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Top 100 Greatest UCF Male Athletes: Top Ten

We conclude this Top 100 list with the best of the best

NCAA Football: USA TODAY Sports-Archive RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has changed since the world emerged from the COVID-19 lockdowns, which was the last time we ranked the Top 100 Male Athletes in UCF history.

In just three years, many legends cemented their status in his final few seasons, while others were born, and for a few athletes, their stories have been rediscovered.

With UCF getting ready for its first year as a member of the Big 12 (and Men’s Soccer for its first season in the Sun Belt), it’s once again time to count down the Top 100 Male UCF Knights athletes of all time.

Criteria used to create this list include:

  • A player’s impact on their respective sport and on the school
  • What accomplishments have they had after their UCF career
  • What accolades have they received

We made sure to include at least one athlete from every current UCF sport.

Click the links below to catch up on the previous 90 spots:

Check out our previous articles in this list here:

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #100-91

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #90-81

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #80-71

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #70-61

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #60-51

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #50-41

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #40-31

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #30-21

Top 100 UCF Knights Male Athletes of All-Time: #20-11

Now, let’s wrap up this countdown with the Top 10:

#10 - Sean Johnson (Men’s Soccer)

United States v Canada: Final - CONCACAF Nations League Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Despite only playing two seasons for UCF, Johnson ranks seventh all-time in career saves (191) and tied for 12th in career shutouts (7). He also ranks tied for third in program history with 1986 Dan Cordia for the most single-season saves with 108 in 2008. Only 1982 and 1983 Rick Bratincevic have more.

Johnson played two seasons at UCF (2007-2008) and was selected in the 4th round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire.

Since then, Johnson has played 14 seasons with the Fire (2010-2016), New York City FC (2017-2022), and Toronto FC (2023-present). Johnson was part of the 2021 NEW York City FC squad that won the 2021 MLS Cup and was named the MVP of the championship match. He was named an MLS All-Star in 2022.

MLS: New York City FC-MLS Cup Championship Celebration
Sean Johnson raises the trophy as New York City FC celebrates its MLS Cup championship win at City Hall in 2021
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson has been part of the U.S. National Team program since January of 2011, participating in the 2022-23 CONCACAF Nations League and four CONCACAF Gold Cups (2013, 2017, 2021 and 2023), of which Team USA won three (2013, 2017 and 2021). He is also the first UCF alum to be on a World Cup Roster with the U.S. National team, receiving a selection to the 2022 Qatar World Cup roster.

T-#9 - Justin Pope (Baseball)

Justin Pope is UCF’s all-time leader with 32 wins and 335 strikeouts and ranked tied for second all-time with 49 starts on the mound, tied for third with three shutouts, fifth with 310.0 innings pitched and ninth with 9.73 strikeouts per nine innings.

Pope was an All-ASUN performer twice. He set the UCF school record with 15 wins in 2001, following up his 10 wins in 2000, which is tied for sixth-most in a single season. He is the only UCF pitcher to win 10 games or more in a season twice. He also has the single-season record for strikeouts with 158 in 2001 and the school record for consecutive scoreless innings (38.1).

Pope was an All-American, an ABCA All-Atlantic Region First Team pick and ASUN Player of the Year in 2001.

Pope formed a 1-2 punch with fellow UCF Athletics Hall of Fame pitcher Jason Arnold, as they combined to lead the Knights to the NCAA Regionals in 2000 and 2001. UCF was ranked as high as #7 in the country in 2001. Pope was selected in the first round (28th overall) in the 2001 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.

He was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. Nowadays, he is the pitching coach for the FCL Marlins, the Rookie-level affiliate of the Miami Marlins.

T-#9 - Jason Arnold (Baseball)

Jason Arnold (Photo: UCF Athletics)
Jason Arnold (Photo: UCF Athletics)

Jason Arnold pitched for UCF from 1998-01 before being drafted in the second round of the 2001 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. He was a four-time first-team All-ASUN performer, earned Freshman All-America in 1998 and was named All-American in 2001.

Arnold helped UCF win back-to-back regular season ASUN titles and appear in back-to-back NCAA Regionals in 2000 and 2001. He is UCF’s all-time leader in total appearances (98) and is second all-time in saves (27), wins (30), and strikeouts (330), along with placing third in ERA (2.38).

He is also the school’s single-season record holder in strikeouts per nine innings with 15.73, set in 2000 (15.73). Arnold ranks in the top 10 at UCF in eight career pitching categories and seven single-season categories.

He was drafted in the second round of the 2001 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees and would play in the minor leagues from 2001-2006.

Arnold was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006. Nowadays, he is the head baseball coach at Eastern Florida State College

#8 - Jermaine Taylor (Basketball)

Jermaine Taylor
Jermaine Taylor at UCF (Photo: UCF Athletics)
Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics

Tavares product Jermaine Taylor earned Conference USA Player of the Year and AP All-America Honorable Mention honors in his final season at UCF in 2009, as he was selected to the All-CUSA First Team, NABC All-District First Team, and the USBWA All-District Team. He averaged 26.2 points (sixth-best in program history), which was third-best in the nation, and set a Conference USA single-season record with 466 total points and a 29.1 points-per-game average against conference opponents.

Taylor scored a school-record 812 points during his senior season and shot 48% from the floor including 37.6% from three-point range. Taylor became the all-time leading scorer in the Division I era at UCF, a record he still holds today with 1,979 points, and he trails only Bo Clark in the total career scoring category.

Prior to Taylor Hendricks, Taylor was the highest NBA Draft pick in UCF history, when he was selected with the 32nd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, and shortly after was traded to the Houston Rockets.

On December 15, 2010, the Rockets traded Taylor to the Sacramento Kings for a protected second-round pick. In two NBA seasons, he averaged 5.4 points per game. He was waived by the Kings at the end of the season. Taylor played in the G-League for seven seasons, averaging 14.4 points per game, and played all over the world over the rest of the decade.

He was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021. Nowadays, Taylor is a photographer and runs the Build Up The Youth Foundation, a non-profit he founded in 2020.

#7 - Shaquem Griffin (Football)

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Auburn v Central Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Shaquem Griffin is one of the greatest stories in college football history. The twin brother of Shaquill, he was an afterthought when recruited by George O’Leary, in part due to his amputated left hand, caused by amniotic band syndrome when he was a toddler.

Despite that, Griffin was AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and was named the Peach Bowl’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2018 as UCF knocked off Auburn to finish an undefeated season. Shaquem won numerous honors as a Knight, including making the American Athletic Conference Fifth Anniversary Team (2018), Second-Team All-American in 2017, and First-Team All-AAC in 2016 and 2017. He was also a recipient of the NCAA Inspiration Award and the subject of an NFL 360 short that won a Sports Emmy Award in 2019.

Griffin ranks 10th all-time in tackles for loss in UCF history with 33.5 and tied for 10th in career sacks with 18.5. He also ranks tied for third for the most tackles for a loss in a season (20) and sixth in single-season sacks (11.5).

Griffin was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round (141st overall), reuniting him with his brother Shaquill. He would go on to play three seasons with the team and have a brief stint with the Miami Dolphins.

He announced his retirement from the NFL in August 2022 and now works in the NFL Legends Community.

T-#6 - Brandon Marshall (Football)

Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Lake Howell High School product Brandon Marshall had 112 receptions, 1,674 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns when he played at UCF from 2002-2005. Keep in mind that Marshall started at safety for seven games during the 2004 season due to injuries in UCF’s secondary. Incredibly, he led the team in tackles (51) during the 2004 season.

Marshall was a late bloomer. His best season was in 2005, as a full-time wide receiver, when he was selected to the All-CUSA Second Team. He played in 13 games and got career highs in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,195), and touchdowns (11). His 1,195 receiving yards rank as the third-most in a single season in program history and his seven 100-receiving-yard games are tied for the most in a single season in program history.

His best game came in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl, where he had 11 catches for 210 yards (the fourth-most in a single game in program history) and three touchdowns. He dominated the game in the final moments, helping UCF rally to tie it and send it to overtime, and was named MVP of the game.

Marshall was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played for the Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, New York Giants, and the Seattle Seahawks.

Marshall was the first player in NFL history to have a 1,000-yard season with four different teams (Denver, Miami, Chicago and NY Jets). He also set records for the most seasons with 100+ receptions with six and the most receptions in an NFL game with 21. In 13 NFL seasons, Marshall was a six-time NFL Pro Bowler, which is the most by any UCF Knight, and he made NFL All-Pro First Team in 2012. Marshall ranks 16th all-time in NFL history with 970 receptions, 23rd in receiving yards with 12,351 and tied for 25th in touchdowns with 83.

Nowadays, Marshall is the Founder and CEO of media company I Am Athlete and fitness company House of Athlete. He has also been on the cast of “Inside the NFL” since 2014.

T-#6 - Asante Samuel (Football)

Super Bowl XLII Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Asante Samuel is the greatest defensive back to ever play for UCF and was also one of the greatest special teamers in school history. He returned 63 punts for 673 yards (4th in school history) and 10 kickoff returns for 168 yards (16.8 avg.) as a Knight from 1999-2002.

Samuel finished tied for ninth in career interceptions (8). His 38 break-ups broke the school’s career record of 34. He also ranks among the top punt returners for season return average (12.3 in 2002, 6th) and career average (10.7, T-7th). He is also tied for the school record for the most career field goal blocks (3).

As a junior in 2001, Samuel was an All-Independent First-Team selection by Football News, with 41 tackles (31 solo) with two picks and a team-high 13 passes defended. He also returned 19 punts for 165 yards that season.

Samuel was a team captain as a senior in 2002 and was an All-MAC First-Team selection with 48 tackles (42 solo) and 15 passes defended. He also returned 19 punts for 233 yards (12.3-yard average) in 2002.

Samuel was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft and developed into an all-timer. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion, a two-time All-Pro selection (2007 and 2009) and a four-time Pro Bowl selection in 11 seasons in the NFL.

Samuel played for the Patriots, Eagles and Falcons from 2003-13, and holds the NFL postseason record with four pick-sixes. Samuel led the NFL in interceptions twice, in 2006 and 2009, and finished with 51 career interceptions, which ranks tied for 32nd all-time in NFL. Samuel is also tied for 20th all-time in the NFL with six interception returns for a touchdown.

He was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015. Samuel’s son, Asante Jr., currently plays for Los Angeles Chargers.

#5 - Blake Bortles (Football)

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Oviedo High School grad Blake Bortles ranks second in program history in career passer rating with a 153.76 and completion percentage (65.7%). He also ranks 5th in career completions (585) and passing yards (7,598). He ranks 6th in passing touchdowns (56) behind Daunte Culpepper, Ryan Schneider, Darin Hinshaw, Dillon Gabriel and McKenzie Milton. As a starter in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he posted a 22–5 record for the Knights.

In his final season, Bortles was the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP and the 2013 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. This followed up his Second-Team All-CUSA 2012 season.

Bortles was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the highest any Knight has ever been taken. He played for the Jaguars from 2014-2018, leading them to the AFC Championship game in 2017. He spent 2019 as a backup quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams and spent short stints with the Broncos, Rams again, Packers and Saints in 2020 and 2021 before calling it a career in October 2022.

Bortles holds the Jaguars franchise records in single-season passing touchdowns (35; 2015), passing yards in a season (4,428; 2015) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (15; 2015).

For his career in the NFL, Bortles has thrown for 17,649 yards with 103 touchdown passes and an 80.6 passer rating.

He was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021.

#4 - McKenzie Milton - Football

McKenzie Milton UCF
McKenzie Milton celebrates after scoring a touchdown
Derek Warden/Black & Gold Banneret

Hailing all the way from Miliani, Hawai’i, McKenzie Milton led UCF to its first undefeated season in program history in 2017, going 13-0. He finished in the top ten of the Heisman Trophy voting in 2017 (8th) and 2018 (6th), which tied Daunte Culpepper (1998) for the highest finish by a Knight.

His 2017 season ranks as the school single-season record in passing yards (4,037), total offense (4,650), passing touchdowns (37) and passing efficiency (179.29). It also ranks second in single-season rushing yards by a QB, only coming behind JRP’s 2022 season.

For his career, Milton has thrown for 8,683 passing yards in three seasons, fourth in school history. His career pass efficiency rating of 152.25 ranks third all-time at UCF. He has 12 300-yard passing games, which ranks third in program history, and has two 400-yard passing games, which is tied for fourth. Milton has thrown for 72 touchdown passes, which ranks fourth, while also ranking fourth in total touchdowns with 92.

He was a two-time AAC Offensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-AAC selection (2017 and 2018).

Milton’s playing days at UCF would come to an abrupt end on Black Friday 2018 when he dislocated his knee on a quarterback run. After a long recovery, he was cleared to resume football activity in the summer of 2020 and he would run the scout team. However, by that point, fellow Hawaiian Dillon Gabriel had taken over as the starting quarterback, so Milton would end up making his first on-field appearance since his injury with the Florida State Seminoles in September 2021.

He would make one final appearance in the Bounce House, playing in the 2022 Hula Bowl, and announce his retirement from playing football in June 2022. Nowadays, he has begun a coaching career as an offensive analyst at Tennessee under his former head coach Josh Heupel.

#3 - Winston DuBose (Soccer)

Winston DuBose Was inducted into Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 Florida Sports Hall of Fame
Florida Sports Hall of Fame

Winston DuBose is the first athlete from men’s soccer to be selected to the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame. He was an All-American three times during his career as UCF’s goalkeeper from 1973-76. He led UCF, then FTU, to a 15-1-1 record in 1976 and set the school record for career shutouts (25), season shutouts (eight), career goals against average (.91) and season goals against average (.49).

DuBose has also donated to Men’s Soccer program for renovations to the locker rooms and scholarships.

DuBose was one of the most successful American goalies in the NASL, a precursor to MLS, leading the Tampa Bay Rowdies to the 1978 Soccer Bowl against Pele and the New York Cosmos. He was in goal for every game with the Tulsa Roughnecks in 1983, when they won the Soccer Bowl.

Winston returned to Tampa Bay to play from 1988-1991 for the new Tampa Bay Rowdies of the ASL & APSL. He also had a brief career in the Major Indoor Soccer League with the Wichita Wings in 1989-1990.

DuBose also spent time playing in Europe from 1977–1979 with Southampton F.C. and spent three months at Ipswich Town F.C. where he played five games in reserve, and also played 30 games for Cambridge City in two seasons in the Southern League.

DuBose also played on U.S. National Team for six years, from 1979-1985. He was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000 and was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 2019, joining Michelle Akers and Torchy Clark as UCF figures in the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

#2 - Kevin Smith (Football)

Texas Longhorns v University of Central Florida Knights Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Miami Southridge High grad Kevin Smith is the all-time leading rusher at UCF with 4,864 yards rushing and 45 touchdowns. He was part of UCF’s first two bowl teams, in 2005 as a freshman, and in 2007, when he led the Knights to their first-ever CUSA Championship and a trip to the Liberty Bowl.

Smith was the 2007 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-American, making him the first UCF player to achieve that.

He put on one of the most memorable performances in UCF history in the 2007 CUSA Championship against Tulsa, running for 284 yards and four touchdowns, and leading UCF to its first-ever conference championship.

In 2007, Smith led the nation in both rushing yards and touchdowns, setting the all-time rushing records for UCF, Conference USA and the State of Florida, coming up just shy of Barry Sanders’ NCAA record. Smith ended up with 2,567 yards, just 61 shy of Sanders’ record of 2,628. Smith did set a new NCAA record with 450 carries, breaking a record held by Marcus Allen (405) of USC in 1981, and ran for over 100 yards in 13 games, the most in a single season in FBS history. He also ran for 29 touchdowns, which is tied for the sixth-most in a single season in FBS history.

Smith finished in 8th place for the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019.

Smith was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 3rd round of the 2008 NFL Draft and played for the Lions from 2008-2012. He then went into coaching, starting at UCF (2015-2017) before joining Lane Kiffin’s coaching staff as a running backs coach at FAU (2017-2019). He followed Kiffin to Ole Miss (2020-2021) before joining the Miami Hurricanes coaching staff for 2022. As of this ranking, he is back with Kiffin at Ole Miss.

#1 - Daunte Culpepper (Football)

Daunte Culpepper #8
Daunte Culpepper played at UCF 1995-1998

Ocala’s Daunte Culpepper elevated UCF from an average I-AA program to a noteworthy I-A program on the verge of a Top 25 ranking when he left.

He is at or near the top of almost every quarterback record at UCF. He also set an NCAA record for single-season completion percentage at 73.6% in 1998, breaking the previous record set by Steve Young (71.3%).

Culpepper is UCF’s all-time leader in passing yards with 11,412 yards, total offense with 12,459 yards, and he was responsible for a UCF record 108 career touchdowns (84 passing, 24 rushing). His 24 rushing touchdowns rank seventh in program history overall, running backs included. He also had the school record for career rushing yards by a QB with 1,020 until McKenzie Milton came along.

He won the 1998 Sammy Baugh Trophy and finished 6th for the Heisman Trophy in his final season. He threw for 3,690 yards (third-most in a single season in UCF history) and 28 TD passes (Fifth-most in a single season in UCF history), plus 12 rushing TDs (Most by a QB in one season in UCF history) with 463 yards rushing (third-most by a QB in one season in UCF history).

2004 NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Daunte Culpepper runs to the one-yard line against the Detroit Lions defense in 2nd half action at the Metrodome in 2004
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Culpepper was drafted 11th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round in 1999 and was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002.

Culpepper was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his seven seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, leading them to the NFL playoffs twice (2000,2004) including a trip to the 2000 NFC Championship Game.

In 2002, he would get inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame.

His most successful season came in 2004, in which he set a then-single season record for the most total yardage by a quarterback in NFL history at the time with 5,123 and led the league in passing yards (4,717).

However, Culpepper suffered a serious knee injury the following season that ended his Vikings career. After his injury, he played for the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, and Detroit Lions (teaming with Kevin Smith), but he was never the same.

Culpepper threw for 24,153 yards with 149 touchdown passes and an 87.8 passer rating in his NFL career. His professional career concluded after one season with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League (UFL), where he played for his former coach with the Vikings, Dennis Green, and his former UCF coach, Mike Kruczek.

Culpepper was honored by the Vikings on December 24, 2019, at halftime of their Monday Night Football game, as he was recognized as part of the 50 Greatest Vikings of All-Time.

But Daunte’s legacy looms largest of all at UCF. His contributions to the university on the field, both as a Knight and afterward, make him our selection as the greatest male UCF Knights athlete of all time.