Gino Torretta’s Heisman Trophy victory in 1992 capped one of the most remarkable runs in the history of college football. But if you don’t remember the dominance of the Miami teams of the 1980s and early 1990s, it’s worth a reminder.
Those teams won four national championships with three difference coaches between 1983 and 1992 while finishing second in the polls two other times and third in the polls another two times. The overall record during that span: 107-14, with five of those losses coming in 1984 (which means Miami was 99-9 otherwise). The ‘Canes won two Heisman Trophies and sent 71 players to the NFL via the draft.
Amongst all those accomplishments and accolades, all the 6-3, 205-pound Torretta did was play for two national championship squads while leading Miami to a 26-2 record in his time as a starter.
Born in Pinole, Calif., Torretta starred for the Pinole High football team as a senior in 1987 and then decided to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Geoff, who was the backup quarterback to Vinny Testaverde in 1986. He joined the Miami football program in 1988 and, after spending that first season as a redshirt, he was a timely contributor to the 1989 national title team, throwing for 1,325 yards and eight touchdowns in relief of the injured Craig Erickson. His big highlight that season was a school-record 485 passing yards against San Diego State. He was less productive as a sophomore, throwing for 210 yards as a reserve, but he won the starting job as a junior in 1991 and showed himself a worthy heir to the Miami quarterback heritage as he led the Hurricanes to their fourth national title. Torretta passed for 3,095 yards and 20 touchdowns and won Big East Player of the Year honors as the ‘Canes went 12-0.
Torretta entered the 1992 season as the Heisman favorite, but Hurricane Andrew had other plans for South Florida as the storm ripped through the region just 12 days before the season opener at Iowa. In the emotional aftermath of the destruction, Torretta passed for 433 yards and two touchdowns to lead Miami to a 24-7 victory over Iowa. Later in the season, the senior signal caller was instrumental in helping the Hurricanes defeat hated rival Florida State. Trailing 16-10 with 9:05 left to play, Torretta led the Hurricanes on a 58-yard scoring drive culminating in a 33-yard touchdown pass that proved the difference in the game. The key play in the drive? A 14-yard scramble by Torretta on third and 12 that extended the drive.
As Miami sat on 29 straight wins — 23 of them with Torretta as starter — he went on to dominate Heisman voting, outpacing San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk and Georgia’s Garrison Hearst in the final tally. The Heisman capped an unparalleled season as Torretta became the most decorated football player in Miami history. His accolades that year included: The Maxwell Award (best overall player), Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback), Unitas Award (top senior quarterback), consensus All-American, and virtually every other Player of the Year Award. But nothing could match the special feeling of winning the Heisman.
“We’re family,” Torretta said of the Heisman fraternity in an interview with ESPN. “We know what each other went through. It’s special. It’s very gratifying.”
He finished his Miami career with eleven school passing records, including career attempts (991), completions (555), yards (7,690), total offense (7,772), longest pass (99 yards to Horace Copeland vs. Arkansas, an NCAA record) and most passing yards in a game (485 vs. San Diego State).
Torretta spent several years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts. He then embarked on a career in media, working in radio as a color commentator for collegiate and professional football games.
Among his charitable works, he hosts the Gino Torretta Celebrity Blue Tee Weekend benefiting The Torretta Foundation, which aims to find a cure for ALS and Myasthenia Gravis.
He is also a Past-President of the National University of Miami Alumni Association, a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, and in 2008 was inducted into the University of Miami’s Ring of Honor. Torretta was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.