Sandy Stephens

American football player (1940–2000)
Sandy Stephens
No. 15
Personal information
Born:(1940-09-21)September 21, 1940
Uniontown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died:June 6, 2000(2000-06-06) (aged 59)
Bloomington, Minnesota, U.S.
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight215 lb (98 kg)
Career history
Bowl games
  • 2× Rose Bowl (1961, 1962)
High schoolUniontown
Career highlights and awards
College Football Hall of Fame (2011)

Sanford Emory Stephens II (September 21, 1940 – June 6, 2000) was an American college football player and civic leader. Stephens was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area city of Uniontown, Pennsylvania and is best known for his career as a college football quarterback for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, where he became one of the first African-American quarterbacks in major college football and the first African American to be named an All-American at quarterback. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

College career

Stephens was the first black man to play quarterback at the University of Minnesota and remains the only quarterback to take the Gophers to the Rose Bowl (1961 and 1962). He was one of the first "National Recruits" for the University of Minnesota, along with Judge Dickson and Bill Munsey.[1] Minnesota was one of the few schools at the time willing to field a black quarterback.[2] The mayor of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, had served in the Navy with John Mariucci, the coach of the Gopher Hockey team.[3] Mariucci tipped off the University of Minnesota football coach, Murray Warmath about the players.

In 1960, along with Uniontown (PA) High School teammate Bill Munsey, Stephens led the University of Minnesota to an 8–1 regular season record and the national championship. Minnesota defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 27–10 when both teams were undefeated, one of biggest games in the Iowa–Minnesota football rivalry. Stephens became the first African-American major-college All-American quarterback and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. In 1961, Stephens received the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Most Valuable Player of the Big Ten Conference.

Sandy Stephens was a member of The Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C. National Intercollegiate All-American Football Players Honor Roll.

Professional career

Stephens was a second-round NFL draft choice of the Cleveland Browns and the fifth overall selection in the AFL draft by the New York Titans. Both teams said that they wouldn't use him as a quarterback and he never played a down in either league. The Canadian Football League (CFL) welcomed him as a quarterback, as the Montreal Alouettes offered a reported $25,000 signing bonus and a three-year contract at $30,000 per year.[4]

After playing for the Alouettes in 1962, he was cut by Montreal during the 1963 season and was claimed on waivers by the Toronto Argonauts. Upon leaving the CFL, Stephens tried out as a walk-on with the Minnesota Vikings. In his CFL career, he threw 22 touchdowns with 38 interceptions on 2,823 yards, while rushing for 487 yards on 88 carries and 8 touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown. He was also used as an occasional kicker, making 12 out of 19 extra points and 4 out of 8 field goals, with three punts for a 20-yard average.[5] On September 20, 1964, he was involved in a near fatal accident.[6] The car is which he was riding with Ted Dean, a Minnesota Vikings player, struck a tree in South Minneapolis. Two years after the accident Stephens signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a fullback. He was willing to play any of the back positions and continued to dream of playing as a quarterback in the NFL, but to no avail. He ended his active football career in 1968.


Stephens was found dead at his Bloomington, Minnesota apartment by a relative.[7] His death at age 59 was attributed to a heart attack.[8]


Thirty years after he left football, Stephens was named to the University of Minnesota All Century Team, the Star Tribune 100 All-Century Top Sports Figures (No. 30), and awarded NCAA Legends status. He was inducted into the University of Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame, the Western Pennsylvania All Sports Hall of Fame and he was nominated for induction into the National and College Football Foundation Hall of Fame. One of his most coveted recognitions was his induction into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1997. On May 17, 2011, Stephens was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame as part of the 16-member Class of 2011. He is the 22nd Gopher to be elected into the College Football Hall of Fame and the fourth from the 1960 National Championship team.[9]


  1. ^ "Patrick Reusse – Reusse: U's Sandy Stephens was ahead of his time". Star Tribune. December 6, 2011
  2. ^ Madsen, Rob (Spring 2023). "The Cost of Conservatism: The University of Minnesota's Lofted Ideals and Fallen Football Teams". Journal of Sport History. 50 (1): 85–100.
  3. ^ David Butwin "First Person: Human Tackling Dummy" Minnesota Magazine, University of Minnesota Alumni Association, Fall 2011
  4. ^ Canadian Football League Illustrated, V.1 No.8, p. 31.
  5. ^ "Sandy Stephens".
  6. ^ "SANDY STEPHENS CRITICAL AFTER AUTO ACCIDENT". Associated Press, The Miami News September 21, 1964
  7. ^ [Sandy Stephens, 59, Gophers quarterback]. Associated Press, June 7, 2000
  8. ^ ALL-AMERICAN SANDY STEPHENS DIES AT AGE 59 University of Minnesota Sports Information Office, June 2000. Sanford "Sandy" Stephens, a former All-American quarterback for the University of Minnesota, died Wednesday morning of a heart attack.
  9. ^ Miller, Phil – Gophers great Stephens makes college football's Hall of Fame Star Tribune, May 18, 2011

External links

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Minnesota Golden Gophers starting quarterbacks
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1960 Minnesota Golden Gophers football—AP & UPI national champions
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Chicago Tribune Silver Football
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Cleveland Browns 1962 NFL draft selections
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New York Titans 1962 AFL draft selections