9. Taylor Mays
There’s simply no denying it, Taylor Mays was the player everyone who has ever played EA’s NCAA Football video games would created. Take it a step forward, he’s the athlete every head coach wished he had the chance to deploy.
At 6-foot-3, 219 pounds and capable of playing both defensive back and wide receiver, Mays was rated as the top athlete in the nation in 2006. Literally. Scout called him “arguably the best pure athlete on the entire west coast.”
The accolades continued when he hit the scene in college.
“Have I ever seen anyone that big move that fast?” then-USC strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle pondered. “Maybe when I walked by the cheetah cage at the wildlife park.”
Mays put that athleticism to good use, taking over the starting free safety job as a freshman and earning recognition as Collegefootballnews.com’s Defensive Freshman of the Year, along with a host of other awards.
The next three years were basically one giant highlight reel featuring Mays laying opposing players out with crunching big hits. In 2007, he picked up his first All-American nod. In 2008, he was a critical piece to an all-time great defense. In 2009, he was USC’s leading tackler. When all was said and done, he was one of just four Trojans to be named an All-American three times.