The Dons of Syracuse Football

Two of the most well-known names in Orange history at the quarterback position will have their collegiate careers celebrated this season. More inside.

The upcoming football season for the Syracuse Orange will offer a special mark in history as the program embarks on their first campaign in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

At the same time, two of the most well-known quarterbacks to wear orange and blue will watch as their jerseys rise to the rafters of the Carrier Dome.

Don McPherson and Donovan McNabb will both have their jerseys retired for their successes at Syracuse in the 2013-14 campaign. McPherson will be first with his ceremony coming on October 5th when the Orange play host to the Tigers of Clemson. McNabb will follow on November 2nd when Syracuse welcomes the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to the Carrier Dome.

McPherson took the field for the Orange in the 1980s, helping guide the squad to only the second undefeated season in Syracuse history during his senior year (1987). In that year, McPherson was honored as an All-American, ended the Heisman Trophy race second in the nation, and was regarded as the Most Valuable Player of the Sugar Bowl, where Syracuse tied the Auburn Tigers.

He would obtain the Maxwell Award for the college football player of the year and the Davey O'Brien Award for the top collegiate quarterback during his tenure with the Orange, while being the first-ever college quarterback to receive the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

"There are so many people who are responsible for this honor who should be standing next to me when this happens," McPherson stared. "In sports we wear jerseys because we are part of a team. The number on the jersey is meant to identify the player wearing it. To have my jersey singled out is more a moment of reflection than accomplishment. It makes me think about what I did to deserve this and that makes me think about all of the people who came before me, were at Syracuse with me and who have been there since I graduated. A significant part of my journey has been having somebody like Coach Mac in my life. When Daryl Gross called to tell me about this event, I started to write down the names of those who have impacted who I am and it quickly became too long to list everyone. I am blessed."

For McNabb, in four seasons at Syracuse he guided the team to three Big East Conference regular season titles.

Outside of the conference, McNabb aided the Orange to four postseason bowl games in all four of his seasons.

Individually, McNabb was named to the Big East All-Conference team in each of his four seasons and won the title of Big East Offensive Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons (1996, 1997, and 1998).

"It is an honor," McNabb remarked. "Obviously the number 44 had its impact on the program and now #5 will be honored, too. Hopefully we will have more in the future. When you play high school football your goal is to earn a scholarship and a starting position and win the national championship. You do not think about individual honors such as this. It is really unbelievable. Syracuse prepared me for life away from the game. I came in with a mindset that after football I wanted to be in broadcasting. Syracuse taught me responsibility, maturity and played such a big role in developing me into the man I want to be, to be looked at not only as a great athlete, but a great person."

As the jerseys carrying the McPherson and McNabb names rise in 2013, they will be joining the well-respected names of Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, John Mackey, and Floyd Little.

Little, back at his alma mater as the special assistant to the Director of Athletics, offered his take on the honorees. "This honor is very timely for two of the greatest quarterbacks we have ever had," said Little. "It is time to hang up their jerseys. Both Don and Donovan are so deserving of this recognition. I will be proud to stand next to them as we honor them. Don was one of my all-time favorite players because he was a great ambassador for Syracuse University. He was the kind of player you really respect as a player, a person, and as a role model. He should have won the Heisman Trophy in 1987 after leading his team to an undefeated season. Donovan made a name for himself. He is known all over the world because of who he is and how he played the game. He was a gutsy, smart player with all kinds of skills and maneuvers. He made his team ready to play every week."

Syracuse University Athletics contributed to this report.


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