#15 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 15 Sandy Stephens
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The number of today's countdown, 15, is one of five retired by Minnesota football. It belonged to Sandy Stephens, one of the Gophers' all-time greats. The College Football Hall of Fame inductee played quarterback for the Maroon and Gold from 1959 to 1961.

After a 2-7 season in 1959, Stephens helped lead the Gophers to an 8-2 record, a share of the Big Ten title and a national title in 1960. Minnesota capped off the season with the program's first Rose Bowl appearance. The Gophers lost that 1961 Rose Bowl, but were still named national champions.

The next year, Minnesota got another chance in Pasadena. This time, game MVP Stephens rushed for two touchdowns and threw for 75 yards on 7-for-11 passing as the Gophers beat UCLA, 21-3.


Stephens was named a First Team All-American and the Big Ten MVP, and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1961. He was the first African-American quarterback selected for an All-America First Team.

In 1962, Stephens was drafted in both the NFL and AFL, but neither team that picked him wanted him to play quarterback. He did play quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for a few seasons.

Stephens died in 2000, but his legacy lives on. The U of M retired his No. 15 that year, and his name and number are on display at TCF Bank Stadium now. In 2011, Stephens was finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Bonus reading: 
- ESPN blog post on Stephens' College Football HOF induction
- FSN's take on the induction
- 2000 Sports Illustrated article after Stephens' death
- 2008 Big Ten feature: Stephens dreamed of a Rose Bowl before he put on the M

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