The Auburn football program has lost a legend.
Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, passed away Sunday morning.
The passing was confirmed by family members through an Auburn University athletics press release Sunday afternoon.
Sullivan was 69.
“He was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and fought a long and difficult battle as a result of his treatments,” the family’s statement reads. “The family is appreciative of everyone’s outpouring of love and support.”
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, Sullivan was a two-time All-American and a two-time SEC Player of the Year while playing at Auburn from 1969-71, helping the program to a 26-7 record during his three seasons.
He was a unanimous All-American quarterback in 1971 – becoming the first SEC QB to do so.
Sullivan also served as quarterbacks coach at Auburn under Pat Dye for six seasons (1986-91), helping the Tigers win three SEC championships (1987-89) and spent five seasons as radio commentary for the Auburn Network with the late Jim Fyffe prior to his coaching role.
“He was a friend, mentor and a man of great character, who was beloved by many generations of Auburn fans,” Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn said in the athletic department’s press release. “Pat Sullivan is, and always will be, the definition of an Auburn Man. He certainly will be missed.”
“On behalf of the Auburn family, we are heartbroken by the passing of Pat Sullivan,” Auburn Athletic Director Allen Greene said Sunday. “He was a kind and humble gentleman, who was an Auburn legend. He made a lasting impact on Auburn as the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner, a coach and longtime ambassador. We extend our deepest condolences to the entire Sullivan family.”
Others also expressed condolences on social media and other press releases Sunday.
“Saddened to hear about the loss of my good friend and Auburn legend, Pat Sullivan,” tweeted out former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. “He will be remembered as a tremendous athlete, coach and mentor.”
“Pat was a beloved member of the Heisman family,” Heisman Trust President Michael J. Comerford said. “He was a noble man that was truly admired by all and will be greatly missed.”
Sullivan’s humility was reflected, especially in his acceptance speech in winning the Heisman Trophy.
"There are probably people who deserve this more than me, but from the bottom of my heart, no one will appreciate it more,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan left Auburn in 1992 to become the head coach at TCU from 1992-97. He guided the Horned Frogs to a share of the Southwest Conference championship in 1994, the school’s first SWC title since 1959, and an Independence Bowl appearance. He finished with a 24-42-1 record at TCU.
He was also the head coach at Samford in his hometown of Birmingham from 2007-14 and served as UAB’s offensive coordinator from 1999-2006. His teams at Samford went 47-43 and his 2013 team finished 8-5, won the Southern Conference and made the NCAA Division-I playoffs.
“Pat Sullivan gave Samford all and more than we could have asked,” Samford President Andrew Westmoreland said. “His teams won games, his players persisted to earn degrees. By personal example, he led everyone closer to Christ and he brought honor to our university.”
The nation’s total offense leader as a junior in 1970, Sullivan teamed up with wide receiver Terry Beasley for one of the legendary combinations in not only Auburn folklore, but Southeastern Conference history, creating the famous moniker of “Sullivan to Beasley” a legendary one and making No. 7 and No. 88 jerseys among the most popular in Tiger history.
With Sullivan, No. 7, at quarterback firing to Beasley, No. 88, the two combined for 52 competitions, 1,051 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the SEC in 1970, guiding the Tigers to a 9-2 record and a top 10 ranking.
A year later, Sullivan secured Auburn’s first Heisman Trophy with a 248-yard, four touchdown performance on the road at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium in leading the sixth-ranked Tigers over Vince Dooley’s seventh-ranked Bulldogs, 35-20. He finished that senior year with 2,012 passing yards and a career-best 20 touchdown passes in just 11 games.
In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football, Sullivan, a 6-foot, 190-pound QB, also won the Walter Camp Award and was the Sporting News Player of the Year during his senior season.
Sullivan finished his Auburn career with 6,284 passing yards in just three seasons – freshmen were not allowed to play during his tenure – with 53 touchdown passes. The TD passing total still remains an Auburn record today, while his passing total is fourth best in school history with the top three players all playing one more season. He also rushed for 18 career touchdowns.
He was the MVP of two bowl games with the Tigers – the 1970 Gator Bowl and the 1971 Sugar Bowl – and was also the MVP of the 1972 Senior Bowl.
“Pat Sullivan was the Moses of Auburn football,” former Auburn athletic director and sports information director David Housel told AL.com’s Joseph Goodman in 2016. “There have been a lot of Jacobs and King Davids behind him, but Pat Sullivan was Moses.”
Sullivan was drafted in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft by Atlanta and played for the Falcons for four seasons before finishing his pro career in 1976 with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers.
Sullivan’s No. 7 jersey is one of three retired by Auburn along with Beasley and 1985 Heisman Trophy Bo Jackson. Sullivan also has a statue outside Jordan-Hare Stadium, which on Sunday was decorated with flowers and ribbons left in memoriam by Tiger fans.
He was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 1991 and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame 10 years earlier in 1981.
Sullivan is also a member of the Samford Athletics Hall of Fame along with the Hall of Fames of the Gator Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Senior Bowl.
Sullivan was a three-sport star at Birmingham’s John Carroll Catholic High school. He was named the 1967 National Catholic High School Player of the Year while at John Carroll.
Sullivan and his wife of 50 years, Jean, have three children, daughter Kim, and twins Kelly and Patrick. They also have eight grandchildren.
No service arrangements have been announced.