A pair of standout Syracuse signal callers will not so unexpectedly be honored by their alma mater, the school announced Sunday.
In a press release, Syracuse confirmed that former quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Don McPherson will have their respective jerseys raised to the Carrier Dome roof during retirement ceremonies this coming season. The latter will be honored during the Oct. 5 game against Clemson, the former during a Nov. 2 game against Wake Forest.
McNabb and McPherson will become the sixth and seventh players honored in this manner by the Orange, joining the likes of Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and John Mackey.
“It is our pleasure to honor Donovan McNabb and Don McPherson and recognize their importance to the history of Syracuse football. Both of these men were catalysts for some of the greatest success in college football during their respectful tenures at Syracuse. We want to recognize these extraordinary men during our inaugural season in the ACC as we look to establish new success,” said Syracuse athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross in a statement. “We celebrate two individuals who were significant in branding Syracuse football as a national power. The nation’s eyes were fixated on these two amazing student-athletes as they helped elevate and maintain SU football’s prominence.
“We truly hope all SU fans will join us during the season to salute the jersey retirement of these two tremendous individuals and their families as we look to compete at the highest level in the ACC as New York’s College Team.”
McNabb led the Orange to three Big East titles and two BCS bowl berths during his time with the Orange. He was also the first player in conference history to be named first-team All-Big East four times.
15 years after last playing for the Orange, McNabb still holds Syracuse career records for most touchdown passes thrown, total offense, touchdown responsibility, and highest passing efficiency.
“It is an honor,” McNabb said. “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.”
McPherson was a 1987 All-American who finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting; won the Maxwell Award, which honors the college football player of the year; the Davey O’Brien Award, which recognizes the best collegiate quarterback; and was the first recipient of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He led the Orange that year to an undefeated regular season and a Sugar Bowl berth.
He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
“There are so many people who are responsible for this honor who should be standing next to me when this happens,” McPherson said. “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.