At 5-foot-5, Champ Flemings is usually the smallest player on the football field.
So he’s more than used to hearing he’s too small to play major college football.
But come Friday night, Flemings could see himself out on the Reser Stadium turf as a starting wide receiver when Oregon State hosts Oklahoma State in the season opener for both teams. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“I’m really blessed to be here and have this opportunity,” Flemings, who is listed as one of three starting receivers for the Beavers, said on Tuesday. “I’ve always been written off my whole life so it’s really nothing new to me. I just take that adversity and run with it and use it as fuel.”
Flemings, a redshirt sophomore, played in all 12 games last season and had five catches for 68 yards with a long of 40. He will also be out there for kickoff returns.
Starting is nice, but Flemings said to him “it’s more about just being put in a position to where I can do whatever is best to help the team and hopefully win a football game. That’s the most important to me but it does feel good.”
While being 5-5 for a receiver is often looked at as a curse, Flemings chooses to think the opposite.
“I’ve been this size my whole life so I’ve kind of had to adapt and learn how to use my size to my advantage, use my quickness and my speed,” he said. “Mostly it’s not about the height but just being quick, being fast, making guys miss in open space.”
While Flemings may be starting with senior Trevon Bradford unavailable to go for the opener with a foot injury that kept him out of training camp, he has certainly put in the work to earn his opportunity.
“He’s just a spark, and he’s come a long way,” offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “It’s really a testament to his work ethic. He had an unbelievable offseason. I think there’s so much more detail in his game, he’s covering more ground.
“I think in the past he was more of a quick, side to side, pretty good with the ball in his hand (player) and now he’s able to be a vertical threat on the outside and we can put him inside and do a lot of things.”
Flemings, who said he prides himself on that versatility, did some self-evaluation of his game and recognized that he needed to work on his footwork, route-running, as well as reading the defense better so he could react and make adjustments.
He spent as much time as he could with his fellow receivers and quarterbacks working to improve those areas.
“It was kind of hard for him when he wasn’t playing a lot last year but all you can do when you are in that position is just make plays when you get the opportunity and I think he did that,” fellow receiver Isaiah Hodgins said. “I think he attacked the spring and this fall camp pretty hard. He’s finally getting what he deserves.”
Some of the work he put in was building a strong chemistry with starting quarterback Jake Luton so they are on the same page.
“It’s been a dynamic where we have to really kind of work extra timing and stuff like that because I am quicker in and out of my breaks than some of the bigger guys that we have in the room,” Flemings said. “… I think we’ve built a really good rapport with each other just building that trust that if I put the ball here, if I release it early, he trusts me to be able to go get balls. If he puts it out there deep, he trusts me to go get it. If he throws it early he trusts me to get in and out of my breaks to be able to track those balls down.”
While Flemings will have more opportunities to make plays on offense, he also embraces his role as a kickoff returner. Last season, Flemings returned 29 kicks for 608 yards with a long of 57.
He credits that experience for helping him show the coaching staff his potential.
“A lot of people come to college and think I’m going to go in, I’m going to start,” Flemings said. “But in reality special teams is a big part of getting on the field. For me it wasn’t something that was really new, I spent my whole life returning kicks, returning punts so I’ve always been in the returner position.
“So playing special teams for me was natural. It was something that I wanted to do, it wasn’t something that I was forced to do or role that I was kind of pushed into.”
With that said, what is better — catching a short pass and racing to the end zone for a touchdown or taking a kickoff to the house for a score?
“The kick for me is just explosive because potentially it might be the first play of the game, the first touch of the game,” Flemings said. “…I’m not opposed to catching a slant and taking it 60 or 70 (yards) to the house. I really like those plays too.
“But I think special teams is a part the game that gets (overlooked) a lot so if you’re able to create some explosive (plays) on special teams you can change the game that way.”
1 of 28
Our (unofficial) Oregon State all-time football team is based mainly on players’ college careers, not their achievements in the professional ranks. As such, All-American awards were the main factor at most positions.
Every “starter” for the offense, for example, was a first-team selection by a major media publication, company or group.
The offense lines up in a three-wide receiver, two-back set due to our criteria. No tight end has ever made an All-American list for the Beavers.
For the defense, we briefly considered going with an archaic 5-2 formation to take advantage of the quality linemen Oregon State has produced, but then settled on that scheme’s successor, the 4-3.
Some of these choices for our star-studded squad will result in debate, of course, which is the nature of these lists.
We recognize that players are getting faster, stronger and more technical with every generation, but our criteria negates some of the arguments against using athletes from earlier eras.
We also acknowledge that if we had to pick one player at the peak of his powers for one game only, a few of our starters might be different.
There’s no doubt, however, that the athletes “on the bench” are gridiron heroes, as well. And some of them still come to Oregon State University games to root for the Beavers.
Quarterback – Terry Baker
Quarterback is, thanks to some prestigious hardware, the easiest decision on this Oregon State all-star squad.
Baker won the 1962 Heisman Trophy, and was honored as a first team All-American as well as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
He led the Beavers to a Liberty Bowl victory over Villanova to cap the ’62 season, and that game featured his 99-yard run – an NCAA record that can’t be topped.
Baker, the first man from the West Coast to win the Heisman, also played basketball for the Beavers, and helped Oregon State to the Final Four in 1963.
He remains the only man to win the Heisman and play in the Final Four.
The greatest quarterback in Oregon State history also is one of only two Beaver players in the National College Football Hall of Fame. The other is a ball carrier who reportedly made the ground shake.
Jonathan Smith – Well, Smith isn’t going to make it on this team as a coach. (At least not yet, Beaver Believers!) So we’ll give the former walk-on a nod for helping return Oregon State to winning ways after decades as a doormat. He became an every week quarterback against Washington in late October 1998, after replacing the injured starter – and then threw for 469 yards in less than three quarters. The 2001 Fiesta Bowl MVP helped wallop fabled Notre Dame and he currently is No. 3 for career passing yards and touchdowns in Oregon State history.
Howard Maple – Knute Rockne, of all people, called Maple “the ideal quarterback.” Maple was a second team All-American in 1928 as a senior. He went on to play in both the NFL and in Major League Baseball.
Derek Anderson – Anderson had a big arm, a big frame and could chuck the ball. “It was a beautiful thing to watch the way he throws,” former OSU coach Mike Riley said. Anderson sits second on Oregon State’s list of career passing yards and career touchdowns.
Sean Canfield – An honorable mention All-American in 2009, Canfield was Oregon State’s first-ever Pac-10 first team quarterback. He had a school record completion percentage of 67.9 percent as a senior.
Sean Mannion – Mannion is the career leader for the Beavers for passing yards (13,600), completions (1,187), and touchdowns (83).
Wide receiver – Mike Hass
It’s pronounced Hass, as in, “Go grab that pass.”
Hass was known for acrobatic catches – battling for jump balls or making Lynn Swann-esque dives to haul in long bombs.
He won the Biletnikoff Award as the NCAA’s best receiver in 2005. Hass was a unanimous first team All-American that year, when had a then-school record 90 receptions and 1,532 receiving yards.
He was a third-team All-American in 2004, when he set the current school record with 293 receiving yards in a game versus Boise State.
Hass still holds OSU records, such as career yards receiving (3,924), 100-yard games (19) and receptions in a game (14).
But perhaps the most astounding fact about Hass’ storied career is that he came to Oregon State as a walk-on.
Wide receiver – Brandin Cooks
Perhaps no other wide receiver in program history had the same ability to turn a short pass into a long touchdown.
Cooks was lightning fast but still able to fight for passes in the air, and he was a consensus first team All-American in 2013.
He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver that year, when he set Pac-12 records for receptions, with 128, and receiving yards, with 1,730. He also tied Hass’ record for most receptions in a game, with 14.
Cooks is still making explosive plays in the NFL, where he currently suits up for the Los Angeles Rams alongside another Oregon State all-time all-star, Johnny Hekker.
Wide receiver – Verne Burke
Someone had to grab all those passes Terry Baker threw, and it’s a good thing for Beaver fans that Verne Burke was on the team.
In 1962, Burke caught 69 passes for 1,007 yards, both NCAA records at the time. He was named a consensus All-American in 1963.
Markus Wheaton – In 2012, Wheaton, pictured above, set Oregon State’s career receiving record with 227 catches, which still stands, and tied the single season record of 91 receptions, which has since been surpassed. Wheaton was a third-team All-American that year. He’s still third all-time in school history with 2,594 receiving yards.
Steve Coury – Coury earned a third team All-American nod in his senior season, 1979. He left Oregon State with then school records for receiving yards (1,837) and receptions (135).
Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Robert Prescott – The 2000 Oregon State team had a deadly trio of wide receivers, two of whom would go on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL. Of course Ocho Cinco and Housh are on the team in some form or another. But don’t forget about Prescott, who was a key playmaker, too.
This bruiser, nicknamed “Earthquake” was a first team All-American in 1968, when he also was the MVP of the all-star Hula Bowl.
Known for his punishing running style, Enyart still holds the OSU record for rushing yards in a game with 299 against Utah in 1968.
Sports Illustrated described Enyart in 1967 as a “230-pound former linebacker who defected into the ranks of line buster.” John Didion, his Beaver teammate and an All-American lineman, was only 10 pounds heavier, according to the magazine.
Enyart is one of two Oregon State players in the National College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana. The other Beaver star in the hall is Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker.
Running back – Ken Simonton
Simonton, a first team All-American in 2000, left Oregon State holding 11 rushing records. That includes a career-high 5,044 rushing yards, good for second in the Pac-10 at the time.
Cerebral and outspoken off the field, this running back stood only 5-foot-7 and wasn’t super fast, but he was a fierce competitor who knew how to be patient with his blocks.
And he was Oregon State’s biggest football star in decades – Beaver fans hadn’t seen a winning season in decades until 1998, the same year Simonton scored the winning touchdown in OSU’s 44-41 victory in the Civil War.
Simonton also was perhaps the best offensive player on the best Beavers team ever in 2000. Regardless, there are plenty of reasons why Simonton holds a special place in many fans’ hearts.
“Because of the impact he had with the reemergence of Oregon State football, I thought that they would build a statue of him in front of the stadium,” said Mike Riley, former OSU head coach, in 2010.
Simonton still holds OSU’s career rushing marks for yards (5,044) and touchdowns (59).
Steven Jackson – Perhaps the most difficult omission from our "starting lineup." Jackson, pictured above, could run with speed and power and catch passes out of the backfield. He was a third team All-American as both a sophomore in 2002 and as a junior in 2003. And in the pros, Jackson has had the most success of any former Oregon State running back. Some believe he may be the best Beaver football player ever, regardless of era or awards. We won’t argue with them much.
George “Gap” Powell – Powell was a first team All-American in 1921. He lettered in both football and track for what became Oregon State University from 1918 to 1921.
Jacquizz Rodgers – The diminutive but stout running back used his size to his advantage, hiding behind the offensive line or stopping on a dime to deke defenders. Check out the game tape from Sept. 25, 1998 if you doubt his skills. He ran over, through and around No. 1-ranked Southern California in a nationally televised game. The Quizz Show burst on the scene that season, when he was the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and a third team All-American – as a freshman. In 2009, Rodgers earned second team All-American status. He’s currently the OSU record holder for career receptions by a running back, with 151.
Red Franklin – Franklin was a first team All-American in 1933. He also returned kicks.
Herb Abraham – Oregon State’s first All-American, he made the first team in 1916.
The Possum – One rush, end zone to end zone – south to north in Reser Stadium, the roars of the crowd getting louder with every yard. The unlikely star of a victory over Southern California in 2000.
(Pictured above, Andy Levitre, right, and Roy Schuening block for Beaver quarterback Matt Moore during the 2006 season.)
Bill Gray – The military interrupted Gray’s playing career. He was part of Oregon State’s freshman squad in 1942, but after Pearl Harbor, he played for Southern California while awaiting his orders and earned honorable mention All-American honors. After World War II, Gray returned to Oregon State, and he was a first team All-American in 1946.
John Witte – Witte was a consensus All-American in 1955 and a first-team All-American in 1956. He was Oregon State’s first two-time first-teamer. Witte, who played in the 1957 Rose Bowl versus Iowa, also wrestled for the Beavers and placed second in the NCAA championships at heavyweight in 1952.
John Didion – This center earned consensus All-American awards in 1968, his senior year. The previous season, he was a second team All-American.
Roy Schuening – The Pendleton High School product started a record 50 games for Oregon State, all of them consecutive. He earned first team All-American status in 2007.
Andy Levitre – Levitre was known for his technique, and he was a first-team All-American in 2008.
Jim Dixon – You might recognize the last name, as Dixon Recreation Center on campus is named after him. Dixon was named an All-American as a senior in 1926. He also was an assistant football coach for Oregon State from 1933-51.
Ade Schwammel – He was a key member of Oregon State’s pyramid play used to block field goals. Schwammel, a first team All-American in 1933, played both offensive and defensive tackle for the Beavers.
Vic Sears – Sears was a first team All-American in 1940. He played 10 years with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ted Bates – Bates, who played in the 1957 Rose Bowl, was a first team All-American in 1958.
By historical standards, tight end easily is Oregon State’s weakest position. Again, no Oregon State tight end has made an All-American team, and only one man, listed here, was first-team Pac-8, Pac-10 or Pac-12. Because of this, we felt comfortable taking a major liberty in the name of liberty for our all-star squad’s “bench.”
Jack Yoshihara – This Japanese American student wasn’t allowed to play in the 1942 Rose Bowl after the attack on Pearl Harbor. “They told me I couldn’t travel more than 35 miles,” he told the Gazette-Times in 2008. Months after the Rose Bowl, in spring 1942, the 20-year-old sophomore was uprooted from Corvallis and sent to an internment camp. He never resumed his studies. “It was tough. … I just forgot about it. It was such a sad phase for me,” Yoshihara said. Because we shouldn’t forget Yoshihara’s struggle – and the similar sorts of everyday tragedies inflicted on Oregonians by our own government at the time – he is forever on this team.
In the 2008 photo above, Japanese-American Student Association member Kristen Atebara helps Yoshihara with his cap and gown before OSU's commencement, where he received an honorary degree.
Tim Euhus – Euhus was a potent pass catcher who could also block, and he was a first team Pac-10 selection during his senior year, in 2003. Besides playing in three bowl games for the Beavers, Euhus also suited up and hit the hardwood, playing basketball for one season at Oregon State.
Phil Ross – During the 1980s, Ross was one of the Beavers’ best weapons. He played in 1985 and from 1987-89, and holds OSU’s career record for receptions as a tight end, with 153. That’s good for eighth place among career receptions for all Beaver pass catchers.
Defensive tackle – Jess Lewis
For many Beaver fans, one play defines Lewis and the Giant Killers – his tracking down O.J. Simpson and making a game-saving tackle as Oregon State beat top-ranked Southern California 3-0 in 1967. Lewis, a tackle, was a first team All-American that year and also was a two-time first team Pac-8 player.
But Lewis was an even better wrestler than a football player. A pinning monster, he won two NCAA titles at heavyweight and competed in the Olympics.
He’s also on our unofficial Oregon State all-time wrestling team, of course.
Lewis might just be the best multi-sport athlete ever for the Beavers, and he’s also been an inspirational voice for those fighting substance abuse.
Plus, as a bonus, he was working for OSU during the famed possum game, and of course Lewis was the man to wrangle the mighty marsupial.
Defensive tackle – Stephen Paea
This massive run-stuffing tackle was a first team All-American in 2010, his senior season, when he was also named the Pac-10 Conference’s Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year.
Paea also was the Pac-10’s Morris Trophy award winner for the best defensive lineman in the league in both 2009 and 2010.
Inoke Breckterfield – This defensive end, pictured above, was a third team All-American in 1998, when he was first team All-Pac-10 and won the conference’s Morris Trophy for the league’s top defensive lineman. The native of Honolulu ended his career as the school’s all-time leader for sacks (19.5) and tackles for loss (55.5).
DeLawrence Grant – Grant, a defensive end, was a second team All-American in 2000, when he also was a first team All-Pac-10 selection. He’s considered one of the fastest defensive linemen ever for Oregon State. He holds the program record for most forced fumbles in a game, with three.
Other defensive linemen on the team
Scott Crichton – A defensive end, Crichton, pictured above hitting Jared Goff, earned honorable mention All-American nods in both 2012 and 2013. His 10 forced fumbles are an Oregon State record.
Jon Sandstrom – This first team All-American, in 1967, played on the defensive line for the famed Giant Killers. Sandstrom was a three-year starter for the Beavs, and in 1968, he was named the team MVP.
Craig Hanneman – Selected as a second team All-American in 1970, Hanneman went on to play in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.
Bill Swancutt – This defensive tackle was first team All-Pac-12 in 2004, when he also was the co-defensive MVP of the league. The school record holder for career sacks (37) and tackles for loss (59.5).
Steve Brown – Brown was a first team All-American in 1972, when he had a school record 186 tackles. That’s 42 more than the man in second place.
He had a whopping 22 tackles, tied for a school record, in a 1971 game versus Stanford.
And he also holds the Oregon State record for career tackles with 415.
Brown, who initially came to Oregon State as a fullback before moving to the defense as a freshman, was a two-time first team All-Pac-8 selection.
Jack O'Billovich – This linebacker, pictured above, was a first team All-American as a junior, in 1964, and he helped the Beavers to the 1965 Rose Bowl. In 1965, O’Billovich was a first team All-Pac-8.
Richard Seigler – The Las Vegas native was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection in 2002 and 2003, and earned an honorable mention All-American nod in 2003.
Seigler also was a freshman All-American in 2000, when he helped the Beavers to a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame and their best season ever.
Against Arizona State in 2001, Seigler had seven tackles for loss, which still stands as an Oregon State record.
Other linebackers on the team
Nick Barnett – A first team All-Pac-10 selection in 2002, Barnett, pictured above, had quickness that enabled him to cover from sideline to sideline to track down ball carriers and receivers. And he was rough enough to make sure they went to the ground.
Bob Horn – Horn was All-Coast in 1975.
Trent Bray – Bray, the Beavers current linebackers coach, was a first team All-Pac-12 selection in 2005.
Keaton Kristick – In 2009, Kristick was named to the first team All-Pac-10.
Cornerback – Jordan Poyer
Poyer was a consensus All-American in 2012, as well as a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award for the nation’s top defensive player and the Jim Thorpe Award, for the top cornerback.
Like many Oregon State players who rose to greatness, Poyer’s college career had rather humble beginnings. Though he was lightly recruited out of Astoria High School, he now plays in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills.
Poyer is tied for fourth on Oregon State’s career interceptions list, but he returned three of those for touchdowns, which is tied for tops in school history. He also was a stellar kick and punt returner for the Beavers.
Defensive back – Mel Easley
A first team All-American and first team All-Pac-8 as a senior in 1969. Easley also was a member of the 1967 Giant Killers squad.
Cornerback – Dennis Weathersby
Weathersby was a second team All-American in 2002, when the lockdown corner was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.
His 62 passes broken up in his career is a school record.
“He was as gifted a kid as we’ve ever had. He was the perfect corner with his size and speed and athletic ability,” former OSU head coach Mike Riley said.
A nose for the ball meant Meeuwsen grabbed 20 interceptions in his career, making him tops in school history.
He was a third team All-American in his senior season, in 2004, when he was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. He also was a freshman All-American in 2001.
Meeuwsen, who played in three bowl games for the Beavers, also had 40 consecutive starts for the orange and black.
Other secondary players on the team
Reggie Tongue – During an era of bad Beaver teams, Tongue, pictured above, stood out as a star for the Beavers, an obvious pro. He was a first team All-Pac-10 selection in 1995. Likely left off All-American lists in part because of Oregon State’s awful squad at the time. His three career interception returns for a touchdown are tied for the most ever by a Beaver player.
Brandon Browner – At 6-foot-4, a physical corner who could play bump and run – or perhaps just bump and more bump. Browner was a freshman All-American and the Pac-10 freshman of the year in 2003, and he left school after his sophomore season to head to the pros.
Sabby Piscitelli – All-Pac-10 first team at strong safety in 2006, Piscitelli could hit with power and still cover pass catchers. His 15 career interceptions is tied for second in Beaver history.
Bill Bartley – Bartley earned nods on the first team All-Pac-10 and All-Coast squads in 1972.
Jay Locey – Locey was a first team All-Pac-10 and All-Coast selection in 1976. He had a school record 94-yard interception return in the 1975 Civil War.
The story of Serna starts with an epic fail in his first game as a freshman walk-on against the defending national champion, Louisiana State.
Serna missed three extra points, including one in overtime that ended the game. Many Beaver fans remember where they were watching that game due to the heartbreak.
But Serna didn’t miss an extra point again in his college career, nailing 144 in a row.
The following year, in 2005, Serna won the Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in the nation.
Perhaps Serna’s greatest game came in 2004, when he had a school record six field goals and accounted for all of Oregon State’s scoring in a win over Washington that was played in a downpour.
“He’s another great Oregon State story of perseverance and overcoming a lot of adversity,” former OSU head coach Mike Riley said, in 2010.
Not on any All-American list, and at times erratic in college – he was capable of a 74-yard punt, or a negative-4 yard punt.
But Hekker truly evolved as a professional, so let us brag about how Oregon State produced the greatest punter the game has ever seen (apologies to Ray Guy). He’s a four time first team All-Pro for the Rams.
Plus, he has the sweetest passing statistics ever on fake punts.
Kick returner – James Rodgers
The elder brother of the Rodgers clan, James Rodgers, pictured above, was quick and shifty and earned second team All-American status as a wide receiver and all-purpose player in 2009.
But he could also run the ball of fly sweeps and other plays.
This Swiss Army Knife of a player ranks No. 1 in career total yards for the Beavers, with 6,373, and most total yards in a season, with 2,328.
You knew he was going to make the Beavers all star squad, right?
Punt returner – Sammie Stroughter
Stroughter seemed electric almost any time he touched the ball, and he was named a second team All-American as a wide receiver and punt returner in 2006.
Before the game against No. 3 Southern California that year, Stroughter handed out pebbles to each of his teammates in the locker room. He reminded players about the story of David and Goliath, and that beating USC was possible if they believed in the team and their coaching. The team was so moved that players tucked their pebbles into their gear.
Stroughter still holds the Oregon State record for career punt return yards (1,235) and touchdowns (3).
We like both Mike Riley and Dennis Erickson, and the choice for the best Beaver football coach ever often comes down to an argument between these two.
But that’s a false dichotomy. With all due respect to these leaders, Oregon State's greatest football coach is Tommy Prothro.
Erickson has a higher overall winning percentage, at .646, and that’s the best at Oregon State since the mid-1890s, but he only coached the Beavers for four seasons.
Prothro coached for 10 years for Oregon State and amassed a .627 record, with just one losing season. The coaches before and after him had records of .357 and .444.
Riley, who coached the Beavers both before and after Erickson, had a total winning percentage of .538.
Prothro coached at Oregon State from 1955-64. The season before he took the job, the Beavers had a miserable 1-8 record. He turned them into a Pacific Coast powerhouse.
Oregon State improved to six wins in Prothro’s first year, and they made the 1957 Rose Bowl in his second.
He also led the team to the 1962 Liberty Bowl win, and the Beavers’ last appearance in the Rose Bowl, a 34-7 loss to Michigan in 1965. (Trivia bonus – Prothro played quarterback on the 1942 Duke Rose Bowl team that lost to Oregon State.)
Prothro also is responsible for the Beaver football team’s longest winning streak with 10 games in a row, during the 1962 and 1963 seasons.
In 1965, Prothro took the UCLA head coaching job, leading the Bruins through the 1970 seasons. He later coached in the NFL.