Now that Joe Biden is the president-elect, it’s about time for the first update in 15 years to the world’s greatest trivia question.
Here it is: Which colleges have produced both a president of the United State and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? If you can name even two of the four colleges already in the club, then you’re ready to win your next cocktail party.
The most recent school to be added to the list is Miami of Ohio. Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers has won two Super Bowls. He pairs with fellow Miami alum Benjamin Harrison.
Michigan has produced Tom Brady and Gerald Ford.
Navy is the alma mater of Roger Staubach and Jimmy Carter.
And Stanford produced Herbert Hoover and quarterbacks Jim Plunkett and John Elway.
Now comes Biden, a Delaware Blue Hen, who is on the verge of joining quarterback Joe Flacco, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.
You will notice none of those schools are in our part of the country. There’s a good reason for that. The Southeastern Conference is surprisingly inept at producing politicians and quarterbacks who ascend to the highest spots in their professions.
The half of the equation that deals with presidents may not be shocking. Even prominent lawmakers with Southern roots such as Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Al Gore and Carter left their home states to attend college. If Andrew Johnson had attended college, he might well have preceded Peyton Manning at Tennessee. But apparently, Johnson was an academic slacker.
Not a single president attended an SEC school, even though George Bush the senior is so strongly associated with Texas A&M.
But the quarterback half of the answer proves a surprising fact about the SEC. In the history of the Super Bowl, the only winning quarterbacks from the SEC were either from Alabama or their last name is Manning.
Three Alabama quarterbacks have won four Super Bowls: Bart Starr (twice), Joe Namath and Ken Stabler. Peyton Manning of Tennessee and Eli Manning of Ole Miss have won two each. That’s it.
Even more telling, only four other former SEC quarterbacks have led their teams to the Super Bowl yet were unable to win the big one. Most recently, former Auburn Heisman Trophy-winner Cam Newton directed the Carolina Panthers to the championship game before falling short.
Fran Tarkenton (Georgia and the Minnesota Vikings), David Woodley (LSU and the Miami Dolphins) and Rex Grossman (Florida and the Chicago Bears) are the others.
That’s not exactly a roll call of the greatest quarterbacks in SEC history. Tarkenton is an all-time great at Georgia. But Woodley and Grossman aren’t even considered among the best quarterbacks at their alma maters (and certainly not the best from their pro teams).
In today’s NFL, it’s not at all clear who might break the SEC’s Super Bowl quarterback drought.
Former Georgia star Matthew Stafford has a resume that will probably get him into the Hall of Fame. But he’s never come close to reaching the Super Bowl.
Ryan Tannehill never actually played in the SEC, but he did play for current league member Texas A&M. A couple of weeks ago, he had the Tennessee Titans looking like a championship contender, but not so much lately.
Every New England Patriots game seems to bring further proof Newton’s Super Bowl appearance is going to be his only one.
Former Missouri Tiger Drew Lock is the starter in Denver, but he hasn’t shown any real championship potential.
Dak Prescott suffered a grotesque injury earlier this year, but even before then, there was no indication the former Mississippi State star was close to leading the Dallas Cowboys to a berth in the Super Bowl.
That brings us to the two newest starting quarterbacks in the NFL with SEC roots.
Joe Burrow had perhaps the greatest season in college football history a year ago for LSU. The No. 1 pick of the Cincinnati Bengals has shown incredible toughness and leadership during his rookie season. Burrow is unquestionably a franchise NFL quarterback. It remains to be seen if he’s going to be good enough to lead the Bengals to a Super Bowl.
And in Miami, Tua Tagovailoa is now the starter of a team that is sneaky good. Tagovailoa said last week he may never feel like he did before a hip injury prematurely ended his Alabama career. But the Dolphins have the kind of supporting cast that could make a Super Bowl run in the near future a reality.
Even so, it’s not like LSU alum James Carville or Alabama alum Richard Shelby are going to be mounting a White House run.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 18 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. His sports talk show airs weekdays on Sports Talk 99.5 from 7-10 a.m. and on the iHeart app.
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