Pat Sullivan, who won Auburn’s first Heisman Trophy in 1971, passed away on Sunday, December 1, at the age of 69.
One of the great quarterbacks in SEC history, he set several school and conference records while guiding the Tigers to a 9-1 regular season record as a senior.
“Pat was a beloved member of the Heisman family. He was a noble man that was truly admired by all and will be greatly missed,” said Heisman Trust President Michael J. Comerford. “We join the Sullivan family in mourning his loss.”
Sullivan was born in Birmingham, Ala., where he attended John Carroll Catholic High School and was a star in three sports. He excelled in football and won an athletic scholarship to Auburn in 1968, where he took over the starting quarterback spot as a sophomore (freshmen were not eligible prior to 1972).
He burst onto the college football scene in 1969, throwing for nearly 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a junior, Sullivan’s statistics soared, as he led the nation with 2,856 yards of total offense, including 2,586 passing yards. Along the way, Auburn went 9-2 and ended the season in the Top Ten in the nation. For his efforts, Sullivan was named SEC Player of the Year and garnered All-SEC honors, athletically and academically.
But 1971 was to be Sullivan’s greatest year. The Tigers started out 9-0, cementing his claim to the Heisman with 248 yards and four touchdowns against Georgia. He threw for 2,012 yards and 20 touchdowns, edging out Cornell running back Ed Marinaro to capture the trophy named for Auburn’s former football coach. He was once again honored as SEC Player of the Year and was All-SEC athletically and academically for the second straight year.
Selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the 1972 NFL draft, Sullivan had four seasons with the Falcons followed by one season split between the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers. He returned to Birmingham in 1977 and worked in the insurance business and as an executive at a tire company. For five years, he worked as a radio color commentator for Auburn and, in 1986, was named quarterbacks coach for the Tigers. Auburn won three SEC titles during Sullivan’s six seasons at his alma mater.
In 1992, Sullivan left Auburn to serve as head coach at TCU. He was later the offensive coordinator at UAB before being named the head coach at Samford. He was active in local charity organizations that benefit underprivileged children and served on the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Advisory Board.
In October 2018, Sullivan received an award in recognition for his dedication and contributions to the game of football by the Heisman Trust.
He was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1991.
Sullivan is survived by his wife, Jean, their three children, daughter Kim, twins Kelly and Patrick and eight grandchildren.
Sullivan Family Statement:
“At the age of 69, Patrick Joseph “Pat” Sullivan died peacefully at home on the morning of Sunday, December 1, 2019 surrounded by his loving family. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and fought a long and difficult battle as a result of his treatments. The family is appreciative of everyone’s outpouring of love and support.”