Found December 05, 2011 on Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS Sandy Stephens led the Minnesota football team to a national championship in 1960 and was the first African-American quarterback named to an All-American team. And, on Tuesday, 11 years after his death, Stephens will become the 19th Gophers player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the first since Carl Eller was inducted in 2006. "I think it took a long time coming, but it did get here," said former Gophers fullback Judge Dickson, a teammate of Stephens'. "He well deserves it."Three Gophers coaches Henry Williams, Fritz Crisler and Bernie Bierman have also been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Stephens, who played for the Gophers from 1959-61, is just the second Minnesota quarterback to be enshrined, joining John McGovern.Dickson and Stephens grew up 30 miles apart in Pennsylvania and faced each other in high school. They would eventually both enroll at the University of Minnesota in 1959. They were also roommates in college and quickly became close friends.As the Gophers' fullback, Dickson also had a great set to watch Stephens lead Minnesota to back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances following the 1960 and 1961 seasons. The Gophers were also declared national champions after the 1960 season, thanks in large part to Stephens."He didn't have the blazing sprinter's speed, but because he was so shifty, he just caught so many people off balance," Dickson said. "If they tried to tackle him, he was as big and as strong as any of the tacklers. He could out-maneuver them, and he could also pass the ball with very, very good accuracy."Dave Mona covered the Gopher football team for the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, in 1961. He later went on to broadcast Gopher games for WCCO Radio, but watched Stephens play during the peak of his career."He had 'leader' written all over him," Mona said of Stephens, who also played cornerback for the Gopher defense. "I think he was intimidating to the other team. He would always get the extra yard. He was hard to bring down."As if the pressures of being a quarterback for a Big Ten university weren't enough, Stephens also had to deal with race issues. The early 1960s were a tumultuous time for African-Americans, even in Minnesota. Wherever Stephens and the Gophers went, he would hear people talk about his race."There had been black players in the Big Ten before. There had been a couple quarterbacks. But Sandy really raised it to a new level," Mona said. "Sandy I think was always aware that he had a heavy weight on his shoulder. If you read the newspapers at the time, it was, Sandy Stephens, negro quarterback.' You'd never even think of that these days."But Stephens' race didn't define him. His talent and character did."He didn't want to be a black quarterback. He wanted to be a quarterback, and he wanted to be the best quarterback," Dickson said. "He wanted to excel as a leader and as an organizer of players. And he succeeded. His leadership ability and his drive, plus his vision, enabled us to win."The College Football Hall of Fame is currently located in South Bend, Ind. Tuesday's ceremony, however, will take place in New York City at the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Other notable inductees include Ohio State running back Eddie George and Florida State defensive back Deion Sanders.But for Gopher fans, Stephens' name is the most important and one that many feel is long overdue."It'll be all people who Sandy made an impact on and they have made an impact on Sandy," said Dickson, who will be in attendance Tuesday. "We're all very proud of him."
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