Keeping Score

C-USA Top 5: USM's Thomas the best defensive player in league history

Southern Miss swept the top spots when ranking the best defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs in Conference USA history so it's only fitting that a Golden Eagle sit atop the ranking of the top five defensive players in league history.

Former Southern Miss defensive end Adalius Thomas, who went onto a solid NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, earned the right to be considered the conference's best at any position position on defense.

Former Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry trails close behind Thomas and two more Golden Eagles make this list.

Here it is, the top five defensive players in Conference USA history:

1. Adalius Thomas (Southern Miss, 1996-99): Thomas was a major figure in C-USA when USM consistently had the best defenses in the league. He was twice named C-USA's Defensive Player of the Year as a dominating pass rusher at defensive end. Thomas also contributed on special teams, blocking seven kicks in his career. He registered 242 career tackles and 34.5 sacks.

2. Vinny Curry (Marshall, 2008-11): The former Marshall defensive end always had to be accounted for by opposing offenses. Curry had an incredible motor for a defensive end and his last two years with the Thundering Herd were impressive. Now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Curry had 12 sacks as a junior and 11 as a senior.

3. Rod Davis (Southern Miss, 2000-03): USM has a tradition of having the best middle linebackers in the league, and Davis was the best of them all. No other player in C-USA  history had a more decorated career on defense than Davis with All-American honors in three out of his four years. He had 526 career tackles, including 168 tackles and 10.5 sacks as a junior in 2002.

4. Patrick Surtain (Southern Miss, 1995-97): With 16 career interceptions, Surtain stands out as the best defensive back to ever suit up in C-USA. As a senior, he had 84 tackles and six interceptions to earn Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. He earned three Pro Bowls with the Miami Dolphins.

5. Sam Madison (Louisville, 1995-96): Before he teamed with Surtain to give the Dolphins one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL, Madison was a star in the Louisville secondary. He had 16 career interceptions and was nearly a unanimous All-American as a senior.

Contact Patrick Magee at pmagee@sunherald.com.

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