MSU Legends: Tommy Pharr

Tommy Pharr called the cadence for the Mississippi State Bulldogs from 1966-1969. Once labeled too short to play Quarterback, Pharr used Charley Shira's innovative passing schemes to etch his name in the Mississippi State record books. Nearly forty years have passed, but Pharr's name still appears among the leaders on ten all-time passing categories.

I was able to catch up with Tommy for an interview about how he decided on Mississippi State as well as his days wearing the Maroon and White.

SR: Tommy what made you decide to attend Mississippi State?

TP: I visited a number of schools, but something about the atmosphere there caught my attention and made me feel real special the weekend I spent there with my Dad. Coach Davis at the time, the people I met there and the campus gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. You've heard the term gut feeling before. All those things that I mentioned just made me realize that this would be a great place to spend my college days. That was what the decision was based on.

The weekend was like a one night, two day deal. I flew over from my hometown and went and did the interviews and saw the people. It was just destiny.

SR: What was the Quarterback situation like when you got on campus?

TP: Back then they had a freshmen team. We played four games and I was the starter for a couple of those games and then I was kind of the backup for the last part of the season.

In the off-season of 1966-1967, the coaching staff was let go and Charley Shira came in with his group. The beginning of spring training of 1967, my sophomore year which would have been my first year as a potential varsity starter, I was number seven on the depth chart. I remember, and I have told this story many times, when I saw that it kind of blew me away.

I made it my goal to be number one by the start of football season because we were playing the University of Georgia in Athens, which is my home state. I was turned down. Georgia did not want me to come to school there. I said, "Okay, I want to be a starter and I want to be the starter for that game. I am going back home and I slowly, but surely sort of clawed my way to the top. By the end of spring training I was the number one Quarterback.

SR: When you look back over your career at MSU is there a game that sticks out to you as a proud memory?

TP: Unfortunately, when I was there we did not win a ton of games although I think we gave the fans something to shout about. We threw the ball a lot and I believe we created a lot of excitement on the field. We didn't cash in that for many wins, but in 1967 we played Texas Tech in Lubbock. They were ranked I think number three in the nation. We beat them 7-3. The seven we got was a Quarterback sneak on a 4th and one from about the half inch line. We poked it in and that was the winning margin. That sticks out because the football team won and I was able to make a contribution to get that touchdown.

SR: How does it feel to know some nearly forty years later that your name is still attached to so many top ten lists for MSU Quarterbacks?

TP: Well, I was very fortunate that during that time I had a coach that believed in me. I believed I earned the opportunity to play and start for Coach Shira. Jim Wright was the backfield coach and he was probably my mentor in more ways than one. As a football coach he prepared me as a football player to execute the great game plan the coaching staff came up with.

I was fortunate enough to have some players that could catch and I had a line that could block. We had both of things in place. Sammy Milner and David Smith, they were all everything. If you could throw the ball anywhere close to those guys, they had great, soft hands, they would catch the doggone thing. We had backs that could come out of the backfield and catch and we had tight ends that could catch.

We were innovative at the time. I think we ran some offensive schemes that were kind of trend-setting. It was really just drop back three steps and look to one direction or the other and somebody was open. I think my grandmother could have completed some of those passes. It was a system. We practiced it over and over and over. It was kind of second nature. When the bell rang on Saturday or Saturday night we were able to execute. I was in there to do the executing. It wasn't me it was the system, the coaching staff and the players.

SR: How closely do you follow the program now and what are your impressions of it?

TP: I am very excited about the coach that is there now. I follow Mississippi State. I don't get to as many games as I want to. I am aware of what is going on there. I have some inside sources. People let me know what is going on behind the scenes.

I want them to win and I want them to win a lot and I want them to win now. I know what it was like to be at the bottom of the ladder and when the year was over we had won one or two games. There was no national attention, no nothing. I think the university deserves it. I think they will have the athletes. They just have to put it out on the line once the whistle blows on Saturday. I wish them nothing, but the best of luck.

Tommy Pharr threw for 3,720 yards which ranks seventh best all time at Mississippi State. He threw for twenty-four touchdowns in his days as a Bulldog.

Steve Robertson is a staff member of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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