McCarthy: Top five players in UMass football history

Several recent UMass stars find spots in the top five

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Parker Peters

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

COVID-19 continues to derail sports at all levels, and the Massachusetts Football team is no exception. Since the 2020 season has been cancelled, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the best players to ever suit up for the Minutemen.

1. Tajae Sharpe, WR (2012-2015)

Taking the No. 5 spot is wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. Sharpe is the Minutemen’s all-time receptions leader both for a single season (111) and career (277).

Sharpe also managed to rack up 3486 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns over the course of his career at UMass. His best single game came against Bowling Green in 2014 where he reeled in 13 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

Sharpe was drafted 140th overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2016. He played for the Titans for three seasons with limited success and was acquired by the Minnesota Vikings this past offseason.

 2. Isaiah Rodgers, CB/KR (2016-2019)

Isaiah Rodgers is the newest Minutemen alumni to be featured on the list, but for good reason. In 2019, Rodgers was included in Pro Football Focus’ College All-America first team list as a kick returner. Additionally, he made the All-ECAC team as both a return specialist and a defensive back.

In his career as a cornerback, Rodgers totaled 188 tackles and 11 interceptions to go along with 42 passes defended. He also forced and recovered four fumbles and blocked three kicks.

Despite being a standout defensive player, Rodgers was even more dangerous with the ball in his hands. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns, as well as one punt. As a kick returner, Rodgers gained an impressive 2338 yards on 99 returns.

Rodgers continued his career with the Indianapolis Colts, where he was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 draft.

3. Andy Isabella, WR (2015-2018)

Another recent graduate, Andy Isabella was a bright star on an otherwise bleak UMass team. He made an immediate impact in his freshman season as a returner, before staking his claim as the Minutemen’s best wide receiver.

Isabella now holds a handful of the school’s receiving records, including the most receiving yards in a single game (303), season (1698), and career (3526), as well as highest receiving yards per game in a season (141.5).

Isabella’s senior season in 2018 is what set him apart from Sharpe as the best receiver UMass has ever seen. In total, he caught 102 passes for 1698 yards and 13 touchdowns. That season brought his total touchdown count to 30.

Isabella is now heading into his second season with the Arizona Cardinals, who drafted him in the second round of the 2019 draft.

4.Marcel Shipp, RB (1997-2000)

Not much separates the top two spots on this list, but Marcel Shipp ultimately fell just shy of being the top player in Minutemen history. Still, his numbers were incredible, and very deserving of the second spot.

Shipp currently holds almost every running back record for UMass. He has the most career rushing yards (6250), most single-season rushing yards (2542), most career touchdowns (63), most single season touchdowns (25) and the most all-purpose yards in a season (3032) and career (7759).

Despite all these accolades, Shipp was not drafted after college and was instead signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent.

He showed potential in Arizona but couldn’t seem to catch a break in the NFL. He had to play behind the likes of Emmitt Smith and Edgerrin James, and just before what was positioned as his breakout season, he suffered a gruesome leg injury in training camp.

Even though Shipp never stuck in the NFL, his college career is still one of the best the Minutemen have ever seen.

5.Liam Coen, QB (2005-2008)

Taking the top spot is Liam Coen, who most regard as the best quarterback in UMass football history.

Similar to Shipp, Coen holds almost every quarterback record there is for the Minutemen. He currently holds career records for most yards gained (11031), highest completion percentage (.639), highest passing efficiency (152.92), and most touchdown passes (90).

Coen also led UMass to NCAA playoff berths in 2006 and 2007, and the NCAA championship game in 2006. Despite this success, Coen never played in the NFL, and instead began a career of coaching, which is something he still does today.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.