Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Entering the Hall: Sandy Stephens
By Adam Rittenberg
It's time to spotlight another former Big Ten player selected to the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 ...
Sandy Stephens, QB, Minnesota, 1959-61
There might be more famous members of the 2011 Hall of Fame class, but few left a more significant legacy than Stephens did at Minnesota.
Sandy Stephens (15) was the first African-American to play quarterback for the Gophers.
Stephens was the first African-American to play quarterback for the Gophers, but he always preferred to be remembered for what he did between the lines. He did plenty.
After Minnesota finished last in the Big Ten in 1959, Stephens guided the team to back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances and a national title in 1960, the program's first since 1941. He remains the only quarterback to take Minnesota to Pasadena, fulfilling the goal he set when he first arrived on campus. A multisport star in high school, Stephens turned down a chance to play pro baseball to suit up for coach Murray Warmath in Minneapolis.
In 1961 Stephens became the first black quarterback to earn All-America honors. He also received the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football as Big Ten MVP that year and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. Stephens capped his career by scoring two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl as Minnesota beat UCLA. He was named Player of the Game and entered the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1997.
Stephens never played quarterback in the NFL, which remained hesitant to use black signal callers, and had a brief career in the CFL. He died in 2000 and had his No. 15 jersey retired by Minnesota later that year.
Stephens joins John McGovern as the only Minnesota quarterbacks to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.