In 2003, Jake Delhomme began his first season as the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback.
He arrived in Carolina as a virtual nobody, having been a member of the New Orleans Saints since 1997 but rarely playing.
In fact, during Delhomme’s time in the Big Easy, he had two stints with NFL Europe just to get some playing experience.
He finally got a chance to lead an offense with Carolina and proved his doubters wrong when he took the franchise to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The "Ragin Cajun" Jake Delhomme had some incredible years as a Carolina Panther.
— Not For Long Media (@Not4LongMedia) January 28, 2022
Delhomme further demonstrated his ability when he passed for over 3,000 yards in four of his first six seasons with the Panthers.
By the end of his career, Delhomme had become an inspiration to other pro hopefuls just looking for an opportunity.
This is the story of Jake Delhomme.
Jake Christopher Delhomme was born on January 10, 1975 in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 11, 2017
He was born into a family who bred and trained racehorses and Delhomme got swept up in the family business at a young age.
When he wasn’t helping train horses, Delhomme was training himself to be a talented athlete.
By the time he was in middle school, Delhomme was a starting quarterback with a strong will to win.
That was evident during a game in his eighth grade year when the team’s starting running back was injured.
“Jake came to the sideline and told me he could play running back. I told Jake that I needed him to play quarterback. He looked at me, seriously, and said ‘I can play both,'” Sonny Charpentier (Delhomme’s middle school coach) said with a chuckle.
As a student-athlete at Teurlings Catholic High School, Delhomme continued to play quarterback and also played in the defensive secondary.
He became a leader who drove his team toward success whether he was on the gridiron or starring for the Rebels on the basketball court.
“When I first got here, you could tell he [Delhomme] was just a natural leader. He was a vocal leader and he led by example, too. He was highly competitive,” Charpentier said. “Everything he did, he wanted to be the best at it and he stuck out like a sore thumb. He wanted to do whatever it took to win.”
Limited College Interest
During his senior year, Delhomme passed for 3,351 yards and 32 touchdowns and added 265 rushing yards and eight more scores.
His numbers led the Rebels to a semifinal appearance in the state playoffs.
However, the output wasn’t enough to bring Delhomme any accolades for his offensive play, although he was selected as an all-state athlete for his work in the secondary.
By the time his prep career wrapped up, Delhomme had passed for a total of 6,703 yards and 65 touchdowns.
Including his numbers as a runner, Delhomme had 7,423 total offensive yards and 81 scores.
The Answer Is.."Jake Delhomme"
— Lake Arthur Tigers (@LATigers_) August 5, 2017
It would only make sense that college programs would aggressively recruit someone who produced such lofty stats.
The main issue, unfortunately, was that Delhomme didn’t have the prototypical quarterback size (he was 6’1 at the time).
There were also the performances of Evangel Christian (Shreveport) quarterback Josh Booty and Peyton Manning at Isidore Newman in New Orleans.
Both signal callers were the face of Louisiana prep quarterback play, which meant Delhomme was overlooked.
He did have some interest from local programs such as Tulane, but the Green Waves coach told Delhomme he was one of three quarterback recruits.
“I wanted to go to Tulane but I realized then that I wasn’t their guy,” Delhomme said in 2015.
With limited options, Delhomme accepted an offer from his mother’s alma mater at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette).
Immediate Starter for the Ragin’ Cajuns
Where others may have been discouraged by the lack of interest, Delhomme only sought to prove his doubters wrong.
“He knew he was going to play college football and he knew he was going to get an opportunity and that’s all Jake ever wanted,” Charpentier said. “Whether someone was going to be paying for it initially or he was going to walk on or whatever. He was going to get a chance, and he just wanted to play.”
Delhomme didn’t have to wait long to make his mark with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
By halftime of the first game of the 1993 season against Utah State, the Cajuns were losing and Delhomme was named the starter for the second half.
Southwestern Louisiana still lost the contest, but Delhomme remained the starter for the rest of the season.
Former NFC Champion & Ragin' Cajun QB Jake Delhomme joines the show now.
Turn it up! pic.twitter.com/vK63aGKBIG
— 103.3 The GOAT (@1033theGOAT) November 8, 2017
He passed for over 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns and it was evident to his offensive coordinator, Lewis Cook, that Delhomme was ready for the big stage.
“That’s why, as an 18-year-old, Jake was able to step in and lead us from 2-9 the previous year to 8-3,” Cook said. “He was grounded, mature, highly motivated and extremely competitive. He went at it and attacked it. What you see is what you get with Jake.”
As the only true freshman to start at quarterback at the Division I level that year, Delhomme took Southwestern to an 8-3 record and a co-championship of the Big West Conference.
No Letting Up
For the next three years, Delhomme continued to lead the Cajuns and started 43 consecutive games.
In 1994, Southwestern was again co-champs of the Big West Conference with a 6-5 record and then went 6-5 again in 1995.
Even though the program had modest wins, Delhomme was in his element as a passer.
Beginning in 1995, one of his favorite targets was Brandon Stokley, who was the son of head coach Nelson Stokley (and who would eventually play in the NFL).
— allthings18 (@ALLTHINGS18) June 27, 2019
During the ‘95 season, the duo connected 75 times as Delhomme passed for 2,761 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
The Cajuns Stun Texas A&M
The Ragin’ Cajuns kicked off Delhomme’s senior year by losing to the Florida Gators in the season opener, 55-21.
One week later, 25th ranked Texas A&M came to town to add another loss to Southwestern’s record.
Most of the college football pundits didn’t give Southwestern a chance, but the members of the Cajuns football team believed they would shock the world.
“We were having very intense practices, and offensive line coach Gerald Broussard kept getting really emotional and yelling, ‘That’s why we’re going to whip their a** and shock the world!’” Delhomme said in 2017.
Instead of finding a lame duck, the Aggies ran into a team on a mission.
Throughout the contest, Delhomme found Stokley often and the Cajuns defense forced eight Texas A&M turnovers including four interceptions.
Those turnovers led to three scores for Southwestern.
“We were moving the ball on them and doing a good job,” said Delhomme. “It was just like, keep doing what we were doing. It was unbelievably hot and humid and miserable, and we could tell they were getting tired. We could tell they were panicking a little and weren’t happy with some things we were doing.”
A&M fought back and eventually took a 22-21 lead in the third quarter.
Then, with tension mounting in the final quarter, Cajuns defensive back Britt Jackson intercepted Aggies quarterback Branndon Stewart and returned the pick 30 yards for a touchdown and the lead.
The last time Louisiana beat a ranked team was in 1996. The Ragin’ Cajuns were led by QB Jake Delhomme. pic.twitter.com/SSgrcjxn2V
— Cover 3 Podcast (@Cover3Podcast) September 12, 2020
Then, Delhomme hit Stokley for a two point conversion and Southwestern hung on for the 29-22 win.
It was the program’s first victory over a top 25 opponent, and soon after the final gun, the Cajun fans stormed the field and took down the goal posts.
Delhomme Ends His College Career
The remainder of the 1996 season was hit and miss and the Cajuns eventually closed with a 5-6 record.
Delhomme passed for 2,901 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 17 picks as a senior.
During his college career, Delhomme had 9,216 passing yards, 64 touchdowns, 57 interceptions, and six rushing scores.
His passing yards and passing touchdowns set school records along with his 133.3 efficiency rating in the 1995 season.
Happy Birthday Jake Delhomme, out of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana; Undrafted out of Southwestern Louisiana, 11 year @NFL career, 126 TD’s, 20,975 yards, Pro Bowl 2005, Member @Panthers Hall of Honor; Member Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame; 47 Today…. pic.twitter.com/lCoJppPLSx
— Larry in Missouri (@LarryInMissouri) January 10, 2022
In 2006, Delhomme was inducted into Louisiana-Lafayette’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Staying home was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Delhomme said. “I got to play right away and just had so much fun playing. We had some really good teams and some really good players.”
Delhomme Languishes with the Saints, Plays in NFL Europe
Apparently, being the all-time leading passer in Ragin’ Cajuns history meant nothing to the personnel people in the NFL.
Delhomme wasn’t selected during the 1997 NFL Draft and it wasn’t until a few months later that the New Orleans Saints called.
“Quite honestly, I did question whether I would get the chance,” said Delhomme, undrafted in 1997. “It was by chance I got a free agent tryout with the Saints. I got the call to be their training camp arm, then once I got there I said this is not too big for me.”
After doing just enough to stick on the Saints roster, Delhomme did little more than hold a clipboard for his first two NFL years.
In order to get Delhomme some playing experience, the Saints sent him to play with the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe in 1998.
As a member of the Admirals, Delhomme sat behind Kurt Warner, who would eventually take the NFL by storm as a starter with the St. Louis Rams.
The following spring, Delhomme returned to NFL Europe.
This time, he shared snaps with former Cal quarterback Pat Barnes as teammates with the Frankfurt Galaxy.
Jake Delhomme, Frankfurt Galaxy pic.twitter.com/9vH6zqjJ6L
— snekoorBnaD (@DanBrookens) December 30, 2017
Both signal callers played well and the Galaxy won World Bowl ’99, 38-24, over the Barcelona Dragons.
Delhomme Finally Catches a Break
Despite helping his Galaxy team win an NFL Europe title, Delhomme continued sitting on the Saints bench through the 2002 season.
He did see the field for two starts in 1999, but he went 1-1, passed for 521 yards, and threw for three scores and five picks.
After the 2002 season, it was apparent that Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks would continue as the team’s starter.
Thankfully, Delhomme had interest from a few teams including Coach Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys.
The Carolina Panthers were also looking for a quality arm and made an offer to Delhomme’s agent, Rick Smith.
Smith liked the Panthers roster and believed the team was on the cusp of something special.
— SidelineMike (@SidelineMike_) June 19, 2019
When he advised his client to accept Carolina’s offer (even though Dallas was offering more) Delhomme signed with the Panthers.
“Carolina was the ideal place with the ideal coach at the ideal time for me in my career,” Delhomme said. “Rick told me, ‘Carolina’s ready to win. Trust me, Carolina’s the place for you.’ Rick knew.”
It would turn out to be the best decision of his career.
Delhomme and Carolina Reach the Super Bowl
Delhomme arrived in Carolina in 2003 and was penciled in as the backup to veteran quarterback Rodney Peete.
That season the Panthers were stacked on both sides of the ball.
The defense had Brenston Buckner, Kris Jenkins, Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker, Dan Morgan, and Mike Minter.
In Week 1 of the season, Carolina was losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars and coach John Fox replaced Peete with Delhomme.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 30, 2015
Delhomme helped the team turn a 17-0 deficit into a 24-23 victory.
By the time the Panthers began the year 5-0, Delhomme was the full-time starter and wouldn’t look back.
That season, he started 15 games and passed for 3,219 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions and rushed for two more scores.
“Jake was willing to take a chance and live with the results,” former Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. “He had confidence in himself and it was infectious with the other guys in the huddle. Every man on that team believed in him.”
When the final game of the regular season ended, the Panthers were 11-5 and headed for the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
In the Wild Card round, the Panthers took care of Dallas, 29-10, and then battled Kurt Warner and the Rams to a thrilling 29-23 two-overtime win in the Divisional round.
January 10, 2004: Jake Delhomme connects with Steve Smith for a 69-yard touchdown on the first play of the second overtime to give the Panthers 29-23 win over the Rams in the NFC Playoffs Divisional Round in St. Louis. pic.twitter.com/0ZhEzsVKJ3
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) January 10, 2021
Then, Delhomme led Carolina to a 14-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and reality set in, the Panthers were going to the Super Bowl.
“It was like a fast, happy dream,” Delhomme said of the Super Bowl clincher. “It was my first year starting, and I was still learning to be an NFL quarterback. Then, when we got in the huddle (with the NFC Championship Game in hand), it was pure joy. I saw two grown men cry – two of my linemen, one a 13-year veteran and the other 11-year. I said, ‘Wow.’ That’s when you truly get it.”
Super Bowl XXXVIII
He might have been a first time starter in 2003, but Delhomme guided the Panthers like a long-time, grizzled veteran.
“When you look up ‘persistence’ in the dictionary there’s a picture of Jake Delhomme with it,” said Henning. “He’s as good as any quarterback I ever coached, and I coached about 70 guys in my 35-year career. I never had another one like Jake. He was special.”
Carolina met Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII and the Pats were installed as the favorites.
— BG (@BCG199991) January 10, 2018
New England had played in a Super Bowl two years before and upset Warner and his “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams.
So, not many people expected Delhomme and his teammates to put up much of a fight.
That was just fine by Delhomme who kicked things off by finding Steve Smith for a 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter to tie the contest at 7-7.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Delhomme stunned the national audience when he found Muhammad for an 85-yard bomb that put Carolina ahead, 22-21.
The longest offensive play from scrimmage in #SuperBowl history
Super Bowl XXXVIII,
This date in 2004 pic.twitter.com/Bvxw9GdQLq
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) February 1, 2023
The play was the longest from scrimmage in Super Bowl history and it also marked the first time in title game history that a team down by ten or more points in the fourth quarter came back to take a lead.
After New England re-took the lead on a touchdown, Delhomme found Proehl for a 12-yard score to tie the game at 29.
Unfortunately, the Panthers ran out of time as Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal with just four seconds left to propel New England to a 32-29 victory.
Delhomme threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions for the day, showing an uncanny acumen that surprised those not familiar with his story.
For those on the Carolina roster, however, Delhomme’s performance was special.
“Jake was unbelievable,” Henning said. “We put the game in his hands and he just made it happen.”
Carolina’s Near Miss in 2005
In 2004, Delhomme put on a passing display despite the fact that the Panthers won only seven games.
That year, he threw for a career-high 3,886 yards and 29 touchdowns along with 15 interceptions.
Then, in 2005, the team caught fire again and won 11 games before defeating the New York Giants and Chicago Bears in the playoffs.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 24, 2013
Delhomme was voted to his first Pro Bowl after passing for 3,421 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 16 picks.
The good times ended when the Seattle Seahawks throttled the Panthers, 34-14, and forced Delhomme into three interceptions in the NFC Championship game.
Delhomme Leaves Carolina
During the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Delhomme struggled with injuries that limited him to 16 games total including only three games in ‘07.
Then, in 2008, he returned to form and started every game, passing for over 3,000 yards for the fourth time in six seasons.
The Panthers fed off Delhomme and won 12 games for the first time since 1996 before losing to the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional round, 33-13.
In 2009, Delhomme started the first 11 games and the Panthers boasted two 1,000 yard runners in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
Still, the team lost eight games and Delhomme threw for just eight touchdowns against 18 interceptions.
His year ended when he sustained a broken finger, and the following spring, Delhomme was cut by Carolina.
— The Charlotte Observer (@theobserver) January 2, 2015
He ended his tenure with the team as the Panthers’ all-time leader in a number of categories including passing yards (19,258) and passing touchdowns (120)
The Beginning of the End
Ever since returning to the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1999, the Cleveland Browns were in constant search for a quarterback.
In 2010, the franchise turned to Delhomme, hoping he could spark the same magic in Cleveland that he did in Carolina.
Jake Delhomme (former Cleveland Browns) QB 2010 pic.twitter.com/D4pTL0NNkZ
— American Football 画像 (@AFpicture_japan) December 13, 2014
Instead, the Jake Delhomme era in Cleveland ended in the second quarter of his first game as a Brown.
During the contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Delhomme sprained an ankle and could only muster four starts the rest of the season.
When 2010 concluded, the Browns cut Delhomme.
He spent much of 2011 watching football from home until the Houston Texans contacted Delhomme in November.
Two of the Texans’ quarterbacks had been sidelined with season ending injuries and Delhomme was signed to back up rookie T.J. Yates.
Delhomme got a little playing time in the season finale and ended the year with 211 yards and a touchdown.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Delhomme retired after 2011.
“I think I had fulfilled my football dreams I guess you could say,” Delhomme said in 2022. “I had been playing since the third grade, I was 37 years old when I hung it up, I had done everything I possibly could, I gave myself every chance. Did I miss it? Yes, absolutely I missed it but I still followed it, I still loved it. It wasn’t like there was some remorse or regret.”
In his career, Delhomme had 20,975 passing yards, 126 touchdowns, 101 interceptions, 175 rushing yards, and seven rushing scores.
— The Sunday Champion 🏆🏈 (@Taihair_Brown) June 8, 2017
He was a World Bowl champion, one-time Pro Bowler, and appeared in a Super Bowl.
Since retiring, Delhomme has been added to the Panthers’ Hall of Honor.
“Nothing ever came easy for me,” Delhomme said. “But I always worked hard and had so many people in my corner. I was blessed. I had a pretty good run.”
Delhomme Comes Full Circle
Delhomme and his wife, Keri, have been married for 23 years and they have two children.
Since retiring, Delhomme has worked as a pitch man for several businesses and has worked in charity.
He also reconnected with his first love, breeding and training race horses.
— Chad Cooper 📸 (@thechadcooper) December 29, 2012
One of Delhomme’s horses, Forest Lake, was successful in several races and eventually retired to a breeding farm in Kentucky.
“I think I always wanted to [pursue] that,” Delhomme said. “Listen, I didn’t grow up playing golf, hunting or fishing which most people in South Louisiana do. I grew up in a barn and I loved it. There was something about the competitive nature of the horse racing industry and racing…it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work but I love it. It’s home.”
Delhomme also reunited with the Panthers as a radio analyst in 2019.
“It keeps me connected to the game which I love dearly but more importantly it keeps me connected to the Panthers which I think I love more than the game,” Delhomme said.