- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"I believe this guy, given some time, is going to take the Lions to the Super Bowl," says Detroit coach Wayne Fontes.
Ware's march to the Heisman—and rise to first-round draft pick—caught football observers by surprise. Before last season, he was almost unknown outside the SWC, even though he had thrown a conference-record 25 touchdown passes in 1988. And with the Cougars about to serve the first of three years of NCAA probation for recruiting violations, Ware would not appear on live television. He was one of four players featured on the cover of Houston's media guide, but he wasn't billed as a Heisman candidate.
"Not having our games on TV actually helped Andre win the Heisman," says Ted Nance, Houston's assistant athletic director for media relations. "It brought more people down here to see him. He was a curiosity."
Why? Ware's numbers were overwhelming: 503 yards passing against Arizona State, seven touchdown passes against Temple, 517 yards passing in the first half of a 95-21 rout of Southern Methodist, a 34-of-46 day against Arkansas, 42 completions against Texas Christian. At season's end, Ware had set 26 NCAA passing and total-offense records. His 4,699 yards in the air surpassed the single-season record of 4,571 set by Brigham Young's Jim McMahon, and his 46 touchdown passes fell one short of McMahon's mark. Ware put together these numbers despite sitting out the equivalent of nine quarters because most of Houston's nine victories were one-sided.
Some critics pooh-poohed Ware's statistics, citing the poor caliber of several opponents, but by midseason the media crush spanned the spectrum from major metropolitan dailies and network morning shows to small outlets like The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and WSNG radio in Torrington, Conn. Poised and articulate beyond his 21 years, Ware began interviews as early as 6 a.m. and often gave as many as seven a day.
"I didn't do interviews to promote myself," says Andre. "L did them for our football team. We were accomplishing some great things, and I was in the position to tell people about them. I had a lot of fun doing interviews. All I had to do was be myself."
The Wares' innocence in dealing with outsiders disappeared the weekend Andre won the Heisman. On Friday, Dec. 1, Joyce flew to New York City to attend the presentation the next evening at the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan. Andre didn't accompany her because Houston was playing Rice on Saturday. During the flight, Joyce practiced her acceptance speech, as she had done secretly for weeks in her living room. She was met at LaGuardia Airport by Johnny Rodgers, the 1972 Heisman Trophy winner from Nebraska, who told her he was representing the Downtown Athletic Club. They rode into Manhattan in a limousine, and Rodgers checked her into a hotel instead of the Downtown Athletic Club, where she had a reservation. "He told me the place was a dump," says Joyce.
In truth, Rodgers was acting as an agent for TEAM America of Lincoln, Neb. Rodgers and Howard Misle, the president of TEAM America, visited Joyce's hotel room, where they told her about their firm and gave her a packet entitled Cash Flow and Tax Projections Prepared for Andre Ware. Joyce says they told her TEAM America's marketing efforts could make the family $20 million.
On Saturday, Rodgers took Joyce shopping and bought her a two-piece red silk dress, red shoes and a red purse. Inside the purse she found $300. Rodgers also bought Joyce a full-length mahogany-colored fur coat.
"I had already worn the outfit I'd brought, and Johnny said I needed something else to wear for the announcement," Joyce says. "I kept asking him if he was an agent, and he kept saying no. Johnny told me some people at the ceremony called me 'Johnny's queen' because of how well he was treating me. When Andre won the Heisman, I was so proud. I went back to the hotel and started jumping up and down and crying."