Let’s start with the D. Many people may think that TCU has only had outstanding defenses after Gary Patterson arrived. WRONG. TCU has primarily been a defense-first team throughout its history. Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien? Great defenders. Think the Frogs had lousy players when they were losing a lot in the ‘70s and ‘80s? Actually, they had some great players, especially on defense. They just didn’t have enough of them.
DEFENSIVE TACKLES/NOSE TACKLES
TCU may not be as noted for its defensive tackles as it is for sacking ends, tackle-machine linebackers and hard-hitting safeties, but having perhaps the greatest defensive tackle of all time among your ranks ain’t bad.
1 – Bob Lilly (’61): It’s appropriate to start with TCU’s greatest defensive player -- the ferocious, bear-pawed College Football Hall-of-Famer from Throckmorton. The 1960 All-American was the heart and soul of Coach Abe Martin’s two Southwest Conference championship teams in 1958 and 1959. Twice All-SWC and the 1960 Rogers Trophy winner as TCU MVP, he was known for “mayhem in the trenches,” as Dan Jenkins once put it. He went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys as their first-ever draft choice.
2 – Don Floyd (’60): One of the last great two-way players for TCU (he was also an outstanding offensive tackle), Floyd was a wiry, two-time All-American – consensus in 1959 -- and team captain, crouching side-by-side with Lilly on two of the best defensive fronts in Southwest Conference history (1958 and 1959). With the 1959 conference title on the line, Floyd and Lilly smothered QB Don Meredith and No. 8 SMU’s vaunted spread offense in a 19-0 whitewashing. Nice, huh? Floyd then went on to play defensive end for eight seasons for the old Houston Oilers and is in the AFL Hall of Fame.
3 – I.B. Hale (’39): Insall Bailey Hale teamed with LB Ki Aldrich to form the backbone of TCU’s stingy defense – the original “Purple People Eaters” -- during its national championship season of 1938. At 6-2, 245 (HUGE by today’s standards), the two-time All-American from Dallas was, oh yeah, considered one of the best offensive tackles of his era too.
4 – Darrell Palmer (’43): Big No. 71 was a standout two-way player -- he is also remembered as one of the best offensive linemen of his generation. A 1942 All-American and two-time, All-Southwest Conference selection, the Frogs were 14-6-1 during those two seasons, finishing second in the SWC in ’41 and third in ’42. But they included two of the great upsets in TCU history – a 14-7 stunner over top-ranked Texas in 1941 and a 7-6 victory over Rose Bowl-bound No. 13 UCLA in ‘42. Palmer was the defensive star in both.
5 – Norman Hamilton (’57): Known as “The Animal” by teammates, for obvious reasons, he was an All-American in 1956. Not big by defensive lineman standards but quick as a cat side-to-side, he is best known for his outstanding Cotton Bowl in 1957, when he relentlessly bullied the legendary Jim Brown (who still had a great game) all afternoon – “The Animal” had nine tackles that day -- in a dramatic 28-27 victory over Syracuse. He was also All-SWC in ’55 and ’56.
6 – Shawn Worthen (‘01): Defensive coordinator Gary Patterson’s first standout DT, he was a two-time, All-WAC selection and a third-team All-American as a senior. He starred on two TCU co-conference champs, including the 2000 squad, which led the nation in total defense for the first time in school history. He totaled 132 tackles and 7.5 sacks in his career. And, man oh man, he was hard to move out of the middle.
7 – Clyde Flowers (’45): TCU’s star during the war years, he was a 1944 All-American and two-time All-SWC pick at right tackle (playing both ways, of course) for Leo “Dutch” Meyer, despite being blind in one eye from a childhood accident. He was also a two-year team captain and team MVP in 1943. In 1944, the war-depleted Frogs started seven freshmen and two seniors, including Flowers. They won the SWC.
8 – Chad Pugh (’04): Three-times All-Conference USA (‘01, ’02 and ’03) at nose tackle, he was a massive, yet quick tackler (he finished with 126 and 11 sacks) and an astounding block swallower, paving the way for LB LaMarcus McDonald and DE Bo Schobel to finish off ballcarrier after ballcarrier.
9 – Royal West (’95): Besides having one of the coolest names among TCU lettermen, the Winona native was All-SWC for Pat Sullivan in ’93 and again ’94 – the last time the Frogs grabbed a piece of an SWC title. The 275-pounder won the 1993 Rogers Trophy as TCU MVP. His 22 career sacks (he held the school record when he was done) are fifth all time – the only defensive tackle in the top ten.
10 – John McClean (’82): Abilene’s McClean was an Academic All-American in 1980 (one of just 13 in TCU history) and one of the few defensive bright spots during the Dry Period. In his three seasons as a starter, the Horned Frogs were OMG 5-25-3, but he was the defensive star in one of TCU’s biggest victories ever – the Frogs’ come-from-behind 28-24 upset of Lou Holtz and unbeaten No. 19 Arkansas in 1981.
Honorable Mention – Marshall Harris (’54), Charlie Davis (’74), Kent Trammel (’88), Cody Moore (’09), Mitchell Benson (’89), Johnny Vaught (’33), Cory Grant (’11)