Before the 1969 season, a reporter asked North Texas quarterback Steve Ramsey about his expectations for the upcoming season, his answer was simple, “I hope they let me throw the ball.” Throwing the ball made Steve Ramsey a bonafide star as he rewrote the NCAA record book.
The Dallas Samuel product emerged from a pack of quarterbacks in ‘67 to take over the starting job and lead new head coach Rod Rust’s offense. He led the Missouri Valley is almost every passing statistic, and finished eighth in the NCAA in yards, first in passing touchdowns (21). After 1968 he’d established his passing dominance over the Missouri Valley and threw for the fourth-most yards in college football.
A little context might help understand Ramsey’s influence on the game. In the late 1960s, college football was still a game where passing was considered a risky proposition or downright foolhardy by most coaches. Texas Coach Darrell Royal said, “There are three things that can happen on a forward pass – and two of them are bad.” He wasn’t wrong, the game was different, coverage was far more handsy, linemen couldn’t use their hands in pass protection, and a concept like summer 7 on 7 competitions were as foreign as the combustible engine to a caveman.
If you wanted to throw a ball, play baseball kid. Do you want to hand the ball to a teammate? College football’s your game. Most newspapers kept a list of the passing leaders under the heading “Forward Passing.”
Rust and Ramsey were both pioneers, slowly turning the wheel on college football’s cruise ship. North Texas, with their foolhardy offensive approach, lost once in 1967 and twice in 1968. Receiver In ‘67 Ronny Shanklin led the nation in TD receptions - Shanklin and Ramsey paired for two more seasons.
In 1969 Ramsey rewrote the NCAA record books, setting new marks for total offense yards, most touchdowns responsible for, most points responsible for, most completions, most passing yards, most touchdown passes, and most pass attempts. He and Shanklin set an NCAA record for most touchdowns between a quarterback and receiver combination (30) and his 33.3 yards per completion game against Cincinnati in 1968 put him at the top in college football history.
He also came within one miscue of the NCAA career interception mark with 69, but hey Darrell warned you guys throwing the football was the equivalent of a ticking time bomb.
He earned an All-Conference spot every year of his collegiate career, and Player of the year in 1969. Most importantly, the Mean Green lost a total of five games in three years, compare with 22 wins.
Ramsey knew those records were short-lived given the influx of passing into the game. A new crop of throwers topped his marks within the next five years, but you cannot argue his impact on the game and the North Texas program. His school touchdown record still stands and in 1998 North Texas selected Ramsey to its Athletics Hall of Fame.
The Missouri Valley named him to its All-Centennial Team, and North Texas chose him to its All-Century squad.
Ramsey played seven seasons in the NFL, one for New Orleans, and six for Denver. He started twelve games for the Broncos in 1976, leading the team to a 7-5 record. He retired from the game after the Giants released him shortly into the 1977 season.