Donovan McNabb is a superstar quarterback
for the Philadelphia Eagles
, having been elected to the Pro Bowl
in 2000 and 2001 and finishing 2nd in the NFL MVP
voting in 2000, his first full season as a starter. He transcends his opponents with both his rocket arm and his powerful and swift legs; he's the prototypical mobile quarterback, a weapon in multiple ways.
At Syracuse University, he consistently thrilled the Carrier Dome denizens with his touchdown bombs and first down scampers. He ran the option to perfection, usually faking the pitch to the RB and stealing a first down with his cutting speed and agility. He was nearly impossible to sack, as he would suavely wait until the defensive player bore down and then deftly sidestep him; sometimes he would juke 5 or 6 guys on the way to 25-yard gains. He's taken the torch from former Eagles QB Randall Cunningham as the great running quarterback in the NFL - for all of you Mike Vick (who almost succeeded McNabb at Syracuse, but chose Virginia Tech to stay close to home) fans out there, Cunningham was the original, McNabb the greatest, and Vick merely the most hyped.
McNabb was a top recruit coming out of Mt. Carmel High School in the South Side of Chicago, where he was a Parade All-American and winner of the Chicago Defender News Player of the Year award. He was pursued by Tom Osborne of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were the defending national champions and would also win the 1995 national championship, but he chose to play in the Orange and Blue of the Syracuse Orangemen, at the beckoning of SU Football head coach Paul Pasqualoni and the behest of his parents, Sam and Wilma McNabb.
Freshman Season - 1995
Before the start of the season, there was a three-way battle for the starting QB position, which had been vacated by graduating senior Kevin Mason, between McNabb, sophomore Kevin Downing and a man who would become one of McNabb's favorite targets later in their SU careers, current Cleveland Browns wide receiver Kevin Johnson. Needless to say, the day of the season opener, McNabb was revealed as the starter, and in a poignant and classic start to his magnificent college career, McNabb led Syracuse to a 20-9 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels. He also led the team to wins over rivals West Virginia (22-0, in which he threw a 96-yard TD pass, the longest in school history), and Boston College (58-29, in which McNabb connected on 13 of 17 passing attempts for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns).
The Orangemen finished #19 in the AP final poll in McNabb's freshman campaign, in which he won First Team All-Big East Conference honors, going 9-3 including a 41-0 demolition of the Clemson Tigers in the Gator Bowl. In that game, McNabb hit the phenomenal and amazing Marvin Harrison (now a Pro Bowl wideout for the Indianapolis Colts) for multiple touchdown strikes. That game marked the first trip to a bowl game since the 1992 season, when Syracuse defeated Colorado 26-22 behind the leadership of Marvin Graves and Chris Gedney in a classic Fiesta Bowl matchup.
Sophomore Season - 1996
McNabb's sophomore season was even better than his phenomenal first year, though it started poorly, with the Orangemen going 0-2 against North Carolina and mediocre Minnesota. McNabb completed 118-215 passes for 1776 yards with 19 TDs and 9 interceptions for a rating of 145.1, and he rushed for 590 yards and 3 touchdowns. He repeated as an offensive first-team selection in the Big East, and won his first Big East Offensive Player of the Year award. Highlights of that year include victories over Virginia Tech (52-21), Boston College (45-17) and a resurgent Army team (42-17). SU lost in the final regular season game, 38-31 to Miami, thereby relinquishing the Big East Conference championship and dropping them from a sure Orange Bowl berth to a trip to the lowly Liberty Bowl, in which SU defeated Houston 30-16 behind the 201 yards rushing of senior Malcolm Thomas to finish 9-3.
Junior Season - 1997
In his junior season, McNabb again was the First Team All-Conference quarterback and Big East Offensive Player of the Year, finishing 1st in the Big East and 7th in the nation in Passing Efficiency with a rating of 154.0. He completed 145-265 passes for 2488 yards, and had 20 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The season began in the aptly named Kickoff Classic, in which Syracuse shocked the Wisconsin Badgers 31-0, defeating them without their star tailback Ron Dayne, who sat out most of the game with a stinger. After this promising start, SU dropped its next three games, including a devastating 32-31 overtime loss to North Carolina State.
The Orangemen then defeated their next eight opponents, starting with a win against Tulane that was sealed by a last minute 100-yard touchdown on an interception return by current NFL defensive back Tebucky Jones. During that stretch of victories they picked apart East Carolina, Rutgers, Temple, and West Virginia by a combined score of 206-20, and defeated Pittsburgh 32-27 on a last-second touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone from McNabb to Quinton Spotwood. Syracuse polished off the season with a victory over the Miami Hurricanes 33-13, defeating them for the first time since the teams joined the Big East. This earned them a trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but they finished the season 8-4 and out of the AP Top 25 after a 35-17 loss to Kansas State on December 31, 1997.
Senior Season - 1998
McNabb's senior season went similarly to each of the previous three; Big East Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Big East. He completed 171-281 passes for 2326 yards and finished with a remarkable ratio of 23 TDs to only 6 interceptions, finishing 6th in the country with a 158.9 passer rating. He was second on the team in rushing with 155 rushes for 510 yards and 8 TDs, ahead of current Miami Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad, who had 443 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The season opened with a bang, with a heartbreaking 34-33 loss in the Carrier Dome to the eventual BCS National Champions
, the Tennessee Volunteers
. In the next game, McNabb stunned the nation with a 38-21 dismantling of the defending national champion Michigan Wolverines
in Ann Arbor
. One of the memorable moments of the game was McNabb trotting into the end zone
after having lost one of his shoes around the 10-yard line.
Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech, 1998
The game in the Carrier Dome against Virginia Tech in 1998 is considered to be the greatest game of McNabb's career. Virginia Tech leapt out to a 21-6 halftime lead, but Syracuse fought back in the second half, taking a 22-21 lead on a one-yard touchdown on 4th down by Rob Konrad. Pasqualoni decided to go for the two-point conversion to take the lead, but the decision backfired - McNabb's pass was intercepted by Tech DB Loren Johnson, who began to sprint down the field with the intention of reversing the conversion and giving Virginia Tech the two points. In one of the most bizarre plays in football that year, McNabb caught Johnson, one of the fastest players on the team, from behind, forcing him to commit an intentional fumble that was not perceived as intentional by the officials; so McNabb's effort went for naught, as the ball was recovered in the end zone by Jamel Smith, giving the Hokies a 23-22 lead.
With the Orangemen down 26-22 with 4:33 left in the 4th quarter after a 49-yard Shayne Graham field goal, they needed to score a touchdown to win. McNabb summoned all of his strength and that of his teammates and led a gutsy (figuratively and literally, as he threw up on the field at one point) comeback from the Syracuse 17-yard line. The most crucial play of the game besides the final one came with 1:45 remaining; SU had a 4th down and 8 situation on its own 43-yard line. McNabb dropped back a few steps then quickly escaped the pocket on a quarterback draw - he masterfully broke three tackles and outran another defender on the way to a 41-yard gain that put the team in great position to win.
It looked as if the Orangemen might walk into the end zone after McNabb completed a bullet pass to Maurice Jackson, who went down at the Virginia Tech 1-yard line, but with 22 seconds left, McNabb received the snap and was immediately harried by the defensive stalwart maniac Corey Moore, who brought McNabb down for a huge loss - the Orangemen barely were able to stop the clock with 5 seconds left with a spiked ball by McNabb. The Virginia Tech defense thought they had demoralized McNabb, but our hero would not be vanquished so easily. There was one final play to be had. From the 14-yard line, McNabb took the snap and rolled right, and with the clock about to hit 0:00, he threw the ball across his body and across the field 40 yards, capping the 83-yard drive and the game with a 'throwback to the tight end' touchdown to Stephen Brominski, upon whom a massive celebration pile immediately formed as the Dome and hundreds of thousands of others watching ESPN erupted in joyous revelry. The sight of the huge throng of fans rushing the field in primal excitement was simply beautiful.
After the game, a winded and fatigued McNabb had this to say: "Well, I'll tell you what. This team came out with a lot of heart, a lot of intensity, and we (weren't) gonna lose this game. And me being a leader, I wasn't gonna let us lose it. I was gonna do anything in my power to help us win this game. You just saw a Syracuse team with a lot of heart, and a lot of determination...I wanted to get in the end zone. I wanted to win this game for the seniors, for the coaches, for all the Syracuse fans. It looks great, baby, it feels great. Woo!" Spoken like the true gamer and winner that he is.
Note: The information about this game was taken from my own videotaped copy of the game as it aired on ESPN Classic.
In my opinion, the crowning achivements of McNabb's career were the Virginia Tech victory and his final game in The Dome against Miami. The utter destruction of the swagger-happy Hurricanes by a score of 66-13 intoxicated Syracuse fans with a euphoria that rarely touches what is usually a dismal place, being the snowiest city in the nation.
However, McNabb's college career ended on a sour note, as the Orangemen lost in the 1999 Orange Bowl to the Florida Gators 31-10, despite McNabb's 192 passing yards, to finish 9-4 and out of the Top 25. I was there, it was fun, even if the outcome truly sucked; spending a few days in Miami in January was worth the $3000 for the trip...because it didn't come out of my bank account. $_$
List of McNabb's college football accomplishments:
- Big East Conference Offensive Player of the Year 1996-98
- First Team All-Big East 1995-1998 - only player to earn this distinction four years in a row
- Collected 2,892 yards of Total Offense in the 1997 season, an SU record
Set the Syracuse and Big East career records for:
Set Syracuse University career records for:
Finished second in Syracuse history in these categories:Note: McNabb definitely still holds all of the same positions in the Syracuse University record book, however, I think Ken Dorsey of the University of Miami broke a number of McNabb's Big East records during his senior season of 2002.
In the 1999 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected McNabb 2nd overall, much to the dismay of the notorious bastards (and awesomely loyal and dedicated people) that are Philadelphia sports fans - they all wanted Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams of the Texas Longhorns, and so they rousingly booed McNabb as he walked to the podium to don his Eagles cap. The screams of protest became shouts of joy during the 2000 season, when McNabb led the Eagles to the playoffs and finished 2nd in the MVP voting. McNabb was voted the team's offensive MVP for both the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
McNabb and the Eagles' vaunted defense led the team to their first NFC East championship since 1988 and first NFC Championship game since 1980 in the playoffs after the 2001 season, but they failed to advance to the Super Bowl, losing to the St. Louis Rams. The Eagles also won the NFC East and appeared in the NFC Championship after the 2002 season, this time losing to the eventual Super Bowl XXXVII champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Donovan McNabb currently supports his local communities in Philadelphia, Chicago and Syracuse, and has created the Donovan McNabb Foundation, which provides awareness of diabetes through his position as the national spokesman for the American Diabetes Association, and the Donovan McNabb Golden Arm Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to Mt. Carmel students with a 2.5 or greater GPA based on the merits of an essay written about their lives and aspirations. He also recently donated a weight-lifting and aerobic exercise complex worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Syracuse University, from which he earned a Bachelor's Degree in speech communications.
This past season, McNabb fell victim to the supposed 'Chunky Soup Jinx', when, after appearing in an ad in which he and his mother, Wilma, served soup to a junkyard worker in Philadelphia (and the worker was obliging enough to let little Don drop a few cars with the crane), his ankle was broken in a mid-season game against Arizona. McNabb played the rest of the game and had the best passing outing of his career, completing 22-25 for over 200 yards and a number of touchdowns, only finding out after the game the extent of his injury, which sidelined him until the playoffs.
McNabb is a member of Team Jordan, a group of high-profile athletes who wear and promote Michael Jordan's brand of Nike sports apparel. Team Jordan also includes Roy Jones Jr., Derek Jeter, Ray Allen, and Randy Moss.
During his freshman and sophomore years at Syracuse, McNabb also played for the basketball team; he rode the bandwagon of John Wallace, Lazarus Sims and Otis Hill as they led the team to the 1996 Final Four, where they lost to the Kentucky Wildcats 76-67 in the NCAA Championship Game. He actually played a significant role in a few of the team's games the next year, most memorably against hated rival Georgetown, in which he scored 10 points (I think) and hit two free throws down the stretch to seal the victory (I'm sure of that part). He quit basketball after the 1996-97 season to concentrate full-time on football - I'd say that was a pretty smart decision.
Some of McNabb's favorites: (from NFL.com)
Directly from NFL.com: Donovan McNabb's production on the field, his personality, leadership skills, sense of humor, hard-work ethic and attitude all add up to give Philadelphia one of the most well-rounded athletes in sports. "I play this game to be the best," says McNabb. "And the only sure way I know to be the best is to outwork everybody else. Some people take one step toward their dream, accomplish a little something and then feel like that's it. Not me. I'm never satisfied."
Donovan McNabb's Vital Statistics:
Full Name: Donovan Jamal McNabb
Born: 11/25/1976 - Dolton, Illinois
NCAA - Syracuse University 1995-98 NFL - Philadelphia Eagles 1999-present
Donovan McNabb's NFL career statistics, courtesy of NFL.com:
YEAR TEAM G GS Att Comp Pct Yds YPA Lg TD Int Rate
1999 Philadelphia Eagles 12 6 216 106 49.1 948 4.4 63t 8 7 60.1
2000 Philadelphia Eagles 16 16 569 330 58.0 3365 5.9 70t 21 13 77.8
2001 Philadelphia Eagles 16 16 493 285 57.8 3233 6.6 64t 25 12 84.3
2002 Philadelphia Eagles 10 10 361 211 58.4 2289 6.3 59t 17 6 86.0
TOTAL 4 NFL Seasons 54 48 1639 932 56.9 9835 6.0 70t 71 38 79.3
YEAR TEAM G GS Att Yds Avg TD
1999 Philadelphia Eagles 12 6 47 313 6.7 0
2000 Philadelphia Eagles 16 16 86 629 7.3 6
2001 Philadelphia Eagles 16 16 82 482 5.9 2
2002 Philadelphia Eagles 10 10 63 460 7.3 6
TOTAL 4 NFL Seasons 54 48 278 1884 6.8 14
Most of the information
came from me, but some came from NFL.com
; stats are from NFL.com
, the 1999 ESPN Sports Almanac and http://onramp.uscom.com/~orange/su/susports.htm.