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Ranking the 10 Best Fictional Football Players

Rod Tidwell (Getty Images)
Rod Tidwell (Getty Images)

It’s the dead of the offseason, and so on the latest Ringer NFL Podcast Robert Mays and longtime friend Ryan Ostrander counted down the 10 best fictional football players of all time. Included on the list are luminaries like Billy Bob, Rod Tidwell, and Vince Howard.

For the full rankings, check out the podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Billy Bob (‘Varsity Blues’)

Robert Mays: No. 8 for me is Billy Bob from Varsity Blues.

Ryan Ostrander: I had Billy Bob at no. 9, so we’re right on the same page.

R.M.: I think I had to have a lineman on my list in order to make it my list. And he played guard. [But] it’s more than that. Even though he got Lance Harbor’s knee destroyed and eventually ruined whatever Lance Harbor’s future was, I still feel his overall contributions to the West Canaan Coyotes were just more than you’d get from a lineman for the most part.

R.O.: And he did this with severe concussion issues.

R.M.: Him playing through that is outdated and a problem. We shouldn’t make light of that.

… You saw that first touchdown that Lance Harbor, where he rolls out, Billy Bob is the lead blocker there.

R.O.: He had mobility.

R.M.: I mean he just runs over people. And being able to move when you’re that big, it’s impressive.

R.O.: A little Chance Warmack-y maybe.

R.M.: Yeah, Chance Warmack in college, not the pros. But, a bigger guy that can really get around. There was a Marshal Yanda-esque, just level of destruction to a couple of those blocks, just tearing people up as you move. And I can’t remember a lineman that the coach cared about more than Coach Kilmer seemed to about Billy Bob.

R.O.: He called him William Roberts.

R.M.: Yes, I mean obviously a centerpiece of their offense, you just don’t see that with linemen that often.

R.O.: We’ve not mentioned the fact that Billy Bob scored the district championship–winning touchdown.

R.M.: That’s a really good point. There was his value as a receiver, and he’s also the only reason they were in the game, ’cause they had the blocked punt. He destroyed two guys and Tweeter blocked it.

R.O.: It’s controversial, though, because I believe Billy Bob was a right guard so I’m not sure how he was eligible on that play. It’s possible that they got that district championship by nefarious means.

Rod Tidwell (‘Jerry Maguire’)

R.M.: The misjudgment of Rod Tidwell is 100 percent from Arizona Cardinals management. Jerry Maguire at the draft, as he’s acting as Rod’s agent, is going around to people and when they meet Mel Kiper, [Jerry] says, “You know, I believe you know Rod Tidwell. Last year, 110 catches, 1,550 yards.”

R.O.: That’s easy.

R.M.: That is one of the best seasons in NFL history.

R.O.: I believe, though, that was in 1995, a season in which receiver numbers were historically inflated.

R.M.: Whatever. Rod Tidwell, in the ’90s, to get 110 catches and 1,500 yards is a historically great year … The [Cardinals] GM says, “I want a prototypical receiver, Jerry. I want 6-foot-3, 220.” I understand that, but that’s also a backward way of thinking. Look at what Antonio Brown is. And I don’t think they’re necessarily similar players. I think that Tidwell is kind of a 5-foot-10 Anquan Boldin.

I think all the stats and just watching the type of game he can play, finding seams in the zones at that level with a team that obviously wasn’t that good, it’s impressive to me.

R.O.: Are you going to be telling your grandkids about seeing Rod Tidwell play? Because I’m not.

R.M.: I will tell my grandkids about seeing Anquan Boldin play, and I think that Rod Tidwell’s an Anquan Boldin-esque player.

R.O.: Anquan Boldin broke his face and then played a game.

R.M.: That’s the type of player Rod Tidwell is!

R.O.: Rod Tidwell had a minor boo-boo on his neck and he gallivanted around the stadium like a maniac.

Boobie Miles (‘Friday Night Lights’)

R.O.: No. 7, Boobie Miles, the fictional [movie] version, running back, Odessa Permian High School.

R.M.: All right, so lay out your Boobie argument for me.

R.O.: When he gets hurt with the catastrophic knee injury, the lead is … 42–7, the Panthers are in the lead.

Boobie has accounted for at least five of those six touchdowns. He had five touchdown runs, all of them were at least 40 yards. He threw a pass, which looked to be about a 30- or 40-yard completion. And it wasn’t just the stats, it was the way he did it. Acceleration, vicious spin move, he showed power, he ran with a reckless abandon. I mean, I imagine this was like a Gale Sayers sort of situation, where we have a small sample, but what he was was spectacular.

R.M.: Like watching a Reggie Bush in high school?

R.O.: Exactly.

R.M.: You make a good point. And I really shouldn’t ding him for the sample size in the way that I didn’t ding [Jason] Street, but I just felt like overall, the things that were said about Street, make him more impressive.

Spike Hammersmith (‘Little Giants’)

R.M.: So you had Spike at five? What is your rationale there?

R.O.: All right. There’s two halves of that game, right? Half one, Spike scores three touchdowns.

R.M.: He’s a monster in that first half!

R.O.: Two of them long runs, the other, a punt that was blocked that he recovered. Plays middle linebacker in that game. He’s on the kickoff team. But you almost have to look at what Spike could be, right? The second half, he got fatigued, I admit that. The second half, some weird stuff happened, man. But, here’s what we know about Spike. He’s, I believe 10 years old, I think is their age in this movie. Don’t quote me on that.

R.M.: He looks like he’s 40, though. I mean, he’s so much bigger. It’s like LeBron playing running back when you look at his size compared to the other kids in the game.

R.O.: But, quotes from his father, he won the 8-year-old division of the punt, pass, and run competition at the age of 5.

R.M.: He’s a phenomenal talent.

R.O.: He carried a refrigerator on his back out of the moving truck. His father “massages” his hamstring every night with evaporated milk.

R.M.: Aren’t you worried, though, that there’s a bit of a Todd Marinovich situation going on with Spike?

R.O.: Yeah, I mean I think that’s the concern.

R.M.: But Todd was a fantastic high school quarterback. He had a lot of success, just not at the highest level.

Vince Howard (‘Friday Night Lights’)

R.O.: No. 2 for me, no. 3 for you. Is he our favorite character on this list?

R.M.: He’s my favorite Friday Night Lights character.

R.O.: And he had, probably what we would say is the definitive Friday Night Lights moment, right?

R.M.: It’s my favorite Friday Night Lights moment.

R.O.: As it is mine.

R.M.: They go in to avenge their Calvin, and they’re driving under the overpass and they’re stopping, and he’s explaining how they’re going to kill this guy.

R.O.: And he’s indebted to them, I believe because they lent him money so his mom could go to rehab.

R.M.: Yes, so they’re explaining how this is going to go down, and he slams the door, walks around the car, and the guy tells him to come back, and he looks at him and says, “My mama isn’t going to bury me. I’m going to bury my mama.” That is the moment when I knew Michael B. Jordan was a star. … That moment where Michael B. Jordan does that, it was very clear he was going to be something eventually. And overall, the acting in that series over two seasons is fucking ridiculous.

R.O.: You know how that episode ended? Tim Riggins is on his land that he’s purchased, talking about how he’s finally happy, and his friend, Becky, tells him she loves him. Cut to Jess, who was at that time dating Landry Clarke, trying to stop Vince from going to this incident with the gun. Vince says, “I’m a monster, that’s exactly what I am. I’m a monster. I’m that guy.” Now cut to, Tim Riggins in the chop shop getting arrested. Cut to the scene you just described with Vince. That’s as good of a moment as any TV show has ever had.