July 26, 2012

Check Out My Canes: QB Edition - How the University of Miami Became to be Known as "Quarterback U"

It's felt like an eternity since my last post and over a month since I started writing about this mail day.  It's about time I finish this thing up.

1993 Skybox Premium #68, 1994 Stadium Club #587, 1994 Upper Deck #273
The string of successful Miami Hurricanes quarterbacks began with Jim Kelly in 1979.  Kelly was an all-state quarterback from East Brady High School in Pennsylvania.  Kelly dreamed of playing quarterback for Penn State but then Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno only wanted Kelly to come in and play linebacker.  Kelly instead opted to join a struggling Miami Hurricanes program which was in dire need of success after a decade of futility.

Kelly signed with the Hurricanes in 1978 and took a redshirt season that year.  In 1979, after starter Mike Rodrique struggled through the first 7 games of the season, Kelly got his chance to start a game against Penn State, the team that shunned him as a quarterback.  Kelly proved to Penn State that he was indeed a quarterback by throwing for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead the unranked Hurricanes to an upset over Penn State 24-10.  That game is largely viewed as the turning point for the Miami Hurricanes football program.  The Hurricanes finished the season at 5-6 but they had discovered their quarterback of the future.

Kelly had a mediocre season stats-wise in 1980, but he did lead the Hurricanes to a 9-3 record which included victories over Florida, Florida State, and Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl.  Kelly saw even more success in 1981 as he passed for 2,304 yards to lead the Hurricanes to a 9-2 record and a #8 ranking in the final AP poll, the highest ranking for the Hurricanes since they finished #6 in 1956.

In 1982, Kelly was projected to be one of the top quarterbacks in college football and a possible Heisman contender but a separated shoulder injury forced Kelly to miss the rest of his senior season.  Kelly finished his career with the Hurricanes with 5,228 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.  Kelly would of course go on to have an amazing NFL career with the Buffalo Bills.  Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

As Jim Kelly departed the Hurricanes in 1982, he handed off the reins of Hurricanes quarterback to....

1989 Topps #138, 1988 Topps Sticker Backs #13, 2011 Upper Deck #31
...Bernie Kosar.  Kosar chose to sign with the Hurricanes in 1981 after graduating from Boardman High School in Youngstown, Ohio.  He took a redshirt year in 1982 but earned a starting spot as a redshirt freshman in 1983 and he immediately made an impact on Miami Hurricanes football.

Not much was expected from the 1983 Miami Hurricanes football team as they began the season unranked and lost their first game of the season in a blowout against the Florida Gators.  However, the Hurricanes would win the next 10 games in row thanks to aerial assault provided by the young Kosar.  Miami would finish the regular season with a 10-1 record and a spot in the Orange Bowl to face the #1 Nebraska Cornhuskers.  The Cornhuskers were on a 22 game winning streak and were proclaimed by many to be one of the best college football teams in history.  Needless to say, the #4 Hurricanes were viewed as heavy underdogs to the Cornhuskers.  Kosar would go on to throw for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns to help the Hurricanes upset the Cornhuskers 31-30 and earn the University of Miami their first ever National Championship.  Kosar finished the 1983 season with 2,329 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Kosar enjoyed an even better season in 1984 but the Hurricanes as a team did not share the same success.  The Hurricanes lost 5 games in 1984 including heartbreaking losses to Maryland and Boston College (the Flutie Hail Mary game) despite Kosar passing for 3,642 yards and 25 touchdowns.  Kosar was selected as a second-team All American and finished 4th in Heisman voting.

Kosar decided to forgo his final two years of college eligibility and enter the NFL Draft where he controversially selected to play for Cleveland Browns.  Kosar would play in the NFL for 12 seasons for 3 different teams while passing for 23,301 yards and 124 touchdowns.

Of course waiting in the wings for the Hurricanes was another NFL caliber quarterback by the name of ....

1995 Flair #49, 1999 Finest Prominent Figures #PF10, 2000 MVP #117
Vinny Testaverde.  Testaverde would inherit the starting quarterback duties as a junior in 1985.  Despite losing the first game of his career to the Florida Gators, Testaverde would put together an impressive season by leading the Hurricanes on a run of 10 straight victories to earn them a spot in the Sugar Bowl and the Tennessee Volunteers.  The Volunteers would blow out the Hurricanes that night but the Hurricanes had found another quarterback to lead them to success.  Testaverde finished that season with 3,238 passing yards and 21 touchdowns.

1986 would be another superb season for Testaverde and the Hurricanes.  They won 11 straight games to earn them a chance to play for another National Championship in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State.  This game went a long way in earning the Hurricanes the reputation as a "renegade" program.  As they exited the plane in Arizona, the entire team was clad in fatigues and then they walked out on a pregame steak dinner for both teams.

Despite the apparent confidence in themselves, Testaverde would have the worst game of his career at this most inopportune time.  He threw 5 interceptions in the game as the Hurricanes suffered a huge upset at the hands of Penn State 14-10.  Although the Hurricanes failed to achieve their ultimate goal in 1986, Testaverde passed for 2,557 yards and 26 touchdowns earning him the Heisman Trophy, the first Hurricane ever to receive the honor.

Testaverde would be the number 1 overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He would play in the NFL for an amazing 21 years for 7 different teams while amassing 46,233 passing yards and 275 touchdowns.  In 2007, Testaverde became the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a game at the ripe old age of 44.

It's never easy to replace a Heisman winner, but the Hurricanes would manage with the help of....

1990 Pro Set #484, 1991 Pacific #339, 1995 Pro Line Printer's Proof #211
Steve Walsh.  Walsh would step into the starting quarterback shoes as a sophomore in 1987 and the Hurricane train would keep on rolling.  Miami won all 11 regular season games in 1987 including wins over 5 ranked teams to earn a spot in the Orange Bowl against the #1 team in the nation, the Oklahoma Sooners.  Walsh passed for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns while the Hurricanes defense held the Sooners' option attack in check as the Hurricanes defeated the Sooners 20-14.  Walsh became the second quarterback to the lead the Hurricanes to a national championship and the first ever to lead them to an undefeated season.  Walsh finished the 1987 season with 2249 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.

It seemed Miami was well on its way to a repeat performance in 1988 as Walsh and the Hurricanes started the season 4-0 heading into a game against #4 Notre Dame.  Miami lost a heart-breaker to Notre Dame 31-30 in a game that would ultimately prevent Miami from another shot at a national championship.  However Walsh would continue his impressive play, leading the Hurricanes to 7 straight victories, including a win against the #6 Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl.  Miami would finish the season #2 behind Notre Dame.  Walsh finished 4th in the 1988 Heisman race in a year in which he passed for 3115 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Walsh decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the 1989 NFL Draft.  He finished his career at Miami with a 23-1 record as a starting quarterback.  The next starting quarterback at Miami would be Craig Erickson.

Walsh would play sparingly in 11 NFL seasons with the Cowboys, Saints, Bears, Rams, Buccaneers,  and Colts.

But who was the first Hurricane quarterback to ever get drafted to the NFL?

1968 Topps #9
None other than George Mira, who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1964.

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