Jake ‘The Snake” Plummer’s tenure with the Arizona Cardinals from 1997 to 2002 was mired in mediocrity.
During that span, Plummer had a propensity for throwing more picks than touchdowns.
Consequently, the Cardinals were a mediocre bunch who barely tasted postseason football.
Fortunately, Plummer received a second lease on life when he signed with the Denver Broncos in 2003.
While he showed flashes of Broncos’ great John Elway, he also made headlines for the wrong reasons while he was in the Mile High City.
To sum up Plummer’s ten-year NFL career, he didn’t become the Joe Montana-caliber quarterback legendary coach Bill Walsh had envisioned.
Instead, Plummer wound up becoming a good NFL quarterback at best who was always in the public eye throughout his gridiron career.
Jason Steven “Jake” Plummer was born to parents Steve and Marilyn in Boise, ID on December 19, 1974.
He has two brothers: Brett and Eric.
Plummer grew up in Smiley Creek, ID, a small town in the Sawtooth Mountains with a population of just fifty people.
Steve Plummer was a lumber wholesaler while Marilyn was a schoolteacher. They divorced when Jake was just eight years old, per SI.com’s Chris Ballard.
Steve learned how to play handball on the job – the lumber warehouse had a makeshift wood court where his bosses blew off some steam.
Before long, Steve Plummer was also playing handball. He became better as time went on and steadily climbed the local handball tournament ranks.
Steve Plummer eventually won the 1976 Idaho State Open Championship.
Not only did Steve become a champion at handball, but he also influenced his family members to play the game.
His boys didn’t have a problem with it at all: they were all athletic during their formative years.
Brett was a school record holder in track and field while Eric was a football safety in high school. The latter followed in his dad’s footsteps in the early 1990s when he made the national handball quarterfinals.
As for Jake, his gridiron career started in grade school.
According to Ballard, Jake Plummer had 20 tackles in one Pop Warner football game when he was eleven years old.
Plummer was so excited at pulling off the feat that he cried tears of joy after the final whistle blew
Jake Plummer attended Capital High School in Boise, ID.
Via the #azfamily archives:
Why did Jake Plummer choose @ASUFootball?
Let @snakestakes tell you himself!
From Capital High School in Boise, Idaho, on February 3, 1993: pic.twitter.com/CbHedKltPE
— Mike (@Michael_Abbott) November 8, 2019
He went on to hone his quarterbacking skills at Arizona State University for his college football career.
Plummer would also cross paths with a legendary football icon and patriot who made a profound difference in his life.
College Days With the Arizona State Sun Devils
Jake Plummer attended Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ from 1993 to 1996.
His head football coach, Bruce Snyder, literally went through hell and back just to recruit him.
Snyder slogged through several feet of snow in Idaho just to make his sales pitch at the Plummer residence as Jake’s high school football career wound down.
Unfortunately, Snyder messed up his brand-new $300 pair of shoes.
When Plummer made it to the National Football League several years later, he sent Snyder a brand new pair of Florsheims.
“It was the least I could do,” Plummer told SI.com in February 2011.
It was at Arizona State where Plummer forged a lifelong friendship with the great Pat Tillman.
Tillman played safety for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals from 1998 to 2001. He enlisted in the Army in 2002 and was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan two years later.
Tillman was just twenty-seven years old.
He and Plummer clicked on so many levels because they were similar in several ways: they had low-key personalities and were part of three-brother households, per SI.com.
The two also questioned authority and considered their teammates as family.
Plummer told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf podcast in May 2020 Tillman always asked him what he was up to during their college days at ASU.
Tillman also made it a habit to ask Plummer what he has been learning and reading.
Plummer told the Doug & Wolf podcast Tillman had an innate talent of making people feel special whenever he conversed with them.
Tillman was a regular visitor at Plummer’s football camp in Boise, ID. The former also regularly cooked supper at Plummer’s aunt Sue’s house.
That’s where Tillman encouraged Plummer to become a critical thinker. per SI.com.
Plummer also raved about Tillman’s astronomical football IQ. He even claimed the likes of ESPN NFL Draft experts Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay didn’t come close to Tillman’s knowledge of the gridiron.
Plummer became the first Sun Devils starting quarterback in a decade.
He averaged 14 touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his first three seasons in Tempe, AZ.
The Sun Devils were a sub-par team that averaged just five wins per season from 1993 to 1995.
I remember my last game in #SunDevilStadium as a @ASUFootball player, highly emotional moment in my life! Congrats to all the seniors, on the win yesterday, focus and finish strong! @MannyWilkins5 pic.twitter.com/oY21tqXfli
— Jake Plummer (@snakestakes) November 11, 2018
Plummer’s college football career took off when he was a senior in 1996.
He had a breakout senior campaign, throwing for 2,575 yards, 23 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
Behind Plummer’s resurgence, Arizona State went undefeated in the regular season and received an invitation to play in the 1997 Rose Bowl for the national championship.
Plummer picked up where he left off and scored an 11-yard touchdown to put the Sun Devils ahead in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, Ohio State scored on a last-minute touchdown drive to deny Arizona State its first national title, 20-17.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Jake Plummer earned First-Team All-America, Pac-10 Player of the Year, and First-Team All-Academic Conference honors in his senior year.
He also finished third in the 1996 Heisman Trophy voting behind Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel and Iowa State Cyclones running back Troy Davis.
Plummer finished his four-year stint at Arizona State with 8,626 passing yards, 64 touchdowns, and 34 interceptions.
Little did Jake Plummer know he would remain in the Grand Canyon State for the first six years of his National Football League career.
Pro Football Career
The Arizona Cardinals made Jake Plummer the 42nd overall selection of the 1997 NFL Draft.
Plummer made his NFL debut in the Cardinals’ seventh game of the 1997 NFL season.
He led a critical 98-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter of Arizona’s 29-26 victory over the visiting Atlanta Falcons on December 20, 1997.
Plummer finished with 237 passing yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
No less than the legendary Bill Walsh, a proponent of the famous West Coast offense, hailed Plummer as the next quarterbacking legend.
“I see Jake having a (Joe) Montana-like career, including the Super Bowls,” Walsh told SI.com in Plummer’s rookie year.
Plummer’s legacy in Arizona grew even more when he donned Cardinals Red and White.
He was already a local legend, leading Arizona State to a Rose Bowl and near-national championship. The Cardinals, needing a quarterback, decided they wanted a little of their own Jake Plummer magic.#CardsFolktales ‘Drafting Jake’ premieres on Oct. 13 on YouTube. pic.twitter.com/mLRadiUJ49
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 9, 2021
Arizona wide receiver Chad Carpenter told Ballard in 2011 Plummer was “like a god” during the height of his popularity with the Cardinals.
Fans adored Plummer and treated him like a deity wherever he went. Carpenter saw fans standing up and giving him an ovation when they walked into a restaurant one time.
It turned out Plummer didn’t have a squeaky-clean image when he broke into the pro ranks.
The issue stemmed from four ladies accusing the Arizona rookie signal caller of groping them at a nightclub in Tempe, AZ.
According to Ballard, Plummer pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and received two years’ probation in the summer of 1997.
Plummer had a mediocre rookie campaign. He finished with 2,203 passing yards and an equal number of touchdowns passes and interceptions (15).
Plummer’s six-year stint in Glendale, AZ was mired in mediocrity.
It wasn’t unusual for Plummer to throw more interceptions than touchdown passes in a season.
Case in point: his 17-touchdown pass and 20-interception showing in his second pro campaign in 1998.
Plummer certainly wasn’t the second coming of Joe Montana that Bill Walsh had envisioned in 1997.
Despite Plummer’s average performance on the gridiron, Arizona won nine games and reached the NFC Divisional Round in 1998.
The Cardinals finally broke a 15-year playoff drought with Plummer behind center.
Arizona wouldn’t taste postseason football for the next nine years. When the Cardinals squared off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner was Arizona’s starting quarterback.
As for Jake Plummer, he was already retired from the National Football League by then.
Plummer reached rock bottom in 1999 when he had 2,111 passing yards, nine touchdown passes, and 24 interceptions.
To put things in perspective, Plummer threw three picks for nearly every touchdown pass he threw.
He wasn’t much better in his ensuing three seasons in Arizona. His penchant for throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes continued to the dismay of Cardinals fans.
As Plummer’s time in Arizona wound down, he was on the verge of losing one of his closest friends.
Tillman and the Plummer brothers, Jake and Eric, drank beer and bonded at a bar near Pike Place Market in the spring of 2002.
Jake Plummer just concluded his fifth season with the Cardinals. He had 3,653 passing yards, 18 touchdown passes, and 14 interceptions in 16 games.
Arizona went 7-9 and missed the postseason for the third straight year.
The three men celebrated after Eric Plummer won a handball tournament in Seattle, WA.
Jake Plummer’s older brother won despite a decade-long hiatus from the sport. Eric saw Jake and Pat clapping and shouting in the crowd.
Eric Plummer teared up at the sight of the two men supporting him, per Ballard.
Their bar rendezvous was the last time the Plummer brothers saw Pat Tillman.
Tillman and his brother Kevin enlisted in the Army several months later. Pat was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in April 2004.
Jake Plummer was entering his second season with the Denver Broncos when the news of Tillman’s death made headlines.
Plummer appeared at Tillman’s funeral in May 2004 wearing a suit and flip-flops. He wore the flip-flops in his late friend’s honor.
In his eulogy, Plummer encouraged those in attendance to have a bias toward action just like Pat Tillman had when he was still alive:
“As Pat would say, probably, ‘Get off your a** and do it,'” Plummer said (via SI.com). “Why, you ask, should we honor him this way? Because that’s what Pat did his whole life.”
Pat Tillman’s undying legacy has made a profound impact on Jake Plummer to the present day.
“Pat, in a way, can be kind of maddening,” Plummer told the Doug & Wolf podcast in May 2020. “He keeps pushing me – even in death – to be a better man.”
When Plummer first donned Broncos Orange and Blue some seven months earlier, fans always compared him to the great John Elway.
Elway hung up his cleats just five years earlier after leading the Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl titles.
Plummer, who joined Denver as a free agent in 2003, would somehow resurrect his underwhelming NFL career.
In some ways, Jake Plummer’s play resembled Elway’s. The latter had a career-high 91.2 passer rating in the 2003 NFL season.
Plummer had 2,182 passing yards, 15 touchdown passes, and seven interceptions in eleven games in 2003.
The Broncos won ten games and ended a two-year postseason drought with their new quarterback in tow.
Unfortunately, Denver lost to Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in blowout fashion in the AFC Wild Card round, 41-10.
On the other hand, Plummer made headlines for the wrong reasons in his first season in the Mile High City.
First, he raised his middle finger at the crowd during a home game against the Miami Dolphins.
Plummer later apologized for the obscene gesture.
“I would never direct that at our fans,” Plummer told The Associated Press (via ESPN) in October 2005. “We have the greatest fans in the league.”
Plummer’s description of Broncos fans was a stark contrast to how he described them several months later.
Plummer had begun dating Broncos cheerleader Kollette Klassen in 2005.
Rocky Mountain News columnist Penny Parker wrote about their blossoming relationship. She even saw the couple at a charity event.
Parker wrote about her concerns that fans might harass Klassen had fans seen her out in public with the Broncos quarterback.
Plummer heard Parker’s sentiments on a local radio show and promptly called her up. As part of his tirade, he mentioned the Broncos don’t have the greatest fans in the NFL.
Plummer was surprised his conversation with Parker went viral. He also felt people misconstrued his words with the journalist.
Nonetheless, Plummer maintained he loved blending in with the fans. He said he wasn’t the kind of athlete who avoids the public eye whenever the media writes something controversial about him.
“I want to be out and enjoy my fans and have a beer with my fans and shoot pool and do these kinds of things,” Plummer told The Associated Press (via ESPN) in the fall of 2005. “And I will continue to do that, and I thank the fans for supporting me.”
Prior to Plummer’s controversy with Parker, he got into a heated traffic dispute with another motorist in Denver, per SI.com.
In Plummer’s first three seasons with the Broncos, he had 9,637 passing yards, 60 touchdown passes, and 34 interceptions.
Plummer had a career-high 4,089 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes in the 2004 NFL campaign.
He earned a Pro Bowl nod for the first and only time in his ten-year NFL career.
After losses in the AFC Wild Card round in two consecutive seasons, the Broncos won thirteen games in 2005.
Regrettably, they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, 34-17.
Prior to that game, Plummer met the press with a scruffy-looking beard and shoulder-length hair.
Plummer’s disheveled appearance prompted the Rocky Mountain News’ Bernie Lincicome to call him “Jake The Flake,” per Ballard.
For their part, other naysayers called Plummer, “Jake The Mistake.”
For Jake Plummer’s many eccentricities, he also had his upsides.
He founded an Alzheimer’s foundation in Denver during his tenure in the Mile High City.
According to Ballard, Plummer’s grandfather Elwood Davis succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Plummer also walked dogs at a local animal shelter and reached out to two kids who lost their dad on 9/11. He continued calling them for five years.
Clearly, there were two sides to the same coin as far as Jake Plummer’s public image.
Plummer not only had a highly-scrutinized public life, but he also feuded with Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.
If Plummer turned in say, a 23-of-30 performance with two touchdowns and Denver won by 21 points, Shahnahan expected him to record twenty-five completions and three touchdowns.
Plummer blew off steam from the controversies by playing handball with several seniors at the Denver Athletic Club, per SI.com.
The handball sessions toughened up Plummer in time for offseason workouts – he breezed through them while his Broncos teammates gasped for air.
A little over a year after Plummer met the media with a scraggly-looking beard, the Broncos traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 2008 conditional draft choice.
Barely a week after the Bucs signed Plummer, he announced his retirement from the NFL.
Plummer told reporters he was excited about the challenges that lay ahead. He didn’t take any questions and left to play a doubles handball match with his brother Eric, per Ballard.
Jake Plummer was thirty-two years old when he played his final NFL down.
He had 29,253 passing yards and an even number of touchdown passes and interceptions (161) in his ten-year NFL career.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen tried talking Plummer out of retirement in the summer in July 2007.
They met Plummer and his wife Kollette at Capone’s sports bar in Coueur d’Alene, ID.
Gruden’s sales pitch included winning a Super Bowl title with the Buccaneers. He even promised Plummer that Tampa Bay would donate a million dollars to his Alzheimer’s foundation, per SI.com.
Plummer was seemingly receptive to Gruden’s pitch but eventually balked. At that point, he knew he was done.
Not even the lure of earning $5.3 million as a backup quarterback in the 2007 NFL season made him change his stance.
“I loved playing in the NFL,” Plummer told Ballard four years later. “I put my heart and soul into it. And at that point, especially after Pat (died), it was like, there’s so much more to do in life.”
Plummer also said the regular beatdowns and anti-inflammatories in the NFL prompted him to walk away from the game.
“I had pain,” Plummer told Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier in 2016. “That’s why I left the game after ten years.”
Plummer reached a settlement when he paid back $3.5 million of his signing bonus with Tampa Bay on June 9, 2008.
With that, Jake Plummer officially brought closure to his pro football career and rode off into the sunset.
Jake Plummer and his wife Kollette have two children. They split their time between Sandpoint, ID and Boulder, CO.
Plummer hosted the third annual Plummer Family Helluva Handball Bash in Couer d’Alene, ID in 2008.
It wasn’t a grand handball tournament. Rather, it was the kind of tournament where close friends and family members gather for some food and beer, per Ballard.
Plummer was a hands-on manager who arranged match schedules, carried groceries, and supplied Gatorade to the participants while cradling his four-month-old son in one arm.
He participated in the pro doubles division with his brother Eric in the Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball a year earlier.
Jake lost to his older brother Eric in the semifinals of the 2008 Idaho State Singles Championships.
Plummer served as a volunteer assistant coach for the Sandpoint Bulldogs when he retired from the NFL, per SI.com.
Tribute to Entrepreneurs: The story of former Denver Broncos player, Jake Plummer, and his business ReadyList Pro. pic.twitter.com/xUNTZ3U5Ce
— Marketing 360® (@marketing360) February 27, 2018
After Plummer’s foray into high school football coaching, he and his former Denver Broncos teammate Chad Friehauf founded ReadyList Sports, a Denver-based startup that specializes in digital and interactive playbooks.
The College Football Hall of Fame inducted Jake Plummer in 2019.
Plummer was set to appear in the football movie “Kick” in the summer of 2021.
Plummer portrayed an aging veteran quarterback of the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Writer and producer Chris Bickford told Plummer he chose him for the role because he was his favorite NFL quarterback, per BRONCOSWIRE’s Jon Heath.
Plummer had previously appeared in some films as an extra. It was his first time taking on a speaking role.
His main part was rallying his teammates at halftime of a CFL game.
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