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Big Ten countdown ...

February 15, 2011 - Neil Rudel
The "Big Ten icons" is winding to a close, and it's been extremely well done.

Then again, I love sports history -- even if it's not narrated by Keith Jackson.

The network has truly hit a home run with an ESPNish effort of the top 50 athletes in Big Ten history, and it's now down to its final two.

My guess is it will be Red Grange and Magic Johnson, probably in that order.

Magic may be No. 1, except that he only played two years at Michigan State before turning pro after his sophomore season, when he led the Spartans to the national championship over Indiana State and Larry Bird.

Then again, how many others on the list are recognized by only one name -- Magic?

Grange was an iconic running back at Illinois -- one of the first true great football players -- and has yet to surface among the top 48.

I originally thought Ohio State legend Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, would be No. 1, but apparently not: He's fourth.

The league has been very fair to Penn State, including John Cappelletti (No. 16), Jack Ham (No. 22), Curt Warner (No. 42), LaVar Arrington (No. 46) and Megan Hodge (No. 49). Of those five, only Arrington and Hodge played in the Big Ten.

In another note of semi-local interest, Michigan State legendary defensive end Bubba Smith was ranked No. 26. You'd think he'd have been higher than that just for chasing down Mike Irwin in the 1965 opener at Beaver Stadium.

Oh yeah, as Mike, my fellow NitWit, has always maintained, "he had the angle!"

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