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Sanford Emory Stephens II (September 21, 1940 - June 6, 2000) was an African-American 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 at the University of Minnesota. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans.


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 (1960 and 1961). In 1960, he led the University of Minnesota to an 8-2 record and the national championship. 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 is 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, and in 1962 and 1963 Stephens played for the Montreal Alouettes.

After a short stint with the Toronto Argonauts in 1963, Stephens tried out as a walk-on with the Minnesota Vikings. The night he made that decision he was involved in a near fatal accident. 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. Sandy ended his active football career in 1968.


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.

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