Beloved College Football Figure Is Gone

Pat Sullivan 'died peacefully at home' at age 69
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2019 4:05 PM CST
Beloved College Football Figure Is Gone
Samford head coach Pat Sullivan, left, meets with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn before an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in Auburn, Ala.   (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Pat Sullivan, a revered figure in Alabama sports, died Sunday at age 69. The Heisman Trophy winner had a varied career but was best known for his years as a college football quarterback and coach—and his optimism in the face of cancer, 247 Sports recalls. "I was blessed," he said in 2016. "...I've said it many, many times, and I believe it: What you get out of athletics is the relationships that last for a lifetime." A Birmingham native, he led the Tigers to a 26-7 record from 1969-71 as starting QB, including a 9-2 campaign in 1971 that saw him throw for 21 TDs and 2,262 yards, per He went on to be drafted by the Atlanta Falcons but started only four games over a four-year pro career that ended with the Washington Redskins in 1976.

After working in the insurance and tire industries in Birmingham—and doing Auburn radio analysis—he took his wife's advice and followed his heart. "It was the summer of 1985, right before the season," he says. "She said, 'You don’t want to wake up when you are 50 and not be doing what you want to do.'" So he joined the Tigers as quarterbacks coach in 1986, helping the team win four consecutive Iron Bowls, and became TCU head coach in 1992, racking up a 24-42-1 record through 1997. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1991, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His 2003 mouth cancer diagnosis and treatments were difficult, but he stayed in football and remained head coach at Samford University until 2014, posting a winning record over eight seasons. (More college football stories.)

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