College Football Countdown: No. 86 Earl Faison


In 1958, Indiana Hoosier Earl Faison scored a touchdown that, had it occurred today, would have sent social media into a frenzy.

After blocking a Michigan State field-goal attempt, Faison scooped up the ball and went 92 yards to pay dirt for the Hoosiers’ first defeat of Sparty in nine years.

Back then, his scamper set a Big Ten record. In the year 2016, it would send Twitter users into a frenzy to see who could hashtag “BIG MAN TOUCHDOWN” the fastest.

See, Earl Faison went 6-foot-5 and between 240 and 265 pounds, defending on your source. That’s a good-sized power forward on the basketball hardwood, and an outright giant on the gridiron.

Giant’s one way to describe him, at least. The other, as described in the book “Glory of Old IU,” is “Tree.” That’s the nickname a Michigan State player reportedly coined, saying: “Those aren’t legs, those are roots. That guy’s a tree.”

Oh, man. So many Groot memes.

In three seasons at Indiana, Faison caught 26 passes and six touchdowns, earning an All-American nomination along the way. With his long frame and background in basketball — Newport News native Faison’s a Virginia Sports Hall of Fame inductee in part for his prowess on the high school basketball courts — he’d be a dangerous target in this era of standout, pass-catching tight ends.

But defense is where Faison really made his name. He was an All-Big Ten honoree at defensive end in the one-platoon era, and later became a breakout star of the American Football League playing on the line.

Defensive statistics from that time in college football history are sketchy, if they exist at all. There’s no definitive number available on Faison’s sacks or tackles for loss from his time at Indiana, but it’s hard to imagine him not racking up a healthy number in the modern era.

Professionally, offensive lineman Buddy Cockrell described Faison as “hell to block.” And indeed, it was as a professional with the San Diego Chargers where the Indiana product Earl Faison reached true stardom.

The 1961 AFL Rookie of the Year made six interceptions in his professional career, twice reenacting the run-back that garnered him his nickname — though never against quite as long as that score against Michigan State.