QB | Senior | Auburn University
Sullivan won Auburn’s first Heisman in 1971 after setting several school and SEC records while guiding the Tigers to a 9-1 regular season record.
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. A cancer survivor, he is active in local charity organizations that benefit underprivileged children and serves on the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Advisory Board.
Sullivan was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1991.