November 12, 2011 was an unseasonably warm autumn day. Ongoing was a battle between the University of Minnesota and our neighbors, Wisconsin. The two teams were battling it out for one goal: the Paul Bunyan Axe.
Though the Gophers would unfortunately lose 42-13 to the Badgers, the highlight of the day was the presentation for Sandy Stephens’ induction into the College Hall of Fame.
Stephens, the first African American All-American quarterback in the nation, remains the sole quarterback in U of M history to have taken the Gophers to the Rose Bowl. He was a visionary who took the Gophers to the tournament not once but twice, in 1961 and 1962.
Sandy changed the way African Americans were looked at as quarterbacks, becoming the first Black All-American quarterback at a major college institution. Later he would receive accolades as a University of Minnesota All-Century Team NCAA Legend.
Any duty Sandy was asked to fulfill on behalf of the U of M he did willingly as a proud Gopher. He served as a broadcaster for Gopher football in the early ’90s after stints in both the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the NFL.
As one of the legendary players who gave tirelessly of themselves, he forged the possibility of future players to fulfill their destinies on the gridiron. His induction on Saturday was well deserved.
Stephens, who passed in 2000, had family on hand for the ceremony. His son, Sandy Stephens, Jr., received the commemorative plaque from U of M President Eric Kaler. Stephens’ jersey, number 15, was retired November 18, 2000.