May 22nd

Bieniemy and Salaam fail to make the Hall of Fame Class of 2014

From ESPN … Former NFL first-round draft picks Derrick Thomas, LaDainian Tomlinson, Sterling Sharpe, Willie Roaf, Tony Boselli, Shane Conlan, Darrin Nelson and Dave Butz now have something else in common: They are headed to the College Football Hall of Fame.

On Thursday, they were announced as part of the 16-man College Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2014. Rounding out the 14 players inducted: Dre’ Bly (North Carolina defensive back 1996-98), Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech quarterback 1996-99), John Huard (Maine linebacker 1964-66), John Sciarra (UCLA quarterback 1972-75), Leonard Smith (McNeese State cornerback 1979-82) and Wesley Walls (Ole Miss tight end 1985-88).

Also, Mike Bellotti, who was 137-80-2 at Chico State, California (1984-88) and Oregon (1995-2008), and Jerry Moore, 242-135-2 at North Texas (1979-80), Texas Tech (1981-85) and Appalachian State (1989-2012), were the only two coaches inducted. Bellotti is now an ESPN analyst.

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Eric Bieniemy or Rashaan Salaam for College Football Hall of Fame?

Last December, former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney entered the College Football Hall of Fame. McCartney, the Buffs’ all-time leader in wins, and the coach of CU’s only national championship team and only Heisman trophy winner, became the 7th Buff to be so honored. McCartney joined Byron White (inducted 1952), Joe Romig (1984), Dick Anderson (1993), Bobby Anderson (2006), Alfred Williams (2010) and John Wooten (2012) as Colorado inductees.

This March, two former Buff running backs, Eric Bieniemy and Rashaan Salaam, were nominated for induction into the Hall of Fame. Bieniemy, running back for CU from 1987-90, has been on the ballot before. For Salaam (1992-94), the nomination was a first.

It is often said that just being nominated is an honor, and, in this case, it is. The College Football Hall of Fame has inducted 934 players, less than two ten-thousandths of one percent (.0002) of the almost five million players in the 145 years college football has been played.

Here is a look at the careers of two of CU’s all-time greats …

Eric Bieniemy

– Bieniemy is Colorado’s all-time leading rusher, with 3,940 yards, coming on 699 carries;

– Bieniemy had 44 rushing touchdowns, ten more than the second leading rushers (Chris Brown and Bobby Anderson, who each had 34 rushing touchdowns for Colorado);

– Bieniemy was Colorado’s all-time leading scorer, with 254 points (including a receiving touchdown and a two-point conversion), until a kicker by the name of Mason Crosby came along with 307 career points;

– Bieniemy finished third in the Heisman trophy balloting in 1990, sharing the CU spotlight with quarterback Darian Hagan (who finished 17th in the balloting) and Mike Pritchard (50th). The 1990 season marked the only year in which three Buffs received votes. Bieniemy also finished third in the balloting for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s top player;

– Bieniemy was the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Year in 1990, with 1,713 yards rushing on 288 carries, with 17 touchdowns;

– Bieniemy’s efforts during the 1990 season earned him unanimous All-American honors, along with teammates Joe Garten and Alfred Williams. The trio were the first unanimous All-Americans in Colorado history;

– Bieniemy was a two-time All-Big Eight performer, earning his honors in 1988 and 1990. Bieniemy finished his career holding eight Big Eight records, and was selected as a member of the Big Eight All-Century team (the only active player to be so honored);

– Bieniemy rushed for 153 yards on 25 carries against Iowa in a 1988 game, earning Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Week honors, as Colorado defeated a ranked team on the road for the first time in nine years;

– Bieniemy was selected, along with a teammate, center Jay Leeuwenburg, as two of the 13-member Orange Bowl Legends team (selected in 2005);

– In the 1991 NFL draft, Bieniemy was taken in the second round by the San Diego Chargers with the 39th overall pick. Bieniemy played eight seasons in the NFL, going for 1,589 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing, with another 1,223 receiving;

– Bieniemy coached running backs for two years for CU (2001-02) before moving on to UCLA for three years and then to the Minnesota Vikings in 2006. After five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Bieniemy returned to the Buffs to serve as the offensive coordinator in 2011-12;

– Bieniemy was inducted into CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

Rashaan Salaam

– Salaam won Colorado’s first Heisman trophy, winning the award in 1994. Salaam received 400 first place votes in the balloting, and 1,743 votes overall, easily out-distancing runner-up Ki-Jana Carter of Penn State, who finished with 115 first place votes and 901 points overall;

– Salaam rushed for 2,055 yards during the 1994 season, becoming just the fourth player to ever surpass 2,000 yards in a season. Salaam capped the season with a magical 67-yard touchdown run against Iowa State to surpass the 2,000-yard barrier;

– Salaam was voted just the fifth unanimous All-American in Colorado history, joining Bieniemy, Williams and Garten (1990) and Leeuwenburg (1991);

– Salaam was a first-team All-Big Eight honoree in both 1993 and 1994;

– Salaam was the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Year in 1994, just the fourth Buff so honored (but the fourth Buff in the past five seasons, joining Darian Hagan, 1989; Eric Bieniemy, 1990; and Charles E. Johnson, 1993);

– Salaam accomplished his 2,000-yard season despite not playing in five fourth quarters during the 1994 seasons, and, in two games, barely playing at all in the third quarter. Over half of Salaam’s yards, 1,040, came against ranked opponents;

– Salaam’s 24 rushing touchdowns in 1994 crushed the only school mark of 18 set by Bobby Anderson in 1969 (and tied by J.J. Flannigan in 1989);

– Salaam posted nine consecutive 100-yard games during the 1994 campaign, including four 200-yard games, both marks being school records;

– Salaam ended his career as only the second Colorado back to exceed 3,000 yards rushing (second only to Bieniemy’s 3,940). Had Salaam returned for his senior season in 1995, he likely would have finished his career as CU’s all-time leading rusher;

– The 1994 “Miracle in Michigan” game is known for the 67-yard bomb from Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook, but Salaam played a significant role in the 27-26 victory over the Wolverines. Salaam rushed for 141 yards on the day, the highest total surrendered by Michigan in the “Big House” in 21 years, and also teamed with offensive lineman Tony Berti for a block which gave Stewart the time for his heave down to Westbrook;

– A week later, on the road against Texas, Salaam rushed for 317 yards in a 34-31 win over No. 16 Texas, the second-highest rushing total in Colorado history (second only to Charlie Davis’ 342 yards against Oklahoma State in 1971). Combined with 45 yards receiving, Salaam’s 362 yards of total offense set a new record which still stands. For his efforts, Salaam would be named the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Week;

– Salaam would go on to earn the Big Eight Player-of-the-Week twice more in the month of October, 1994, earning the honor in a rout of No. 22 Oklahoma and the following week in a win over No. 19 Kansas State;

– In addition to the Heisman trophy, Salaam was honored as the recipient of the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, and was second in the balloting for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s top player;

– Salaam skipped his senior season, opting for early entry into the NFL. Salaam was a first round pick of the Chicago Bears, going as the No. 21 pick overall;

– Salaam was the NFC Offensive Rookie-of-the-Year for the Bears in 1995, posting 1,074 yards and ten touchdowns. Knee and ankle injuries limited Salaam’s professional career, with Salaam finishing with career totals of 1,682 rushing yards, 120 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns;

– Salaam was a 2012 inductee into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame.

When I first started out this piece, I was comfortable that Bieniemy was a better pick for the College Hall of Fame. Bieniemy, while he did not win the Heisman trophy, was the leading back on a national championship team, and did finish his career as a two-time All-Big Eight performer and Colorado’s all-time leading rusher.

That being said, the more I looked back at Salaam’s collegiate career, the more impressed I was with his numbers (side note: can someone please explain to me how the 1994 team did not win the national championship? How that offense laid an egg against Nebraska, I’ll never understand … ). Colorado took down five ranked teams in a six week span, and Salaam was unstoppable. Salaam’s 1994 season was truly one of the greatest in collegiate football history, and worthy of Hall of Fame recognition.

The 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class will be announced on Thursday, May 22nd. With the University of Colorado having three honorees in just the past four seasons, it would be unlikely to see either Bieniemy’s or Salaam’s names announced this year.

But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or both of those Buffs inducted some time in the near future.

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5 Replies to “Bieniemy & Salaam for HOF”

  1. A bit disappointed that neither was put in but I know how good they were so they are both in my Hall of Fame. I may seem a bit full of myself sometimes … and I am full of something according to most.

  2. I was a Junior during the ’94 season. Your question – “can someone please explain to me how the 1994 team did not win the national championship? How that offense laid an egg against Nebraska…”
    Answer – No

  3. With the importance that the nation puts on the Heisman Trophy I would think that Salaam would be a shoe in. Bieniemy is probably the lesser known player but still a great player on great teams. Both very deserving of the award but would not be suprised if Eric was snubbed.

  4. Both are deserving. EB for his body of work, sustained excellence and contribution to an exceptionally talented team. Salaam for his incredible season and his Heisman. Good luck to both!

  5. Yo Stuart,

    Those indeed were the good old days (and I am looking forward to more of them under MacIntyre in the future in the new and improved Folsom Field and facilities). I am proud and oh, so happy to say that I was there in the stands for every home game for both Bieniemy and Salaam. I also got to see the them both play in bowl games.

    My favorite bowl was the blowout of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl (lots of family in Arizona who attended the game with me). The biggest disappointment was the loss to those same Irish following the 11-0 1989 season in Miami. If that team had played ND ten times that year, they would have beaten them nine times. Unfortunately, the Irish pulled off their 10-1 shot that game.

    I think both of them deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. They are two of my very favorite players in the 30 years I have been a Buff.

    Thanks for keeping us up to date in the “Dog Days” of the college football calendar. And big congrats to Paul Richardson to being the first player chosen by the Super Bowl Champions in Seattle. Working against that defensive backfield in practice may very well make PR one of the big rookie surprises of the upcoming NFL season.

    Go Buffs!

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

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