UB’s first football season in 1894 was rough. The university went 0-2, even losing a game against a high school team.
UB’s come a long way since that winless season. Some incredible athletes have passed through the university and have shattered records, become leaders and made names for themselves in the Queen City.
But even among the greats, five legends stand out with their performances at UB.
Honorable Mention - Turner Battle
When Turner Battle joined the UB men’s basketball team in 2001, coaches and fans were hoping he could turn the team around from the team’s 5-23 record during the 1999-2000 season. Bob Gibbons, then a college scout in North Carolina, had Battle ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in the class of 2001.
Battle averaged 15.5 points, 4.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game and led UB to its first Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship appearance, as well as its first National Invitation Tournament (NIT) appearance. Turner finished his UB career with over 1,400 points, 458 assists and 502 rebounds.
5. James Starks
James Starks is one of the best running backs in UB history, playing from 2006-08. Fresh out of high school, Starks was asked to lead a football team that only won 10 of 79 games between 1999 and 2005, the second worst win percentage in NCAA football.
Starks didn’t disappoint. During his tenure at UB, he rushed for over 3,140 yards, racked up 898 receiving yards and over 30 touchdowns. Starks also has the single game rushing yard record with 409 yards.
The Green Bay Packers would ultimately draft Starks with their sixth round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
4. Jaret Patterson
Patterson, yet another running back, played for UB from 2018-20. He made waves his freshman year after being named MAC freshman of the year after rushing for 1,013 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns.
During the 2019 season, Patterson returned to UB and absolutely dominated, breaking the program’s single season records for rushing yards (1,799) and touchdowns (19).
Patterson really shined in 2020, during UB’s 70-41 win over the Kent State Golden Flashes. Patterson rushed for 401 yards and scored eight touchdowns, tying the NCAA record for rushing yards in a game. Patterson cut his UB career short in 2021, signing as an undrafted free agent with the NFL’s Washington Football Team after three seasons in Buffalo.
3. Branden Oliver
Arguably the best running back to set foot in UB Stadium, Oliver still holds the school’s record for career rushing yards. Oliver only rushed for 200 yards his first season, but he made up for it during his sophomore season with over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But the best was yet to come: in his senior year, Oliver rushed for 1,535 yards, scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 5 yards per carry. Oliver also led UB to a bowl berth in the Idaho Potato Bowl. All in all, Oliver rushed for 4,049 yards, racked up 655 receiving yards and scored 71 touchdowns during his tenure.
Oliver would sign a three-year contract with the San Diego Chargers after going undrafted in the 2014 NFL draft.
2. Dyaisha Fair
Fair is one of four women in program history to win All-American honors, In her freshman year, Fair averaged 22 points, 5.9 rebounds and two steals, earning herself MAC freshman of the year.
Fair followed that up with a terrific second season, ranking sixth in the nation in scoring and starting all 24 games. She averaged 24 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and nearly three steals, earning her First Team All-MAC and All-Defensive Team.
In her junior season, Fair led the Bulls to the MAC Tournament, where they beat Ball State in the championship game, thanks in part to the her 30-point outing.
By the time she transferred to Syracuse for her senior season, Fair recorded 2,035 total points, 224 steals, 377 assists and 486 rebounds in just three seasons at UB.
1. Khalil Mack
Mack started as a redshirt for UB, but quickly became a starter and one of the most productive and efficient players in the country. He had 68 total tackles his first year, including four sacks, 14.5 tackles for losses, eight quarterback hurries and 10 breakups.
His sophomore season, Mack led the team in forced fumbles, sacks and tackles for losses. Mack would ultimately be named to the All-MAC First Team that year.
Then, in 2013, Mack won MAC Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first Bull to win the award. That year, Mack had 100 tackles, including 19 tackles for losses, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions, one pick six and five forced fumbles. Mack would record 327 total tackles, 28.5 sacks and 186 solo tackles in his career at UB.
After declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft, Mack was selected fifth overall by the Oakland Raiders.
Hayden Azzinaro is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org