In ranking Conference USA’s top five defensive backs of all time, the margin is slim from No. 1 to No. 5.
It’s fitting that former Southern Miss star Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison of Louisville earn the top two slots in this version of C-USA Top 5. Surtain and Madison were NFL teammates with the Miami Dolphins and both went to multiple Pro Bowls.
Surtain has the slight edge because he became the first defensive back to earn C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 1997 (the only other one is Kemal Ishmael in 2012) and he played more years in the conference. Madison only played in two (1995-96) while Surtain was a standout in C-USA from 1995-97.
UCF’s run of producing top notch prospects is impressive with Minnesota Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson leading the way at No. 3.
Here are your top five defensive backs in C-USA history:
1. Patrick Surtain (Southern Miss, 1995-97): Among the best defensive backs to suit up for the black and gold, Surtain earned several All-American honors in 1997 as a senior. He had 16 career interceptions and set the school record for pass breakups at 31. Surtain, a New Orleans native, earned three Pro Bowl invitations with the Miami Dolphins.
2. Sam Madison (Louisville, 1995-96): One of the best defensive players to ever suit up for the Cardinals, Madison was a star in C-USA at its inception. He had 16 career interceptions and earned plenty of All-American accolades as a senior. He earned four Pro Bowl bids with the Dolphins.
3. Josh Robinson (UCF, 2009-11): Easily the best cornerback in C-USA from the last decade, Robinson was a star at the outset. He finished with 10 career interceptions and was named first-team All-C-USA in his sophomore and junior seasons. He declared for the NFL Draft after his senior season and is a starter for the Minnesota Vikings.
4. Kemal Ishmael (UCF, 2009-12): The only safety on this list, Ishmael was a strong presence in the UCF secondary. He had 124 tackles and three interceptions as a senior to earn the 2012 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year honor. He finished with 368 career tackles.
5. Joe Burnett (UCF, 2005-08): Dangerous with the ball in his hands, Burnett was an excellent kick returner. He was also quite the corner with 16 career interceptions.
Also received consideration: Etric Pruitt of Southern Miss and UAB's Rodregis Brooks.