There have been many successful athletes that have come through the Beehive State that have turned into decorated professionals. In my four-part series, I’ll dive into the top 20 athletes from each school: University of Utah, BYU, Utah State, and a combined list from other Utah schools.
In this series, I’ll rank the top 20 pro athletes from Brigham Young University, which includes career highlights and accolades.
Without further ado, here are the top professional athletes from BYU.
20. Dane Iorg (1977-86) MLB
During a 10-year MLB career, Iorg is probably best known for his game-winning hit in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, which forced a seventh game that the Royals won, winning their first championship. Along with the title in Kansas City, Iorg also helped lead the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title.
19. Andy Toolson (1990-01) basketball
Despite an unsuccessful short NBA career, Toolson carved out a nice career overseas playing in Italy, Spain, and Greece. During his stint in Spain, he was named a 1993 Liga ACB All-Star and a ULEB All-Star in 1994 while winning the 1997 Spanish Cup, and while in Greece won the 1999 All-Star Game 3-Point Contest.
18. Vance Law (1980-91) MLB
During a 12-year pro career (11 in MLB), Law helped lead the Cubs to an NL East title in 1989 while being named an NL All-Star in 1988. Following his playing career, Law returned to coach BYU, winning the 2001 Mountain West championship.
17. Wally Joyner (1986-01) MLB
Joyner burst on the scene as a rookie in 1986, being voted an AL All-Star while being named the co-winner of the Home Run Derby while helping the Angels win the AL West. Later in his career, he was the starting first baseman for the 1998 Padres, who reached the World Series.
16. Jimmer Fredette (2011-present) NBA/CBA
Despite a disappointing NBA career, Jimmer has still had an impressive career in the D-League and China. He was the MVP of the 2016 D-League All-Star Game and was named to the All-D-League Second Team playing for Westchester. Following the season, he moved to China to play for Shanghai Sharks and was named a CBA All-Star twice, winning the 2017 CBA International MVP, which included a 73-point performance against Zhejiang.
15. Ashley Hatch (2017-Present) NWSL
During her rookie campaign in the NWSL, Hatch tied the league’s rookie goals record (7) and took home the NWSL Rookie of the Year Award while helping the Courage to the NWSL Shield and a championship game appearance. During the offseason, she traveled to Australia, helping Melbourne City win the W-League title. Now with Washington in the NWSL, Hatch is a USWNT Under-23 regular and has made two appearances with the full national team.
14. Jim Eakins (1968-78) ABA/NBA
Playing 10 seasons in the ABA and NBA, Eakins was named an ABA All-Star in 1974 with the Virginia Squires. He also picked up two ABA championship rings with the Oakland Oaks in 1969 and the New York Nets in 1976.
13. Danny Ainge (1981-95) NBA
After a three-season MLB stint, Ainge began his NBA career with Boston, where he won championships in 1984 and 1986 while appearing in the Finals in 1985 and 1987, even being selected an All-Star in 1988. Later in his career, Ainge also made the NBA Finals with Portland and Phoenix.
12. Rick Aguilera (1985-00) MLB
As a pitcher for 16 years, Aguilera was one of the top closers in the game, retiring as the Twins all-time saves leader (now 2nd). He was named to three AL All-Star teams from 1991-93 and helped Minnesota win the 1991 World Series. Aguilera, who also won the 1986 World Series with the Mets, was enshrined into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame in 2008.
11. Jim McMahon (1982-96) NFL
Suiting up for seven teams during a 15-year NFL career, McMahon’s best seasons came as a member of the Bears. In seven seasons, he led the team to five straight NFC Central titles and a victory in Super Bowl XX, being named to the Pro Bowl that same season and was named UPI Second Team All-NFC and also won the 1982 UPI NFC Rookie of the Year. Later in his career he was named the 1991 PFW NFL Comeback Player of the Year with the Eagles and won Super Bowl XXXI with Green Bay.
10. Chad Lewis ( 1997-05) NFL
One of the top tight ends during his prime, Lewis was named too three straight Pro Bowls from 2000-02 and being named to the 2000 All-Pro Team while helping the Eagles win four NFC East titles and appear in Super Bowl XXXIX. Earlier in his career in St. Louis, he helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl XXXIV championship.
9. Bart Oates (1983-95) USFL/NFL
Oates began his career in the United States Football League, winning back-to-back titles in 1984-85 before moving to the NFL, playing for the Giants and 49ers. During an 11-year NFL run, he was named to five Pro Bowls and was a three-time UPI All-NFC pick while winning Super Bowls XXI and XXV with New York and Super Bowl XXIX with San Francisco.
8. Mel Hutchins (1951-58) NBA
One of a few former Cougars to make a mark on the NBA, Hutchins starred for seven seasons, with the best years of his career coming in Fort Wayne. After leading the NBA in rebounding in 1952 and being named an All-Star in 1953 with Milwaukee, he was traded to the Pistons. With Fort Wayne he was named to three NBA All-Star teams and led them to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances during the 1954-55 and 1955-56 seasons.
7. Lloyd Fairbanks (1975-91) CFL
During a decorated 17-year in the CFL, Fairbanks was named a CFL East Division All-Star three times, a West All-Star four times, and a CFL All-Star twice. During the 1982 season he was named the recipient of the Demarco-Becket Memorial Trophy as the top lineman in the West Division. Following his career, he was named by TSN as one of the CFL’s Top 50 Players and was inducted into the Stampeders Wall of Fame.
6. Todd Christensen (1979-88) NFL
After short stints with the Cowboys and Giants, Christensen found a home with the Raiders, where he played 10 seasons. As a tight end, he led the NFL in receptions twice and was selected to five straight Pro Bowls from 1983-87 along with being named to the All-Pro team four times. During his time in La/Oakland, he led the Raiders to five playoff appearances, winning Super Bowls XV and XVIII.
5. Ben Cahoon (1998-10) CFL
One of the greatest receivers in CFL history, Cahoon was named to 10 CFL East All-Star teams and was a three-time CFL All-Star selection and is the CFL record holder for career receptions. Playing with Montreal his entire career, he was named a two-time CFL Most Outstanding Canadian and was a two-time Grey Cup Most Outstanding Canadian while winning three Grey Cup titles. Following his illustrious career, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and his No. 86 jersey was retired by the Alouettes.
4. Johnny Miller (1966-94) PGA Tour
One of the world’s best golfers during his prime, Miller finished in the Top-10 of 16 PGA Tour events, which included three runner-up finishes at The Masters. He won 25 PGA Tour events during his career, including two majors – the 1973 U.S. Open and 1976 Open Championship. He was named the 1974 PGA Player of the Year and was a member of two U.S. Ryder Cup-winning teams. Following a long career, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998.
3. Jack Morris (1977-94) MLB
In an 18-year career, Morris was named an AL All-Star five times, leading the AL in strikeouts in 1983 and MLB in wins twice. With 254 career wins and a no-hitter to his name, he also won four World Series titles (two with the Twins, two with Toronto), winning MVP of the 1991 Fall Classic. The winningest pitcher of the 1980’s, he was named a Hall of Fame inductee for 2018 and the Tigers will retire his No. 47 jersey in August.
2. Kresimir Cosic (1964-69, 73-83) Pro Basketball
Cosic played five years of pro basketball in Croatia before enrolling at BYU and then continued playing overseas for 10 seasons after. Playing in Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia, he won six Yugoslav League titles, three Yugoslav Cups, two Italian League titles, and the 1982 FIBA Saporta Cup and was named to six FIBA All-Star teams. His greatest achievements likely came as a member of the Yugoslav National team, whom he led to 1980 Olympic gold and two Olympic silver medals. He also led them to seven EuroBasket medals (3 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze), four FIBA World Cup medals (2 gold, 2 silver), and two Mediterranean Games gold medals while winning MVP of EuroBasket in 1971 and 1975. After his career, he was named to the 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors and FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players and was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007.
1. Steve Young (1984-99) USFL/NFL
After starting his career in the USFL and Tampa Bay, Steve Young found a home in San Francisco, becoming one of the top quarterbacks of all-time. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns four times and was named to seven Pro Bowl rosters and six All-Pro teams (3 1st, 3 2nd). A two-time NFC Offensive Player of the Year and 1992 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Young was named NFL MVP in 1992 and 1994 and MVP of Super Bowl XXIX, winning three Super Bowl titles. After cementing his legacy as the best pro athlete from a Utah school, his No. 8 jersey was retired by the 49ers and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.