Enter Gary Patterson. Then … Joe Phipps, Shannon Brazzell, Chad Bayer, Martin Patterson, LaMarcus McDonald, Jason Phillips, David Hawthorne, Robert Henson, Daryl Washington, Tank Carder, Tanner Brock, Kenny Cain …. If that isn’t Linebacker U, I don’t know what is.
1 – Jason Phillips (’09): Burst onto the scene in TCU’s famous upset of Oklahoma in ’05 as a freshman and never looked back. No TCU linebacker was ever tougher. He only missed one game in four years and patrolled the middle like an angry bear. Career tackles: Everybody. The only player in TCU history to be first- or second-team all-conference four times!
2 – Daryl Washington (’10): He had to wait his turn behind Hawthorne, Phillips & Henson, but shined on special teams anyway. Sideline-to-sideline fast, but could stop a truck, he turned in a magical, All-American senior season in ’09 – arguably the best season a TCU ‘backer has ever had.
3 – Ki Aldrich (’39): After TCU won the national championship in 1938, Aldrich was generally considered the best linebacker to ever play the position. Seriously. At a rugged 5-11, 198 pounds, he was a two-time All-American (consensus in ’38) and, duh, All-SWC three straight years. Not surprisingly, he went on to a Hall-of-Fame career in the NFL.
4 – Darrell Lester (’36): He was the SWC’s first two-time, consensus All-American (he and Jerry Hughes are the only two Frogs to ever do that) and was TCU’s first three-time, all-conference performer – 1933-1935. Known as “Iron Man” for playing nearly every down of every game, he amassed 13 interceptions in his career on defense, although he was also an outstanding center on offense. He joined Sam Baugh as All-Americans on TCU’s first national champion in 1935.
5 – Tank Carder (’12): Next to Andy Dalton and just behind LT in the hearts of TCU fans, Carder was the most popular defensive player of the Patterson era. Three-time All-MWC, two-time All-MWC Defensive Player of the Year and twice All-American, the pride of Sweeny played best in big games and for three seasons (and three MWC titles) was the face of TCU’s renowned defense – wearing his trademark arm bands and eye-black, of course. TCU was 36-3 when he started. He also, ho hum, played in the Rose Bowl.
6 – LaMarcus McDonald (’03): Patterson’s first great linebacker, the blitzing 2002 All-American from Waco became the prototypical GP LB – fast and furious, often cutting down ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage. He holds two of the top five marks for yards lost tackling in a season – the other three are by ends -- finishing with 236 (second all time). He was twice All-Conference USA (C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in ’02) and was captain and team MVP on the Frogs’ conference co-champs in ‘02.
7 – Robert Henson (’09): Few players EVER made more big plays than Henson, whether it was a special teams hit or a game-changing interception. For three seasons, he played behind Jason Phillips and David Hawthorne, yet he still was named honorable-mention All-MWC all three years. Amazing. A first-teamer when he finally got to start on that great 2008 D, he joined Phillips as the only two players in TCU history to be named all-conference four times.
8 – Darrell Patterson (’83): He was never all-conference. It is one of the great injustices in TCU history, yet clearly due to the fact that the Horned Frogs under F.A. Dry were just gawd-awful. In his career, he set a then-NCAA record with 544 career tackles, an incredible 152 more than TCU’s career number two, including 179 during the nightmarish 1980 season. One more time: 544 tackles!
9 – David Hawthorne (’08): Often the forgotten man between Phillips’ power and Henson’s flair, all the dude did was tackle, tackle, tackle. Now, the NFL knows. Believe it or not, he was never selected All-Freaking-MWC. Shocking.
10 (tie) – Keith Flowers (’52): A first-team All-American, All-SWC (he was named the conference’s outstanding linebacker) and Rogers Trophy winner in 1951, Flowers was a hard hitter for his size. The defensive leader on Dutch Meyer’s ’51 SWC champions, he was a Cotton Bowl MVP that season, despite being on the losing end of a 20-7 score against Bear Bryant and Kentucky.
10 (tie) – Kyle Clifton (’84): In 1983, Clifton (the Rogers Trophy winner that year) recorded 189 tackles, 30 in one game – both TCU records. Oh, since TCU was 1-10 that year, he didn’t make all-conference either.
Honorable Mention – Joe Phipps (’99), Tommy Joe Crutcher (’64), Scott Taft (’98), Dedrick "Dede" Terveen (’75), Shannon Brazzell (’01), Joe Hines (’82)