As we conclude the countdown of our Top 100 UCF Knights male athletes, we want to acknowledge a couple of UCF alumni who are not ranked, but still are prominent figures in sports with UCF connections.
Aric Almirola (NASCAR)
Aric Almirola currently competes full time on the NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 10 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. Originally from the Tampa area, Almirola attended UCF to work on his degree in mechanical engineering, but left in 2004 to pursue his racing career.
Almirola has won two races - the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona and 2018 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega - with 69 top ten finishes during his 13-year NASCAR career. He also has driven in the NASCAR Truck series for the last eight years and has two wins in that circuit as well.
Phil Dalhausser (Volleyball)
The most successful UCF alum in Olympic history is Phil Dalhausser, who is an Olympic gold medalist winning gold in Beach Volleyball at 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics where Dalhausser was the Most Outstanding Player for beach competition. Dalhausser participated in 3 Summer Olympics overall (2008,2012,2016).
Dalhausser was in process of preparing to make a 4th Olympics appearance this summer prior to Covid 19 delaying that until 2021. Dalhausser talked about trying to make summer olympics at age 40 when he talked to Black and Gold Banneret back on Feb 28.
Dalhausser played club indoor volleyball during his time at UCF. Dalhausser is a beach volleyball legend playing with. Most Outstanding Player for beach competition. Due to no Men’s Volleyball or Beach Volleyball at UCF. Dalhausser not eligible for rankings. Otherwise he would land in top ten.
But now we unveil the top ten which includes 7 UCF Athletic Hall of Famers, A Florida Sports Hall of Fame member, 4 Top Ten Heisman Trophy Finalist combined, Player of Year award winners in A-SUN, C-USA, and AAC, An Olympian and more.
#10- Ricardo Gouveia ( Golf)
Originally from Portugal, Ricardo Gouveia played at UCF from 2012-2014 after transferring from Lynn University, and was an All-America honorable mention in 2012 and 3rd Team All-American in 2014. Gouveia won three tournaments during his time at UCF, which ranks 4th all-time, and ranks second at UCF in career scoring average with 71.84.
Gouveia was recognized as the C-USA Men’s Golf Newcomer of the Year in 2012, as he led UCF to the NCAA Championships in 2012 and 2013, with three overall NCAA Tournament appearances (2012-2014). He finished second runner-up at the NCAA Tempe Regional in 2013 and finished tied for fifth overall in the NCAA Regional in 2014, and advanced to the NCAA Championship as an individual both times. He also has two of the top six single-season scoring averages in program history, with a 71.06 (3rd) in 2013-2014 and a 71.51 (6th) in 2011-2012.
Gouveia turned professional in 2014 and plays on the Challenge Tour. He won his first tournament in his seventh start at the EMC Golf Challenge Open in October 2014. He won three tournaments on the Challenge Tour and currently plays on the PGA European Tour, where he has played since 2015. Gouveia was on the winning European team in the Palmer Cup in 2014.
Gouveia is one of five UCF athletes to have participated in the Summer Olympics, as Gouveia represented Portugal in the 2016 Rio Summer Games, finishing 59th. He also represented Portugal at Golf’s World Cup event in 2016, helping Portugal finish 26th.
T-#9 - Justin Pope (Baseball)
Justin Pope is UCF’s all-time leader with 32 wins and 335 strikeouts, and ranked second all-time with 49 starts on the mound, third with three shutouts, fifth with 310.0 innings pitched and seventh with 9.73 strikeouts per nine innings when he was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.
Pope was an All-A-Sun performer twice, and broke Roger Clemens’ NCAA record at the time by pitching 38.1 consecutive innings without giving up a run in 2001. Pope set the UCF school record with 15 wins in 2001, following up his 10 wins in 2000, which is tied for 6th-most in a single season. He is only UCF pitcher to win 10 games or more in a season twice. Pope also has the single-season record for strikeouts with 158 in 2001.
Pope was an All-American in 2001, and an ABCA All-Atlantic Region First Team pick. He was the 2001 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, and made the A-Sun All-Tournament Team that same year.
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.
T-#9 - Jason Arnold (Baseball)
Jason Arnold pitched for UCF from 1998-01 before being drafted in second round by the New York Yankees. He was a four-time first-team All-Atlantic Sun performer, earned Freshman All-America in 1998 and was named All-American in 2001.
Arnold helped UCF win back-to-back regular season Atlantic Sun titles and appear in back-to-back NCAA Regionals in 2000 and 2001. He is UCF’s all-time leader in appearances (98), and is 2nd all-time in saves (27), wins (30), and strikeouts (330), along with placing 3rd 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 16 single-season categories. Arnold was inducted into UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.
Arnold was drafted in second round of 2001 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, and played in the Yankees’ and Oakland Athletics’ systems before landing with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003. With the Blue Jays, Arnold rose through AAA Syracuse and pitched at the MLB level twice in 2004 and 2005.
#8 - Jermaine Taylor (Basketball)
Tavares product Jermaine Taylor earned Conference USA Player of the Year honors in his final season at UCF in 2009, as he was selected to the All-C-USA First Team, NABC All-District First Team, and the USBWA All-District Team. He averaged 26.2 points, 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.
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 D-League for seven seasons, averaging 14.4 points per game, and played all over the world over the rest of the decade. Most recently, Taylor has been playing in the Big 3 league.
#7 - Shaquem Griffin (Football)
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.
Griffin ranks 10th all-time in tackles for loss in UCF history with 33.5.
Griffin was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round (141st overall), reuniting him with his brother Shaquill.
T-#6- Brandon Marshall (Football)
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. He played in 13 games and career highs in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,195), and touchdowns (11). His best game came in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl, where he had 11 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns, and 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 selected to the All-C-USA Second Team in his final season as a Knight.
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, 22nd in receiving yards with 12,351, and 22nd in touchdowns with 83.
T-#6 - Asante Samuel (Football)
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 had eight interceptions, 38 break-ups, 63 punt returns for 673 yards and 10 kickoff returns for 168 yards (16.8 avg.) as a Knight from 1999-2002.
Samuel finished eighth in career interceptions, and 10th in a single-season with four picks in 2002. 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, 6th).
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 2003 NFL Draft, and developed into an all-timer. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion 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 32nd all-time in NFL. Samuel is also tied for 19th all-time in the NFL with six interception returns for a touchdown.
#5 - Blake Bortles (Football)
Oviedo High School grad Blake Bortles is the all-time leader at UCF in career passer rating with a 153.9, and he ranks 5th in career completions, yards, and touchdowns behind Daunte Culpepper, Ryan Schneider, Darin Hinshaw, 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.
Bortles was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars third overall 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. For his career in the NFL, Bortles has thrown for 17,649 yards with 103 touchdown passes and a 80.6 passer rating.
#4 - McKenzie Milton - Football
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.
Milton has thrown for 8,683 passing yards in three seasons, fourth in school history. His current pass efficiency rating of 152.3 ranks second 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 third. Milton has thrown for 72 touchdown passes, which ranks 4th, while also ranking 4th in total touchdowns with 92. He is currently recovering from a devastating leg injury suffered in the 2018 game at South Florida. But Milton continues to work toward getting cleared to play again in the future.
#3 - Winston DuBose (Soccer)
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 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)
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 C-USA 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 C-USA 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, the State of Florida, and 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.
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 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 at FAU (2017-2019), and is currently with Kiffin at Ole Miss.
#1 - Daunte Culpepper (Football)
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, rushing yards by a QB with 1,020, total offense with 12,459 yards, and he was responsible for 108 career touchdowns (84 passing, 24 rushing) which also ranks tops all-time at UCF. He won the 1998 Sammy Baugh Trophy and finished 6th for the Heisman Trophy, as he threw for 3,690 yards and 28 TD passes plus 12 rushing TDs with 463 yards rushing in his final season.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
Culepper was honored by the Vikings in on December 24, 2019, at halftime of their Monday Night Football game, as he was recognized as part of 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 afterwards, make him our selection as the greatest male UCF Knights athlete of all time.