tephens legacy should live on at Minnesota

You probably cant remember; you probably shouldnt forget.
Back in the early 1960s, University of Minnesota football fans actually enjoyed the spoils of a national-caliber team. In 1960 and 1961, the Gophers posted a combined record of 16-4, won the 1960 National Championship and went to consecutive Rose Bowls.
As improbable as that seems, try this: Leading the way for the Minnesota offense was the schools first African-American quarterback, Sanford Sandy Stephens.
During his tenure at the University, Stephens broke racial barriers and the spirits of defenders who attempted to corral him on the football field. And yet, there is nary a reminder of his contributions on display for all to see.
Look around the Metrodome on football Saturdays. On the walls above the lower deck, youll see banners honoring the names Bronko Nagurski, Bruce Smith and Paul Giel, along with their retired jersey numbers. But no Sandy Stephens, the programs most recent consensus All-American at quarterback (the first African-American in the nation to receive the award, 1961) and only Minnesota player in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame (inducted 1997).
Page through the football media guide, and youll find the team award section. Youll find six awards current players can earn, each with the namesake of a Gophers football legend. But to date, there is no Sandy Stephens (himself a Nagurski Award winner as team MVP) award to be presented.
So what gives? Does it take a persons death to increase awareness of their lifes accomplishments? Does their number have to be up before their number is hung up?
If the Sandy Stephens epitaph reads of a man responsible for bringing the Gophers offense up the field while bringing down racial stereotypes, then he is long overdue for such a distinction.
The thing I remember most (about Stephens) is that he was a leader and a pioneer, said McKinley Boston, University vice president for student development and former standout football player (1965-67). Any time that youre the first of something, it obviously has significance. He provided leadership at a time when there just wasnt a place for black quarterbacks in college football. He broke barriers.
Boston said he plans to begin nomination proceedings for Stephens induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
But recognition should begin at home. With the recent success of the Minnesota football program, no time is better than the present to educate fans and players about legends like Stephens who give the maroon and gold its tradition.
One of the reasons I attended the University of Minnesota in the mid-60s was a result of meetings with people like Sandy Stephens, Carl Eller, Bobby Bell and Judge Dickson, said Boston. The University truly was a predominately white university; you probably had less than 1 percent minorities on campus at that time. So as a student-athlete of color, you were looking for ways to be comfortable. (Those players) created certainly not a critical mass, but there was enough of them where you felt like you werent alone.
Now its those banners hanging in the Metrodome that should not be alone.
Boston said such processes as jersey-retirement ceremonies go through the athletic department. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the clock is running. What better way to rekindle the memory of this Minnesota great than at half-time on October 28, 2000 – this seasons homecoming game versus Northwestern.
Sandy Stephens means too much to this University on too many levels to be left out of the elite company of Nagurski, Smith and Giel.
Sandy Stephens – you probably cant remember. We definitely shouldnt forget.