden howitzer he’d bust out to throw a 65-yard strike to a streaking receiver. The Virginia Tech signal caller was everything a fan wanted, a high we’ve been chasing ever since. We feel bad for those out there too young to remember.
3. Marcus Mariota
No one executed Oregon’s uptempo offense better than Marcus Mariota, who combined the physical gifts and intelligence required to really make it hum. He threw 105 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while adding another 29 on the ground. Mariota played fast but was always in control, and always level-headed. Reflecting back, it’s tough to believe his team never captured a national title with him at the helm.
4. Vince Young
The Texas Longhorns star could beat you with his legs and with his arm. He took long, devastating strides in the open field. Simply put, Young was spellbinding to watch. It felt as though he was reinventing the wheel. He ran for 998 yards his freshman year and over 1,000 in the next two. His remarkable fourth-quarter exploits against USC to win the national championship are indelible. Perhaps the biggest argument for his inclusion so high on this list is the sheer shock that came when his skill set and productivity did not translate to the NFL.