Underappreciated Football Standouts: Part 9

I was thumbing through last year's Gator football media guide and was looking at the long list of All-SEC performers in Orange and Blue through the years and one thing really stood out to me. I was taken aback by the number of truly outstanding players who never made first team All-SEC.

This is my 30th year covering the Gators and I started going year by year through the seasons and name after name kept coming up of guys who were either second team selections at best or never earned All-Conference recognition. So for the next couple of weeks as we stagger through the uneventful month of July, I'll be remembering some of those guys who are the best of the group of Gators whose honors never lived up to their contributions.

Today we continue the countdown as we have reached the two guys who I consider to be the greatest Gators never to be named first team All-SEC. First, a look at the other eight I have identified:

#10 ----- Tony Rowell
#9 ----- Chris Leak
#8 ----- Harrison Houston
#7 ----- Ray Criswell
#6 ----- Doug Johnson
#5 ----- Elijah Williams
#4 ----- Ed Robinson
#3 ----- Steve Rissler

#2 ----- John L Williams ----- The Palatka sensation was the star of the Florida Gators' 1982 recruiting class and immediately began challenging for playing time. In the homecoming game against West Texas State, Williams romped for 179 yards and looked like he would be the tailback of the future. However, later that year another freshman, Neal Anderson emerged and posted three straight 100-yard games down the stretch.

With James Jones moving on to the NFL the Gators needed a fullback to go with Anderson, Williams and Lorenzo Hampton at tailback. Well, instead of that, Williams made the unselfish move to fullback allowing the Gators to get their better players on the field. It worked out big time as Williams and Anderson became the best backfield in the nation in their final two seasons (1984-85). John L Williams ended up rushing for 2,409 yards and added another 863 as a receiver. That was a UF record for receiving yards out of the backfield for 16 years before Robert Gillespie set a new standard (1,091). Three times Anderson and Williams ran for over 100 yards in the same game and the Florida running attack in '84 was virtually unstoppable.

The NFL certainly was impressed with Williams who was the 15th pick of the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1986 draft. He just might be the highest draft pick ever who was not an All-Conference player in college. He had a fine NFL career and ranks among the best combination running/receiving fullbacks in league history. Considering his productivity in Orange and Blue and the fact that he changed positions for the good of the team, John L Williams is one of the two most under appreciated Gators of the last thirty years.

Next, we'll identify the guy who gets top billing on this list.

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