Two of the best quarterbacks to ever play football for the University of Delaware were in the news recently, one because of the job he took and the other because of the job he turned down.
Matt Nagy was hired as head coach of the Chicago Bears last week, capping a mercurial rise through the NFL coaching ranks for the former Eagles intern. At just about the same time, Rich Gannon decided not to join the staff of new Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, where he would have been quarterbacks coach for the team he once led to a Super Bowl.
Thinking about those two made me think about all of the great QBs that Delaware has had over the years – the Blue Hens have had numerous stars at that most important of positions. And that made me wonder: Who are the greatest Delaware quarterbacks of all time? And who is the greatest?
So, here is my Top Ten list, and feel free to disagree. The criteria are as haphazard as this column – success at Delaware, individually and as a team, is important, and so is success at the next level, where a small-college QB plays in the big leagues. Also, we tried to take different eras into consideration, and of the 10 QBs selected, I saw eight of them play in person.
Not making the list are some very good quarterbacks, including Sonny Riccio, Leo Hamlett, Rick Scully, Chuck Zolak and Bill Zwaan. Here are the QBs that did make it, in reverse order:
10 – Bill Vergantino: Perhaps no quarterback ran Tubby Raymond’s Wing-T offense better than Vergantino, but he also threw the ball well, too – in his time in Newark he set 24 school records and led the Hens to two Lambert Cup trophies, and he was selected for the Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.
9 – Tom DiMuzio: He played in a different era, when running the ball and running a complicated offense was as important as passing the ball. And DiMuzio was the perfect Wing-T quarterback for those days, as he led the Hens to two MAC titles, two Lambert Cups and two Boardwalk Bowl victories. He was also a second-team All-American in 1969, when he passed for 2,179 yards – then a school record – and 24 TDs. He later played for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League and had a tryout with the Washington Redskins.
8 – Andy Hall: This transfer from Georgia Tech had a terrific season in 2003, when he led Delaware to its first I-AA national championship and was also named first-team All-American. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Eagles, but his NFL career was pretty much a washout and he was out of the league after two seasons. But he, as much as anybody, was responsible for Delaware returning to small-college football prominence under coach K.C. Keeler.
7 – Jeff Komlo: He led Delaware to national runner-up in Division II in 1978 and was later drafted by the Detroit Lions in the ninth round. He had an inconsistent NFL career, but did start 14 games for the 2-12 Lions in his rookie season, when he had 11 TD passes and 23 interceptions. He was with the Lions for three seasons and also spent time with Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Seattle.
6 – Don Miller: The Blue Hens were 15-3 in his last two seasons under coach Dave Nelson and this four-year starter led the Hens to the Refrigerator Bowl title in 1954, when he was also selected as a first-team All-American. Miller was also a two-year starter on the UD basketball team before becoming football coach at Division III Trinity for 32 years.
5 – Matt Nagy: The Bears new coach was a prolific passer at Delaware and he still has the top two spots for passing yards in a game – 556 vs. Connecticut in 1998 and 456 vs. Villanova in 2000. Nagy also led Delaware to the Atlantic 10 Conference championship and was named first-team All-A10 and third-team All-American. He never got his desired shot at an NFL roster, but Nagy starred in the Arena League, playing in two championship games with the Georgia Force and the Columbus Destroyers before turning in his helmet for a clipboard.
4 – Pat Devlin: He came within seconds of leading K.C. Keeler’s Blue Hens to their second national championship, as Delaware lost to Eastern Washington 20-19 in the 2010 title game in Frisco, Texas. Devlin was the CAA offensive player of the year and third-team All-American, then kicked around the NFL for several years with the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns.
3- Scott Brunner: He became an Eagles killer during his career with the New York Giants, but before that Brunner took Tubby Raymond to his last national title when the Hens beat rival Youngstown State in the 1979 Division II championship game. Brunner was drafted by the Giants in the 6th round and ended up starting 30 of 57 games for them before finishing up his NFL career with Denver, Green Bay and the St. Louis Cardinals. The highlight of his career came in the 1981 playoffs, when he completed 22 of 33 passes for three TDs and no interceptions as the Giants upset the defending NFC champion Eagles 27-21.
2- Joe Flacco: Delaware came within a game of winning Keeler’s second national championship in 2007, mainly because of the strong-armed transfer from Pittsburgh who went from being a benchwarmer for Pitt to an All-American at Delaware and, of course, a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco led the Hens to the Division I-AA championship game, where they lost to Appalachian State. Then, after the Ravens traded up to make him the 18th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Flacco led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers, when he completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 124.2, and was named the game’s MVP. Baltimore hasn’t matched that success since, but Flacco is still their main man. In his career he’s thrown 200 TD passes and 130 interceptions.
1 – Rich Gannon: He didn’t win a Super Bowl like Flacco, but he played in one – Super Bowl XXXVII – and came close a couple other times. And he did something Flacco has never done – Gannon was the NFL’s most valuable player in 2002, when he passed for a then-NFL record 4,689 yards, with 26 TDs and 10 interceptions. He also played in four Pro Bowls (Flacco has never been selected for the Pro Bowl).
Gannon led Delaware to the Yankee Conference title in 1986, and the Hens advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals. Gannon was initially drafted by New England, which wanted to convert him to defensive back, but he insisted on playing QB and was traded to Minnesota. His career with the Vikings, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs was a rollercoaster ride before he found stability and success in Oakland. And when you add it all together, when it comes to playing quarterback for Delaware, Rich Gannon is the best there ever was.