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College football countdown No. 24: BYU quarterback Gifford Nielsen

SHARE College football countdown No. 24: BYU quarterback Gifford Nielsen

Editor's note: In anticipation of the 121st college football season in Utah, DeseretNews.com writer Jay Yeomans is ranking the 50 greatest Division I college football players of all time from the state of Utah. We're counting down the 50 days until Sept. 1 when Southern Utah at Utah and Weber State at Utah State kick off at 6 p.m. Rankings are based on what the player did during his college career.

24. Gifford Nielsen, BYU, quarterback (1973-77)

While his BYU career ended early in his senior season because of injury, Nielsen was a spectacular signal-caller when he was on the field.

His best season came in 1976 when he won the WAC Offensive Player of the Year award and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. That year, he led the nation in passing yards (3,401) and passing touchdowns (30) while leading the Cougars to a 9-2 regular season, a share of the WAC championship and a trip to the Tangerine Bowl.

For his BYU career, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 6,039 yards and 56 touchdowns. He was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1987 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

No. 25: Jordan Gross

No. 26: Luther Elliss

No. 27: Mohammed Elewonibi

No. 28: Ed Pine

No. 29: Steve Clark

No. 30: Kyle Morrell

No. 31: Star Lotulelei

No. 32: Phil Odle

No. 33: Henry King

No. 34: Erroll Tucker

No. 35: Rod Wood

No. 36: Gary Sheide

No. 37: Rulon Jones

No. 38: Steve Odom

No. 39: Virgil Carter

No. 40: Bill Staley

No. 41: Devontae Booker

No. 42: Nick Eyre

No. 43: Cody Hoffman

No. 44: Louie Sakoda

No. 45: Harvey Unga

No. 46: Marv Bateman

No. 47: Demario Brown

No. 48: Bryan Rowley

No. 49: Robert Turbin

No. 50: Tom Hackett

Jay Yeomans is a sports writer for DeseretNews.com. Contact him at jyeomans@deseretdigital.com.