MSU’s top 50 football players: No. 7 Bubba Smith

Michigan State's legendary slew of 1967 NFL first-round picks (from left to right): Bob Apisa, Clinton Jones, Bubba Smith, Gene Washington and George Webster

This is the 44th in a 50-day summer series counting down the top players in Michigan State football history, as I see them. As with last year’s MSU basketball top 50, the criteria is performance and impact at MSU only, professional career irrelevant. Have your own opinion? Leave a comment or tweet at me @Graham_Couch.

No. 7 – Bubba Smith

Defensive end, 1964-66, Orange, Texas

The skinny: There are lots of football players from the 1960s, linemen especially, who would be too small to play today. Charles “Bubba” Smith wasn’t among them. A 6-foot-7, 280-pound defensive end, Smith overwhelmed and intimidated offenses during his three years playing for MSU. He was twice an All-American, beginning in 1965 when he helped MSU’s defense push Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame backwards — literally. All three teams compiled negative rushing yards and the Spartans led college football in rush defense, allowing less than 46 yards per game on the ground (34.6 in Big Ten games, which remains a conference record). Smith headlined the “Gang Green” defense, which allowed 6.2 points per game that season and 7.6 the next. By 1966, offenses either double- and triple-teamed Smith or fled, running away from him. Smith helped MSU to a 19-1-1 record in 1965 and ’66, resulting in back-to-back Big Ten titles and a host of national championships by different voting bodies. – Read more at

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