The National Football Foundation's monthly newsletter for October arrived in my office recently. It was a great reminder of the University of Minnesota's significance in the history of college football. The issue had numerous references to the Golden Gophers.
Sandy Stephens was the first African American to be named All-America at the quarterback position.
I'll summarize Minnesota's inclusion in the Fotballetter here in the blog. But you can click the link above if you want to see the entire issue.
The cover story for this month's Footballetter is in regard to the 2011 College Football Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted December 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Included in this year's Hall of Fame class is former Gopher great Sandy Stephens.
Stephens played quarterback at Minnesota from 1959-61. He was the first African American to be named All-America at the quarterback position. Stephens is still the only Gopher quarterback to ever lead his team to the Rose Bowl, accomplishing that feat in both 1960 and 1961.
Stephens' inclusion in the Hall of Fame signifies the initial struggles, then triumphs African Americans had in gaining acceptance at the quarterback position, according to the newsletter.
"There were some other black Big Ten quarterbacks, but Sandy was the first to be as successful as he was," former Gopher fullback Judge Dickson (and Stephens' roommate) said. "We rose from last in the Big Ten to first in the nation. Sandy called his own plays against multiple defenses. A check down was normal for him and us. This was at a time when blacks were stereotyped: black people were not smart enough or were not intelligent enough; they couldn't remember plays, and couldn't command an offense. We disproved all of that."
There's a great deal more on Stephens in the Fotballetter. Be sure to click the link above to read more about Stephens and his inclusion in the College Football Hall of Fame.
In addition to the information on Sandy Stephens' induction, NFF Historian and former Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins has an article in the Footballetter detailing what he chronicles as the 20 greatest plays in college football history, many of which he witnessed with his own eyes.
Among those top 20 plays were two by Minnesota and both were huge in the annals of Gopher Football.
The first Minnesota play Jenkins referred to took place Oct. 20, 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Here's what Jenkins wrote about that game:
"In what was called 'a battle of bludgeoning monsters' - that would your Minnesota and your Pitt - one trick play decided the national title. Tied 7-7 with time dwindling away and the ball on Pitt's 18-yard line, the snap goes to Minnesota quarterback Glen Seidel. He gives it to Stan Kostka, the fullback. Kostka plows into the line, but he doesn't have the ball. He's flipped it back to Seidel, who in turn flips it to Pug Lund, the All-America halfback. Pitt's defense by now is so confused, it doesn't notice Bob Tenner, the Gopher end, standing alone on the goal, waiting for Lund's touchdown pass. Minnesota 13, Pitt 7."
The other Gopher football play to make Jenkins' list took place Nov. 9, 1940 in Minneapolis. Here's Jenkins' account:
"Another Poll Bowl, as they came to be known. It was reasonable to assume that on a dry field Tom Harmon and Michigan would have prevailed. But there's rain and mud all day, and with the Wolverines ahead 6-0 it was time for Minnesota's Bruce Smith to show why he'd follow Harmon as a Heisman Trophy winner a year later. Smith runs a sweep to his left, cuts back into the middle, shakes off two guys, then flat runs over the last Michigan tackler at midfield, and continues in the drizzle - and 80-yard touchdown. Minnesota 7, Michigan 6."
In addition, we want to throw a shoutout to Sean Gothier of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Gothier was recognized as the Midwest Region winner of the NFF Chapter Leadership Award.
"These five honorees represent the best of our efforts to engage supporters at the grassroots level," NFF President and CEO Steven J. Hatchell said.
Click the link above to read all about Gothier's dedication to the NFF and his background.