1996: Byron Hanspard
In the first year of the Big 12’s existence, the best running back in Texas Tech football history put up one of the best seasons of any RB in the history of the conference. As a junior, Byron Hanspard ran for a school-record 2,000 yards to earn unanimous first-team All-American honors and win the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back.
That season, the Dallas native carried the ball 311 times and averaged 6.4 yards per rush. Amazingly, he reached the 1,000-yard mark in just five games that year.
His highlight game from that campaign was a school-record 287-yard outburst against Baylor. It was one of seven times in his career that Hanspard topped the 200-yard mark.
He became the second Red Raider RB in four seasons to capture the Doak Walker Award after Byron “Bam” Morris managed to do the same in 1993. And when Texas’ RB Ricky Williams captured the award in both 1997 and 1998, the Big 12 had a stranglehold on the award in the earliest days of the conference’s existence. In all, the Red Raiders’ all-time career rushing leader holds one of five Doak Walker Awards that the Big 12 has claimed.
Hanspard’s 2,000-yard season in 1996 still sits fifth in Big 12 history and helped Tech reach a 7-5 record, which included an appearance in the Alamo Bowl. Thus, it was not hard to tab him as the best Red Raider from the inaugural season of Big 12 football.