Gophers Announce Honorary Captains, Coach

Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!

 Five honorary captains and an honorary coach will take part in the opening of TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 12. University of Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster announced the names of all six honorees Thursday.

Legendary Gopher head coach Murray Warmath will serve as the honorary coach at the home opener. Serving as honorary captains will be Bobby Bell, Billy Bye, Bud Grant, Bob McNamara and Sandy Stephens, who will be represented by his brother Ray.

“This group really represents the greatest glory of Gopher Football,” Brewster said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have these men represent our football program on such an historic day the opening of TCF Bank Stadium.”

Warmath served as Minnesota’s head coach from 1954-71. He led the Gophers to the National Championship in 1960 and also coached three Big Ten Championship squads. Warmath compiled an 87-78-7 record as head coach at Minnesota. His teams finished the season in the Top 20 five times. Warmath was named the National Coach of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association following the 1961 season after leading the Gophers to a Rose Bowl victory.

Bell was a three-year letter winner for the Gophers from 1960-62. He is a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Bell was a two-time All-America performer, earning the distinction in 1961 and 1962. He was also an All-Big Ten performer for those two seasons. Bell is one of three Gophers to have won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman, winning the award in 1962, when he was also named Minnesota’s Most Valuable Player. He was also a member of the 1960 National Championship team. Following his Minnesota career, Bell played 12 seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs. He played in the final six AFL All-Star Games and the first three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls.

Bye played for the Gophers from 1946-49, lettering each season. He was named the Gophers’ Most Valuable Player following the 1946 season, when he rushed for 467 yards to lead the team. His 433 yards in 1947 were also tops on the squad. Bye had two 100-yard rushing games in 1946. He ran for 1,784 yards in his Gopher career, which currently ranks him No. 18 all-time. Bye’s 20 rushing touchdowns are No. 10 in the all-time Minnesota record book.

Grant earned nine letters during his outstanding collegiate career at Minnesota. He was a football letter winner from 1946-49 and a two-time All-Big Ten selection, earning that distinction in 1948 and 1949. Grant played end for the Gopher football team and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player following his senior season of 1949. Grant also lettered three times in basketball and twice in baseball. Following his collegiate career, Grant played two seasons of professional basketball for the Minneapolis Lakers, winning two NBA Championships before moving on to professional football. He played in 1951 and 1952 for the Philadelphia Eagles, playing defensive end as a rookie and moving to offense in his second season. He was the No. 2 receiver in the NFL in 1952 with 56 receptions for 997 yards and seven TDs. Grant played the remainder of his professional career (1953-56) with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, earning Western Conference all-star recognition three times. He became head coach of the Blue Bombers in 1957 and led Winnipeg to four Grey Cup victories and six championship game appearances in 10 seasons as head coach. Grant became head coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 1967, spending 15 years on the sidelines (1967-83 and one year in 1985). In 1968, he launched the Vikings on a string of championship seasons rarely equaled in sports competition. From 1968 through 1978, the Vikings won the NFL/NFC Central Division 10 times in 11 seasons, missing only in 1972. During that span, the Vikings won the 1969 NFL championship and NFC titles in 1973, 1974 and 1976. Grant's Minnesota teams appeared in four Super Bowls. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

McNamara was a four-year letter winner for the Gophers from 1951-54. The halfback was honored with All-America accolades and served as team captain in 1954. McNamara rushed for 1,179 yards in his Gopher career, including three 100-yard rushing performances during the 1954 season. His career rushing total ranks No. 33 on the all-time Gopher rushing charts. McNamara earned All-Big Ten honors and was named Minnesota’s Most Valuable Player as a senior that season as well. (Video of Bob and his brother, Pinky McNamara)

Stephens earned three letters for Minnesota from 1959-61. He was the first black player to be named All-America at the position of quarterback in 1961. Stephens finished fourth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy following his senior season in 1961, while also being named the Most Valuable Player of the Big Ten. Stephens led the Gophers in total offense and scoring all three years that he played for the Gophers and even led Minnesota in interceptions during his senior season. Stephens played quarterback on the 1960 National Championship team. In his senior season of 1961 he played quarterback, safety, punter and kick returner. He led the team in rushing with 534 yards and nine TDs as a senior as well. Stephens quarterbacked the Gophers to back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances following the 1960 and 1961 seasons and is still the only quarterback ever to lead Minnesota to a Rose Bowl. Stephens passed away on June 6, 2000 and his jersey was retired by the University of Minnesota later that season. Stephens will be represented on the field at TCF Bank Stadium by his brother Ray Stephens. Ray also played quarterback for the Gophers, earning letters in 1967 and 1968.

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