Only one former FAU safety ever played an NFL down. Training camp invites have been surprisingly rare. FAU experienced a tremendous amount of turnover at the safety position in the period between the Owls’ first two bowl victories and last season’s Boca Bowl title. At times the relative weakness at the position prompted the churn. In other instances, the churn created the weakness.
Either way, it complicated the rankings of the top FAU safeties.
While considering the best of the best at FAU, players were judged on their performance (statistics), what they meant to their team and sheer physical talent. As part of our research for this list we consulted with former players, former coaches and media members who’ve covered the Owls. Reaching the NFL is an indicator of talent, but players who played professionally weren’t necessarily placed above some who didn’t.
With that in mind, let’s get to the ranking.
Top 5 FAU Safeties
5. Sharrod Neasman (2012-15): The lone FAU player ever to participate in a Super Bowl started his Owl career slowly – he was a walk-on – but 134 of his 139 career tackles came in his final two seasons. One of the smartest players ever to don an Owls helmet, Neasman served as a team captain in 2015, and played in the Tropic Bowl All-Star game that year. Neasman ultimately signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent. While his tenure at FAU doesn’t exactly qualify as “spectacular,” Neasman is likely the best safety the Owls ever produced. He beats out Taheem Acevedo, with his nine interceptions and 175 tackles, by a spider’s thread. Heavy hitter Damian Parms recorded 186 tackles and nearly all of them were physical. Coach Lane Kiffin believes Zyon Gilbert, who recorded 52 tackles last season as a true freshman, has the look of a future pro.
4. Greg Joseph (2005-08): The first Greg Joseph to play for the Owls recorded 221 total tackles while part of the Owls’ first two bowl teams. His 102 tackles in 2008 were second only to Frantz Joseph among Owls. Joseph only grabbed two career interceptions, but he did have 8.5 tackles for loss and forced three fumbles.
3. Kris Bartels (2004-07): Here’s where the fun begins. Bartels severed as a battering ram, allowing FAU’s defense to ferociously announce its presence during that transition to FBS football. He came to FAU as an undersized walk-on but still registered 220 tackles, nine of which went for loss. Selected as FAU’s 2006 Defensive MVP, Bartels returned an interception for a touchdown in 2005 and again the following season. Bartels only recorded three career interceptions, but he returned two of them for touchdowns. He now serves as the analyst on FAU football radio broadcasts. Now, let the dinner table fun begin, because the next highest-ranked safety is…
2. Marcus Bartels (2007-11): Luckily we didn’t have to make this decision while in the same room as the Bartels brothers. Marcus was every bit as tough as Kris, and he led the Owls with 112 tackles in 2009 – second most in the Sun Belt Conference that year. He followed that season with 104 tackles, and his 287 career tackles make Marcus the lone defensive back among the Top 5 tacklers in FAU history. Marcus also earned second-team All-Sun Belt recognition in 2010, an honor his brother never received. FAU thought so highly of Marcus’ contributions that when the Owls opened their new stadium in 2011, his likeness appeared on one of the giant decorative banners. Before the Stoshaks arrived in Boca Raton, the Bartels were the first family of FAU football. Long live FAU’s first family!
1. Jalen Young (2015-Present): Fans have one more year to watch the best safety in FAU history before he soars to the NFL. Strong, fearless, intelligent and fast, Young’s seven interceptions last season tied for second-most nationally. His 246 career tackles rank eighth in FAU history, and he figures to leave FAU as its most prolific tackling defensive back of all-time. Young’s 12 career interceptions are third most in program history, and he returned one of them for a touchdown. A member of Conference USA’s All-Freshman team in 2015, Young earned All-Conference USA honors last season. With another season like the previous two, Young could leave FAU as one of the three greatest defensive players ever to patrol Howard Schnellenberger Field for the Owls.
FAU Football Top 5 Position Countdown
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Interior Linemen
- Defensive Ends
- Defensive Tackles
- Middle Linebackers
- Outside Linebackers
- Special Teams