CU Buffs legend Rashaan Salaam elected to College Football Hall of Fame

Former Denver Broncos star Champ Bailey also among 2022 class

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Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Former Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam was the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner and a unanimous first-team All-American that season, when he rushed for 2,055 yards.

Rashaan Salaam didn’t like the spotlight shining on him when he played football at Colorado.

He was proud, however, when he joined an exclusive club in winning the Heisman Trophy after his junior season in 1994.

“It put me on a level that’s so big,” Salaam said in an interview with BuffZone in 2014. “I love it. I enjoy it. It feels good when I think about it.”

On Monday, the late Salaam joined another exclusive club.

Although it was reported last week, Salaam was officially announced Monday as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame Class for 2022.

“Rashaan was an imposing young player who had a great work ethic,” current CU head coach Karl Dorrell, who was the Buffs’ receivers coach during two of Salaam’s seasons in Boulder, said in a press release from CU. “We knew as a staff that he was going to be a special talent with great size, power and speed.  He earned the respect of his teammates quickly because of his infectious personality, his competitive spirit, and his love for CU.”

The National Football Foundation announced the 2022 class, which includes 18 players and three coaches. The 2022 class will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame during a 64th annual NFF Awards Dinner on Dec. 6.

Denver Broncos great Champ Bailey, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, will also be a part of the class. Bailey starred at Georgia from 1996-98.

Others to be honored include LaVar Arrington (Penn State, 1997-99); Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech, 2007-08); Sylvester Croom (Alabama, 1972-74); Mike Doss (Ohio State, 1999-2002); Chuck Ealey (Toledo, 1969-71); Kevin Faulk (LSU, 1995-98); Moe Gardner (Illinois, 1987-90); Boomer Grigsby (Illinois State, 2001-04); Mike Hass (Oregon State, 2002-05); Marvin Jones (Florida State, 1990-92); Andrew Luck (Stanford, 2009-11); Mark Messner (Michigan, 1985-88); Terry Miller (Oklahoma State, 1974-77); Dennis Thomas (Alcorn State, 1971-73); Zach Wiegert (Nebraska, 1991-94); and Roy Williams (Oklahoma, 1999-2001).

In addition, three coaches were named to the class: John Luckhardt from Washington & Jefferson (1982-98) and California, Penn. (2002-11); Billy Jack Murphy from Memphis (1958-71); and Gary Pinkley from Toledo (1991-2000) and Missouri (2001-15).

Salaam, who took his own life on Dec. 5, 2016, at the age of 42, will be the ninth player in CU history to earn induction to the College Football Hall of Fame, along with legendary coach Bill McCartney.

Brian Howell / BuffZone.com
Khalada Salaam-Alaji, right, admires the painting of her late son, former Colorado star Rashaan Salaam, prior to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame banquet at the Hilton Denver City Center in 2018. Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“I wish Rashaan was still here so that he could use this wonderful recognition to support mental and physical health issues,” his mother, Khalada Salaam-Alaji, said in CU’s press release. “His going into the College Hall of Fame is a good thing, but there is so much serious social work that has to be done on this side for our children and this planet. If Rashaan was here, I think he would enjoy this honor and celebration of him being inducted into the National Football College Football of Fame.”

Salaam’s former teammate, receiver Michael Westbrook, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last month as part of the 2020 class.

“It was an honor for me to make it, and now for a teammate I used to block for, bleed and cry with in the trenches together to get in is really something special,” Westbrook said in CU’s press release.

Bobby Anderson (1967-69), Dick Anderson (1965-67), Herb Orvis (1969-71), Joe Romig (1959-61), Byron White (1935-37), Alfred Williams (1987-90) and John Wooten (1956-58) are also enshrined, along with McCartney, who coached at CU from 1982-94.

Salaam played at CU from 1992-94 and won the school’s only Heisman Trophy, in 1994, after he rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns during the regular season. He became just the fourth player in college football history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. In addition to his 2,055 yards during the regular season, he added 83 yards and three touchdowns in a Fiesta Bowl victory against Notre Dame. CU finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in the country that season.

The fifth unanimous All-American in CU history, Salaam won the Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Trophy in 1994, as well. He earned first-team All-Big Eight in 1993 and 1994.

“It was a great year,” Salaam told BuffZone in 2014. “I played with some great players, played for a legendary coach, a Hall of Fame coach. It was a special time in Colorado. Football was king in the town, we had some exciting games. It was a very exciting college football experience that I had.”

Courtesy photo / University of Colorado Athletics
Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam poses with his Heisman Trophy after winning the award in 1994.

Recruited by McCartney out of Ja Jolla Country Day school in San Diego, Salaam ran for 3,057 yards and 33 touchdowns during his three-year career, while adding 38 catches for 412 yards. Salaam ranks fourth in CU history in career rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns.

“When he was first recruited, he was a dynamo,” McCartney told BuffZone in 2018. “He had a bounce in his step and a fire in his belly. He was just one of those guys that wasn’t just athletic, but he was very competitive.”

Salaam skipped his senior year at CU to enter the 1995 NFL Draft. He was selected in the first round (21st overall) by the Chicago Bears and rushed for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie. He finished his NFL career with 1,684 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

Salaam was inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 and had his No. 19 jersey retired by the school in 2017. In 2018, he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.

“He was a difference-maker,” McCartney said. “When you get him, you got something and everybody knew it. There was never any question that he was going to distinguish himself.”