Entering the 1980s Syracuse Football was in a rut. With only 5 winning seasons from 1970-1983, it was clear the Orange were in need of a change. That change came in the form of a QB from Brooklyn, New York named Don McPherson.
#2: Don McPherson
At the time, anything was an improvement at the QB position for SU. McPherson stepped into the starting lineup to replace Todd Norley. That name doesn’t ring a bell? Not surprising. In 3 years at the helm Norley never reached 1,000 yards passing, and had a hard time differentiating the opposing team from his own, he threw 28 INTs compared to just 11 TDs in his time in Orange. McPherson took over at a time when a winning football team didn’t seem fathomable. In his first season as the SU starter, the right hander willed his team to seven wins, granting Syracuse access to a bowl game for the first time in nearly ten years. They lost that game, 35-18 against Maryland in the Cherry Bowl. However, the pain of losing on that big stage was worth it for the successful path it put the team back on. Just two years later, in McPherson’s final season, the Orange put on a show all season long. Earning win after win after win, eventually making it through the regular season without a single loss. SU’s star QB threw for 2,341 yards and 22 touchdowns on his way to being named the Maxwell player of the Year, winning both both the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards for being the nation’s top QB and runner up for the Heisman Trophy. Syracuse tied the Sugar Bowl against Auburn, though it wasn’t the desired outcome it kept their magical season undefeated and thus McPherson’s legacy at the school strong. The team finished 11-0-1, it was only the second time in program history the team hadn’t been beaten, the only other was 1959, when the Orange were crowned National Champions.
When McPherson left the school after 1987 he declared for the NFL where he was taken in the 6th round with the 149th pick by the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite McPherson never having played an NFL game he’ll forever be remembered as one of the greatest college QBs ever to do it. In 2009 he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.
If you missed part 1, check it out here.