Top-8 of 2008

Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look back at the Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 2008, and counts down the top-eight athletes of this year's senior class.

8. Cody Wallace
Wallace anchored the Aggie offensive line at center during his career in Aggieland and helped pave the way for running backs like Mike Goodson and Jorvorski Lane, while providing protection for Stephen McGee. Over Wallace's three-year career as a starter, the Aggies averaged more than 400 yards per game on the ground, including 442 yards per game in 2005—No. 2 in school history.

He started the last 36 games of his career at A&M and was a preseason All-American candidate by several publications, including Playboy (much to the chagrin of some of his family). He was a two-time team captain for the Aggies and was taken by San Francisco with the 107th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL draft.

7. Red Bryant
"Big Red" started 43 games in his A&M career, but none were as rewarding for the defensive tackle as the final 13 after having knee surgery at the end of the 2006 season that forced him to miss the Aggies' Holiday Bowl.

Bryant bounced back in 2007 though, posting 46 tackles (6 TFL) along with a sack, a forced fumble, one blocked kick and a safety. But more important than those numbers is the leadership and passion that Bryant brought to the Aggie defense, which is one of the biggest reasons that he was selected in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks (121st overall)

6. Ashlee Pistorius
Former Big 12 Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-American, Pistorius never went through a sophomore slump—or a junior or senior slump for that matter. Pistorius led the Aggies in scoring in each of her four seasons on campus, and was a four-time All-Big 12 an All-American selection.

Pistorius led the Aggies to a record of 71-20-5 over the last four years and made it to the Sweet 16 in 2005 and 2006 (her sophomore and junior seasons).

But she'll be remembered more for her competitive drive, and her ability to change the game. She always picked her moments as well and was incredibly gifted at getting other players involved on offense as well, even leading the team in assists her sophomore year.

Pistorius and the Aggies fell short of their goal of reaching the Women's College Cup Final Four in College Station this year, but she'll go down as one of the most decorated players to ever play at the Aggie Soccer Stadium.

5. Morenike Atunrase
Atunrase was already the All-Time leading shot blocker in A&M school history heading into her senior year with 145. She added another 31 blocks to that total as a senior after missing the first nine games of the year coming off a surgery on her leg. She averaged 11.3 points per game over her four-year career, including a 14.0 average in 2005-2006 that earned her several pre-season All-American nominations heading into her junior season.

She was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2004-2005, and alongside Franklin, was one of the key components in head coach Gary Blair's remarkable turnaround of the program over the last four years. The Aggies made it to the Elite 8 this year against Tennessee and were just minutes away from making the program's first trip to the Final Four, thanks in large part to Atunrase's 10 points per game and 31 blocked shots.

Atunrase also helped lead the Aggies to three straight 20-win seasons, something A&M had done just three times in the last 23 years prior to that streak.

4. Aqua Franklin
When Gary Blair took over the Texas A&M program in 2003-2004, he didn't have a lot to work with and he knew he had to get a point guard. He found one who had a bit of a chip on her shoulder after not getting many looks from major Division-I programs. He sold her on playing time, she sold him on hard work and it was a perfect fit.

That little 5-foot-3 engine that could was A'Quonesia Franklin from Tyler, TX. Franklin was the cornerstone of Blair's plan to revitalize the women's basketball program at A&M, and she didn't let him down. Franklin ranks in the top-five in school history in assists and three-pointers and was voted first-team All-Big 12 the last two years.

The Aggies were 9-19 the year before Franklin and the rest of the class of 2008 arrived on campus. They hadn't posted a winning season since 1995-96. But Franklin and the rest of this year's senior class posted four straight winning seasons, including a school-record 29-8 mark this season, and led the Aggies to four straight postseason appearances, including three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

3. Joe Jones
"The Pride of Normangee, Texas" is also part of the pride of Aggieland. Jones captivated Aggie basketball fans over the last four years at Reed Arena, and like his teammate Dominique Kirk and Acie Law before him, he did it with class.

Jones averaged 12.8 points per game over the course of his A&M career, but more importantly, he helped transform one of the worst programs in the nation into a national power that was a couple of close calls from having a shot at the Final Four in each of the last two seasons.

With the arrival of freshman sensation DeAndre Jordan, Jones took a reduction in playing time and points scored, proving to scouts and fans alike that you never have to question his abilities as a leader or a team player, taking Jordan under his wing throughout the season, trying to help him develop into a quality big man for the Aggies as well.

2. Dominique Kirk
When former A&M head coach Billy Gillispie took over the abysmal Texas A&M basketball program four years ago, he built the program around hard-nosed defense and hustle, and no one personified that image more than Dominique Kirk, who first-year head coach Mark Turgeon named the team's defensive player of the year award after this season.

Kirk may not have the numbers that some of the other Aggie basketball greats have posted, but no one has ever been known for their defensive tenacity like Kirk, who made a name for himself on the biggest stage of all in 2006, shutting down All-American senior Gerry McNamara (who scored two points on free throws) as a sophomore in his first ever NCAA Tournament game.

Kirk also started a Big 12 record 132 consecutive starts over his four years and led a team that infamously posted an 0-17 Big 12 record the season prior to his arrival to four consecutive postseason appearances, including three straight NCAA Tournaments.

1. Megan Gibson
How could you not follow the Aggie softball team's run to the national championship series and not fall in love with Megan Gibson? Gibson entered the season as the backup pitcher and leading hitter for the Aggies, who were picked to win the Big 12 Championship and return to the Women's College World Series for the second straight year, and making it even extra special for Gibson? She was going to do it with her best friend Amanda Scarbrough.

But Scarbrough went down with a fluke injury against SFA in the Aggies' second home game of the season, and all of a sudden, the Aggies' WCWS hopes seemed to be shattered. But Gibson stepped in, posted a record of 41-4 (including 12-2 against top-20 teams) and an ERA of 1.20 from the circle. Oh, and she led all starters with a .339 batting average, 48 RBI, 17 doubles and 13 home runs.

Somehow, she was not named the National Player of the Year, but she proved all the naysayers wrong when the Aggies took down the award winner Angela Tincher in the first round of the WCWS. If there was an Aggie Mount Rushmore, Gibson would definitely be on it.




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