The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is proud to announce the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications as the newest journalism school that will compete in the JMMF scholarship competition.
We give special thanks to Nebraska alum Shelley Smith, ESPN's award-winning sports journalist, and Rick Alloway, associate professor at Nebraska's College of Journalism and Mass Communication and general manager at KRNU and KRNU2, for facilitating this endeavour.
While Jim Murray didn’t write full columns on these University of Nebraska athletes, he did mention them in various columns over the years — 2015 Football Hall of Famer Mick Tingelhoff, Minnesota Vikings (1962-1978); Roger Craig, former running back for the San Francisco 49ers; and Mike Rozier, the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner (1983).
However, Jim did write columns on one Southern California NFL quarterback who played for Nebraska — Vince Ferragamo.
Ferragamo played for Cal in 1972 and 1973, but eventually lost the starting job to Steve Bartkowski. Ferragamo made a decision to transfer to top-ranked Nebraska in 1974. With the Cornhuskers, he lettered in 1975 and 1976 and was All-Big Eight Conference, All-American and also an Academic All-American in his senior year. Ferragamo played in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams (1977-1980, 1982-84), Buffalo Bills (1985) and Green Bay Packers (1985-86). Ferragamo spent 1981 with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. He started for the Rams in Super Bowl XIV, making him the first quarterback to start a Super Bowl in the same season as his first career start.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1980, SPORTS
Copyright 1980/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
1980: Year of a Ram
Just a year ago today a young quarterback sat in a darkened corner of the Coliseum locker room and pondered what to do for the rest of his life. It was clear pro football was not a viable alternative. His team had just won, but he had just lost.
Vince Ferragamo looked like a guy on his way to a ledge. You would have thought some doctor had just given him a month to live. Guys going to the electric chair have a better outlook.
It was hard to believe that anybody who has so much going could get so down on himself. Six-feet-3, the body of a Greek statue, a face right out of Lord Byron, the skin clear, all his eyes and teeth, mind gifted enough to get into medical school, just 25 years old — you had to wonder why a game seemed like the end of the world.
A reporter tried to console him. "You know, being a doctor isn't exactly a dead end," the reporter said. "In fact, if you ask 100 people if they'd rather quarterback the Rams or perform surgeries, you'd be surprised how many would answer they prefer doctor to quarterback. You can't cure cancer with a football."
Vince Ferragamo was not cheered. "The coaches have lost faith in me, the fans have lost faith in me, so now I'm losing faith in me," he murmured, disconsolate.
It was somewhat true. In the game just proceeding against Minnesota, the staff had unceremoniously jerked Ferragamo out at the half and installed a guy who had been selling real estate only three weeks before. Bob Lee pulled the game out in overtime for the Rams, and it was the game that really put the club in the Super Bowl.
Coaches always seemed to be deciding Ferragamo was just another pretty face, anyway. He even left Cal and jumped all the way to Nebraska and sat out a year because the coaches at Berkeley preferred Steve Bartkowski. At Nebraska, Ferragamo was never more than one interception away from a benching. And even though he made All-American, the Rams drafted him on the fourth round. For the Rams, that's late in the afternoon.
Ferragamo’s problem has been that he is a home run hitter who strikes out a lot. And football coaches and baseball managers remember the strikeouts, never mind that Babe Ruth and Wilver Stargell led their generations in them. The football coaches remember the interceptions, never mind that George Blanda and Fran Tarkenton led in this category, too (as they also led in most touchdown passes).
A cursory study of the record would have shown Ferragamo, like an old Bolshevik, was just a natural-born bomb thrower. When they finally gave him the football in 1979 after Pat Haden was injured, he threw two touchdown passes, one 40 yards and one 29. He threw one 71 yards the following week. The speed-burners on the Rams, the little receivers no one had ever heard of — Billy Waddy, Willie Miller, and Preston Dennard — began to run their routes with renewed joy and hope. They knew the Great Profile could get that ball to them.
Coaches tend to think of long scores as raw luck. In baseball, a guy hits home runs and they say, "Yeah, but can he bunt?" In football, they see the bomb and they say "Yeah, but can he control the ball downfield with little seven-yard over-the middles to people coming out of the backfield?"
Last Sunday, Vince Ferragamo had what has come to be a typical Ferragamo day — four touchdowns and four interceptions. He broke the Rams' single-season record for touchdowns, 26. And he edged up on the single-season record for interceptions, 19, with five to go.
He also won the game, 38-13. Nobody had to come off the bench to bail him out. Laid end to end, Ferragamo's touchdown passes would make everyone else's look like handoffs.
It was a different Vince Ferragamo who stood towelling himself off in the locker room Sunday, one December later. Did he remember that day a year ago when he seemed to want to join the French Foreign Legion — or at least the march of medicine? "I remember it quite vividly," Vince Ferragamo said gravely. "At the time, I felt too apprehensive about my career and future. I felt abandoned. If I had been more logically oriented, I would have reasoned that these things work out in the long run."
And they did. And, while the league doesn't wish the young man had gone out and thrown himself under a train, it wouldn't have minded if he had taken good advice and turned in his football for a stethoscope. It would have been a boon to mankind, particularly that element of it that makes its living in the NFL defending against the bomb.
Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116
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The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation's efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.
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