ALL-TIME W&M FOOTBALL TEAM: Defensive Backs

Magic Box

derek cox 2

Today, we publish our final selections for the greatest W&M football players of all time.

Last week, we released our list of W&M’s greatest Linebackers; this week, we turn our attention to the Safeties & Cornerbacks.

Check out the list, and let us know who we missed in the comments! Roll Tribe Roll.

SAFETIES

Mark Kelso (’85)

excerpts via W&M News (link)

He currently holds the 2nd-highest career interception total in William & Mary program history.

In 1983, his 141 tackles led the team and ranked #3 in school history for a single season total.

That same year, the one in which he notched 141 tackles, he also finished with 7 total interceptions. All this production, coming from the Safety position.

Outside of Darren Sharper (who we are not considering for this list), Mark Kelso might just be the greatest W&M Safety of all time.

Kelso graduated from the College and was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles to play free safety, but wound up spending his entire professional career in Buffalo.

One connection that Kelso shared with both the College and the Bills was his Head Coach while a player in Buffalo: Marv Levy.

Marv Levy guided the Bills from 1986 to 1997 and coached the Tribe from 1964 to 1968.

“Marv and I used to reminisce about Williamsburg all the time,” says Kelso. “He has a great affection for William & Mary…

We’d talk a lot about William & Mary especially on the sidelines during practice or during a light practice on a Friday afternoon.”

“The Tribe has a truly great tradition of athletics, and not just football,” said Kelso.

“You combine this with the quality of education and it’s an incredible value. Those kids should be recognized as the purest form of student-athlete.

You can go to William & Mary, play extremely competitive sports, and get an outstanding education.

Some can go on to play in the professional ranks, and some move onto coaching, obviously like (Pittsburgh’s) Mike (Tomlin ’95) and Alan Williams ’92 for the Colts and a bunch of other William & Mary guys.

In my estimation, you have to give a lot of credit to Coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 that William & Mary football is one of the top-ten programs in the country.”

After an 8-year NFL career and 30 total interceptions, all coming with the Buffalo Bills, it’s safe to say that Kelso has more than cemented his name in the football history books.

DeAndre Houston-Carson (’16)

excerpts via W&M News (link):

Houston-Carson’s career stats include 293 tackles, 10 interceptions and nine blocks.

Yes, you read that correctly: nine blocks. And by blocks, we mean blocked punts and kicks. DHC’s athleticism truly was off the charts, which led to this incredible feat.

Green and Gold fans often thought to themselves: “he can’t do it again…can he?” Well, he did it 9 times, so it’s safe to say that the first few times weren’t flukes!

A consensus Football Championship Subdivision first-team All-American, Houston-Carson effectively transitioned from an all-league cornerback to one of the country’s top free safeties his senior season.

That year, DHC finished as a First-Team All-CAA selection after leading the team in tackles (109) and ranking 1st in the CAA in tackles per game among DBs (8.4).

Additionally, he tied for 2nd in the CAA in interceptions (4) and interception return yards (124).

After concluding a prolific collegiate career with the Tribe in 2015, Houston-Carson participated in the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.

The Woodford, Virginia, native was named the Colonial Athletic Association co-Defensive Player of the Year and was one of three finalists for the Dudley Award, which honors the top football player in the state of Virginia each year.

CORNERBACKS

B.W. Webb (’13)

excerpts via W&M News (link):

Selected to the 2012 Buchanan Award Watch List, Webb earned a school-record 48 starts, finishing his career ranked on W&M’s top-10 interceptions (11 career INTs) and punt return yards (603) lists.

As a senior, the Newport News, Va., native earned All-America honors by the Associated Press, The Sports Network and Phil Steele.

Webb was one of the most-decorated players in Colonial Athletic Association history, with an insane nine postseason all-conference honors.

A first-team all-league selection during each of his final three seasons, Webb was chosen as the 2012 Special Teams Player of the Year by both the CAA and the Touchdown Club of Richmond.

As a senior, Webb totaled 46 tackles, broke up 8 pass attempts, recovered 2 fumbles, and forced a fumble.

Additionally, he averaged 11.2 yards per punt return while ranking 3rd in the conference with 123 punt return yards.

There really wasn’t anything Webb couldn’t do while donning the Green and Gold in Williamsburg.

Derek Cox

Derek Cox (’09)

excerpts via tribeathletics.com (link):

Derek Cox was a great athlete and leader for the Tribe football team, one of just 12 players in program history be elected as a team captain twice in his four years.

He earned third-team All-CAA honors as a cornerback in 2007, improving to second-team honors as a senior in 2008, and was also an outstanding punt returner.

His two punt returns for touchdowns in 2008 tied the Tribe’s single-season record, as did his two interception return touchdowns that same season.

Over his four seasons, Cox appeared in 43 of the team’s 44 games, totaling 173 tackles, 29 passes defended, 9 interceptions, and 33 punt returns for 332 yards.

After completing his eligibility, Cox turned his attention to professional football.

Despite not being invited to the NFL Combine, Cox turned heads at his individual workouts, and became a national name when Jacksonville selected him in the third round with the 73rd overall pick.

Cox is the second-highest drafted player in W&M history.

In his very first game, he intercepted NFL legend Peyton Manning, and eventually played for five different teams over a seven-year career.

In the NFL, Cox totaled 241 tackles, 39 pass deflections, and 13 interceptions, and was named an alternate for the 2010 Pro Bowl.

Ron Harrison

Ron Harrison (’98)

Sharper. Kelso. Harrison.

In W&M football’s 100+ years of existence, those three men have collected the most career interceptions for the Tribe.

Playing from 1994-1997, Harrison amassed 17 total interceptions — just 3 less than #2-ranked Mark Kelso.

An incredible athlete, Harrison not only got it done on the defensive side of the ball, but he also got it done on special teams.

Returning the ball, Harrison finished with 1,292 career kick return yards, placing him #6 on W&M’s all-time kickoff return yardage list.

And Harrison saved his best performance for last, when during his senior season he finished with 7 interceptions — just three shy of the all-time, single-season record.

When you think of the top-3 W&M cornerbacks of all time, be sure to include Ron Harrison as a member of that elite group.

Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce (’48)

excerpts via Peter Kalison ’57 (link) & The Daily Press (link):

Jack Bruce, “Jumping Jack,” was not only a terrific receiver, but one of W&M’s all-time defensive backs.

He had 15 interceptions during his career, 10 in 1947, including four in a game against Richmond.

Bruce was blessed with outstanding speed and game smarts.

W&M teammate Jack Cloud noted at a W&M football gathering, “Jack would pick you up all the time; if I was beaten or out of position there would come Jack to save you.”

Prior to enrolling at the College, Cloud graduated from Bloomfield High School and immediately enlisted in the Army Air Force.

While waiting for induction he entered W&M, having been recruited on a football scholarship.

He played one season before being called up in the Air Force. Stationed in Europe, he flew in B-17 bombers.

After his discharge in 1946 he returned to William and Mary where he starred on defense.

His record for the most interceptions in a season was not equaled for 50 years.

It was finally tied (by Darren Sharper in 1996), but has not yet been exceeded. His record for the most interceptions in a single game still stand (4).

As a member of the 1947 All Southern Conference championship team he held the record for the entire nation in interceptions.

After college he was drafted by two professional football teams, the New York Yankees and the New York Bulldogs.

He played one season of professional football before marrying his college sweetheart, Jean Miller Canoles, and moving to Virginia.

We salute you. A job well done, Mr. Bruce.

2 thoughts on “ALL-TIME W&M FOOTBALL TEAM: Defensive Backs

  1. Mark Kelso was such a class act and remains so to this day. Remember him starting first game as a true freshman at home against Miami (Ohio) in ’81, and never missed a game. Mark was tougher than a pine knot (as Bill Stewart used to say) on the field. He was a gentleman and terrific student off the field. We all looked up to Mark. Can’t think of anyone who better exemplified what it meant to be a W&M Student/Athlete.

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