Top 10 Athletes that Played at CSU
We all know that Colorado State University has racked up a lot of accomplishments in the lab, on the sports field and in the classroom. But today, I want to focus on some of the greatest sportsmen and women who’ve come out of the college – And there are a lot of them. It doesn’t even matter that that we haven’t won a showdown against a particular gold-and-black school since 2014, because these athletes have been killing the game since the 1930s.
First off, we have the indomitable Glenn Morris, the namesake of the field house located on the eastern end of campus. According to CSU’s 150-year-celebration website, Morris was naught but a farm boy from Simla, a tiny town tucked in southeastern Colorado when he first arrived at CSU. But never one to start small, Morris was already performing in both track and football before deciding to dedicate himself to not just two, but ten sports as an American decathlete. And not just any decathlete, but an Olympic one at that – If there’s anything to be said for Glenn Morris, it’s that the man knew how to aim high. As told by the Coloradoan, Morris got his wish while serving as an assistant coach at CSU’s Colorado Agricultural college, when he earned a spot on the U.S. team in 1936. Even though he only competed in three decathlons total, Morris smashed records in all of them, setting a world decathlon record during his trials for the 1936 games, and then breaking that record again at the games themselves. Right in front of Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Games, Morris set a world record that stood for 16 years, performing alongside Olympic hero Jesse Owens and eventually joining other athletic paragons in numerous halls of fame. He also played briefly in the NFL with the Detroit Lions, served in the U.S. Navy and played Tarzan in the 1938 film ”Tarzan’s Revenge.”
Second on our list is Thurman “Fum” McGraw, which sounds like the name of a giant if I ever heard one—And McGraw was, both physically and metaphorically. Hailing from Paonia, this 6-foot-5, 235-pound athlete came to CSU after serving in the marines during World War II. At school, it didn’t take him long to excel in wrestling, football and track and field. As CSU’s first All-American football player (an honor he won twice), McGraw led team to their first bowl game in 1949. After his college days, McGraw played in the NFL with the Detroit Lions (who apparently know what they’re about, recruiting CSU alumnus) and in the NFL overall for five seasons. He eventually returned to CSU as an assistant football and track coach, assistant athletic director and full-time athletic director, and his jersey number (48) is one of only five that have been retired. His name’s on the McGraw Athletic Center on campus, which seems fitting for the first CSU player to grace the College Football Hall of Fame.
Now, we come to Jack Christiansen, CSU’s only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hailing from classically humble beginnings in a Canon City orphanage, Christiansen came to CSU to play football, and boy, could he play. He excelled in the sport, and track and baseball as well, earning eight varsity letters while at school and playing with Fum McGraw to bring CSU to its first bowl game. McGraw and Christiansen remained teammates even after college, with both shining among the Detroit Lions. In the NFL, Christiansen earned All-NFL honors for six years in a row and helped the Lions to win four NFL championships. Holding a reputation as the greatest punt returning in NFL history, this star athlete was the first CSU player brought into the Colorado Sparts Hall of Fame and went on to coach two teams in the NFL. (That's Jack in the bottom-right corner of the Instagram post below, by the way.)
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Our first female entry on this list is Amy Van Dyken, a Denverite who went on to become one of America’s greatest swimmers. Van Dyken first dove into the swimming scene with her NCAA title in the 50-yard freestyle in 1994, finishing the year as the female swimmer of the year. Afterwards, she worked her way to the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, where she became the first U.S. woman to win four gold metals in one year, dominating the 50-meter freestyle, the 100 butterfly, and the 400 freestyle and 400 medley relay teams. However, Van Dyken wasn’t done after only one set of Olympics games. She returned in the 2000 games to win two more gold medals before retiring, becoming a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the Olympic Hall of Fame, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and the CSU Sports Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, tragedy followed her years of success. In 2014, Van Dyken was in an ATV accident that paralyzed her, but this didn’t stop her from becoming a strong advocate for the disabled and hosting a national radio show with Rob Dibble.
Bill Green first came to CSU in 1961 from Gadsden, Alabama, after he was recruited by coach Jim Williams. Towering overhead at 6-foot-6, Green soon went on to become the only first-team All-American men’s basketball player in the school’s history over his three-year career. In his first year on the team, Green helped deliver the Rams a Skyline Conference title in 1961, then rounded out his time as a Ram with a NCAA tournament. 50 years after he left CSU’s courts, Green was still second in career scoring and sixth in rebounding for the school, with his 48-point game of 1963 still standing as a CSU scoring record. Now inducted into the Colorado and CSU halls of fame, Green went on to be a first-round draft pick of the NBA Boston Celtics, and then an award-winning educator in the Bronx, N.Y.
For our second leading sports lady, we come to Becky Hammon. Born in Rapid City, Hammon wasted no time upon her arrival to CSU in taking the team to their first three NCAA Tournaments, all the while setting 25 school and conference records. Among these records includes her title as the all-time leading scorer in Western Athletic Conference history, whether male or female. After her time at CSU, Hammon went on to be undrafted by the WNBA and played a very successful career with the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars. Nowadays, Hammon continues to play overseas and in the WNBA. She’s been nominated as one of the league’s 15 best players of all time and has been included in the WNBA All-Star game seven times. Internationally, Hammon and has played in the National Women’s Basketball League in Russia and Spain, as well as on Russia’s Olympic team in 2008 and 2012. Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, Hammon made history as the first female full-time paid assistant in the NBA, and is a member of the Colorado and CSU halls of fame.
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Greg Myers, a star born and raised just outside of Fort Collins, made his mark at CSU and beyond as a football player. As the only four-time, first-team all-Western Athletic Conference player, Myers led the Rams to two WAC titles in 1994 and 1995, and took home the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive in the latter year. As a man of both brawn and brains, Myers also won the Stan Bates Award as the best overall student-athlete in the WAC as well. After his time in college, Myers played in the NFL for five years, where he joined Fum McGraw as the only CSU Ram to earn his way into the College Football Hall of fame in 2012. He’s also a part of the Colorado and CSU Halls of Fame, and now works as an anesthesiologist in Denver.
However, being tall isn’t just for the dudes. Take it from Sherri Danielson, the 6-foot-2 outside hitter from Evergreen who began CSU volleyball’s rise to victory that is still going strong today. Danielson was a two-time conference player of the year and an alternate on the 1988 U.S. Olympic volleyball team, and brought the Rams to their first three NCAA tournaments in 1983 through 1985. Finally, cementing her place in CSU athletic history, Danielson was the first woman admitted to the CSU Sports Hall of Fame and one of five retired jersey numbers.
Why slay the field in one sport when you can do it in two? I think that’s the question Lonnie Wright asked himself when he embarked on his journey to play two professional sports simultaneously. Wright, who was a track and basketball star at CSU who led the Rams to their third NCAA tournament, was drafted by both the Rockets (aka the present-day Nuggets) and the Broncos. And keep in mind, the Broncos drafted Wright even though he hadn’t played football since high school. So, you know, I guess the ‘use it or lose it’ principal only applies to most of us, but definitely not Lonnie Wright. After playing for the Broncos for two seasons and spending six seasons in the American Basketball Association, this powerhouse player was inducted into the CSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.
Finally, last but certainly not least, we come to Janay DeLoach Soukup, where the only thing longer than her name is her list of hard-earned accomplishments. Another Olympic athlete, DeLoach is the only woman from CSU to win an Olympic medal in track and field. She’s also the most recent of our success stories, as she earned a bronze medal in the long jump in 2012. While at CSU, DeLoach was a four-time All-American track star and a three-time national champion, and is now a member of the Alaska and CSU halls of fame. And what’s more, Deloach likely isn’t done surprising us yet—She earned a master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2011 and is still living and training in Fort Collins, with many years left to continue accomplishing great things.
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