Some schools specialize in producing players at certain positions. Sometimes its defensive backs, other times its running backs, and others even come up with great linemen.
The position of quarterback is one that a few HBCUs have had a lot of success with over the years. We’re taking a look at which HBCUs consistently produce solid talent in the quarterback position, whether they are dual threats or drop backs.
Florida A&M certainly fits that description. When you mention quarterbacks and FAMU, the great Gulf Coast Offense comes to mind. But FAMU’s tradition actually goes back deeper than that.
Ken Riley Sr. (1965-1968)
Riley is best remembered as an expert defensive back in the NFL, but at FAMU he was the man with the ball in his hands. Hall of Fame coach Jake Gaither had always been run-heavy, as most teams were then, but Riley’s talents allowed him to open up the offense. He was dangerous with his arms and his feet as he was referred to as “The Black Fran Tarkenton,” a big compliment comparing him to one of the first mobile quarterbacks in the NFL.
Albert Chester (1975-1979)
Chester isn’t on this list for statistical purposes. He was an average passer at best, even by the 1970s standards. But Chester will forever be immortal in Tallahassee as the quarterback of the first, and only, HBCU team to win an NCAA Football championship. Chester was a three-time MVP for the Rattlers who led his team to a 33-3 record before going on to play in the CFL.
Oteman Sampson (1996-1997)
Sampson started his career at Albany State but he was a holy terror as the first true Gulf Coast Offense quarterback for Billy Joe. What started as a survival tactic with Mario Allen at quarterback the year prior turned into a full-blown offensive revolution with Sampson, who sat out the 1995 season waiting in the wings.
He led the team to back-to-back 9-3 records both seasons, and the team’s first Division I-AA playoff appearance since 1978 in 1996 while setting a single-season record for passing yards (2,814) and touchdowns (21). He would eclipse those marks in 1997, throwing for 3,292 yards and 25 touchdowns, completing 215 of 379 pass attempts, also records.
Pat Bonner (1998)
Sampson’s marks wouldn’t last long, though, as the Gulf Coast Offense was fully matured and fully loaded the next year with three talented quarterbacks. Eventually it would be the former Temple quarterback who would emerge as the on-the-field catalyst for one of the most potent HBCU and FCS offenses ever seen.
Bonner finished his lone season atop the Rattler record books with 3,473 yards and 37 TDs while earning All-American honors and teamed up with the RAC Boys for a season they still remember in Tallahassee and around the MEAC. The story of that team is told through Bonner’s eyes in Wali Pitt’s The Mad Bomber and The RAC Boys documentary.
Jajuan Seider (1999)
In the spring of 1999 it looked like the job of replacing Bonner would fall on the shoulders of Gray. Then along came Jajuan Seider, who saw Bonner’s success and wanted a piece for himself. Like Bonner before him, Seider was a Florida boy who went to the Big East (West Virginia) but ultimately returned home to the HBCU to play for Billy Joe.
Gray started the season as the head signal caller, but Joe ultimately went with Seider who could make plays with his arms and legs. He led the team to the 1999 MEAC title and the national semifinals while earning conference player of the year, accumulating over 3,400 yards and 41 touchdowns while throwing just four picks. He was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 2000 NFL Draft, just a few picks behind Tom Brady.
Quinn Gray (1997-2001)
While many dreaded the calendar year switching to 2000, Quinn Gray embraced it. Gray was handed the reigns of the Gulf Coast Offense after redshirting in 1997, mostly watching from the sidelines in 1998 and seeing action as a backup in 1999.
He led FAMU to back-to-back MEAC titles and left as the school’s all-time leader in attempts (1,113), completions (562), yards (7,378), and touchdown passes (57). He would go on to have the most successful NFL career of any of the quarterbacks on this list, spending seven seasons in the league.
Honorable Mention: Damien Fleming, Mario Allen, Ryan Stanley