The Football Writers Association of America on Thursday unveiled its 75th anniversary All-American team.
A panel of sportswriters who cover college football picked 75 players on the first, second and third teams who played over the last three-quarters of a century, dating back to just before the start of World War II.
From the start, a list like this has an impossible task when it comes to pleasing every critic, though some of the picks were beyond question. There’s Archie Griffin of Ohio State, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, at running back, along with Georgia’s Herschel Walker. Oklahoma’s Lee Roy Selmon at defensive tackle and Pittsburgh’s Hugh Green at defensive end. Dick Butkus of Illinois at linebacker and USC’s Ronnie Lott at defensive back.
Some of the picks were much more dubious, as is the nature of such things. Tim Tebow as the second-team quarterback behind Navy’s Roger Staubach? And Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier as the third-teamer? If Tebow, what about Cam Newton? And how about a nod for Doug Flutie?
In case you haven’t seen the FWAA list, no LSU player made it. Not Billy Cannon, who though he remains the standard by which all LSU football players are judged, didn’t stack up to a lot of the players chosen in terms of career numbers. This though he played in a two-way era and was rumored to have returned a punt or two.
But there was one glaring omission from an LSU standpoint:
Tommy Casanova was left on the bench.
Casanova was a three-time All-American from 1969-71, in an era when college players could only play as sophomores, juniors and seniors. He played cornerback, but he also returned kickoffs and punts (he had two punt returns for touchdowns in a 61-17 rout of Ole Miss in 1970) and dabbled at running back. Though this has nothing to do with a college All-American team, it is indicative of Casanova’s talent that he was a second-round draft pick in 1972 of the Cincinnati Bengals and was a three-time Pro Bowler as a a safety, including a first-team All-Pro selection in 1976.
Casanova is the only three-time All-American in LSU football history. His name and No. 37 is rightly enshrined on the façade of Tiger Stadium’s east upper deck along with Cannon and his No. 20.
Casanova earned his name in lights. He also earned the right to be among the 12 defensive backs selected by the FWAA.
Here were the players chosen. The FWAA didn’t distinguish between safeties and cornerbacks:
- First team: Ronnie Lott, USC; Deion Sanders, Florida State; Jack Tatum, Ohio State; Charles Woodson, Michigan.
- Second team: Champ Bailey, Georgia; Kenny Easley, UCLA; Jerry Gray, Texas; Ed Reed, Miami (Fla.).
- Third team: Dre Bly, North Carolina; Dave Brown, Michigan; Troy Polamalu, USC; Roy Williams, Oklahoma.
Also a minor protest in favor of LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. As a senior in 2007 he won every major award he was nominated for – the Nagurski and Lombardi awards, the Outland and Lott trophies – and was himself a two-time All-American. Speaking of the names on LSU’s east upper deck façade, Dorsey deserves to be enshrined along with Cannon and Casanova one day. Hopefully soon.
Meanwhile, kudos to Louisiana Tech and New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Willie Roaf for making the FWAA’s third team. Credit also to Reed, who hails from New Orleans.
Certainly lists like the FWAA’s All-American team are far from perfect and are never intended to be. They invite debate, as well they should.
But some imperfections are more glaring than others. Leaving out Casanova stands out like the illuminated letters in his name on a dark night in Tiger Stadium.