The Ivy League is one of the most storied athletic conferences in all of America, so let's take a look at the greatest athletes in each school’s history. For the purposes of this article, the athletes will be judged on the entirety of their athletic career, including before, during, and after their time in college.
Brown — Becky Kellar-Duke, defender and second base, hockey and softball, Class of 1997
The Bears boast several towering figures in their program’s history, the tallest of whom is Kellar-Duke. Making three All-Ivy hockey teams at Brown, she led the Bears to three straight Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) titles and recorded 47 goals and 82 assists despite playing as a defenseman. She also nabbed two All-Ivy honors in softball. Kellar-Duke would go on to appear in four Olympic games for the Canadian National team between 1998 and 2010, winning three gold medals. Additionally, she was twice named the top defender of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Columbia — Lou Gehrig, first baseman/pitcher, baseball, Did Not Graduate
Although the Lions are not known for their athletic prowess, they boast perhaps the most famous athlete in Ivy League history. A lifetime Yankee, Gehrig is as synonymous with baseball as apple pie is with America and his list of accomplishments is almost as long as his legendary consecutive games streak, which stood for over half a century.
Before he ever donned the pinstripes, Gehrig played both first base and pitched for Columbia. His legacy lives on to this day, making more than one New York baseball team proud that he played for them.
Cornell — Ken Dryden, goaltender, hockey, Class of 1969
At the end of the day, Dryden is one of the greatest NHL players of all time, and had an unbelievable run with the Big Red as well. Winning 76 of his 81 collegiate starts, he led the team to three straight ECAC titles and one national championship. He then went on to win six Stanley Cups, a Con Smythe award, and five Vezina Trophies with the Montreal Canadiens, boasting a remarkable 92.2 regular season career save percentage.
But Kyle Drake, a freestyle wrestler who graduated in 2013, should also be mentioned, as he is the only wrestler in college history to win four national championships in four different weight classes, and is the four-time defending world wrestling champion.
Dartmouth — Reggie Williams, linebacker and heavyweight, football and wrestling, Class of 1976
The Big Green also have a fair share of talent in its history, from a five-time World Series champ to a three-time Olympic medalist, but Reggie Williams earns the top spot. Three All-Ivy selections helped earn Williams a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame. Additionally, in 14 years with the Cincinnati Bengals, the defensive stalwart appeared in two Super Bowls and was named one of Sports Illustrated's 1987 Sportsmen of the Year. For good measure, Williams also won the 1975 Ivy League heavyweight wrestling championship.
Harvard — Matt Birk, center, football, Class of 1998
The oldest school in the conference boasts a bevy of multi-time Olympians and several highly decorated hockey players, making this no easy choice. However, Birk consistently dominated his sport at the collegiate level and professionally for many years, giving him the nod. Playing 210 NFL games, Birk was selected to six Pro Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings, received the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2011, and capped off his career with a Super Bowl win in 2013 with the Baltimore Ravens.
An honorable mention goes to golfer Bobby Jones, who co-founded the Masters Tournament among his other accomplishments. But Jones did not compete as an athlete for the Crimson, making him ineligible for this list.
Penn — Chuck Bednarik, linebacker/center, football, Class of 1949
No, Super Bowl and all, it’s not Justin Watson.
Penn has arguably the most impressive list of athletes in the Ivy League, but this was still an easy choice. Known as a “60-minute man,” Bednarik played on offense and defense — and sometimes punted — for the Quakers, earning him three All-American honors. For Bednarik, little changed when he was drafted first overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, as he continued to both play at Franklin Field and on both sides of the ball, being named a first-team All-Pro 10 times. The two time NFL Champion, and member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time team, is also the greatest Quaker of all time.
Princeton — Emily Goodfellow, squash, lacrosse, field hockey, Class of 1976
Although Goodfellow didn't compete in athletics after graduating from Princeton, she takes the cake because of her historic run at the university. Goodfellow is the only Tiger to ever receive 12 varsity letters, one for every season of her four-year undergraduate career. She led the lacrosse team in scoring three times, and took the squash team to four Howe Cup titles while a Tiger. Given that women’s athletics at Princeton began only a year before Goodfellow arrived on campus, there is no question that she played a massive role laying a foundation for the program.
Yale — Don Schollander, swimmer, Class of 1969
Despite the fact that Yale is more widely known for its powerful alumni in politics and media, the school has fielded quite a few notable athletes. The most impressive is swimmer Don Schollander, who won three AAU national championships and four gold medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics before even arriving in New Haven. All this earned him a spot in the Swimming Hall of Fame while he was still a teenager. Schollander then captained the Bulldogs and won three individual national championships. Although he has been mostly lost to time compared to names such as Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, and Katie Ledecky, he will still go down as the greatest Bulldog that ever was.