Earlier this month, ESPN put out a list and that’s all you need to know to predict that there was some controversy. That’s what lists are there for, to make you disagree and inspire social engagement.
This list was to celebrate 20 years of ESPN the Magazine (who knew?) and it was of the 20 most dominant athletes of the last 20 years. It wasn’t a very well thought out list in that it had Peyton Manning at No. 3 and Tom Brady at 20 and excluded Michael Phelps, had Serena Williams way too low and included two athletes I have never heard of.
But it accomplished its goal in that it offered up chum for talk radio.
It also got me thinking about what that list would look like if we were talking about UF athletes, especially because the last 20 years have been the most dominant we have experienced at Florida.
During the last two decades — since late March of 1998 — Florida has won 26 of its 40 national titles and 108 conference championships in different sports.
So narrowing it down to the most dominant players isn’t easy and the criteria depends on how you view dominance.
But because I am a sucker for a list, I came up with mine anyway:
1. TIM TEBOW
It wasn’t just what he did on the field, although two national titles and a Heisman Trophy would be enough. Tebow wasn’t just the face of Florida football during his time in Gainesville, he was the face of college football.
2. THE OH-FOURS
Sorry, can’t separate them. Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green (aw, let’s throw Lee Humphrey in as an honorary member) owned college basketball for two seasons and could probably have won it again if they came back. Only one school had consecutive national titles in the last quarter of a century and that was these Florida Gators.
3. CAELEB DRESSEL
Talk about a guy who just keeps getting better. No swimmer has gone under 18 seconds in the 50 meters and he did it twice on Thursday. Dressel is a true superstar in a sport that a lot of people only pay attention to every four years.
4. ABBY WAMBACH
As a freshman, she led Florida to a national soccer title along with teammate Danielle Fotopoulos. She went on to be named SEC player of the year twice and Florida would win the SEC in all four of her seasons.
5. BRIDGET SLOAN
When she arrived in Gainesville, Florida had no NCAA gymnastics titles. When she left here, Florida had three. It was no coincidence. Sloan was dominant on the beam and in the locker room with her infectious personality.
6. MATT LAPORTA
Scientists recently discovered an object on Mars that looked like a ball. The best bet was that it was hit there by LaPorta. His UF career home run record of 74 may never be touched and places him ninth in the country all time.
7. LAUREN HAEGER
Anyone who draws comparison to Babe Ruth is going to be on this list. Haeger helped Florida to a pair of national titles with both her bat and her arm and dominated her sport as a senior.
8. PERCY HARVIN
He was an absolute freak and a huge reason why Florida won two national titles in three seasons. Don’t think he was dominant? Try tackling him. Best combination of power and speed ever at UF.
9. LAUREN EMBREE
Embree not only clinched a pair of tennis national championships with the winning point, she went 38-0 in singles in SEC play. She was the three-time SEC player of the year including the first ever as a freshman.
10. ALEX MCMURTRY
Her career isn’t over yet, but it has been spectacular including winning an individual national gymnastics title last year despite her ongoing back issues.
11. STACY NELSON
You want dominant? How about 88 wins in the softball circle during her last two years and a career ERA under one?
12. ALEX FAEDO
One of the best competitors to ever lace them up for Gator baseball, Florida rode his incredible postseason on the mound to its first national title.
13. MARQUIS DENDY
Whether it was the long jump or the triple jump, Dendy was usually collecting some hardware. He won seven NCAA titles and won the last 10 college events he competed in.
14. BILLY HORSCHEL
You can’t do much better than being a four-time golf All-American. Especially for a guy who signed for the minimum scholarship.
15. MIKE ZUNINO
The stats are impressive, but can be ignored because Zunino was the man in charge of a team that went to the College World Series three straight times.
16. SHANNON GILROY
Lacrosse may be the newest sport at UF, but Gilroy wasted little time establishing herself as one of the best athletes ever at UF as a three-time All-American.
17. ALEX BROWN
The King of Sacks, Brown was certainly dominant if you were trying to block him. His 33 sacks are still the most ever in Florida history and his 13 are the single-season record.
18. JEFF DEMPS
This may be one you wouldn’t have thought of, but he is the only man to ever win the 60 meters three times at nationals. And he ran the anchor in the 4×400 that clinched a national title. And he was a pretty good football player too.
19. RYAN LOCHTE
Lochte is best known for his antics, but his talent as a swimmer at Florida was undeniable. He won seven national championships as a Gator.
20. AURY CRUZ, RHAMAT ALHASSAN (tie)
It’s my list so I can have ties. The two powerful volleyball players had something in common — they led Florida to the national finals.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.