5 Most Successful Transfers in College Football History

Jalen Hurts' transfer may be the biggest of all time, but will it be the most successful?

Jalen Hurts may be the most high-profile transfer in college football history. He went 26-2 as a starter at Alabama before losing the job to Tua Tagovailoa and now takes his talents to Oklahoma, where he is expected to replace Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, who rose to stardom after transferring to the Sooners from Texas A&M.

 

Will Hurts be successful? I’m guessing yes, but it will all depend on how he performs and how high he is picked in the NFL draft. That ultimately determines if a decision to transfer paid off. Here are the five players whose decision to switch schools produced the most success.

 

NOTE: I did not include junior college transfers or players that were kicked off their teams. That's why someone like Cam Newton, who started at Florida but played a season at Blinn (Texas) College before winning the Heisman in his one season at Auburn, didn't make the cut.

 

5. Jalen Hurd (Tennessee to Baylor)

One could make an argument for a number of players for this fifth spot so I’m going to go with the one who had to reinvent himself and is not a quarterback. Facing a strained relationship with head coach Butch Jones, an unraveling season, and a body that was not holding up to the demands of being a running back, Hurd left the Vols with four games left in the 2016 season. He transferred to Baylor where head coach Matt Rhule would let him play wide receiver but had to sit out the 2017 season. In 2018, he caught 69 passes for 946 yards and was named Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. As of now, Hurd is expected to be taken as a receiver in this year’s NFL draft so while his decision remains controversial in Knoxville, it appears to have worked out for him.

 

4. Kyler Murray (Texas A&M to Oklahoma)

Murray started three games as a freshman at Texas A&M in 2015 but left for a more stable environment at Oklahoma. After Baker Mayfield left for the NFL in 2018, Murray won the starting job and went on the win the Heisman Trophy later that year. A standout outfielder who was drafted by the Oakland A's in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Murray will likely be a first-round NFL pick if he chooses to go with pro football instead. 

 

3. Russell Wilson (NC State to Wisconsin)

Wilson led the Wolfpack to two bowl games in three seasons but opted to report to spring training with the Colorado Rockies in 2011. NC State head coach Tom O’Brien released him from his scholarship with one year of eligibility left and Wilson played 61 games with the Rockies’ Class A affiliate Asheville Tourists. Then he decided to give football another go and signed with Wisconsin. There, Wilson took the Badgers to the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl, earning All-Big Ten honors. He then decided to go with football in 2012 and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round.

 

2. Troy Aikman (Oklahoma to UCLA)

Aikman signed with Oklahoma when it was running the I-formation, but became the starter after the team switched back to the wishbone. He broke his leg against Miami in 1985 and Jamelle Holieway — a perfect fit for OU’s option attack — came off the bench led the Sooners to the national title. After the season, head coach Barry Switzer helped arrange for Aikman to transfer to UCLA, where his skills were better suited. The move paid off, as Aikman became a consensus All-American, won the 1988 Davey O’Brien Award, and became the first overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft.

 

1. Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech to Oklahoma)

Mayfield became the first walk-on true freshman to start a season opener for a BCS program and was named Big 12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in 2013. However, a dispute with head coach Kliff Kingsbury over whether he had earned the starting job and a scholarship culminated in him leaving Lubbock and transferring to Norman, where he had to sit out a year. Mayfield quickly won the starting job in 2015 and led the Sooners to two College Football Playoff appearances in his three years at Oklahoma. He also won the 2017 Heisman Trophy and was the first pick in the NFL Draft last year.

 

— 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.

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