KINGSTON, R.I. – In conjunction with the 1,000th football game in program history being played Saturday, Oct. 5 at Brown, the University of Rhode Island Athletics Department announced the members of the Fans' Choice Rhody Grand Team Wednesday.
The squad – chosen by fans in a series of polls on GoRhody.com throughout the summer – consists of the 50 greatest players in program history, along with legendary head coach Bob Griffin. More than 50 seasons of Rhode Island football are represented by players on the team, dating as far back as 1951. Every season from 1973 through 2012 is represented by at least one player. Running back Pat Abbruzzi - who played from 1951 through 1954 - is the player who reaches furthest back into history. Abbruzzi was the top vote getter at his position and remains the school's all-time leading rusher 59 seasons after his career with the Rams ended.
The Fans' Choice Rhody Grand Team list includes 14 players who earned a combined 37 All-America honors from various organizations. Quarterback Tom Ehrhardt, running back Joe Casey, tight ends Brian Forster and Darren Rizzi, wide receiver Cy Butler and linemen Dustin Bayer, Rich Pelzer and Bob White earned All-American honors on the offensive side of the ball. Rizzi - now the special teams coordinator for the Miami Dolphins - earned a combined nine All-American honors from seven different organizations, the most for any player in school history.
Defensively, linemen Tony DeLuca, Lou D'Agostino and Frank Ferrara each were recognized as All-Americans during their respective careers, as were defensive backs Mike Cassidy, Lance Small and Kevin Smith.
Of the 51 members of the Fans' Choice Rhody Grand Team, there are 17 individuals who have been enshrined in the University of Rhode Island Hall of Fame. An additional six men are in the Hall of Fame as part of the 1984 and 1985 football teams that were inducted in 2005. Griffin, one of eight men in URI's Hall of Fame as an individual and as part of the 1984-85 squads, won a school record 79 games in 17 seasons. He coached the Rams to three Yankee Conference titles, winning first in 1981 and then back-to-back in 1984 and 1985.
Four members of the Fans' Choice Rhody Grand Team also were selected in 1996 to the Yankee Conference 50th Anniversary Team. Forster, Smith, defensive lineman Steve Furness and offensive lineman Jeffrey Williams are all considered among the best players in the history of the Yankee Conference.
Not surprisingly, the 1984 and 1985 squads are well represented on the Fans' Choice Rhody Grand Team. There are 13 players from the 1984 squad and 11 from the 1985 team. Five players - Pelzer, DeLuca, linebackers Mark Brockwell and Mark Dennen and defensive back Cal Whitfield – represent the 1981 Yankee Conference championship squad.
More than 5,000 votes were received through a series of online polls, helping to create an all-time two-deep depth chart for Rhode Island football. Active players were not eligible for the team.
Many of these all-time greats will return to Kingston for a special pregame ceremony at Meade Stadium as part of the Homecoming Weekend festivities Saturday, Oct. 26. Rhode Island takes on Delaware at noon that day.