No position on defense has been altered by the arrival of Gary Patterson and his 4-2-5 defense more than safety. Not only does it employ three safeties, but one – strong safety (like White, Hodge and Jones) – is more like an extremely fast linebacker. Pre-GP, you can almost count on one hand the number of hard-hitting, fast and sticky-fingered safeties TCU has had.
1 -- Tejay Johnson (’11): The most amazing fact in the amazing career of Johnson is that as a sophomore he was the only member of TCU’s defensive 11 to NOT be named all-conference. And he wound up being the best of the bunch. Consensus All-American in 2010 and two-time All-MWC, he was the defensive “quarterback” at free safety on the nation’s best defense in ’08, ’09 and ’10 – the only starter on all three top-ranked squads.
2 -- Marvin White (’07): If not for Johnson, it would be a no-brainer who TCU’s best-ever safety was. Check out YouTube if you want to see the famous WHAMMY he put on TTech’s Robert Johnson – if you dare. No safety has ever been better in run support. He was ALWAYS around the football. A two-time, All-MWC wrecking machine, he led the Frogs in tackles AND interceptions on that awesome ’06 defense.
3 – Frank Horak (’67): Grim-faced No. 19 was a second-team All-American and two-time All-SWC performer (in ’65 and ’66) for the great Abe Martin. He led the Frogs with six picks in ’66, often baiting quarterbacks to throw his way. The Caldwell native was also one of four players in TCU history to return a kickoff 100 yards. Hey, the guy made Playboy’s 1966 All-American team too, so there.
4 – Lyle Blackwood (’73): Better known for his long, productive NFL career, especially with the Dolphins, he was All-SWC in 1971 and 1972 and a second-team All-American in ‘72. Known for his acrobatic interceptions (he had five in ’71 alone), he once intercepted two Washington Huskies passes for a TCU-record 104 return yards.
5 -- Stephen Hodge (’09): Maybe the hardest-hitting Frog safety of all time, he was a two-time All-MWC performer, who also excelled on special teams. Can you say bone-crunching? He’s most remembered for his outstanding play – and huge interception off Kellen Moore -- against Boise State in the ’08 Poinsettia Bowl.
6 -- Byron Linwood (’85): The quiet menace from Pittsburg, Linwood was the defensive heart of Jim Wacker’s best team, the 8-4 1984 squad. All-Southwest Conference that season at strong safety, he flew to the football and hardly ever missed a tackle.
7 -- Sam Baugh (’37): Dutch Meyer called him the “greatest athlete I ever saw” and who are we to argue? No. 45 from Sweetwater was a two-time All-American (consensus in ’36) and College Football Hall-of-Famer. Not only a legendary passer and punter – yes punter! – but ol’ Sammy was a pretty doggone good tackler and defender as a safety. Fun fact: He was twice All-SWC in baseball!
8 -- Colin Jones (’11): Already a special teams star, injury cost him much of his junior year, but he came back with a vengeance as a senior -- seemingly playing better every week – climaxing with a peerless performance in the 2011 Rose Bowl. Only a Mountain West second-teamer, he nonetheless typified the “hybrid” safety under Patterson – linebacker tough and cornerback fast.
9 – Falanda Newton (’89): The 1988 Rogers Trophy winner as TCU MVP, the dude could cover A LOT of ground – fast. He was a 1987 All-Southwest Conference choice for the rebuilding, NCAA-sanctioned Frogs and hauled in 15 career interceptions for a school-record 274 return yards, including an 85-yard return against Houston in ’86. He had 302 career tackles, 20 in one game.
10 (tie) -- Reggie Hunt (’00): Patterson’s first star safety (when he was defensive coordinator), he was a first-team, All-WAC pick as a junior and a second-teamer as a senior on TCU’s co-conference champs in 1999. Also a talented kick returner, he finished with 271 career tackles, three interceptions and three sacks.
10 (tie) – David Roach (’08): Sometimes lost amid the White/Buchanan/Bonner/Coleman/Hodge buzzsaw, Roach was a killer open-field tackler and blitzer at both weak safety and free safety. He was second-team All-MWC in 2007.
10 (tie) -- Brian Bonner (’08): Versatile (he played all three safety positions) and quick, Bonner also had some of TCU’s biggest hits. Remember? KA-POW! Second-team All-MWC as a junior, he was also a two-time, all-conference selection as a punt returner.
Honorable Mention -- Jimmy Lawrence (’36), Marvin Godbolt (’05), Curtis Fuller (’01), Allanda Smith (’84), Jeremy Modkins (’06), Tekerrein Cuba (’12)