All-Time W&M Football Team: RBs & FB

W&M in the 1940s — easily, the program’s greatest era. (photo: 1947, via W&M Magazine)

It was the year 1893. William & Mary had already existed for exactly 200 years.

What better way was there to celebrate a bicentennial than to create a football program?! That’s just what W&M did in 1893.

Now, over 100 years into its existence, William & Mary football has churned out countless all-time great players. Up to this point, none have dared gather a list as comprehensive as the one we plan on rolling out over the next several weeks.

After a mind-numbing amount of research in the W&M archives, reading countless articles, analyzing player awards, taking in team history, and even connecting with older alums — we’ve done it all.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Peter M. Kalison (W&M ’57), who time after time, has written absolutely incredible articles on historic W&M teams of the past.

Kalison is, without a doubt, the undisputed historian of Tribe football.

Whenever possible, we have incorporated his analysis, as well as other sources, into this new content series.

Expect other all-time position lists to be announced in the weeks to come! Roll Tribe Roll.

Running Backs

Jonathan Grimes (’12)

excerpt via Peter Kalison ’57 (link):

The first phrase that comes mind when reflecting on Jonathan Grimes is “complete football player.” The 5-10, 201-pound running machine out of Palmyra, N.J., played all-out every play during his remarkable four-year career.

Coach Laycock once said, “He runs every play, whether in practice or in a game, at maximum effort … I have to slow him down in practice.”

He saw action in every game the Tribe played from his true freshman season (2008) through his senior year (2011).

By his senior year, injuries and youth at quarterback meant that opposing defenses knew he was going to get the ball and massed to stop him — yet he had his greatest season.

He holds almost every Tribe running record. Among these are total all-purpose yards (7,955); rushing yards (4,541 total and 1,431 for one season).

He had 17 100-yard-plus games, scored 34 touchdowns rushing, and ran back kickoffs for a record 2,209 yards.

Grimes was a sure-handed pass receiver (236 receptions for 1,125 yards) and a solid blocker out of the backfield.

He shed tacklers with both power and agility, seemingly always falling forward after contact.

Against Old Dominion University in 2011, he had 331 all-purpose yards and owns three of the top five all-purpose yardage games in school history.

In the 2009 NCAA playoff game win at Southern Illinois, he dominated the game with three touchdowns and led the 2010 team to the CAA Championship.

In his final college game at Richmond, he scored two touchdowns, ran for 207 yards and carried the ball six times on the final, game-winning, drive.

He ended his career as the most decorated player in school history, as he was named to a league record 11 all-conference honors, including being a three-time first team selection at running back and the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

jack cloud

Jack Cloud (’50)

excerpt via Peter Kalison ’57 (link):

One of the most famous W&M players ever, Jack Cloud was the big star on teams filled with stars. At 5-10, 215 pounds, with wide, powerful legs, he was a bulldozer at fullback [in today’s terms: a power running back], difficult to tackle.

Less well known is that Cloud was a very good defensive back and deadly tackler.

He played for great W&M teams that won a Southern Conference championship in 1947, went to two bowl games — including a 21-0 pasting of Oklahoma State in the 1949 Delta Bowl – and had a record of 30-10-2.

He appeared on the cover of the 1948 Street & Smith Football Annual, and his photo appeared from coast to coast as his fame spread.

He earned a pair of first-team All-American honors and was a three-time first-team All-Southern Conference selection.

He scored 45 touchdowns, a record 17 in one season (1947), and had 270 career points. He gained 2,045 rushing yards in just three seasons, as a knee injury slowed him in 1949.

Tom Mikula, who was a blocking back for Cloud remembers that, “Jack would run right over me if I got slowed down and was in his way.”

Cloud was elected to the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and also to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Robert Green (’92)

excerpt via Peter Kalison ’57 (link):

At 5-8, 201 pounds, Robert Green was all toughness in starring for teams that went 29-16-1, reached the playoffs twice and went to The Japan Bowl. Robert bounced off defenders and was a ferocious blocker.

A good pass receiver, Green piled up more than 500 yards in that area. The third-team All-American scored a record 19 touchdowns in 1990, rushed for a then single-season record of 1,408 yards in 1990, and ended his career with a then-record 3,543 yards.

Space limits listing his magnificent games. In 1991, his twisting 79-yard touchdown run was the winning score in a 26-21 victory at Navy.

In a 59-47 Oyster Bowl shootout win over VMI, Robert ran for three touchdowns and piled up 163 rushing yards, and his three touchdowns and 147 yards were the difference in a tight 41-37 win at Lehigh.

In a loss at powerful Georgia in 1988, Green starred with 76 yards rushing and 87 receiving yards against the third-ranked Bulldogs.

He scored four touchdowns and ran for 140 yards in a 1991 game against Boston University.

When it came to toughness, durability and the ability to shine in big games there have been few who can match Robert Green.


Stud Johnson (’42)

excerpt via Peter Kalison ’57 (link):

Recruited by coach Carl Voyles in 1939, big things were expected for Johnson. At 5-11, 212 pounds, with good speed and tremendous leg power, Johnson was a prototype fullback and linebacker who also was an excellent clutch field-goal kicker.

Nicknamed “Stud” by his teammates, his three years at W&M produced a 23-5-2 record.

Johnson’s field-goal kicking won games over Eastern powers Navy and Dartmouth, both by 3-0.

He scored both touchdowns in a 13-6 win over Bill Dudley-led UVA. He was the leading rusher in almost every game and on defense an aggressive back supporting W&M’s great defensive line.

He was especially effective rushing the ball against state opponents, scoring a dozen touchdowns in leading the Big Green (as they were called for their unique all-green uniforms) to 17 wins and no defeats (with one tie) against state teams.

After his last game, he played in both the North-South and NFL-College All-Star games, the first W&M player ever to be invited.

Named to All-Southern Conference teams in 1941 and 1942, Johnson joined the Navy after graduation. Later, he enjoyed a long career playing and coaching pro football, mainly with the Buffalo Bills.

14 thoughts on “All-Time W&M Football Team: RBs & FB


  2. A very good list, 3 of the very best football players to ever wear the Green and Gold! There were quite a few great candidates to choose from which says a lot for W&M’s history of producing incredible talent at the rubbing back position!

  3. Larry “Bam” Black definitely belongs on the list as a fullback. He did not get to run the ball all that much, but he was a classic blocking fullback who cleared the way for Michael Clemons running for over 1,000 yards in 1986. More important, he had integrity and character; a true mentor.

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