Courtesy photo / University of Colorado Athletics
Two legendary Colorado teammates and a current Buffaloes assistant coach are in line for a prestigious honor.
Receiver Michael Westbrook and the late Rashaan Salaam are on the ballot for the 2019 class of the College Football Hall of Fame, along with CU cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose. The list was announced Monday morning by the Hall of Fame and the National Football Foundation.
“It’s an enormous honor to just be on the ballot when you think that more than 5.26 million people have played college football and only 997 players have been inducted,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell, who was inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame last November.
“The Hall’s requirement of being a First-Team All-American creates a much smaller pool of about 1,500 individuals who are even eligible. Being in today’s elite group means an individual is truly among the greatest to have ever played the game, and those actually elected to the class will be part of a momentous year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football in 2019.”
Salaam is the only Heisman Trophy winner from a Colorado school, having won the award after a sensational season in 1994. That year, he rushed for a school-record 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns. He led the nation in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards.
In addition to the Heisman, Salaam won the Doak Walker and Walter Camp Player of the Year awards. He ranks fourth in CU history with 3,067 career rushing yards from 1992-94.
Salaam, who took his own life on Dec. 5, 2016, was posthumously honored last fall by having his jersey retired by CU, and earlier this year with induction into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Westbrook starred for the Buffaloes from 1991-94 and left CU as the program’s all-time leader in receptions (167), receiving yards (2,548) and receiving touchdowns (21). He still ranks among the top four in all those categories.
Westbrook was a consensus first-team All-American in 1994 and was on the receiving end of one of the great finishes in college football history, hauling in a 64-yard touchdown pass from Kordell Stewart as time expired to win at Michigan, 27-26, on Sept. 24, 1994.
A 2016 inductee into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame, Westbrook was first or second on the team in receiving in all four of his seasons with the Buffs, and he owns one of only nine 1,000-yard seasons in school history.
In their three years together, from 1992-94, Salaam and Westbrook helped the Buffaloes go 28-6-2 with two bowl game victories. CU finished in the top 16 of the national polls in each of those seasons, including a No. 3 finish in 1994.
During the 1995 NFL draft, Westbrook was selected No. 4 overall by the Washington Redskins and Salaam was the No. 21 choice, by the Chicago Bears.
Ambrose, who starred at Mississippi Valley State, was hired by the Buffs on Jan. 18 to coach the cornerbacks. He also previous worked on the CU staff from 2008-10.
At MVSU, a Division I-AA (now FCS) school, Ambrose was a first-team All-American and first-team All-SWAC selection in 1991. He was the SWAC defensive back and return specialist of the year that season.
Ambrose led I-AA in punt returns as a senior and was the first selection in the second round (No. 29 overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft, by the Indianapolis Colts.
The ballot for the 2019 class includes 76 players and six coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and 100 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks. The class of inductees will be announced on Jan. 7, 2019.
Other notables on the ballot include former Denver Broncos stars Ed McCaffrey (Stanford), Jake Plummer (Arizona State) and Al Wilson (Tennessee).
College and NFL greats Eric Dickerson (SMU), Tony Gonzalez (Cal), Marvin Harrison (Syracuse), Raghib “Rocket” Ismail (Notre Dame), Ray Lewis (Miami), Troy Polamalu (USC) and Vince Young (Texas) are also on the ballot.
Eight former Buffs are currently enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame: Byron “Whizzer” White (class of 1952), Joe Romig (1984), Dick Anderson (1993), Bobby Anderson (2006), Alfred Williams (2010), John Wooten (2012), Herb Orvis (2016) and coach Bill McCartney (2013).