MACwood Squares is our summer reading series on the best athletes in Mid-American Conference sports history. This week features Miami. Looking for your MAC school? Consult our schedule for other teams and please submit your nominees as well.
The greatest export in Oxford may be its coaches, but there's a reason for that: they had some remarkably wonderful players throughout their history. Or maybe it's the other way around: Redskins/RedHawks coaches took mediocre talent and made them incredible. Chicken or the egg?
Anyways, this isn't about coaches, so we're going to focus solely on those who dressed up in red, white, helmets, and numbers. And there are probably 20 great candidates. But I'm going to focus on five, and please ... fill in the blanks.
LB Bob Babich (1966-68)
A first-round pick in the 1969 Draft, Bab spent nine years with the Chargers and Browns. For his college accolades, Babich was a consensus first-teamer in 1968 and for all the great players they've had over the years, Babich is the only Miami member of the College Football Hall of Fame, inducted in 1994.
RB Sherman Smith (1972-75)
Not as prolific as Prentice, but Smith did have the longer NFL career: seven seasons with the Seahawks who rushed for 28 touchdowns. He's gone on to have a nice prolific career as an assistant coach in the NFL.
LB Curt McMillan (1989-92)
Twice he was the MAC Defensive Player of the year and was awarded with some All-American praise in 1992, finishing with 575 tackles for his career. This is sixth best in MAC history. He didn't play in the NFL, but that's all right.
RB Travis Prentice (1996-99)
I am astonished that he didn't do more in the NFL. A third-round pick seems sensible for a guy who played the grumpy copyeditor to the running back school records, basically rewriting the damn thing. In four years he had 73 rushing touchdowns and 862 carries without fumbling. Several All-American teams included him anywhere from first to third, marking him as one of the greatest MAC running backs ever.
QB Ben Roethlisberger (2001-03)
He had the greatest three-year run of any MAC quarterback. Dan LeFevour may have surpassed him on total yardage, but he showed so much promise as a passer and a leader in 2001, when he was a starter as a freshman. He was sorely underrecruited in high school since he only started his senior year. It's also no secret that MU's three top receivers of all time (Ryne Robinson, Martin Nance, Michael Larkin) all played alongside Big Ben. He also averaged about one punt a game his last two years at MU and finished ninth in the 2003 Heisman voting.
You also know about his NFL career: 11th overall to the Steelers, two Super Bowls, a third AFC Championship, and a remarkably reliable and durable if fatally flawed individual. You can bet for every motorcycle accident or incident with a woman, nobody's more disappointed yet forgiving thank those RedHawks fans who fondly remember 2003, when they won the MAC Championship and a bowl game in a top-heavy conference.
Who are your nominees for Miami's MACwood Squares? Comment below, tweet us at @HustleBelt or submit a FanPost making your case. The final nine will be revealed Friday.