Vinny Testaverde set the bar high in terms of longevity at the quarterback position in the National Football League.
By the time Testaverde finished his 21st season in the NFL in 2007, he was already 44 years old.
Testaverde was a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback with the Miami Hurricanes who racked up 46,233 yards and 275 touchdowns in the air with seven teams in the National Football League.
Long story short, Testaverde’s rifle of an arm and tremendous physical shape set him apart from other signal callers.
Vinny Testaverde is in the same stratosphere as George Blanda and Tom Brady – quarterbacks who defied Father Time during their pro football careers.
Vincent Frank Testaverde, Sr. was born to parents Al and Josie in Brooklyn, NY on November 13, 1963. He was the lone boy in a brood that included four sisters.
Testaverde’s father Al worked as a construction laborer to make ends meet.
It was obvious from the get-go that Testaverde was made for the gridiron. According to Sports Illustrated’s Curry Kirkpatrick, Testaverde was born in a bassinet with a real football beside him.
As Vinny grew up, Al Testaverde had to bring his son’s birth certificate every time the former played pee wee football, so he could prove he wasn’t several years older than the other kids.
Testaverde told Jim Gehman of the New York Jets’ official website in the summer of 2019 that he grew up following the Jets – a team he’d eventually play for from 1998 to 2003.
Testaverde watched Jets football dating back to the days of the great Joe Namath. The former regularly went to Hofstra University in Long Island, NY to watch Richard Todd and his Jets teammates scrimmage back in the day.
Testaverde loved the Jets’ old uniforms. Coincidentally, the team reverted to their throwback threads just as he began playing for Gang Green during the Bill Parcells era in the late 1990s.
“Growing up, what I always liked about the Jets was their old uniforms,” Testaverde told Gehman in 2019. “I was happy to wear the older uniforms with the white helmets.”
The last NY native to win the Walter Camp Award (College's Player of the Year) was Vinny Testaverde in 1986. Vinny went to high school at Sewanhaka HS in Floral Park NY‼ #NYmade #NYfootball #WalterCamp pic.twitter.com/flIC2TdXcH
— NY MADE FOOTBALL (@NYMadeFootball) November 29, 2021
Vinny Testaverde attended Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, NY. He excelled in football for the Sewanhaka Indians.
Even when Testaverde didn’t play quarterback in high school, his signal caller instincts ultimately prevailed.
In Testaverde’s last game in his junior season, he played wide receiver alongside quarterback Lou Voltaggio. The former threw him a lateral pass in the waning moments of the Nassau County title game in 1980.
Instead of gaining receiving yardage, Testaverde threw a touchdown pass that clinched the championship for the Indians.
It became a recurring theme in Vinny Testaverde’s 21-year career in the National Football League several years later.
Testaverde took over starting quarterback duties after Voltaggio graduated and left for Rutgers University. The former struggled in the Indians’ veer-oriented offense in 1981 but still managed to record almost 700 passing yards.
Unfortunately, Testaverde’s below-average numbers coincided with a poor performance in the classroom. Fortunately, he managed to graduate from Sewanhaka High School in 1981.
Nonetheless, as his high school football career wound down, he found himself on the verge of missing out on big-time college football.
Testaverde’s lifeline came down to two words: army school.
It was a decision that helped mold Vinny Testaverde into the formidable quarterback he became in subsequent years.
College Days With The Miami Hurricanes
Vinny Testaverde attended the University of Miami from 1982 to 1986. He majored in physical education.
However, before Testaverde played a single down for the Miami Hurricanes, he enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia in 1981.
“Army school helped me in a lot of ways,” Testaverde told Kirkpatrick five years later. “I learned how to fold my clothes and make my bed.”
It was a platform that helped Vinny Testaverde become the best player in the college football ranks in 1986. He learned the rigors of discipline and leadership, among other things.
According to Sports Illustrated, Testaverde lived the typical cadet life in Virginia. He sported a shaved head, got up in the wee hours of the morning, and joined the other cadets while they held their rifles and did their cadence with stunning precision.
1982 Miami Hurricanes QB room –
Vinny Testaverde (#18)
Jim Kelly (#12)
Mark Richt (#9)
Bernie Kosar (#1) pic.twitter.com/Sy7zWIdXAs
— SPORTS – DID YOU KNOW?! (@DIDYOUKNOWALMA) February 7, 2019
Testaverde eventually earned a scholarship to play for the Hurricanes beginning in the 1982 NCAA season.
Testaverde had to wait before he became a big name in Miami Hurricanes football. He redshirted his freshman campaign before playing behind starter Bernie Kosar in 1983 and 1984.
According to Kirkpatrick, Hurricanes head football coach Howard Schnellenberger told Testaverde he would start freshman Bernie Kosar at quarterback in 1983.
Other quarterbacks would have moped, sulked, and pouted. Not Vinny Testaverde – he took the news in stride and just worked hard behind the scenes.
“Vinny was looking at a few years of nothing but bench, but he never complained, never got the backup mentality,” Hurricanes offensive coordinator Gary Stevens told Sports Illustrated in 1986. “He just dug in and worked hard.”
Testaverde managed the scout team and became Kosar’s understudy from 1983 to 1984. The former was exceptionally strong for a traditional drop-back passer – Testaverde could squat 500 pounds and bench press 325 pounds.
Journeyman NFL quarterback Earl Morrall told Kirkpatrick he was impressed with Testaverde’s arm strength during his college days in Miami.
Testaverde eventually proved Morrall’s point when he took over starting quarterback duties for the Hurricanes in 1985.
The Hurricanes hired Jimmy Johnson prior to the 1984 NCAA season. He described Testaverde to Sports Illustrated as “a tight end masquerading as a quarterback.”
Johnson’s initial plan was for Kosar and Testaverde to split quarterbacking duties in 1984. However, Kosar got into a groove early and never slowed down.
Vinny Testaverde found himself in a quagmire – Johnson didn’t have a choice but to play him behind Kosar that year.
Testaverde, who was cool, calm, and collected when Schnellenberger tapped Kosar to become his starter in 1983, had a different disposition this time around. Testaverde almost entertained thoughts of transferring to the Florida State Seminoles, per Kirkpatrick.
Fortunately, that scenario never materialized. Testaverde also told Sports Illustrated in 1986 that Kosar knew how he felt when Johnson relegated him to backup duties in 1984.
The Hurricanes averaged nine wins per year from 1982 to 1984. With Kosar under center, they won their first national title with a thrilling 31-30 upset over the top-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 1983 Orange Bowl.
When Kosar decided to forego his final two years of eligibility in the college ranks and declare for the 1985 NFL Draft, it opened the door for Vinny Testaverde.
Testaverde didn’t just seize the opportunity, he pounced on it. He helped establish Miami as “Quarterback U’ – a school that produced big-name signal-callers such as himself, Jim Kelly, and Bernie Kosar in the 1980s.
Second-year Hurricanes head coach appointed Testaverde his starting quarterback for the 1985 NCAA season. Testaverde responded with 3,238 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in eleven games.
Testaverde led Miami to an impressive 10-2 win-loss record in 1985. Regrettably, the second-ranked Hurricanes lost to the eighth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers in the 1985 Sugar Bowl in lopsided fashion, 35-7.
Despite the embarrassing loss, Vinny Testaverde became the undisputed best college football player in 1986.
Behind Testaverde’s 2,557 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes, the Hurricanes won eleven of twelve games in 1986. His 63.4 completion percentage that year set a new school record.
Testaverde’s dynamite arm led Miami to the 1986 Fiesta Bowl. Alas, the top-ranked Hurricanes lost to Joe Paterno’s second-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, 14-10.
Although Testaverde fell short of winning another national title for the Miami Hurricanes, he racked up just about every college football accolade in 1986. Testaverde’s awards that year included:
- Consensus All-American
- UPI and Sporting News Player of the Year
- Sammy Baugh Trophy
- Walter Camp Award
- Davey O’Brien Award
- Maxwell Award
To nobody’s surprise, Vinny Testaverde won the ultimate individual honor in college football – the 1986 Heisman Trophy. He became the first Miami Hurricanes player to win that prestigious award.
ICYMI: Thirty-One years ago today, Vinny Testaverde won The Heisman Trophy. pic.twitter.com/Yx9GhcjUSM
— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) December 7, 2017
It turned out Testaverde’s father Al wanted the accolade more than he did.
“I want that trophy more than he does,” Al Testaverde told Kirkpatrick in the fall of 1986. “I’ll admit that. If he wins it and I drop dead the next day, I’m happy.”
The Miami Hurricanes also retired Testaverde’s No. 14 jersey following the 1986 NCAA campaign.
Testaverde’s career 6,058 passing yards and 48 touchdown passes were the best in Miami Hurricanes football program history at the time he left the school in 1986. He won 23 of 26 games as the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback during his time in Miami.
Vinny Testaverde’s magical 1986 NCAA season was a prelude to his memorable 21-year career in the National Football League.
Pro Football Career
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Vinny Testaverde the No. 1 overall selection of the 1987 NFL Draft.
Testaverde told the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud in 2015 that he didn’t recall talking to other teams prior to the draft festivities. All Testaverde remembered was talking to first-year Buccaneers head coach Ray Perkins at the Japan Bowl.
It seemed it was a clear indication the other teams knew Tampa Bay would make a move for the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner.
This date in 1987 the Buccaneers used the first pick of the draft for Miami Hurricanes QB Vinny Testaverde. Without looking can you name the other four #1 overall selections by the Buccaneers? pic.twitter.com/73vtBJsdv7
— 𝙃𝙚𝙡𝙢𝙚𝙩 𝘼𝙙𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙩 (@HelmetAddict) April 28, 2020
Testaverde played behind starter Steve DeBerg in Tampa Bay during the 1987 NFL campaign.
Testaverde took over as the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback a year later. While he racked up an impressive 3,240 yards and 13 touchdowns in the air, he also had 35 interceptions – the second-most in National Football League history.
Although Testaverde recorded another 3,000-yard campaign, passed for 20 touchdowns, and reduced his interception total to 22 in 1989, naysayers believed he didn’t have the smarts to play quarterback at football’s highest level.
Testaverde admitted to Stroud in 2015 that his color blindness was one of the issues behind his careless accuracy during his first few years in Tampa Bay.
However, Testaverde felt there was a bigger issue – the Bucs didn’t surround him with the talent to help him get to the next level.
Testaverde pointed out to Stroud that he enjoyed success at the collegiate level because the Miami Hurricanes were stacked – they had guys like Bennie Blades, Alonzo Highsmith, Michael Irvin, Brett Perriman, and Jerome Brown.
Alas, he didn’t have too many weapons at his disposal when he became the Buccaneers’ starting signal caller. Back then, Tampa Bay had young and inexperienced up-and-comers such as Ron Hall, Bruce Hill, and Mark Carrier.
“Coming to a team like Tampa Bay, coming to a team that did not win many games before I ever got there, that was stressful in itself,” Testaverde told the Tampa Bay Times in 2015.
The Buccaneers had just two winning seasons in twelve years prior to signing Testaverde to a six-year, $8.2 million deal in 1987.
Under Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse’s leadership, the Bucs lost their first 26 games in team history, let quarterback Doug Williams walk away after a controversial contract dispute, and lost first overall pick, Bo Jackson, to Major League Baseball in 1986.
Clearly, the Bucs were a team in disarray when Vinny Testaverde joined them in 1987. The trend continued until he played his final down with Tampa Bay in 1992 – the Bucs never won more than six games with Testaverde under center.
On This Day: 1/1/1995
25 yrs ago #Browns last playoff win & Bill Belichick's 1st in 20-13 Wilcard W vs. Bill Parcells' Patriots. Less dramatic, but shades of 'The Catch' Joe Montana to Dwight Clark on this Vinny Testaverde to Mark Carrier TD! The late Casey Coleman on radio call. pic.twitter.com/nRCqB1EQyq
— On This Day: Cleveland Sports (@CityfanC) January 1, 2021
Testaverde tested the free-agent waters and eventually signed with Bill Belichick’s Cleveland Browns in 1993. Testaverde joined Cleveland during a pivotal transitional period in franchise history.
Testaverde played behind the same quarterback he backed up with the Miami Hurricanes a decade earlier – Bernie Kosar. Both men had come full circle in that regard.
When Kosar struggled in the Browns’ game against the Los Angeles Raiders on September 19, 1993, Belichick benched him in favor of Testaverde early in the fourth quarter. At that point, Los Angeles led Cleveland, 13-0.
Testaverde promptly led the Browns to an improbable 19-16 victory over the Raiders. Belichick then released Kosar in a highly controversial move several weeks later.
The Vinny Testaverde era had officially begun in Northeast Ohio.
Behind Testaverde’s 2,575 passing yards and 16 touchdown passes, the Browns won eleven games in 1994 – their best record in six seasons.
Testaverde’s 268 passing yards and one touchdown pass helped Cleveland beat the New England Patriots in the 1994 AFC Wild Card Game, 20-13.
The game had historical implications – it was the original Cleveland Browns’ last playoff victory.
Browns owner Art Modell eventually moved the team to Maryland and renamed the team the “Baltimore Ravens” in 1996.
Vinny Testaverde was the starting quarterback of the first Baltimore Ravens squad that took the field in the 1996 NFL season.
Testaverde racked up 4,177 passing yards and 33 touchdowns in Ravens Purple and Black that year. He also earned his first Pro Bowl berth at the season’s end.
Testaverde spent the next two years in the Charm City. Unfortunately, they averaged just five wins per year and missed the postseason from 1996 to 1997.
The University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame inducted Vinny Testaverde in 1998. His induction coincided with his first year with the New York Jets.
Vinny Testaverde returned to his old stomping grounds, New York City, near the turn of the decade.
He signed with the New York Jets – the team he grew up following – prior to the 1998 NFL campaign.
Testaverde played behind starter Glenn Foley through the Jets’ first two games that year. After Foley sustained an injury in New York’s third game, Testaverde took over as the starter and played lights-out football.
The 35-year-old signal-caller produced the best statistical season of his 21-year pro football career. He had 3,256 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions as he earned his second Pro Bowl nod in the past three years.
With Testaverde at quarterback, the Jets won a team record twelve games in 1998. Unfortunately, they lost to John Elway’s Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, 23-10.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Testaverde savored the camaraderie of the 1998 New York Jets – it was a tight-knit bunch that truly put the team above individual accomplishments.
That team also knew how to keep it loose. According to Testaverde, some of his teammates organized a regular skit in the locker room that made for some good laughs.
Those light moments helped foster team unity among Testaverde and his Jets teammates in ’98. Throughout his 21-year pro football career, he noticed the teams that forged the tightest bonds had the best chances of winning.
“They start playing for each other and not being selfish and not worrying about how much money the guy next to you makes,” Testaverde told NewYorkJets.com in 2019.
Testaverde considered his time with the Jets rewarding, considering it was the team he followed during his formative years in Long Island, NY. He also enjoyed playing in front of his family and friends while wearing Jets Green and White.
Vinny Testaverde played for three head coaches – Bill Parcells, Al Groh, and Herm Edwards during his six-year tenure with the Jets from 1998 to 2003.
Gang Green averaged nine wins per year during that time frame. They made it to the postseason three times but never advanced past the AFC title game.
Parcells was in his second year as Dallas Cowboys head coach in 2004. He lured Testaverde, his quarterback as Jets head coach and general manager from 1998 to 2000, to Texas that year.
There, the 41-year-old Testaverde had the last productive statistical season of his pro football career. He had 3,532 passing yards, 17 touchdown passes, and 20 interceptions in 2004.
Regrettably, the Cowboys won just six games and missed the postseason for the fourth time in the past five seasons that year.
Testaverde then split the next three seasons among the Jets, New England Patriots, and Carolina Panthers.
He became a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 – the same year the Patriots signed him to back up perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady.
Forty-three-year-old Vinny Testaverde became the oldest starting winning quarterback in NFL history when he led the Panthers to a 25-10 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals on October 10, 2007, per Stroud.
According to SI.com’s Caitlin Moscatello, Testaverde still withstood the rigors of pro football into his 40s because he had kept a training log since he was a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987.
Among the exercises Testaverde’s trainer Kory Angelin included in his program were strength training, 10-to-15 yard sprints, pool and agility ladder running, and theratube twists.
At that point in Testaverde’s NFL career, he told Moscatello he had aspirations of becoming a personal trainer himself.
Testaverde retired from pro football following the 2007 NFL season.
“I just feel like it’s time,” Testaverde told The Associated Press (via SI.com) in December 2007. “I’m glad I’m able to do it on my own terms and walk away from the game not only healthy, but to experience some of the things I’ve been through.”
Vinny Testaverde finished his 21-year National Football League career with 46,233 passing yards, 275 touchdowns, and 267 interceptions. He was almost 44 years old when he hung up his cleats in 2007.
Testaverde told Gehman twelve years later that he attributed his longevity to several factors: his love for the game, his inner circle, weight training, proper nutrition, and knowing the Xs and Os of football.
Vinny Testaverde, his wife Mitzi, their daughters Alicia and Madeleine, and son Vincent Jr. currently reside in the Tampa, FL area.
Vincent Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps as a football quarterback. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. He had subsequent stints with the CFL’s BC Lions and IFL’s Arizona Rattlers.
His dad Vincent Sr. told the New York Jets’ official website in 2019 that he has been following his son’s gridiron career closely. The older Testaverde has been working with his son on fundamentals and encouraging him to work hard and remain confident.
Aside from investing in Vincent Jr.’s football career, Vincent Sr. told Gehman he has also been investing in some restaurants – namely PDQ chicken branches in North Florida – and big organizations during his retirement years.
Vinny Testaverde became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
Testaverde hosted “In The Pocket With Vinny Testaverde,” a mini-video series that featured several former New York Jets players who discussed their time with the franchise.