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The Wall of Excellence, Class of 2010: Vote #4

As we continue to try to switch gears from basketball season to football season (it's been difficult, considering all the recent basketball news), we now switch from our basketball hall of fame of sorts (The Rafters) to the second class of our Football hall, The Wall of Excellence.

Tuesday: Tier I (pre-1950s)
Wednesday: Tier II (1950s-1960s)
Thursday: Tier III (1970s-1980s)

In the 1990s, Mizzou took a couple of false starts before finally (and briefly) emerging from the crater created by the late-1980s.  They unveiled a fun-and-gun offense when Bob Stull came to town, and it resulted in yards galore (and two Wall nominees) but few wins.  Stull left, and they brought in Larry Smith for three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust and a handful of strong Wall candidates.

Below are your seven 1990s nominees

Victor Bailey

Victor Bailey was to Bob Stull's wide-open offense what Jeremy Maclin was to Gary Pinkel's.  After a decent couple of seasons in 1990-91, in which he put together 53 catches for 934 yards as a sporadic big-play threat for Stull's run-and-shoot, Bailey had a historic 1992 season.  It started with seven catches for 168 yards against Indiana, then 8-for-134 against Marshall.  He then put up 100 yards in four Big 8 games -- 11-for-156 vs Oklahoma State, 8-for-159 vs #8 Nebraska, 10-for-146 vs Oklahoma, and an amazing 12-for-179 in an upset win over #20 Kansas.  Bailey finished his career with 128 catches, 2,144 yards, and 12 touchdowns, and in his last two battles with Kansas, he posted a combined 19 catches and 303 yards.  And he did this with no rushing threat whatsoever to take pressure off of him.  Bailey was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he had a really strong rookie season.

Demontie Cross

From RMN's Mizzou 25 Bio: When I came to school in '97, Demontie Cross, the 6'4, 210 transfer from St. Louis (via Univ. of Illinois) had already gone from human being to myth.  To listen to the stories, he prevented 150 TDs by himself (hell, the numbers almost back that up) while playing with two separated shoulders, one kneecap, a broken ankle, and both a sports hernia and a regular hernia (whatever the difference is).  He'd crush somebody, somehow drag himself to his feet, then do it again.

How hard did Demontie hit?  Try 9 forced fumbles in his last 22 games as a Tiger.  How well did he tackle?  Not only did he become Mizzou's all-time leading tackler in just three seasons, but he also had 249 solo tackles!  He was the last person standing between opponents and the endzone so often, and his heroic efforts allowed hope for the future to build as young offensive players like Corby Jones and Brock Olivo and Devin West developed.

I talk a lot on RMN about Success Rates and stats like that, but the definitive proof that I don't yet know what I'm talking about when it comes to defensive stats is that I'm pretty sure Demontie Cross wouldn't have scored very well when it came to Success Rates.  If there were a TDs Saved category, however...Cross would be #1 all-time.  And if ever there were a Tiger who deserved more team success than he got, it was Demontie.

Jeff Handy

Who was throwing all those passes to Victor Bailey in 1992?  This guy.  With little running game and less defense, Handy tried to lead Mizzou to victory with nothing but his right arm and a couple of speedy receivers.  It didn't work out to well, but that was the fault of talent and circumstance, not Handy.

From RMN's Mizzou 25 Bio: A product of Blue Springs High School, Handy came around about 15 years too early.  If Handy would have had the weapons (and defense) of the current Tigers, he'd have been a household name.  Even with limited resources, though, Handy left school with 25 school passing records.

Corby Jones

All I have to hear is the word "Corby," and I think of him diving backwards across the endzone against NU in 1997.

And then I think of everything else that happened that evening.  Mixed bag.

Hall of Fame Bio: One of the most dynamic quarterbacks to every play for Mizzou, a true run-pass threat who will always be remembered for leading MU to bowl games (1997 Holiday and 1998 for the first time since 1983 ... Led MU to a 34-31 victory over West Virginia in the 1998 Bowl, which marked Mizzou's first bowl win since 1981, as he rushed for three touchdowns and threw for 130 yards in the contest ... Is the only player in school history to rank in the top-10 in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring ... Holds the school career records in points (228) and touchdowns (38), and also ranks 3rd in total offense (6,230 yards), 4th in rushing (2,533), 5th in passing (3,697 yards) and 5th in passing efficiency (119.6 rating) ... Was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate entering his senior season, but his statistics were hampered quite a bit due to a lingering toe injury that limited his mobility ... Also played his senior year after the tragic death of his father, Curtis, a Tiger assistant coach who died suddenly of a heart attack prior to the season ... Still earned 2nd-Team All-Big 12 honors as a senior in 1998, despite the injury, as he passed for 1,281 yards and rushed for 536 with a team-high 20 touchdowns (11 rushing, nine passing) ... Was named a 1st-Team All-Big 12 quarterback as a junior in 1997, after setting a school record at the time with 2,545 yards of total offense (1,658 passing, 887 rushing), and adding 26 touchdowns (14 rushing, 12 passing) ... A true scholar-athlete in the finest sense of the term, who was one of 17 people to receive the prestigious National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award in 1998 ... Is also one of only 10 Tigers to earn 1st-Team Academic All-Conference honors three times ... Also was named a GTE District VII Academic All-American as a senior ... Played in the Hula Bowl all-star game following his senior season, and played professionally with Montreal of the CFL and St. Louis in an indoor league before returning to MU to complete his law degree.

Brock Olivo

One of the most strangely controversial Tigers in recent history -- controversial primarily because of his place on the real wall of retired numbers, but also because of his strange congressional candidacy a few years ago -- Olivo was also the most hard-working. Bio: There aren't many instances in the game of football these days when a team's starting tailback is allowed to participate on special teams, let alone volunteers for such duties.

The story of former Mizzou running back Brock Olivo, however, is one of those instances. Olivo, whose number 27 will be retired this afternoon during the Tigers' home opener against Eastern Illinois, was known not only for his prowess on the offensive side of the ball, but also for his diligence to all aspects of the Tigers' special teams unit.

In 1997, his senior year, the Washington, Mo., native was named the first-ever recipient of the Mosi Tatupu Special Teams Player of the Year Award, becoming the first Mizzou football player to ever earn a national honor. Olivo, who recorded nine special teams tackles in addition to his blocking duties on the return teams, harbors a sense of disbelief at being the first Tiger to receive such recognition.

"Whoever was selecting national awards over the years must have been looking at a map that didn't include the state of Missouri. I guess they must have updated it in '97," he says.

While Olivo rose to prominence with his special teams accomplishments in the '97 season, it was also a milestone year for the senior in his role as Mizzou's starting tailback.

By the end of the year, Olivo's name stood at the top of the Tigers' all-time career lists for most rushing yards (3,026), rushing touchdowns (27), and all-purpose yards (3,475).

Justin Smith

If Olivo wasn't the most hard-working, Justin Smith was.  With less help every year, Godzilla racked 259 tackles in three seasons (as a defensive end!) despite plays being run primarily away from him.  He began his career by starting every game on Mizzou's 8-4 squad in 1998, and he racked up 22.5 sacks, including 11 in his junior year alone (he also had 24 tackles for loss that season).  With little help each progressing year, Smith just got better, ending his career in 2000 as a first-team All-American.  His size-and-speed combination was something to which Aldon Smith needs to aspire on a daily basis.  In his early days, Larry Smith likened him to Junior Seau, and the Cincinnati Bengals basically did the same, drafting him fourth overall in the 2001 draft, the last Mizzou player to be drafted in the top five.

Devin West

Hall of Fame Bio: A silky-smooth and deceptively fast tailback who became one of Mizzou's alltime bests in the backfield, and helped lead MU football back to the winners circle ... A native of Moberly, Mo. who ended his career ranking No. 2 on the alltime school career rushing chart, with 2,954 yards (ranked No. 3 at the beginning of the 2004 season) ... If bowl stats were counted in career totals when he played, he would have left as MU's career leader in the category (had 229 yards in two bowl games combined) ... Ranks as MU's alltime leader for all-purpose yards in a career (2,824), season (1,621 in 1998) and game (333 vs. Kansas in 1998) ... His 108 points scored in 1998 ranks 3rd on the MU single-season scoring list, and his career total of 174 points ranks as 8th-best in school history ... Was named a 1st-Team All-American at tailback (Football News, The Sporting News) as a senior in 1998, and helped lead Mizzou to an 8-4 season and a win over West Virginia in the Bowl - MU's first bowl win since 1981 ... Rushed for 125 yards in the bowl victory ... Ended MU's 12-year All-American drought, as he became the first All-American since John Clay in 1986 ... He was also the first Tiger running back to be named All-American since Bob Steuber in 1942 ... Ranked 5th in the nation in rushing in 1998, with an MU single-season record 1,578 yards and 17 TDs ... His 18 total TDs stood as the single-season record until 2003 ... Holds two of the top three single-game rushing marks in school history ... Shattered the record with a 319-yard, 2-TD outing against Kansas in 1998, and later added a 252-yard game at Iowa State, which is currently the No. 3 mark ... Was a semi-finalist for the prestigious Doak Walker Award in 1998, and played in the Senior Bowl following his senior season.