Don McPherson - Quarterback- 1991-93 - Syracuse
Don had an outstanding collegiate career with Syracuse. Leading the Orangemen to an 11-0-1 record in 1987 and finishing as the nations top ranked passer ahead of Troy Aikman. McPherson finished runner-up in Heisman voting to Tim Brown who had an outstanding season with Notre Dame. McPherson was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and spent time on the roster but did not see any regular season action. He shuffled around with a few clubs before signing with the CFL Hamilton Tiger Cats in August 1991. McPherson filled in for an injured Damon Allen late in 1992 and had some success.
He left the biggest mark in the Eastern Semi-final versus the Ottawa Rough Riders at Ivor Wynne Stadium in November '92. Hamilton was trailing at the half and McPherson entered the game leading Hamilton to a comeback victory. The win was clinched with a last second Paul Osbaldiston field goal on the snowy turf for a 29-28 victory. The win opened the eyes of Tiger Cat management and when John Gregory opened camp for the 1993 season McPherson was named the clubs starting quarterback. McPherson struggled as the starter throwing 21 interceptions and just 6 touchdowns. Hamilto was desperate for some form of quarterbacking and McPherson rotated with the likes of Bob Torrance, Lee Saltz and Todd Dillon, it was a desperate end to the season and the club finished 6-12. McPherson did not return to Hamilton in 1994 as he move on to Ottawa and a year later was out of football..
By John Entine - Dark Thoughts - September 1999 - Jon Entine Online -
Drafted in the sixth round by Philadelphia, McPherson backed up Randall Cunningham for two years without taking a regular-season snap. But he holds no grudges against the Eagles. "Buddy Ryan was one of the few coaches to even give African-Americans a shot." McPherson says. "Most teams would not keep a black on the roster as the backup." When McPherson was released, he drifted to the Canadian Football League, long a refuge for "run and shoot" style African-American quarterbacks who never got a look in the NFL.
McPherson lost the intensity for the game, retiring four years later. "I really believed all along that I would get a fair shot, but I was fighting the system. There was so much preparation. I don't want to feel regret. I don't want to feel bitter. But in the end I was completely disrespected. They took my heart out."
White quarterbacks who didn't fit the mold, such as Doug Flutie, didn't get much of a chance, either, and were often forced to try their hand in the CFL. That's changed in recent years. The days when a classic drop-back passer like Joe Kapp, Sonny Jurgensen—or Doug Williams—could sit in the pocket are over. All the coaches are looking for "athleticism"—a word that not too many years ago resonated with racial undertones, including "less intelligent." "That used to be a code word to describe a black quarterback whom a coach wanted to shift to receiver of defensive back" says Green. "Now, with the speed and strength in the game, we all need athletic quarterbacks,"
"Coaches and the public have expectations, stereotypes, of how good you can be," mused Don McPherson, who currently consults for youth-violence prevention programs. Although he had a bitter experience in his brief professional career, he now believes such prejudices are not just a black-and-white proposition. In his second-to-last year in the game, a dismal 1993 season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, McPherson found himself being replaced as quarterback in midseason by Bob Torrance, a Canadian quarterback who had started for the University of Calgary. "It created a sensation when Torrance started." McPherson recalls, "No one believed a Canadian could compete with an American quarterback, black or white. 'Could a Canadian college quarterback play in the CFL?'—that was the story line in the media."
"I remember sitting in the stands one day in Winnipeg before his first start, trying to calm his butterflies, and it really hit me hard: Wow, everyone just assumes he will fail. It brought back all the bad memories. I felt like he knew exactly what it had been like for me, for black quarterbacks trying to make it in the NFL."
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