Sanford Emory Stephens II (September 21, 1940 – June 6, 2000) was an African-American football player and civic leader. Stephens was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area city of Uniontown, Pennsylvania and is best known for his career as a college football quarterback at the University of Minnesota. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Stephens was the first black man to play quarterback at the University of Minnesota and remains the only quarterback to take the Gophers to the Rose Bowl (1961 and 1962). He was one of the first "National Recruits" for the University of Minnesota, along with Judge Dickson and Bill Munsey. The mayor of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, had served in the Navy with John Mariucci, the coach of the Gopher Hockey team. Mariucci tipped off the University of Minnesota football coach, Murray Warmath about the players.
In 1960, along with Uniontown (PA) High School teammate Bill Munsey, Stephens led the University of Minnesota to an 8-1 regular season record and the national championship. Minnesota defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 27-10 when both teams were undefeated, one of biggest games in the Iowa–Minnesota football rivalry. Stephens became the first African-American major-college All-American quarterback and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. In 1961, Stephens received the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Most Valuable Player of the Big Ten Conference.
Sandy Stephens is a member of The Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C. National Intercollegiate All-American Football Players Honor Roll.
Stephens was a second-round NFL draft choice of the Cleveland Browns and the fifth overall selection in the AFL draft by the New York Titans. Both teams said that they wouldn’t use him as a quarterback and he never played a down in either league. The Canadian Football League (CFL) welcomed him as a quarterback, as the Montreal Alouettes offered a reported $25,000 signing bonus and a three-year contract at $30,000 per year.
After playing for the Alouettes in 1962 and 1963, he was claimed on waivers by the Toronto Argonauts in 1964. Upon leaving the CFL, Stephens tried out as a walk-on with the Minnesota Vikings. On September 20, 1964, he was involved in a near fatal accident. The car is which he was riding with Ted Dean, a Minnesota Vikings player, struck a tree in South Minneapolis. Two years after the accident Stephens signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a fullback. He was willing to play any of the back positions and continued to dream of playing as a quarterback in the NFL, but to no avail. Sandy ended his active football career in 1968.
Thirty years after he left football, Stephens was named to the University of Minnesota All Century Team, the Star Tribune 100 All-Century Top Sports Figures (No. 30), and awarded NCAA Legends status. He was inducted into the University of Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame, the Western Pennsylvania All Sports Hall of Fame and he was nominated for induction into the National and College Football Foundation Hall of Fame. One of his most coveted recognitions was his induction into the Rose Bowl Hall Of Fame in 1997. On May 17, 2011, Stephens was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame as part of the 16-member Class of 2011. He is the 22nd Gopher to be elected into the South Bend, IN museum and the fourth from the 1960 National Championship team.
- "Patrick Reusse - Reusse: U's Sandy Stephens was ahead of his time". Star Tribune. December 6, 2011
- David Butwin "First Person: Human Tackling Dummy" Minnesota Magazine, University of Minnesota Alumni Association, Fall 2011
- Canadian Football League Illustrated, V.1 No.8, p. 31.
- "SANDY STEPHENS CRITICAL AFTER AUTO ACCIDENT". Associated Press, The Miami News September 21, 1964