Top 5 Players in Wake Forest Football History

Wake Forest has had some talented college football players dating back to legendary QB Norm Snead in the 1950’s. We’ve scoured the record books to come up with the top 5 football players in program history.

Last season, Wake Forest finished 11-3 and qualified for the ACC Championship game. The Demon Deacons lost, but they return with a strong group that impresses oddsmakers at sportsbooks around the country.

North Carolina sports bettors cannot place any online bets at the best college football betting sites in NC yet. But that will all change in 2024.

Top 5 Wake Forest Football Players of All Time

1. RB Chris Barclay (2002-2005)

Barclay is Wake Forest’s all-time leading rusher. He was named ACC Player of the Year in 2005 after rushing for 1,127 yards. 

Barclay amassed 4,032 rushing yards, and he also set school records for points (240) and rushing touchdowns (40) during his career.

Barclay was named team MVP during his junior and senior years. The only other players to do that in program history were Norm Snead (1959-60) and Brian Piccolo (1963-64). 

Who’s the favorite?: ACC Championship Odds for 2022 season

2. CB Alphonso Smith (2005-2008)

Alphonso Smith finished his Wake Forest career as the ACC’s leader in career interceptions (21). He finished second in program history with 61 passes defended in his career.

In 2007, Smith’s 100-yard interception return against Maryland helped the Demon Deacons to an unlikely 31-24 overtime win. It marked the longest INT return in program history. 

Smith finished that season with eight interceptions, which led both the ACC and the nation. That also established another school record. 

The Denver Broncos selected Smith in the second round in 2009. He also played for the Detroit Lions and ended his NFL career with eight INTs and two touchdowns.  

3. QB Norm Snead (1958-1960)

Norm Snead was one of the nation’s top players during his time at Wake Forest. He earned All-ACC honors in each of the three seasons he played.

Snead was an All-America selection in 1960 when he was second in the nation in passing with 1,675 yards and 10 TDs.

Snead enjoyed a 15-year NFL career and went to the Pro Bowl four times. He is a member of the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame.

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4. WR Ricky Proehl (1986-1989)

Ricky Proehl holds school records for career receiving yards (2,949) and touchdowns (25). He also set the single-season mark with 1,053 receiving yards in 1989. 

He led Wake Forest in catches for three consecutive seasons. Proehl was a third-round NFL Draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals.

Proehl’s 17-year NFL career included two Super Bowl championships. He finished his NFL career with 8,878 yards and 54 touchdowns.

Where to find it: Top college football odds at NC sportsbooks

 5. RB Brian Piccolo (1962-1964)

In 1964, Piccolo rushed 252 times for 1,044 yards, which set an ACC record at that time. He led the nation in rushing and points scored (111) that year.  

Piccolo owned six ACC records and nine school marks by the time he left Wake Forest.  

Piccolo played for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. His life story and friendship with legendary RB Gayle Sayers was told in the movie “Brian’s Song.”

Photo: Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

About the Author

Kris Johnson

With more than 15 years of experience as a sports journalist, Kris Johnson’s work has appeared in Sports Business Daily, Sports Business Journal, NASCAR Illustrated, and more. Kris also wrote a sports-betting novel entitled The Endgame.