Today in 1989, the University of Houston’s Andre Ware won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first African-American quarterback to win the award. And he did so without the benefit of preseason Heisman hype, games on TV, or ritzy promotional efforts that every modern winner has enjoyed. Andre did it the old fashioned way: he let his on-field efforts do all the talking.
In that historic season, Andre threw for 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns while setting 26 NCAA records. In all, the 9-2 Coogs rewrote nearly 100 UH, SWC, and NCAA records. The 624.9 yards per game, a gaudy number that Ware is largely responsible for, remains the best ever despite the offensive explosion in college football over the last 15 years.
Unlike other winners over the last few decades, Andre played the day the award was handed out and was not in NYC for the ceremony. Instead, Andre and his UH teammates watched via television just moments after he led the Cougars to a 64-0 win over Rice. Ware completed 36 of 51 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
Twenty years ago, when he was UH’s radio color analyst, I asked him about the decision to play in the game and miss the ceremony. Andre said it bothered him for “like a second” but he was proud to be able to get the news and celebrate with his teammates.
In his place, his mom Joyce accepted the award in New York. She had secretly practiced her acceptance speech for weeks just in case Andre won. She was such a hit that SI featured her in an article in the spring of 1990.
Ware was drafted #7 overall by the Detroit Lions in 1990 and has gone on to work for UH, ESPN, and the Houston Texans. Recently, he teamed up with Warren Moon, Vince Young, and Deshaun Watson to form Brothers In Arms, a scholarship program for minorities that play sports and grow up in a one-parent household.
“I knew from the age of 11 that football would be the ticket for me to earn a college degree,” Ware told the New York Times in an interview years ago. Now, he is helping others do the same.
Andre is in the College Football Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and was part of the inaugural class in the SWC Hall of Fame. In 2000, the University of Houston inducted him into the school’s Hall of Honor.
Below is our Andre Wins The Heisman! photo gallery. Click a photo and you can scroll through each of them in the lightbox.