HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Andre Ware is a name synonymous with the University of Houston football program and now his trademark number will be emblazoned on John O’Quinn Field at TDECU Stadium as a reminder of his epic accomplishments for the Cougars.
The school honoring Ware Sunday by placing his famous number on the 11-yard line.
“Kind of overcome with emotion,” Ware said. “This school’s been so good to me. Who knew, 25 plus years ago, all this would happen? The things we were able to accomplish as a football team, it’s amazing. It really is.”
Ware was quick to thank his teammates and said his success at the school was thanks to their great contributions around him. He mentioned the defense often for the ball back for him and the offense, making their job easier.
Ware played three season at Houston capping off his time there with a remarkable 1989 campaign. That year Ware led the Cougars to a 9-2 record with a finish of fourteenth in the final AP poll.
His numbers were eye-popping. He led the nation in passing touchdowns, passing yards, and completions. His on-field performance led to his selection as a consensus All-American and the award for the best quarterback in the nation, the Davey O’Brien Award.
Ware also became the first African-American quarterback to win the Heisman trophy that year.
“It kind of book-ends everything,” Ware said.
He said it was special to “open the door” for African-American quarterbacks. He said he’s become familiar with the likes of Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.
“They’re always thanking me, but they went out and put the work in. I just happened to be the first one to do it.”
Ware’s name can still be found throughout the Cougars’ record books. He still ranks in the top five in passing yards, touchdowns, and completions. His 1989 season still ranks as one of the five best seasons in the passing touchdowns, passing yards, and completions categories.
A name you will also see near Ware’s in the book is his teammate, the man who followed him as the signal-caller at Houston, David Klingler. Klinger knows Ware’s honor is well deserved.
“We came in about the same time,” Klingler said. ” We know all the work that went into it. Just couldn’t be prouder for Andre. Well deserved. Great man.”
Ware left a mark that even players who didn’t share the field with him know his story well.
Kevin Kolb played three seasons at Houston and said he heard about Ware every day.
“He’s a legend for good reason. He carries the banner well,” Kolb said. “We were just laughing over there, he started it and the quarterback tradition just keeps rolling. Hopefully we can continue to convince kids to come over here and join the party.”
Ware would forgo his senior season the Cougars in favor of the NFL draft. He was the seventh overall pick by the Lions in the 1990 draft where he joined the previous Heisman trophy winner Barry Sanders. Ware’s time in professional football would not mirror his success at Houston. He would play professional football throughout the nineties, including stints in the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe.
Ware’s post-football career included broadcasting opportunities on both TV and the radio. He is currently the color analyst for the Houston Texans radio broadcasts which you can hear on SportsRadio 610. Recognition of Ware’s ability continued after his career finished with inductions in the College Football Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
A quick glance into the red zone, at the 11-yard line, and Cougar fans will remember the great Heisman trophy season Ware so eloquently put together. Perhaps more importantly, every time the current Cougars take the field at a brand new stadium, they will remember the hard work of Cougars past which helped build their current home. They will also see their ever-present greatness they are expected to achieve.
“This is special,” Ware said. “This is here for a while. For a long time. I’m extremely grateful.”