Some players are too valuable to lose for the season
The fate of Oklahoma's Rodney Anderson and Nebraska's Adrian Martinez (above) this past weekend remind us how a college football team's season can be impacted when a key player is injured. In many instances, others step up and the team perseveres. In some, the injured player is too valuable to be replaced. Here are five times the latter happened.
Bo Jackson (RB), 1984 Auburn Tigers
The Tigers entered the season ranked No. 1, but lost to Miami 20-18 in the Kickoff Classic. The next week, Jackson separated his shoulder in the third quarter in a close loss to Texas and missed the next six games. Auburn went 6-0 during that period and Jackson made a surprise return against Florida, wearing a special pad for his shoulder. However, he was rusty and only managed 16 yards on five carries in a 24-3 loss. Auburn finished the season 9-4 and beat Arkansas 21-15 in the Liberty Bowl. While some may argue that this was a testament to the whole team’s character, Jackson’s injury may have been the deciding factor in what could have been a conference title.
Sam Bradford (QB), 2009 Oklahoma Sooners
Bradford won the Heisman Trophy in 2008 as a sophomore and returned to take another run at the national title with the third-ranked Sooners. He suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of the season opener against BYU and was out until mid-October. Meanwhile, Oklahoma lost to BYU and Miami. Bradford returned to lead the team to a win over Baylor, but reinjured the shoulder the next week in a loss to Texas. He missed the rest of a season that OU finished 8-5.
Josh Rosen (QB), 2016 UCLA Bruins
Rosen earned Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2015 and entered '16 with high expectations. The Bruins proceeded to go 3-3 before Rosen injured his shoulder and was out for the season. But while UCLA was mediocre with Rosen, it was downright awful without him, going 1-5 in the final six games.
Jim Kelly (QB), 1982 Miami Hurricanes
Kelly was The U’s first great quarterback and led the Canes to nine-win seasons in 1980 and 81. In 1982, Miami was 2-1 and ranked 15th when Kelly went down with a shoulder injury against Virginia Tech. Backup Mark Richt took over, but went 5-3 to finish out the season. The next season, freshman Bernie Kosar led the Canes to their first national title.
Earl Campbell (RB), 1976 Texas Longhorns
After a sophomore season in which he rushed for 1,118 yards and averaged 5.6 yards a carry, Campbell and the Longhorns entered the season projected to win the Southwestern Conference and possibly the national championship. The only problem was that he had been battling a hamstring injury and turf toe, a sprain in ligaments in the big toe joint, for much of the offseason. Campbell reinjured the hamstring in the first quarter of the season opener against Boston College and left the game. Without him, the Longhorns were not the same and lost 14-13. He struggled throughout the rest of the season as Texas went 5-5-1. The next year, a healthy Campbell rushed for 1,744 and averaged 6.5 yards a carry en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. The Longhorns also had a perfect regular season before losing to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.