Joe Greene (football) -- Considered not only the greatest player in North Texas history, “Mean” Joe Greene is also considered the greatest defensive tackle in the history of football. Greene, a three-time Missouri Valley All-Conference player, anchored a defensive line at North Texas that allowed opponents just two yards per rushing attempt from 1966 to 1968, helping North Texas to a 23-5-1 record. Greene was a consensus All-America in 1968.
In 1969, Greene became the first North Texas player to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he quickly became the cornerstone of Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1969 on his way to 10 All-Pro selections, five first-team All-Pro honors, and four Super Bowl championships. Greene was also the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 and 1974.
Odus Mitchell (football) -- In 1946, Odus Mitchell was hired by North Texas, not only to coach the football team but to revive the program. Mitchell absorbed a 47-0 drubbing in his first game against Texas A&M, but won six of the next eight games to set up a final-game showdown for the Lone Star Conference title against one of NT’s biggest rivals, East Texas State. North Texas rolled to a 47-7 win, earning the rookie coach the Lone Star championship and the school’s first bid to a bowl game. The Mitchellmen defeated Pacific, coached by the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg, 14-13 in the Optimist Bowl in Houston, then won another league crown the next year and posted the first 10-win season in program history. In his first seven seasons, Mitchell’s teams posted a winning record and captured five conference titles.
In 1956, Mitchell’s North Texas program became the first in Texas to integrate African-American student-athletes when Abner Haynes and Leon King joined the team. Though there was resistance from some opponents (including Mississippi State, which cancelled its contract to play North Texas), under Mitchell’s guidance, the transition went well and more African-American students followed in Haynes’s and King’s footsteps. After winning two Lone Star titles and five championships in the Gulf Coast Conference, North Texas moved to the Missouri Valley Conference in 1957, and Mitchell won the conference title in two of his first three seasons in the new league. In 1966, Mitchell announced he would retire at season’s end. That year, he garnered his 10th conference championship and was named Coach of the Year by the Missouri Valley Conference and by the American Football Coaches Association for District 7. The day of his final game was declared “Odus Mitchell Day” by the mayor of Denton.
But the benefits of the Mitchell era didn’t end in 1966. He left behind a wealth of talent that would provide the foundation for some of the most powerful teams in North Texas history, teams that would win another Missouri Valley title and send 13 players to the NFL, including two first-round draft picks. Among the freshman in 1966 who would gain such national notoriety in the next three years were quarterback Steve Ramsey, wide receiver Ron Shanklin, offensive lineman Glen Holloway, defensive back Charles Beatty, and defensive lineman Cedrick Hardman, as well as a sophomore just beginning to establish his legend: defensive lineman Joe Greene. Mitchell remains the winningest coach in North Texas history with 122 career victories and 14 winning seasons (including seven consecutive). In 1986, Mitchell was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Ray Renfro (football) -- Ray Renfro was the first former North Texas football player to earn All-Pro honors in the National Football League. A 6-1, 190-pound receiver and halfback from Whitesboro, Texas, Renfro had one of the great seasons in Mean Green history in 1951 when he averaged a remarkable 7.5 yards per rushing attempt, which remains a school record. North Texas captured the Gulf Coast Conference league championship that year, and Renfro earned all-conference honors and was named a first-team All-America running back. Renfro finished his career with a career-rushing average of 6.8 yards per attempt, which also remains a school record.
After his collegiate career, Renfro was drafted in the fourth round by the Cleveland Browns. Renfro split time at halfback and flanker early in his pro career but was used primarily as a receiver. After catching one pass for eight yards his rookie year, Renfro had a break-out season in 1953. He was second in the league in yards from scrimmage and was named to the 1953 Pro Bowl. Renfro was named to the Pro Bowl again in 1957 and 1960, and he was named All Pro in 1955 when he led the NFL in yards per reception with 20.8 yards a catch. He was also third in the league in touchdowns that year. Renfro earned All-Pro honors again in 1959. Renfro played in the NFL for 12 years, all with the Browns.
Johnny Stovall (football) -- Johnny Stovall was a first-team all-conference selection in 1936.
Ted Wright (football) -- Ted Wright was the Mean Green's first All-American in 1932. He was also the first North Texas player to be drafted in the NFL; picked by the Redskins in 1933.
Don January (men's golf) -- After playing an integral role in North Texas winning three national golf championships from 1950-1953, Don January went on to a long, illustrious professional career. January won 10 PGA Tour titles with his most notable victory coming at the 1967 PGA Championship. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average in 1976 and was chosen to play on the U.S. Ryder Cup team in both 1965 and 1977. January continued his success on the Senior PGA Tour (now the Champions Tour), winning 23 events including two PGA Seniors' Championships.
Wayne Rideout (men's T&F) --
Choc Sportsman (men's T&F) --