Today, we continue compiling our list of the greatest W&M football players of all time.
Last week, we released our list of W&M’s greatest Defensive Linemen; this week, we turn our attention to the Linebackers.
Check out the list, and let us know who we missed in the comments! Roll Tribe Roll.
Dave Pocta (’87)
A model of consistency. The all-time leading tackler in William & Mary history.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you perhaps the greatest linebacker in Tribe history: Dave Pocta.
His senior year alone, Pocta finished with 244 tackles. That’s good enough for the most tackles any Tribe player has ever had in a single season.
In fact, his 244 tackles are 54 more than the #2 single season tackle record (190). Guess who owns that record?
That’s right, Dave Pocta — who recorded 190 tackles the year before his 244 campaign.
Playing throughout the 1980s, the 6’2″ 225 pounder starred alongside other Tribe greats such as Mark Kelso, Archie Harris, Michael Clemons, and Stan Yagiello.
In fact, between 1983-86, W&M posted a winning record of 28-17 under Head Coach Jimmye Laycock — the first winning stretch of this kind since the outstanding W&M teams of the 1940s.
During that era, no one was better at putting opposing players on the turf than Dave Pocta, the #1 tackler in William & Mary Tribe history.
Tommy Thompson (’48)
excerpt via Peter Kalison ’57 (link):
The 6-2, 215-pound dynamo and 60-minute-a-game anchor of some of W&M’s greatest teams of the mid-40’s on both offense and defense, Thompson called offensive and defensive signals on star-laden Indian teams that went 24-6-2 against some of the nation’s best teams.
The Woodbridge, NJ, native was referred to by the late coach Eric Tipton, as “the heart of the team, the leader who played every play like it was his last.”
A third-team Associated Press All-American in 1948, he was also first-team All-Southern Conference twice, and three times first team All-State.
Thompson played in the 1949 College-NFL All-Star game in Chicago.
He was named player of the week five times by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and his play in a famous 7-7 tie with the Charlie Justice-led #2 North Carolina Tar Heels led to his being named co-National Player of the Week along with W&M end Lou Hoitsma.
Thompson was not just remarkably fast and strong, but played with an intensity and rugged style that was striking.
W&M Coach Rube McCray would sometimes hold him out of some practice scrimmages to avoid injury, to himself and others.
Luke Rhodes (’16)
excerpts via W&M News (link):
One of the nation’s elite linebackers, Rhodes finished his career as a 3-time, first-team, All-CAA selection and the lone Football Championship Subdivision player selected to the 2015 Butkus Award Watch List.
In addition to earning 45 career starts, Rhodes finished his collegiate career with 341 tackles, which ranks fifth on W&M’s all-time list.
In addition to excelling against FCS competition, Rhodes performed extremely well versus Football Bowl Subdivision opponents during his career, averaging 8.5 tackles per game with 2.5 TFL and a forced fumble in contests against Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Maryland.
Additionally, he is one of just 11 Tribe players to be named a two-time team captain in the program’s 122-year history.
With leadership skills and physical ability off the charts, it’s no wonder that Rhodes successfully launched a career as the long-term Long Snapper/special teams player on the Indianapolis Colts.
Representing the “new age” Long Snapper — one that can both snap, get down the field, and make a play — Rhodes is looking at a long career in the NFL.
6 thoughts on “ALL-TIME W&M FOOTBALL TEAM: LINEBACKERS”
Congrats Dave “Rock” Pocta! Note – Poc broke his ankle in practice the week before playing Richmond his Junior year…otherwise, he would have had two 200+ tackle seasons. There were a slew of terrific linebackers back in those days – Jimmy McHeffey, Karl Wernecke, Kerry Gray…these guys were truly badass individuals and Dave Pocta led the way. GO TRIBE!
Any idea why Dave didn’t go to the NFL? Did he get a look and it didn’t pan out? Injury? His stats were unreal.
Got this text from Dave – “Zero looks (from NFL) – Too slow – did get a tryout with arena football team in DC. had to play Dline against X-NFL o-lineman. Needless to say my skills did not fit the arena game.”
Dave may not have had a flashy time in the 40, but his instincts were off the charts and he covered the field well even against the D1 teams we played at Penn State, Va Tech, Wake Forest, etc.
Wow — but his instincts were off the chart. 244 tackles in a single season?!
Too great ones to contain on a list like this, without doing injustice to those left off the list. For me, Dave Pocta, Kerry Grey, and Dave Wiley were just some of the guys who stood out — from my time — as belonging on the list.