Tulane Football: Quarterback position has often been rich with talent
While the history of Tulane football has produced a losing record (532-652-38), there have been memorable players and memorable seasons.
My first experience was in the early 1960’s, being taken to the games by my parents. My first memories start in 1965 and the first player that stood out in my very young mind was Bobby Duhon.
I was blessed to continue to attend Tulane games annually, even working a few games as a vendor for Brown’s Velvet Ice Cream at Tulane Stadium before my broadcast/journalism career began to kick in by 1978. I did a high school game broadcast at Tulane Stadium in 1979 and began covering Green Wave football in the same year.
Vince Gibson became my good friend and later, my broadcast partner on New Orleans Saints preseason games.
The great experience of doing Tulane football games (along with occasional baseball and basketball) on television over a 15-year period was rewarding, enjoyable.
There is bound to be an omission but here are some of the memorable quarterbacks in Tulane history, most that I was fortunate to see or cover, others I simply heard about or read about.
First, there were the ones that got away.
Bubby Brister deserved a better fate at Tulane. The Alexandria native and former Neville High star played in just nine games in two seasons (1982-83). He completed just 50.7 of his passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
In 1983, Wally English became the head coach at Tulane, replacing Vince Gibson. English soon opted to start his son, Jon, ahead of Brister. It was clearly a family decision and a huge mistake.
Brister transferred to Northeast Louisiana, starring for what is now ULM. He was outstanding and would later be inducted into the ULM Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
As a third-round draft pick in 1986 of the Steelers, Brister went go on to play 15 years in the NFL with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Jets, Denver, Minnesota and Kansas City.
Brister played in 99 games, starting 75. He completed 54.6 percent of his passes for 14,445 yards and 81 touchdowns with 78 interceptions. Brister rushed for 546 yards and eight touchdowns, playing in four playoff games overall.
Jonathan Quinn played in just five games in 1994. He was an afterthought for a Buddy Teevens team which went 1-10.
Quinn completed 48.5 percent of his passes, passing for 379 yards and two touchdowns with seven interceptions.
He then transferred to Middle Tennessee State and started for three seasons for the Blue Raiders. Quinn passed for 4,882 yards and 28 touchdowns and he was drafted in the third round by Jacksonville in 1998.
Quinn went on to play five seasons in the NFL, playing in 17 games, starting six games. Quinn completed 52.5 percent of his passes for 1,161 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Then, there was Don Zimmerman, who was an All-American in 1932.
Though truly a halfback, Zimmerman was a triple-threat player as a runner, passer and kicker under Bernie Bierman and Ted Cox. He was an All-American in 1931 and 1932. Zimmerman led Tulane to the Rose Bowl in 1931.
Zimmerman was elected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and he was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame and the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.
Another person that played quarterback but was ultimately better at another position was David Abercrombie.
In 1969, Abercrombie played quarterback for the Green Wave, playing 10 games. Abercrombie was 14 of 49 passing for 143 yards with 11 interceptions. Abercrombie had 65 carries for 221 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
Abercrombie moved to running back in 1970 and was brilliant, rushing 244 times for 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had 10 catches for 59 yards as Tulane went 8-4, including a 17-3 Liberty Bowl win over Colorado.
Occasionally, there was a terrific individual game performance.
In 1952, Fred Dempsey passed for 219 yards and threw five touchdowns passes in a 46-14 win over Louisiana College in a memorable performance.
Now, there are those who were very accomplished in Green Wave history, in alphabetical order.
Bobby Duhon was quite an athlete at quarterback for Tulane out of Abbeville High.
Duhon played quarterback for three seasons from 1965-67 for the Green Wave, transitioning from Tommy O’Boyle to Jim Pittman as head coach.
Duhon passed for 2,137 yards and 13 touchdowns with 35 interceptions.
While passing was not his forte, Duhon was a brilliant athlete.
Duhon rushed for 1,262 yards and 13 touchdowns in three seasons.
In 1966, Duhon rushed for 748 yards at quarterback, the most ever by a Green Wave quarterback, leading Tulane to a 5-4-1 season.
Duhon was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round in 1968.
The Giants wisely used him as a running back. Duhon played four seasons, playing in 44 games. Duhon rushed for 840 yards and four touchdowns and caught 68 passes for 717 yards and a score.
Duhon was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980 and into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.
Joe Ernst was a fine quarterback for the Green Wave from 1948-50 after a brilliant playing career at Holy Cross High School, leading the Tigers to a state championship in 1945.
In 1948, Ernst passed for 809 yards, Tulane crushed LSU 46-0 and the Green Wave finished 9-1 under Henry Frnka.
In 1949, Tulane went 7-2-1, losing only to Notre Dame and LSU as Tulane won the SEC championship in undisputed fashion, the only time Tulane did so.
In 1950, Ernst had a simply outstanding season for another winning team.
Ernst set a new Tulane passing record with 990 yards, a record which lasted 19 years as the Green Wave went 6-2-1. In a 27-0 victory over Navy, Ernst connected with Joe Shinn 10 times for 152 yards as he passed for 292 yards.
In his career, Ernst completed 175 of 339 passes for 2,374 yards.
Ernst posted a 22-5-2 record in his three seasons as a starter for Tulane before he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 15th round of the 1951 NFL Draft. Ernst was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984.
Steve Foley was a New Orleans native who starred at Jesuit High School. He became a friend.
Foley signed with Tulane and he went on to play three seasons (1972-74) with the Green Wave, playing in 30 games.
In 1972, Foley helped lead Tulane to a 6-5 season before taking the Green Wave to a 9-3 season in 1973, when Tulane ended a 25-year losing streak to LSU, beating the Tigers 14-0 at Tulane Stadium. Tulane went on to play in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
In his senior season, Foley had Tulane unbeaten at 5-0 when he suffered a broken foot in a game at Georgia Tech. The Green Wave would not win another game.
Foley passed for 2,174 yards and 14 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. Foley rushed for 1,308 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The “Foley to Foley to Foley” brother combination became famous in Tulane lore in 1972. Rob Foley was a center who snapped the ball to Steve Foley who threw the ball to Mike Foley.
Foley was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the eighth round of the 1975 NFL Draft.
Foley initially played one season for the Jacksonville Express of the World Football League.
The Broncos converted him to cornerback and he later moved to safety and it turned out to be fantastic for him. Foley had a brilliant 11-year career, earning a Pro Bowl honor, playing in two Super Bowls, and recording a franchise best 44 career interceptions.
Foley was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983, the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Ryan Griffin played four seasons for the Green Wave from 2009-12.
Griffin played in 42 games, completing 59.9 percent of his passes for 9.026 yards and 56 touchdowns with 35 interceptions. He rushed for one score.
Griffin was undrafted out of college but signed with the hometown New Orleans Saints, spending two years with the team but not playing. He signed with Tampa Bay and finally got a chance to play in two games in 2019, completing 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards.
Nickie Hall was a Lake Charles native out of Washington Marion who was a 10th round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1981. Hall played two seasons in the CFL with Winnipeg and with Saskatchewan. Hall played three seasons at Tulane (1978-80), playing in 32 games.
Hall completed 179 of 370 passes for 2,329 yards with 24 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He rushed 161 times for 281 yards and seven touchdowns. Hall had to wait his time to start, playing behind Roch Hontas.
When given the opportunity in 1980, Hall excelled, throwing for 2,039 yards with 24 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Hall also rushed for 259 yards and seven touchdowns. Hall led Tulane to a 7-5 mark and the Hall of Fame Classic Bowl game that season.
Hall was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
Roch Hontas played four seasons for Larry Smith from 1976-79, playing in 41 games.
Hontas was smart, accurate and a good leader. The Tulane team and program grew as Hontas grew and progressed as a quarterback and as he was surrounded with more and better talent.
In his college career, Hontas completed 58.6 percent of his passes with 39 touchdowns and 41 interceptions. He ran for five scores.
In his senior season of 1979, Hontas and the Green Wave finally turned the corner.
Hontas erased every school passing record that season, completed 215 of 367 passes for 2,345 yards with 21 touchdowns. All were school records, as was the 58.5 percent completion percentage that season. Hontas threw 14 interceptions and he ran for a touchdown as well.
That led Tulane to a 9-3 record and Liberty Bowl appearance, falling 9-6 to Penn State.
The final game of the regular season was a memorable one as Tulane downed LSU 24-13 at the Louisiana Superdome, the first win for the Green Wave over the Tigers in just the fifth season of the new facility.
Tulane closed the season with four straight wins.
Hontas retired with the Tulane career records for passing attempts, touchdown passes, passing yards and total offensive yards.
Hontas was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986 and he was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
Terrence Jones is a New Orleans native who starred at Lutcher High School.
Jones would make his mark at Tulane. Jones left Tulane as the career leader in passing yardage (7,684), passing touchdowns (46), completions (570) and attempts (1,042). Jones amassed a school record of 9,445 yards of total offense and he averaged 5.8 yards per play.
Jones led Tulane to a 6-6 record and Independence Bowl appearance in his senior season of 1987. Jones was a great athlete who actually played running back as a freshman to help the squad.
Finishing his brilliant Tulane career sixth in the NCAA in all-time total offense. Jones was the Most Valuable Player in the Senior Bowl.
Jones was drafted in the seventh round by the San Diego Chargers in 1989. Jones opted to play in the CFL, enjoying an 7-year career. Jones 3,611 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for 630 yards and 10 scores with Calgary, Ottawa and Shreveport. He played one year in the Arena Football League with Connecticut where he threw for 10 touchdowns.
Jones was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Ken Karcher transferred from Notre Dame and was the starting quarterback for Tulane in 1984 and 1985.
Karcher played in 18 games, completing 52.6 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He rushed for one score.
Karcher went to training camp with the hometown New Orleans Saints in 1986 before signing with the Denver Broncos in 1987. Karcher played in four games for Denver, starting three and posted a 2-1 record. He completed 54.4 percent of his passes, throwing six touchdowns passes with four interceptions.
Shaun King was a second round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1999.
King played for the Green Wave from 1995-98, playing in 42 games. King completed 55.7 percent of his passes, passing for 8,695 yards and 72 touchdowns with 34 interceptions. King rushed for 1,158 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The native of St. Petersburg, Fla. led Tulane to a 7-4 season in 1997 when he passed for 2,577 yards and 24 touchdowns with 14 interceptions and rushed for 511 yards and five scores when he was the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year.
King will always be remembered for leading Tulane to a perfect 12-0 season in 1998, culminating with a Liberty Bowl victory over BYU as Tulane finished ranked seventh in the country.
In that magical season, King passed for 3,495 yards and 38 touchdowns with just six interceptions and rushed for 633 yards and 11 touchdowns. His passer rating of 183.3 in 1998 remains an NCAA record.
Professionally, King played eight years in the NFL with Tampa Bay, Arizona, Detroit and Indianapolis, collecting a Super Bowl championship ring with the Colts. King was 14-10 as a starter, passing for 4,566 yards and 27 touchdowns with 24 interceptions and King rushed for 454 yards and five touchdowns. King played in three playoff games for the Bucs.
King was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
Rusty Lachausee played three seasons at Tulane (1969-71), playing in 33 games. Lachausee passed for 1,722 yards and seven touchdowns and he ran for two scores. He was the first 1,000 yard passer in Tulane history.
Rusty Lachausee was a 15th round pick by the hometown New Orleans Saints in 1972.
Lester Lautenschlaeger was the quarterback of an undefeated Tulane squad in 1925 which went 9-0-1. That Green Wave team declined an invitation to the Rose Bowl. Lautehschlaeger was named third team All-American.
With Lautenschlaeger at quarterback, Tulane was 8-1 in 1924. Lautenschlaeger went on to coach at Tulane.
Lautenschlaeger was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975, the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.
Terry Looney played three seasons for the Green Wave in 1973 and in 1975 and 1976.
Looney played in 29 games, completing 46.4 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
Looney will always be remembered for engineering a 14-0 victory over LSU at Tulane Stadium in 1973 before a crowd of 86,598, giving Tulane its first victory over the Tigers in 25 years.
Looney hit tight end Darwin Willie on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left in the first half to give the Green Wave a 7-0 lead. In the second half, Doug Bynum broke loose on a 53-yard run to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Lyndon Lasiter to provide insurance.
J.P. Losman played four seasons (2000-03) for the Green Wave under Chris Scelfo after transferring from UCLA.
Losman played in 38 games, completing 57.8 percent of his passes for 6,754 yards with 60 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. Losman rushed for 241 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In 2002, Losman led Tulane to an 8-5 record and a memorable 36-28 win over Hawaii on Christmas Day, completing 20 of 39 passes for 240 yards and he ran for two touchdowns.
A first round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills (22nd overall) in 2004, Losman went on to play seven seasons in the NFL, going 10-23 as a starter while playing in 45 games for the Bills, Miami and Oakland. He completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 6,271 yards and 33 touchdowns with 34 interceptions. Losman also rushed for 490 yards and three scores.
Losman was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.
He may not have put up great numbers but Mike McKay will always be remembered in Tulane lore.
McKay played in 17 games over two seasons for Vince Gibson in 1981 and 1982 after he transferred to Tulane from Santa Monica Jr. College.
For the Wave, McKay completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,830 yards with 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He ran for one score.
In 1981, McKay was part of a Tulane squad that went 6-5, winning its last three games including a 48-7 demolition of LSU at the Louisiana Superdome in front of a full house crowd of 70,000 fans. McKay was 16 of 25 for 265 yards and four touchdowns.
McKay’s crowning glory was a brilliant performance, throwing four touchdown passes as Tulane shocked Orange Bowl-bound LSU 31-28 at Tiger Stadium. It was the second straight win for McKay and Tulane over LSU.
On fourth-and-three, McKay found Reggie Reginelli open in the flat, hit him and Reginelli raced 31 yards for the game-winning score. It was Reginelli’s second touchdown of the game. McKay was terrific, completing 23 of 31 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the first win at Tiger Stadium for Tulane in 34 years.
Covering the game in the press box, I was sitting just three seats away from a pair of Orange Bowl officials. They were shocked, speechless, and knew their game had just lost its luster.
McKay left Tulane as the most accurate passer in school history. He signed with the hometown New Orleans Saints as a free agent. He will always be known as the Tiger Tamer.
Justin McMillan transferred from LSU to Tulane and it was a good move for both McMillan and the Green Wave.
McMillan took over as the team’s starting quarterback midway through the 2018 season and he proceeded to guide the Green Wave to a 5-1 record for Willie Fritz.
In his two seasons, McMillan played in 22 games. He completed 262 of 467 passes (56%) for 3,748 yards and 27 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. McMillan rushed 228 times for 983 yards and 17 touchdowns.
McMillan led the Green Wave to a 7-6 record and a 41-24 victory over the University of Louisiana (Lafayette) in the Cure Bowl in the 2019 season.
He followed that up by leading Tulane to a 7-6 record, culminating with a 30-13 win over Southern Miss in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Gene Newton spent three seasons (1955-57) as the starting quarterback for the Green Wave.
The Monroe native starred at Byrd High in Shreveport, Newton, affectionately known as “The Mouse,” played in 20 games, passing for 506 yards and six touchdowns with nine interceptions while rushing for 622 yards. Tulane went 6-4 in 1956 under Andy Pilney.
In 1955, Newton threw a pair of touchdown passes in a 27-13 upset victory over Auburn.
In one memorable 1956 game, Newton had an electrifying 85-yard run in a 10-3 upset win against Ole Miss in Jackson, MS on a field of mud. Newton was named to an All-American team in 1956.
Newton later worked for Tulane in development, raising money for athletics.
Newton was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989. Newton earned the Distinguished American award from the Allstate Sugar Bowl chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Richie Petitbon of Jesuit High School played quarterback at Tulane in 1957-58.
Obviously, that is what he would become known for.
Petitbon first attended Loyola on a track and field scholarship his freshman season before transferring next door to Tulane.
Petitbon played in 20 games, completing 47.3 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He rushed for 336 yards and five touchdowns.
Petitbon was drafted in the second round in 1959 by the Chicago Bears and he went on to a brilliant NFL playing career of 14 years, making the Pro Bowl four times.
With the Bears, Petitbon won an NFL championship in 1963 and he also played for the Rams and Redskins. Petitbon went on to be a great defensive coordinator and Super Bowl champion with the Washington Redskins under Joe Gibbs and even served as head coach for one season.
Petitbon was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1979 and he was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980.
Patrick Ramsey succeeded Shaun King at Tulane in a smooth, outstanding transition.
A former Ruston High star, Ramsey played four years (1998-2001) for the Green Wave, playing in 35 games.
Ramsey completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 9,205 yards with 72 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. Ramsey was a reserve to King in 1998, when Tulane went 12-0 and finished seventh in the nation.
The prototypical pocket passer took over as the starter in 1999 and the highlight was a 6-5 season in 2000.
Ramsey was the final pick of the first round by Washington in the 2002 draft. He went on to play seven seasons in the NFL, playing in 37 games with 24 starts. Ramsey posted a 10-14 record as a starter, passing for 5,930 yards and 35 touchdowns with 30 interceptions.
Ramsey was inducted into the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Lester Ricard played three seasons for the Green Wave (2004-06) after transferring from LSU out of Amite High School.
It was a tumultuous time as the Green Wave had to deal with Hurricane Katrina and relocate their team in 2005.
Ricard played in 31 games, completing 56.4 percent of his passes for 6,608 yards and 55 touchdowns with 31 interceptions for Chris Scelfo’s Green Wave.
Ricard went on to spend time with Jacksonville and Carolina in the NFL, though he did not play in a regular season game.
Deron Smith of Destrehan High played three seasons for Greg Davis in 1987 and then in 1989-90. Smith played in 33 games, completing 54.6 percent of his passes for 4,910 yards and 37 touchdowns with 31 interceptions. Smith rushed for 210 yards and six scores.
At the same time Rusty Lachausee was at Tulane, Mike Walker (not to be confused with the Green Wave defensive lineman of the same name) played three seasons for the Green Wave (1970-72). Walker passed for 2,465 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and five touchdowns.
Walker guided Tulane to a memorable 8-4 record in 1970, including a shocking 17-3 upset victory over Colorado in the Liberty Bowl. Walker had many memorable pass connections to my friend, former broadcast partner and insurance agent Steve Barrios.
It is fun recollecting the superb accomplishments. Tulane has enjoyed a very good list of quarterbacks in its football history.
While you cannot compare numbers from era to era, accomplishments and victories are important. Longevity and victories are a significant consideration.
Lautenschlaeger was part of elite teams and his accomplishments and eventual honors cannot be denied.
Shaun King had the best season of any Tulane quarterback ever. Terrence Jones was the most electrifying player at the position. Steve Foley was dynamic and he was a winner. One can only wonder what would have been in his senior season had he not gotten hurt.
Ernst is totally underrated, with the outstanding individual records and the team records when he played.
Hontas persevered and helped Tulane football turn the corner with a very memorable season.
Losman was a terrific talent and part of significant season and bowl victory. He put up very impressive numbers.
Ramsey was as good a pro-style quarterback, if not the best, Tulane has ever had.
McMillan was simply a winner and led Tulane to consecutive winning seasons and consecutive bowl game victories.
McKay solidified his place in history with two monster performances in two of the biggest victories in Tulane history against LSU.
Here is my list of Top 10 quarterbacks in Tulane history, though all mentioned deserve credit, recognition and consideration:
- Lester Lautenschlaeger
- Shaun King
- Steve Foley
- Joe Ernst
- Terrence Jones
- Roch Hontas
- P. Losman
- Patrick Ramsey
- Justin McMillan
- Mike McKay
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…