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Photos and biographies: Kansas' 150 greatest athletes 11-50

  • Published Thursday, July 21, 2011, at 5:42 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at 9:06 a.m.

Kansas 150 Criteria

* The athlete had to excel at one or more sports. Emphasis was placed on achievements, longevity and levels of excellence (high school, college, pro, Olympics).

* Must have been “raised” in Kansas. There was not a hard line on how many years an athlete had to be in the state, but it had to include the years when his or her development in the sport began.

* Collegiate athletes who came to Kansas schools from out of state were not considered. For example, KU’s Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia) and K-State’s Jacob Pullen (Maywood, Ill.) weren’t in the mix.

11. Lucius Allen

Basketball, Kansas City, 1947-

The achievements are overwhelming for Allen, a 6-foot-2 guard: Two state championships at KC Wyandotte, two NCAA championships at UCLA and an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks. In five years at Wyandotte and UCLA, Allen’s teams lost a total of four games.

Allen was a two-time All-State player at Wyandotte and was so good that UCLA legend John Wooden plucked him out of Kansas City and to Los Angeles, where he was a second-team All-American in 1968 en route to his second straight title as a Bruin. (He missed the 1969 championship season after being suspended for marijuana possession.)

He was the No. 3 pick (Seattle) in the 1969 NBA Draft, and a year later he rejoined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee and won the NBA title. He averaged 13.4 points and 4.5 assists in his 10-year career.

12. Nolan Cromwell

Football, Ransom, 1955-

Cromwell’s athleticism as a teen _ AAU decathlon champ, All-State in football, all-class basketball _ made him a valuable addition to the KU football and track teams.

Cromwell played safety for two Jayhawk seasons, then switched to quarterback, where he was named Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year in 1975 (on a fourth-place team). That season included 294 rushing yards (then an NCAA QB record) against Oregon State and ending Oklahoma’s 28-game winning streak.

His other season was on the track, where Cromwell set school records in the 400 meters, 600 yards and decathlon.

An 11-year NFL career, all with the Los Angeles Rams, included four Pro Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl and 37 interceptions at safety.

13. Jess Willard

Boxing, St. Clere, 1881-1968

A hulk of a man at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Willard came off a Kansas farm and into boxing lore.

Willard began his boxing career in 1908 at age 27. He fought often in his first few years, at least once a month. By 1914, he was a nationally known contender for the heavyweight title.

Willard was dubbed “The Great White Hope,” the man that white America saw as the best chance to defeat African-American heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who won the title in 1908.

The two met in a scheduled 45-round bout in Havana, Cuba, in April 1915. Willard knocked out Johnson in the 26th round. As champion, Willard was in movies and theater shows as often as he was in the ring.

Willard lost his title to Jack Dempsey after three rounds in July 1919. He staged a comeback at Yankee Stadium at 41, beating Floyd Johnson in an upset. He lost two months later and ended his career at 26-6-1 with 20 knockouts.

14. Darnell Valentine

Basketball, Wichita, 1959-

Freshmen became eligible to play college basketball again in the mid-1970s, so the Big Eight/Big 12 Conference has had roughly 35 years of four-year players.

Danny Manning, Steve Stipanovich, Wayman Tisdale, Stacey King and Doug Smith and others were conference stars. But only Darnell Valentine was a four-time first-team all-conference pick.

Valentine’s dominance at point guard, with thighs the size of beer kegs, began when he was at Heights High and led the Falcons to the 1977 state championship.

At KU, he led two teams to the NCAA Tournament and at the time was the Jayhawks’ career No. 2 scorer (1,821 points) and No. 1 assist man (609).

Valentine played nine NBA seasons with Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland, averaging 8.7 points and 5.0 rebounds.

15. Sam Francis

Football, Oberlin, 1913-2002

Francis may have been Kansas’ greatest homegrown athlete to get away to an out-of-state college. Born in Dunbar, Neb., but raised in Oberlin, Francis returned to Nebraska for college after a short stay at KU and became a three-sport star.

In football, Francis was a two-time All-Big Six pick as a running back and was the runner-up for the 1936 Heisman Trophy, then was the fans’ top vote-getter for the 1937 College All-Star Game.

In track, Francis was an Olympian in the shot put (fourth in 1936) and a national champion (1937). He was, at the time, one of four athletes to be first-team All-America in both sports.

In addition to being taken by Philadelphia in the first round of the 1937 NFL Draft and playing four pro seasons before serving in World War II, Francis also found time to earn a letter on the Husker basketball squad.

16. John Hadl

Football, Lawrence, 1940-

Some legends excel in multiple sports. Hadl, a hometown Jayhawk, was first-rate on offense, defense and special teams.

On offense, Hadl was an All-Big Eight halfback as a sophomore (1959), then was the conference’s top quarterback in ’60 and ’61. As a senior, he led KU to the Bluebonnet Bowl and a 33-7 win over Rice. Hadl — also a top-notch punter and defensive back — was KU’s first two-time football All-American, going into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

Hadl was a first-round pick of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, yet signed with the AFL’s San Diego Chargers as a third-round pick. He became a full-time starter in his fourth season and piled up more than 33,000 passing yards.

His best year was 1972, his only year with the Rams. He led LA to a 12-2 mark and the NFC West title. By the end of his 16-year career (Chargers, Rams, Packers, Oilers), Hadl reached six Pro Bowls and was named NFL Man of the Year in 1971.

17. Billy Mills

Track and field, Lawrence, 1938-

Mills claimed one of the biggest upsets in Olympic distance running and became a national hero.

A Lakota Sioux Indian, Mills was born in South Dakota but moved to Lawrence to attend Haskell Institute for high school. He stayed in Lawrence on a KU cross country scholarship.

At KU, he was a three-time NCAA All-American in cross country, winning the 1960 Big Eight championship. He graduated and entered the U.S. Marines, then qualified for the 1964 Olympic team in the 10,000 meters and marathon.

Australian Ron Clarke was the heavy favorite, especially in the final laps when Mills, who had only finished second in the Olympic trials, was still close. But on the final lap, Mills swung wide into the third lane and passed Clarke and Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia, winning in 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds. The time was 49 seconds better than his person best and a world record.

18. Gary Spani

Football, Manhattan, 1956-

Spani was a relentless pursuer from his inside linebacker position and ended his career as his team’s career tackles leader in college and professionally.

An All-State selection out of Manhattan High, Spani stayed home and became Kansas State’s top defender. He was the Cats’ top tackler his final three seasons and set the school record for tackles that still stands, even after nearly 20 years of Bill Snyder’s turnaround.

He was as highly decorated as any Wildcat, being named All-Big Eight three times and conference defensive player of the year in 1977, and he was K-State’s first consensus All-American that year. He was inducted into the College Football HOF in 2002 and was one of the AP’s all-time Big Eight players when the conference became 12 schools.

Spani had a successful NFL career in Kansas City, starting in 8 of 9 seasons and finishing as the club’s career tackles leader.

19. Bill Nieder

Track and field, Lawrence, 1933-

Nieder grew up in Lawrence, breaking 60 feet with a 12-pound shot, and performed in the golden era of shot putters.

At Kansas, he was injured in his first football game and was forced to concentrate on the shot put. He was the first man to break 60 feet with the 16-pound shot. He finished second in the 1956 Olympics behind fellow American Dallas Long, but by then had already won an NCAA title in 1955. He'd follow with an AAU title in 1957. By the time his collegiate career ended, he had the Big Seven Conference's top 21 throws.

From there, his career took off with four world records over the next three years, topping out at 65 feet, 10 inches in 1960. Also that year, Nieder out-dueled Long with a 62-6¼ throw to win the 1960 gold at the Rome Olympics.

20. Kendra Wecker

Basketball, Marysville, 1982-

Wecker is probably the greatest female all-around athlete Kansas has produced. It was evident first in the early 1990s, when as a 12-year-old she finished second in the national Punt, Pass and Kick finals competing against boys.

At Marysville, she was a three-time All-State basketball player, a standout volleyball player and a three-time state javelin champ — setting the national record.

At Kansas State, Wecker (5-foot-11) was a do-everything forward who, along with Nicole Ohlde and Laurie Koehn, led the Wildcats to four NCAA Tournament appearances.

She was a three-time All-Big 12 player (2003-05) and left as the program’s career scoring leader (2,333 points) and rebounds leader (1,087). She was an All-American and conference player of the year as a senior.

Wecker was the fourth pick in the 2005 WNBA Draft, but tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her first game and retired from the league in 2008.

21. Pete Mehringer

Wrestling, Kinsley, 1910-1987

Kinsley High didn't have a wrestling team, so Mehringer coached himself and won the 1928 state title as a sophomore. Two years later, he won the heavyweight title and finished his prep career unbeaten.

He attended KU and was a two-sport star, finishing second in the 1932 NCAA wrestling championships as a heavyweight. That year, he failed to qualify for the Olympic team as a heavyweight, then lost enough weight to compete as a 191-pounder and won gold in Los Angeles.

As a football player, Mehringer (nicknamed "The Kansas Whirlwind") was a two-time all-conference defensive tackle, and once earned second-team All-America honors.

Mehringer graduated and played 13 professional seasons.

22. Ray Evans

Football, Kansas City, 1922-1999

The Wyandotte High product turned into one of the nation’s athletic rarities: All-America in two sports.

Before serving in World War II in 1944-45, Evans was a two-time Helms Foundation basketball All-American. Upon his return to KU in 1946, he was the football team’s quarterback and was a Helms Foundation All-America choice in his second sport.

KU won two conference football titles under Evans’ leadership, and he carried the Hawks to the 1948 Orange Bowl, scoring both touchdowns in a six-point loss to Georgia Tech.

Evans played one NFL season with the Steelers; his KU total offense record stood for more than 20 years. He was named to the Helms Foundation’s basketball and football halls of fame.

23. Bill Russell

Baseball, Pittsburg, 1948-

There were few things in Los Angeles more dependable in the 1970s and ’80s than No. 18 at shortstop for the Dodgers. Russell was the most important defensive player for one of the game’s marquee franchises.

Russell, a three-time all-star, signed with LA out of Pittsburg High in the ninth round of the 1966 draft. He made his major-league debut three years later and held down shortstop for 18 years.

He batted .263 with 1,926 career hits (more than any Kansas-bred player) and was part of the same infield — 1B Steve Garvey, 2B Davey Lopes, 3B Ron Cey and Russell — for more than eight full seasons. That consistency helped the Dodgers to five postseason appearances during Russell’s career.

Russell also managed the Dodgers for a season and parts of two others, going 173-149 from 1996-98.

24. John Kuck

Track and field, Wilson, 1905-1986

Kuck was Kansas' first nationally prominent thrower, achieving national high school records in the shot put, discus and javelin. That includes a remarkable 56-foot, 8¾-inch throw with a 12-pound shot in 1924.

At Kansas State Teachers College (Emporia State), Kuck won a national collegiate title in the shot put and became world record holder in the shot and javelin.

Kuck dropped out of school and trained for the 1928 Olympic Games. Despite a broken ankle, Kuck won the gold in the shot with a throw of 52-0¾, breaking the world record by more than a foot.

25. Lon Kruger

Basketball, Silver Lake, 1952-

Point guard in basketball, quarterback in football, pitcher in baseball. Kruger was a star in every sport he played and played the position that put him in charge.

Three-sport stardom led the Houston Astros to draft Kruger out of high school, but he declined and chose to play for Jack Hartman's K-State basketball team. He became a star quickly, being named Big Eight sophomore of the year, then in 1974 and '75 was Big Eight Player of the Year. He scored 1,063 points, averaging 17.6 as a senior.

Kruger, who also played on the K-State baseball squad, turned down an invitation from the Dallas Cowboys in 1975 and played one year of minor-league ball in the Cardinals' system before becoming a basketball coach.

26. Myron Roderick

Wrestling, Winfield, 1934-2011

Roderick may have been Kansas high school wrestling’s premier competitor prior to the 1970s. At a time when all schools came together for one state tournament _ no separate classifications _ Roderick took on all comers and won.

He won the 1951 and 1952 state titles for Winfield, then agreed to wrestle for national power Oklahoma State. In Stillwater, he won 42 of his 44 matches and collected three NCAA individual championships (1954-56) at 130, 130 and 137 pounds.

After finishing fourth in the Melbourne Games, Oklahoma State hired him at age 22 to be the program’s coach. A year later, the Cowboys won the NCAA team title. Roderick was believed to be the youngest coach to head an NCAA champion.

Roderick, who was OSU’s athletic director for seven years, helped found the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and was a charter inductee.

27. Sandra Myers

Track and field, Little River, 1961-

Myers left Little River High as the most decorated high school track athlete, winning 24 gold medals between the state outdoor and indoor meets.

Myers won 13 individual titles and one relay outdoors in Class 1A, including four 100s and four 200s, plus three long jumps. Her greatest feat, a leap of 19 feet, 7¼ inches in 1979, still stands as the best leap in any class.

Myers won the 400 and 400 hurdles while at Cal State Northridge, setting the U.S. 400 hurdles record (56.4) later that year.

Marrying a Spaniard, she obtained Spanish citizenship and competed for Spain in the 1988 and 1996 Olympics.

28. Bobby Douglass

Football, El Dorado, 1947-

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds in the late 1960s, Douglass was a formidable quarterback in a Jayhawk offense that used him more effectively as a runner than a passer.

An All-State QB at El Dorado High in 1964, Douglass led KU to two wins as a sophomore, but had that win total to nine by 1968. KU was 9-1 in the regular season, winning its only Big Eight Conference title behind Douglass’ first-team All-America honor. KU lost the Orange Bowl to Penn State.

Douglass finished his three seasons with 2,817 passing yards and 1,015 rushing yards. He also led KU to back-to-back victories over Nebraska his final two seasons.

As a Chicago Bear, he set the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 968 in 1972. (The record lasted until Michael Vick broke it in 2006.) Douglass played 10 NFL seasons.

29. Steve Grogan

Football, Ottawa, 1953-

Grogan was nearly a state title-holder in three sports while at Ottawa High. His basketball and track teams won championships, but his football team lost in the championship game.

Still, football was Grogan’s future. He was a two-year starter at Kansas State, passing for 2,213 yards and rushing for 585 _ good enough to have his No. 11 jersey retired along with Lynn Dickey, who also wore 11.

A fifth-round pick by New England in the 1975 NFL Draft, Grogan was a part-time starter as a rookie, then became the full-time starter from 1976-83.

In 1985, after Tony Eason was injured in a 2-3 start, Grogan led the Patriots to six straight wins before fracturing his leg. Eason returned and led the Pats to the Super Bowl, but Grogan relieved Eason during the game, a 46-10 loss to Chicago. Grogan was a backup for five more years, though he called plays from the sideline.

30. Mike Torrez

Baseball, Topeka, 1946-

Torrez was a durable, 18-year major-league pitcher who always seemed to play important roles on quality teams.

Signed as a St. Louis free agent out of Topeka High in 1964, Torrez reached the majors at age 20 in 1967. In the 1970s, the right-hander won at least 10 games seven times, including 20 games for Baltimore in 1975.

It was in New York (1977) and Boston (1979-82) that Torrez received his highest acclaim. He was 14-12 in ’77 but dominant in two World Series starts against the Dodgers. Winning both games, he gave up five earned runs in two complete games, walking five and striking out 15. He won Game 3 to give New York a 2-1 lead, then won the clinching Game 6.

Torrez was 185-160 in his career with a 3.96 ERA. He trails only Walter Johnson among Kansas-bred pitchers in wins and innings.

31. Antoine Carr

Basketball, Wichita, 1961-

Carr is the most dominating basketball big man the state has produced.

He was a sophomore when the legendary Heights team of 1976-77 rolled through the state, then dominated the City League landscape for two more years before signing with Wichita State.

At WSU, Carr (6-foot-9) teamed with San Diego’s Cliff Levingston to form “The Bookends” and take the Shockers to the 1981 Elite Eight. But after Levingston left for the pros, Carr was more dominant as a senior All-American, and his 47 points in his final home game remains a WSU record.

Drafted by Detroit in 1983, Carr played in Italy for a year before joining the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. His 16-year career included 11 playoff appearances and a 9.3-point average.

32. Thane Baker

Track and field, Elkhart, 1931-

Baker never won a medal at the Kansas high school championships _ a knee injury as a youth kept him from competing until late in his career. He walked on to the K-State track team by chance in 1950 and became a sprinting force with four All-America honors.

But not only did Baker compete nationally, he was internationally known when he reached the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. He was second in the 200 in ’52, then won three medals in Melbourne: gold in the 400 relay, silver in the 100 and bronze in the 200.

Back at K-State, Baker was the Big Seven champion in the 100- and 200-yard dashes from his sophomore through senior years, and won the NCAA 200 as a senior in 1953.

33. Claude Hendrix

Baseball, Olathe, 1889-1944

Hendrix was part of a powerful Fairmount College (now Wichita State) baseball team and eventually had an extremely successful 10-year big-league career.

Hendrix joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1911 for 12 starts, and the next year went 24-9 with 32 starts and 25 complete games. It was the first of three 20-win seasons, leading to a 144-116 career record with a 2.65 ERA.

His best season was 1914, when he lead the Federal League in wins (29) and ERA (1.69). A year later, Hendrix threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh for the Chicago Whales.

In 1920, Hendrix was released from the Cubs, primarily because he was alleged to have agreed to throw a 1920 game. He actually didn't pitch when his team, the Cubs, became suspicious and substituted for him.

34. Steve Tasker

Football, Leoti, 1962-

No player has made NFL special teams as noticeable or important.

At 5-foot-9, Tasker went from Northwestern to Houston, was cut by the Oilers, but found a home in Buffalo and defined special teams play.

He played in seven Pro Bowls (one MVP) and four Super Bowls. He was named to the NFL’s all-time team in 2000. Tasker won four golds at the 1981 Class 3A track meet.

35. Tara Nott

Weightlifting, Stilwell, 1972-

Maybe the lightest athlete in the Kansas 150 (105 pounds), Nott's athletic career peaked when she won the gold medal in the women's flyweight weightlifting class at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Nott was a two-time gold medalist in the Pan American Games, a seven-time USA Weightlifting champion, and an eight-time member of the U.S. national team.

All that, and she also played soccer. Nott was a member of Colorado College's 1989 and 1991 NCAA Final Four teams, and was captain of her U.S. Olympic Sports Festival team in 1995.

Nott also appeared in the 2004 Athens Games at age 32, finishing 10th in her class.

36. Cleo Littleton

Basketball, Wichita, 1932-

Littleton was a leader at East High, carrying the Blue Aces to the 1951 state title, then became the University of Wichita’s first basketball star.

Before an era in which freshmen were ineligible to play, Littleton was the Shockers’ go-to player from the start. He was named All-Missouri Valley Conference as a freshman and kept that title all four years of his career. Even today, with freshmen eligible again for almost 40 years, Littleton is the MVC’s only four-time all-conference player.

Littleton and coach Ralph Miller arrived from East together and turned around a program that had five straight losing records. WU was 11-19 in Littleton’s first year, but it was followed by 16, 27 and 17 wins his final three years.

Littleton scored 2,164 points and was the first player west of the Mississippi River to top 2,000. He was a second-team and third-team All-American during his career and chose to play AAU ball after college instead of the fledgling NBA.

37. Paul Endacott

Basketball, Lawrence, 1902-1997

A homegrown Jayhawk, Endacott learned basketball from James Naismith at the Lawrence YMCA in the 1910s and was a standout guard at Lawrence High.

He joined Phog Allen’s team at KU and was a two-time All-American and part of the school’s teams named national champions by the pre-NCAA Helms Foundation.

Endacott was known as a tremendous defensive player and Allen at one point called him the best player he had coached.

Endacott, who died in 1997 at the age of 94, played four AAU seasons with the Phillips 66 Oilers and three decades later became president of Phillips Petroleum. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972.

38. Marilynn Smith

Golf, Wichita, 1929-

She was one of the founders of the LPGA, then was a dominant force on its tour for two decades.

Smith was born in Topeka but moved to Wichita and graduated from East in 1947, when she was in the midst of winning three straight Kansas Women’s Amateurs. She won a national championship at KU in 1949, then was part of the group of women who created the LPGA in 1950.

During her career, she won 22 tour titles, including two majors, and won at least once a year from 1954 through 1972.

Smith, a three-time LPGA president who had her own line of Spalding clubs for decades, was the first recipient of the Patty Berg Award in 1979 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006. She has been a tireless golf teacher and ambassador throughout the world.

39. Ernest Schmidt

Basketball, Winfield, 1911-1986

Leading the Winfield Vikings to three state championships was only the beginning for Schmidt, who later led Kansas State Teachers College (Pittsburg State) to national prominence.

Schmdt was a large part of the Gorillas’ 47-game winning streak in the early 1930s, the collegiate game’s longest streak until Bill Russell’s San Francisco team broke it in the mid-1950s.

He scored exactly 1,000 points in his career and was three times the team’s leading scorer and an all-conference pick.

Schmidt also was named an AAU All-American in 1931 and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball HOF in 1974.

40. Jeff Farrell

Swimming, Wichita, 1937-

Farrell was in the national spotlight as early as high school, when the East High and Wichita Swim Club product set the national record in the 220-yard freestyle.

He was an All-American at East and collegiately at Oklahoma and was poised to easily qualify for the 1960 Olympic team when he was diagnosed with an appendicitis a week before the team trials.

Swimming with a bandaged midsection, Farrell qualified in two relay events and later led both teams (400- and 800-meter relays) to gold as the anchor leg.

Farrell, who set 25 American, world or Olympic records, was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968.

41. Gerald Roberts

Rodeo, Strong City, 1919-2004

The third of six children in a ranching and rodeo family, Roberts became probably Kansas’ greatest rodeo rider.

He and his siblings became adept at riding by breaking wild horses, even riding them to school to get them under control. Roberts competed in bull riding, bareback riding and saddlebronc riding for about 30 years, winning his first All-Around World Champion title in 1942 at 22.

Roberts won it again in 1948, then won the Calgary Stampede All-Around in 1950.

Roberts, who also spent years in Hollywood as a cowboy stunt double, was an original inductee into Oklahoma City’s Cowboy Hall of Fame (1965), was inducted into the Pro Rodeo HOF in 1990. and the Kansas Cowboy HOF in 2005.

42. Dale Hall

Basketball/Football, Parsons, 1924-1996

Hall was a state-wide star in football and basketball in the 1940s, leading the Southeast Kansas League in scoring in both sports for three seasons. His career basketball points and touchdown records stood at Parsons for decades.

Hall (5-foot-10) was accepted into the U.S. Military Academy and averaged 23 points in basketball, earning two consensus All-America honors and one national player of the year nod (1944).

Alongside Army stars Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis — both of whom won Heisman Trophies — Hall scored 23 touchdowns in 1944, the year Army won the national championship.

Hall won seven varsity letters at Army and graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average. From 1959-61, he coached the Cadets to a 16-11-2 football record.

43. Joe Tinker

Baseball, Muscotah, 1890-1948

Tinker was the first name in Franklin Pierce Adams’ 1910 poem about a Giants fan watching the Cubs’ infielders turn a double play, “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

But Tinker was much more than lore. Tinker was a 15-year shortstop who had 1,690 hits. He stole 336 bases while batting .262.

His fielding was his strong suit. Five times, Tinker led the National or Federal leagues in shortstop fielding percentage.

Tinker was part of Chicago’s last world championship (1908). He did not reach the Hall of Fame in voting by the Baseball Writers Association, but in 1946 he was selected by the Old Timers Committee. He died two years after his induction.

44. Clint Bowyer

Auto racing, Emporia, 1979-

In a state with a rich motorsports tradition, Bowyer has made a name for himself on the sports’ ultimate stage.

Bowyer, who at age 32 this month made his 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup start, had four Cup victories, 30 top-five finishes and 87 top-10 finishes in his six seasons.

Not bad for a guy who was racing dirt tracks around Emporia and working in a body shop days before being “called up” by Richard Childress Racing to the then-Busch Series.

He got a Series Cup ride in 2006, finishing 17th in points and finished sixth in the Daytona 500. He won two races during the Chase for the Cup last year to double his win total and finished 10th in the Series.

45. Otto Schnellbacher

Football, Sublette, 1923-2008

A rugged 6-foot-4, 190-pound athlete from western Kansas, Schnellbacher achieved what few athletes have done — playing at the highest professional level in two sports.

Schnellbacher attended KU and was a two-time all-conference tight end (1946-47), ending his career as the school’s receptions (58) and receiving yards leader (1,069). He was part of the Jayhawks’ 1948 Orange Bowl team.

He was an all-conference basketball player in 1943, then served in World War II for two years before returning to KU and being named all-conference three more times.

Schnellbacher joined the New York Yankees of the NFL in 1948, then also tried pro basketball, playing one year with the St. Louis Bombers and Providence Steamrollers. He returned to football, playing three more years in New York — one more with the Yankees, two with the Giants — and was a two-time Pro Bowl pick at defensive back.

46. Charlie B. Black

Basketball, Topeka, 1921-1992

Black, a 6-foot-5 forward, was the rarest of All-Americans while playing at Kansas — a four-timer.

He joined the KU program in 1940, transferring from Wisconsin, and was a freshman All-American that season, then earned the same distinction as a sophomore before enlisting in the Army Air Corps.

After World War II, Black returned to Lawrence and picked up where he left off as an All-American in 1946 and 1947. His defensive prowess earned him the nickname “Hawk,” but he also became the first Jayhawk to score 1,000 career points.

Black joined the National Basketball League in 1947, then joined the new NBA a year later and played four seasons with the Fort Wayne Pistons, Indianapolis Jets and Milwaukee Hawks.

47. Ernie Barrett

Basketball, Wellington, 1929-

He’s known as “Mr. K-State” because of his decades of association with the Wildcat athletic department, but Barrett made his name as Kansas State’s first basketball great with a soft shooting touch.

Barrett, who led Wellington to its only state title in 1947, was an All-American and captain of the 1950-51 Wildcat team that reached the NCAA championship game, losing to Kentucky. That team (25-4) was the first to play in Ahearn Field House.

Barrett was the seventh overall pick in the 1951 NBA Draft, but served a two-year military obligation before joining the Boston Celtics. He played one year, sat out a year while getting his coaching career going, then re-joined the Celts when Red Auerbach asked him to come back and take advantage of the league’s new 24-second clock.

48. Elden Auker

Baseball, Norcatur, 1910-2006

Auker went from being one of Kansas State’s greatest athletes to a successful major-league pitcher with an unorthodox throwing motion.

For three years, Auker earned varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball. He was the first to be named to All-America teams in all three sports, and was all-conference in each.

Having turned down a Chicago Bears contract, Auker (6-foot-2, 194 pounds) adapted his pitching motion after a shoulder injury to throw from below parallel to the ground. It worked for 10 major-league seasons, compiling a 130-101 record. A remarkable 128 complete games highlighted his numbers.

Auker was a terrific Tigers rookie, going 15-7 with a 3.42 ERA and helping to Detroit to the AL title. He beat the Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series.

He won 35 games over the next two years before being dealt to the Red Sox in 1939. He pitched three more years with the St. Louis Browns.

49. Chris Barnes

Bowling, Topeka, 1970-

Barnes was part of a state championship basketball team at Topeka High in 1986, but realized bowling was his future.

He was a freshman All-America at WSU, worked through a sophomore slump, then was an individual national champ as a junior before joining then-amateur Team USA for four years.

Once on the PBA Tour in 1998, Barnes quickly became one of the mainstays of the sport. He led all rookies in winnings, then won two titles in his second year.

Barnes has 13 PBA Tour titles, including the sport’s three majors — one of six bowlers to win all three. He was the top-ranked bowler on tour in 2010-11 and has 40 career games on the tour. In 2005, he became the fastest tour bowler to $1 million in career earnings.

50. Nicole Ohlde

Basketball, Clay Center, 1982-

Ohlde was a 6-foot point guard as a Clay Center freshman. By the time she grew to 6-foot-5 and enrolled at Kansas State, she had become a dominant inside presence who was still more athletic than most players.

Ohlde was the Big 12 Player of the Year in her junior and senior seasons (2003, 2004 and earned All-America status those years. With Laurie Koehn and Kendra Wecker alongside, K-State reached three NCAA Tournaments with Ohlde in uniform.

The Wildcat career points and rebounds record were Ohlde’s until Wecker broke them a year later. Ohlde is still the school’s blocked shots leader.

Ohlde was the sixth pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft and played seven seasons for Minnesota and Phoenix, averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. At 29, she retired from the WNBA before this season but has said she wants to continue playing overseas.

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