Andre Ware was the first African-American quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy and the first and only player from the University of Houston to ever win the Heisman.
In the NFL, though, Ware was never able to quite reach the same lofty heights that he achieved as a college quarterback.
Let’s take a look at Andre Ware’s rise to stardom at the University of Houston, why he wasn’t able to succeed as a quarterback in the pros, and what the former Heisman winner is doing now.
Andre Ware’s Sensational College Career
All eyes were on Andre Ware coming out of high school, and plenty of top programs were willing to offer him a scholarship.
However, Andre Ware had played the quarterback position throughout his time in high school and was committed to playing as a quarterback in college.
Unfortunately, most schools were interested in Ware for his athletic ability and were unwilling to promise him the quarterback position.
Growing up in the Galveston area, Andre Ware had long dreamed about playing football for the University of Texas.
Ware was in fact recruited by the Longhorns and was ready to commit.
When Coach David McWilliams made it clear to Ware that the plan was to transition him to a defensive position, though, Andre Ware decided to continue looking for a school that would allow him to play as a quarterback.
He finally found his opportunity at the University of Houston, where Ware was recruited to play as a quarterback in the Cougars’ triple-option offense.
Houston head coach Bill Yeoman saw Andre Ware as a perfect fit for the offense.
Since Ware wasn’t seen as a traditional pocket passer at the time, it seemed like a good fit to have him lead a run-heavy offense where the quarterback was more of an extra running back than a drop-back passer.
However, things didn’t work out quite as planned…and for Andre Ware, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Andre Ware was in a position to receive playing time at Houston right from the start but was ruled ineligible his freshman year due to the fact that he had not taken the SAT on a date that was approved by the NCAA.
As fate would have it, Ware’s freshman season at Houston turned out to be Bill Yeoman’s final year as the Cougars head coach.
After posting a 1-10 record in 1986, the Houston Cougars decided to move on from Yeoman.
New Head Coach
In 1987, Houston hired Jack Pardee as the new head football coach.
1987 was also the first season that Andre Ware was able to play for the Cougars.
In an interview later in life, Andre Ware said:
“I went to UH and was recruited to be a veer quarterback and wound up being a run-and-shoot quarterback,” Ware said. “The timing couldn’t have been better for the offense, and certainly for myself.”
While Ware would go on to enjoy an incredible amount of success in Pardee’s run-and-shoot offense, both Ware and his team had to first endure some growing pains.
The Cougars did show signs of improvement under Pardee in 1987, but were still only able to post a 4-6-1 record.
Andre Ware, meanwhile, only appeared in five games for the Cougars during the 1987 season after suffering a broken arm against Wyoming that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
With Ware healthy again for the 1988 season, the Cougars were able to achieve a 9-3 record and earn an invitation to play in the Aloha Bowl.
Andre Ware, meanwhile, completed 212 of 356 passing attempts in 1987, throwing for 2,507 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Things seemed to be looking up for Ware and the Cougars alike.
Unfortunately, more troubles were to follow.
In December 1988, the NCAA announced sanctions against the University of Houston’s football program.
These sanctions dated back to violations under coach Bill Yeoman.
But they meant that the Cougars would be ineligible for a bowl game in 1989 and meant that none of the Cougars’ games would be televised.
Nevertheless, Ware and his Houston Cougars team were undeterred.
Craig Alexander, a wide receiver on the 1989 team said:
“There was just a new energy we had in that offseason that we knew we had something and all the guys were committed. We were real serious about our offseason program, working out and getting together on our own minus the coaches. We came into that ’89 season feeling like we could win a national championship.”
In spite of the sanctions that largely kept the Cougars out of the national spotlight, what they were able to accomplish on offense made the 1989 Houston Cougars team impossible to overlook.
In the season opener against UNLV, Houston put up 69 unanswered points, with Andre Ware’s 390 passing yards to go along with five touchdowns.
In a game against SMU, Ware was able to pass for 517 yards and six touchdowns in just the first half of the game.
Andre Ware Houston dropped a 95 spot on SMU back in 1989.
95 points. pic.twitter.com/ahv0VGi9lD
— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) October 25, 2019
The Houston Cougars only lost two games in 1989 – one against the Texas A&M Aggies and one against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
While these two losses eliminated any hope that the Cougars had of competing for a national title, they didn’t distract from the team’s incredible offensive accomplishments.
“Sports Illustrated was coming around, all the various reporters from different publications were coming around, different guys were doing interviews for different television stations,” said Mike Holley, a starting guard for the Cougars in 1989. “That’s when we started to figure out everybody was paying attention to us.”
The attention that Ware and the Cougars received reached a boiling point at the end of the season when Ware was named as the winner of the 1989 Heisman Trophy.
Interestingly enough, though, Andre Ware was not present at the trophy presentation.
Instead, he was busy wrapping up the season with a 64-0 beat down of the Rice Owls.
Following the game – which was the final game of Houston’s 1989 season and the final game of Andre Ware’s college career – Ware learned in the locker room that he had won the Heisman Trophy.
He was the first African-American quarterback to ever win the Heisman.
Today in 1989, University of Houston quarterback Andre Ware is named the Heisman Trophy winner.
Ware passed for 4,699 yards & 46 touchdowns as UH averaged 53.5 points that season. pic.twitter.com/djIRdHcURo
— Texas Sports History (@TXSportsHistory) December 2, 2017
In the wake of his Heisman Trophy-winning season, Andre Ware decided to forgo his senior year with the Cougars and declare for the NFL draft.
He finished his final campaign with the Cougars having completed 365 of 578 passes for a staggering 4,699 yards and 46 touchdowns.
Now the owner of a Heisman Trophy and numerous NCAA passing records, the hype surrounding Andre Ware when he declared for the draft could not have possibly been higher.
The Number Seven Overall Pick in the 1990 NFL Draft
In the 1990 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions decided to select Andre Ware with the number seven overall pick.
However, the Lions’ pick of Ware came with some controversy.
In selecting Ware, Lions head coach Wayne Fontes ignored the advice of his scouting director, who offered his resignation the very next day.
Still, expectations for Andre Ware were high – especially given the fact that he was set to join fellow Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders in the Lions’ backfield.
Unfortunately, Andre Ware never had a chance to really succeed with Detroit.
Throughout his four years playing quarterback for the Lions, Ware never earned any more responsibility than the occasional backup duties.
While the fact that starting quarterback for the Lions – Rodney Peete – was often injured did mean that Ware was able to see the field on a frequent basis, Ware was never able to earn the starting position for himself.
Today, many argue that Andre Ware was never given a fair chance by his coaches to succeed at Detroit.
However, many say that Ware was simply unable to transition from the run-and-shoot offense that had served him so well in college.
Whatever the reasons may be, Andre Ware was only able to achieve 1,112 passing yards in his four seasons with Detroit, putting up five touchdowns against eight interceptions for a less-than-impressive career QBR of 63.5.
Following Detroit’s 1993 season, Andre Ware was released from the team.
He signed with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1994, but was cut from the team before the season began.
In 1995, Ware signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars but was once again cut from the team before the beginning of the season.
After departing from the NFL, Andre Ware played for various teams in the CFL, including the Ottawa Rough Riders, the BC Lions, and the Toronto Argonauts.
Even in the CFL, Ware was never able to maintain a high level of success.
He finished his CFL career with ten touchdowns and ten interceptions before finally moving on from professional football.
Andre Ware’s Post-Football Life
After his departure from professional football, Andre Ware began working as a broadcaster for the Houston Texans radio broadcast team.
In 2003, Andre Ware began working as a college football analyst for ESPN, and in 2014, Ware began working as an analyst for ESPN’s SEC Network – a position he still holds to this day.
Since 1996, Andre Ware has been married to Donya Ware, and the couple have two children together.
In spite of the fact that his time in the NFL never panned out, his contagious personality and skills as a football analyst have allowed Andre Ware to enjoy a lucrative career working with ESPN.